“O Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)
परवानस्मि काकुत्स्थ त्वयि वर्षशतं स्थिते |
स्वयं तु रुचिरे देशे क्रियतामिति मां वद ||
paravānasmi kākutstha tvayi varṣaśataṃ sthite |
svayaṃ tu rucire deśe kriyatāmiti māṃ vada ||
1. Travelling tirtha
The image depicts a scene from the Ramayana, which is a Sanskrit work of epic length composed many thousands of years ago by the sage named Valmiki. The artistic presentation of the shlokas is such that the content can be sung, memorized and easily passed on to others, while at the same time presenting a narrative containing the most important life lessons and teachings.
Panchavati is where the trio of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita stay for some time. They are not on a travelling tour. This is not a site-seeing expedition or a weekend of camping in the woods. They are from royalty; so they are accustomed to top-notch accommodations.
They are in Panchavati because of some infighting within the family. Rama is the eldest son to King Dasharatha. Sita is Rama’s chaste and devoted wife. Lakshmana is one of Rama’s younger brothers.
The quarrel rooted in envy leads to Rama’s banishment from the kingdom for fourteen years; despite the fact that He is the rightful heir apparent and that Dasharatha is ready to renounce and pass on to the future generation.
The presence of the Almighty is such that wherever He goes turns into a tirtha, which is a place of pilgrimage. It is not that God is only found within the temple or the house of worship. He is not the exclusive property of those designated as such to describe Him to others.
Rama can travel to Panchavati and turn it into the most important place. He is never alone; Sita and Lakshmana are there to provide enjoyable surroundings. There is nothing missing from the picture.
2. Rama can do anything
The scene shows a hut being built, and Rama is not the one doing the work. This is both the literal truth and symbolic of a higher principle. The Supreme Lord accomplishes the work of the world with minimal effort. He is ultimately responsible for creation, but there is no exhaustion. He simply lies down in rest as Lord Vishnu, and through breathing the universes come to be and subsequently get destroyed. This occurs in a cycle, with the host of beings appearing and disappearing.
भूत-ग्रामः स एवायं
भूत्वा भूत्वा प्रलीयते
रात्र्य्-आगमे ऽवशः पार्थ
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ
bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ‘vaśaḥ pārtha
“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.19)
Though not taking to the task directly, Lakshmana’s elder brother is still responsible. It is through His request that the hut gets built, which serves as the dwelling for the travelling family.
3. The Supreme Lord appreciates and accepts service
The task gets handed down to Lakshmana. What is interesting is that Lakshmana is more than eager to serve. Even if the task should be completed to fruition, he is ready to continue. He proclaims in no uncertain terms that he is willing to follow Rama’s orders for one hundred years, if needed.
God could intervene in such a situation. He could say that there is no need for others to do the work. But He appreciates any sincere service and He does not stand in the way of an outpouring of affection. The original plan was for Rama to travel alone, but at the insistence of Sita and Lakshmana He agreed to accept their association.
4. Comfortable in basic surroundings
We notice that the dwelling is not a palatial mansion. It bears no resemblance to royalty, in fact. It is a simple hut built using readily available raw materials in the forest. Yet Rama is perfectly happy. He is satisfied with the offering, especially given the mood.
There is confirmation in the Bhagavad-gita. The same Rama, in His form of Shri Krishna, provides a list of valid offerings. The distinction is the loving attitude of the offering. A basic flower or some water will suffice, though devotees are not stingy in this regard.
5. Happy in each other’s association
Though God is atmarama, He is not against associating with others. Rama is perfectly happy in Panchavati with Sita and Lakshmana. He does not require more friends, but we see that later He expands His inner circle by a large factor through the alliance with the Vanara-king named Sugriva.
I can take away that my efforts in chanting the holy names will not go in vain: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The occupancy of the spiritual world is never at full capacity, as God can always expand, just as the love offered to Him never knows a limit.
Never a limit knowing,
On and on going.
In glorification of He,
Like Lakshmana’s service to see.
In Panchavati constructing,
Ready further if Rama instructing.
For one hundred years even to go,
Hope for me then in chanting so.
Categories: the five