Keeping with Tradition

Flower decorations“In the queen’s palace they are decorating for the auspicious occasion. With voices like cuckoos, they are singing and joking.” (Janaki Mangala, 130)

sajahiṃ sumangala sāja rahasa ranivāsahi |
gāna karahiṃ pikabaini sahita parihāsahi ||

In each culture there are specific traditions involved in a wedding. Not all wedding ceremonies are the same, and the different traditions date back to previous times. Vedic culture is no different in this regard, as the traditions go so far back that one can’t even trace their origin. The setting of the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala is a kingdom from many thousands of years ago. The culture during that time was steeped in tradition, which the people followed with faith.

The people are preparing for a marriage. The participants had just been settled upon. The host of the ceremony, King Janaka, knew that his daughter would be the bride, provided that a groom was selected. If no groom fit the bill, then there would be no wedding. To find the perfect groom, Janaka set up a contest. Thus there was naturally some anticipation. There was excitement, as anything could happen.

The different sports bring their unique moments of tension. In basketball, there is the last second shot. Just one shot, one toss of a ball, can determine whether a team wins or loses. If the shot goes in, the player who shot the ball scores a victory for his team. If it misses, then his team loses. In American football there is the last second field-goal kick, and in baseball there is the bottom of the ninth inning.

Celebrating OT winner in hockeyIn hockey there is the sudden-death overtime. When the score is tied at the end of regulation in a playoff game, the two teams skate an extra period. The period is twenty minutes, but the clock is irrelevant; it is more for bookkeeping. As soon as someone scores, the game is over. This means that if a player heads down the ice on a breakaway, all by himself, there is a chance that he can end the game right then. But if he doesn’t score, the game could continue on for another hour. Nobody knows. For this reason, the overtime period is exciting. If the first overtime ends, then another one commences. This repeats until one of the teams finally scores.

In Janakpur the day started with the hope that Sita would get married. There was anticipation. Her husband would be determined by a contest. Whoever could first lift a heavy bow in front of others would win. As the day continued, it looked like Sita might not get married. None of the princes could even move the bow. How was anyone going to lift it?

Making matters worse, in entered a beautiful prince. He was so handsome, and His character matched His beauty. He was youthful as well. It was said that He was very capable in battle. The sage Vishvamitra relied on Him for protection. The younger brother Lakshmana too took shelter of the same prince. Thus this youth, who was named Rama, was perfect for Sita in every way. Now if only there wasn’t that darn contest getting in the way.

Not to fear, as Rama ended up lifting the bow with ease. The Vedas reveal Him to be the Supreme Lord, the God for all of humanity. In the tradition we inherit at the time of birth, we may only know of God as a blank canvas, an all-powerful figure who can do pretty much anything. In the Vedas, some details to the abstract are provided. He is described to be all-powerful for sure. And if someone asks, “How powerful?” the response can be, “Powerful enough to lift the extremely heavy bow in Janaka’s contest to win Sita’s hand in marriage.”

Rama lifting the bowRama’s family arrived from Ayodhya and met Janaka’s family. The princess, Sita, placed the victory garland around Rama and then returned to her palace. In the above referenced verse we get an idea of what was going on leading up to the eventual marriage ceremony. In the queen’s palace, people were putting in place all the decorations. These decorations were auspicious, or sumangala, to match the occasion. The poem containing this reference is known as the Janaki Mangala, which translates to the “auspiciousness of Janaki,” who is the daughter of Janaka. The “mangala” here specifically refers to her marriage, as it was an auspicious occasion due to the nature of the participants. It wasn’t merely a codification of a relationship in sense gratification. It wasn’t done at the desire of Sita or Rama. It wasn’t done to show the world that they loved each other. It was an auspicious occasion because it marked their union on earth. Sita would serve Rama and Rama would protect Sita. The two would forever be happy in each other’s company.

In preparation, the people in the queen’s palace sang and joked, sounding like cuckoos. The cuckoo’s call indicates that spring has come. In this instance, their cuckoo-like voices announced the presence of the spring of their lives. The cold winter represented by the uncertainty of the contest gave way to the spring of Rama’s victory. In that joyous time, Sita would come to life, as she would join with her ideal match. The joking and singing was commonplace for a wedding of the Vedic tradition, showing that everything about the occasion was perfect.

The devotees of Sita and Rama are similar to the cuckoo, as they sing nice songs about them. These songs announce the presence of the divine couple as well. In that ancient time, the singing in the queen’s palace signaled the beginning of Sita and Rama’s wedded life on earth, and today the singing of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” signals the arrival of the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort into the lives of the devoted souls, who always look for ways to celebrate them.

In Closing:

Spring means flowers to rise from ground,

Season indicated by cuckoo’s sound.


Since Sita to them was everything,

Her marriage like arrival of spring.


Ladies like cuckoos noise made,

Image of Sita and Rama with them stayed.


Like cuckoos also are devotees of today,

Pray that Sita and Rama happy always stay.

Categories: janaki mangala

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