“Sitting amidst the group of young ladies, Sita looked so beautiful. In trying to compare that beauty, even Sarasvati Devi shyly runs away.” (Janaki Mangala, 141)
jubati juttha mahan sīya subhāi birājai |
upamā kahata lajāi bhāratī bhājai ||
In the Vedic tradition, Sarasvati is known as the goddess of speech. One may be proud of their writing ability, but they should know that it doesn’t come on its own. Without even mentioning divine figures, to be skilled in writing one obviously has to learn. They have to learn how to communicate in the language, first of all. They have to learn the alphabet and its proper use. They have to attempt to describe events and emotions first before perfecting the art.
When success does come, it only makes sense to appreciate those who helped you. When watching awards ceremonies honoring professional athletes, it’s not uncommon to see parents and coaches thanked. The athlete is the one receiving the award, but they are not so foolish as to think that they suddenly developed great ability on their own. In cases where they can’t think of who to properly thank, they pay homage to God, for they know that their ability is an opulence, a sign of good fortune.
In the verse quoted above from the Janaki Mangala, there is an irony of sorts. Goswami Tulsidas wrote the Janaki Mangala as a way to glorify God and one of His most famous pastimes. The title translates to the “auspiciousness of the daughter of King Janaka.” That auspiciousness particularly related to the daughter’s marriage. The groom in this case was God, the Supreme Lord in a famous incarnation. The incarnations are the same as the original; just the appearance and behavior may be more finely shaped. The incarnation doesn’t mean that God is a human being, a fish, a boar, or a half-man/half-lion. The incarnation means that such forms can be transcendental when on the Personality of Godhead, for the material of the covering is actually non-different from the storehouse of spiritual qualities. Spiritual and material is only a dichotomy for anyone who is not God.
Anytime one is successful in glorifying God in written word, it should be understood that they have received the blessings of Sarasvati Devi. She is the wife of Lord Brahma, who is the first created living entity. We are all brothers and sisters because we can all trace our ancestry back to Brahma. Even if we’ve lost track of who our relatives were four and five generations ago, since Brahma created everyone, we at least know that we are related to him.
As Sarasvati Devi is related to Brahma, she accepts his interests as her own. Brahma is a devotee of God; he understands that God exists and that there is a purpose to body, mind and speech. Sarasvati Devi is specifically the goddess of speech and learning. Students growing up in India often pray to her for success. Since the material is ultimately not separated from the spiritual, even the material sound of speech is meant to be dovetailed with spiritual activity. The attempts of Goswami Tulsidas show this, as all his works are glorifications of God.
“[obeisance to]Guru, Ganesha, Shiva, Parvati, Brihaspati, Sarasvati, Shesha, Shukadeva, Vedas, and the sincere and intelligent saints.” (Janaki Mangala, Mangalacharana, 1)
Sarasvati Devi obviously showered blessings upon him. In his other works, including the Janaki Mangala also, he specifically seeks her favor at the outset, as do many other famous Vaishnavas, or devotees of the personal God, in their works. Because she favored him, Tulsidas was able to write the Janaki Mangala, which included the verse above. In this verse it is said that Sarasvati herself cannot compare the beauty of Rama’s wife sitting amidst a group of young girls to anyone else. Because of her inability, she flees in embarrassment or shyness. What this means is that Sarasvati herself enabled Tulsidas to write a verse that says Sarasvati, the goddess of speech, is incapable of describing Sita.
This is a very nice compliment paid to Sita, and it is not an insult to Sarasvati. Actually, it is not even a deficiency. If we are deficient a certain mineral in our body, eventually an unhealthy condition might arise. If I am deficient the funds necessary to purchase a house, I am somewhat hurt. A deficiency is typically taken as a negative; one wants something and they either don’t have enough of it or are lacking it completely.
Sarasvati’s inability to accurately compare Sita’s beauty to anything else means that no glorification of Sita is ever complete. I could spend the entire day writing eloquent poetry in praise of Rama’s beautiful wife. I could go on and on about her virtues. I could keep my mind immersed in her pastime of dutifully staying by her husband and following Him into the wilderness. I could speak for hours and hours about how she is well versed in the Vedas and knows right and wrong better than anyone else. I could write pages and pages about how happy she makes Rama with her devotion.
Even after doing that, I still wouldn’t properly describe her. Sarasvati Devi, who is herself expert in all speech from all languages, is too shy to even try. Nevertheless, she and devoted saints like Tulsidas eventually cast aside that shyness for their own good. Their courage also benefits others, as hearing about God and His devotees is a blessing to the ears. Here Sita did stand out amidst the ladies, for it was her wedding after all. She is always with Rama, and on this day they joined in an official ceremony. That wonderful day could not be compared to any other, but thankfully Tulsidas, utilizing the blessings of Sarasvati Devi, took the time to try to describe it.
Though writing ability I own,
Not my property alone.
Sarasvati fully capable alone,
Her talents to others on loan.
Intended for glories of God to write,
To give even unfortunate divine’s sight.
Though to compare Sita’s vision even goddess shy,
Still the Vaishnava poets dutifully try.
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