“Being under the control of passion and lust, Rama’s father, Maharaja Dasharatha, wanted to fulfill Kaikeyi’s cherished desire, thus he did not go through with Rama’s installation ceremony.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.12)
कामार्तस्तु महातेजाः पिता दशरथस्स्वयम्।।
कैकेय्याः प्रियकामार्थं तं रामं नाभ्यषेचयत्।
kāmārtastu mahātejāḥ pitā daśarathassvayam।।
kaikeyyāḥ priyakāmārthaṃ taṃ rāmaṃ nābhyaṣecayat।
In the Vaishnava tradition of spirituality, there is variety to the worship. Travel to different regions, where the local families inherited their specific style of immersion into the devotional culture, and you will see differences in the altar setup, the rituals performed, the holidays celebrated, and perhaps even the mantras repeated and sung together, in the congregational way known as sankirtana.
A common presence is the two personalities on the altar. A person may wonder as to the origin and purpose. If you are worshiping God, who is a person, why is there someone alongside Him? Why is the same God depicted differently, with multiple names? Why doesn’t everyone follow the same kind of worship?
The idea is that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan, is not limited in His interaction. Just as there is variety in food and music, though the origin is identical in terms of ingredients for consumption and the notes used for composition, so devotees interact with God based on their understanding of Him and also their preference.
The second personality is usually the goddess of fortune. This is always the same person, though the manifestation may be different. Just as Shri Krishna appears as Narayana, Rama, Narasimha, and so forth, Lakshmi Devi may appear as Radha, Rukmini, or Sita.
The names may vary, but the standing is the same. God is the person worshiped, and the goddess of fortune is the topmost person offering the worship. The two are identical in that sense; two sides to the same concept.
Lakshmi Devi has no other interest than worship. From her incarnation as the daughter of King Janaka, we see the variety of ways that she serves her husband, who correspondingly appeared as Shri Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha.
1. Praying for protection in the various directions
In one section of the Ramayana history, Rama is about to leave home to visit the royal palace, occupied by his father. As He is leaving, Sita prays to various gods to protect Rama in the different directions. She knows her husband is fully capable of defending Himself, as He is the greatest bow-warrior in the world, but she does not want to take any chances.
2. Praying for protection from the river
Later on, the couple is making a yatra across various parts of the world. They are essentially touring spaces not overly inhabited by humans. This is in the space of a fourteen-year exile punishment for Rama, who would have to wait to become the next king.
Upon encountering sacred rivers and trees, Sita Devi makes a bargain. She promises to worship as profusely as possible, provided her husband receives full protection. She is not seeking a personal benefit. She does not want wealth. She does not want money. Rama should always be safe and happy.
3. Sacrificing personal comforts
Though she is the goddess of fortune, and therefore the embodiment of wealth, Sita Devi is not attached to any of the opulences of royal life. Though she was born into royalty in Videha and later married into it in Ayodhya, she can give up everything at a moment’s notice.
She follows her husband in the way the shadow follows the sunlight. He is the leader, and she dutifully takes her place next to Him. Rama kindly refers to her as sadharma-charini, as she is His partner in following righteousness.
सदृशं चानुरूपं च कुलस्य तव चात्मनः।
सधर्मचारिणी मे त्वं प्राणेभ्योऽपि गरीयसी।।
sadṛśaṃ cānurūpaṃ ca kulasya tava cātmanaḥ।
sadharmacāriṇī me tvaṃ prāṇebhyo’pi garīyasī।।
“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)
4. Remembering the offenses against her husband
The goddess of fortune is so connected to God that she never forgets offenses made against Him. Sita Devi always remembered how Dasharatha abruptly changed course. She blamed the king for being too attached to Queen Kaikeyi and her wishes. This was to the detriment of Rama, and so Sita always remembered what happened.
5. Celebrating the triumphs of her husband
Sita Devi is a great narrator of her husband’s pastimes. She one time told the amazing story of her marriage, after asked by Anasuya. Rama lifted the bow in the contest held by King Janaka. This determined who would marry Sita, and no other prince could accomplish the same. All others arrived from around the world to take their chance, but each one of them failed.
From celebrated provinces hailed,
But each one of them failed.
Not one could lift,
But Rama making rift.
After holding high in air,
String on bow to tear.
That to wed Sita now meant,
Who from spiritual world sent.
Categories: the five