The Best Friend’s Wedding

Arghya vessel“Offering arghya water, taking Rama to the mandapa they went. There the sakhis sang auspicious songs with excitement and bliss.” (Janaki Mangala, 137)

deta aragha raghubīrahi manḍapa lai calīṃ |
karahiṃ sumangala gāna umagi ānanda alīṃ ||

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Sita’s friends strongly approved of her marriage to Rama. They witnessed His accomplishment in the contest in King Janaka’s assembly. They saw that He was the only person capable of lifting the mighty bow of Lord Shiva. They saw His amazing beauty, which was apparently a contradiction. How could such delicate features reside in a person with more strength than the fiercest bow-warriors in the world? How could such strength belong to someone with so much compassion that He would leave home at a young age to protect innocent forest-dwelling sages? The only way to answer these questions was to get to know Him better, a chance they received through their best friend’s wedding.

Rama defending the sagesIf your best friend is marrying the wrong person, you may feel compelled to say something. “Hey man, this girl is not right for you. You are kind and sweet, while she is mean and manipulative. She will walk all over you. You don’t really like her anyway. You’re doing this for all the wrong reasons. You will come to regret this decision.” Another friend might want to say, “He is totally the wrong guy. He is unfaithful and unclean. He will never appreciate you. You will be miserable having to wake up next to him day after day.”

In such instances, though the temptation is strong to offer an objection, one likely won’t be forthcoming. If in the ensuing session, the friend decides to go ahead with the marriage anyway, there will be resentment. After all, they will spend more time with the new spouse than with you. If they remain friends with you, it could hurt their marriage. If they choose in favor of the spouse and lose your friendship, they at least can survive on a daily basis. So rather than lose your friend, you remain silent, keeping your objections to yourself. At the wedding, because of your misgivings you won’t be able to celebrate so much. You won’t be into it emotionally.

In Sita’s wedding, we see that the friends were so in favor of the chosen groom that they happily sang auspicious songs. They first worshiped the groom with arghya water, which is an essential aspect of deity worship. Offering such water is a great sign of respect, so much so that it is used when worshiping God in a temple on a daily basis. Even if one isn’t at a formal temple, the same water can be offered in the home. The value of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is so high that no one is shut out from it. Regardless of what you may or may not know about the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, you can always offer something as simple as water to the Lord and have Him gladly accept it.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.26“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

Lord RamaHere the person worshiped with water is actually God Himself, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. Sita is His eternal consort. Thus Sita’s friends are not ordinary souls, though they played well-wishers to a princess on earth. After offering water, they escorted Rama to the mandapa, the tent-like structure to house the various rituals of the wedding ceremony. The friends sang songs with full bliss, or ananda. This means that they were into the wedding. They sang happily because they were themselves happy. They knew that Sita was getting the best husband. Since they were real well-wishers, they were thrilled over her good fortune. They took her marriage to be like theirs, for that is how dear she was to them.

Your friends also give an indication of the kind of person you are. Rama and His family could thus tell that Sita was pretty special. Janaki, which means the daughter of King Janaka, had friends who were very respectful towards Rama. She had friends who were in favor of the wedding taking place. Since Rama is full of good qualities, this meant that Janaki’s friends were very wise. Not clouded by the ignorance of the material world, which causes one to lament over another’s gain and rejoice at their loss, they could see Rama properly. They could recognize His divine features. Though He did not speak much, they knew that He could protect their beloved Janaki. Though He was not brash, they knew that He would not be shy in defending her honor.

Sita and RamaThey also knew that by serving Him, Janaki would meet the best end in life. The partnership of their marriage would be beneficial to both. Rama would get a beautiful queen who would support Him in His exercise of religious duties. Years later He would practically say as much. In thanking Sita one time for her good counsel offered with affection, Rama made sure to describe her as a sadharma-charini, which means a chaste wife who helps the husband in his adherence to dharma, or religiosity.

“My dear beautiful wife, what you have said is befitting the occasion and also indicative of the greatness of your family heritage. You are dearer to Me than My life, for you are My companion in the performance of religious duties.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.21)

A marriage is meant to be in dharma and not kama. A marriage in kama is equivalent to a standard amorous relationship, which even the animals engage in. Dharma is unique to the human species, and its range of applicability is full. Dharma is the source of marriage, and not the other way around. Sita and Rama were always mindful of dharma, though as the goddess of fortune and God Himself they had no need to be. The sakhis were mindful of dharma as well, and they accepted the duty of welcoming Rama with great enthusiasm, making Janaki’s wedding even more memorable.

In Closing:

If friend marrying person wrong,

Not happily to sing wedding song.

 

Misgivings in Sita’s friends none,

Knew that Shri Rama was the one.

 

Support to Rama she would extend,

To Him efforts in dharma to lend.

 

By His enchanting beauty they were moved,

In happiness marriage to Him they approved.

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