“Taking the oath, Janaka gave away Sita to Rama in all politeness and happiness in a beautiful scene that was reminiscent of when the king of mountains gave away Parvati to Shiva and when the ocean gave away Lakshmi to Vishnu.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 18.1)
सन्कल्पि सि रामहि समरपी सील सुख सोभामई |
जिमि सन्करहि गिरिराज गिरिजा हरिहि श्री सागर दई ||
sankalpi si rāmahi samarapī sīla sukha sobhāmaī |
jimi sankarahi girirāja girijā harihi śrī sāgara daī ||
“If we look at famous marriages, as described in Vedic literature, there appears to be a common theme. I will compare with the modern-day version, which seems to be quite different. Today, marriage is like an achievement. Sort of like winning a competition for a new job, earning a trophy, or reaching a specific milestone, the event has a positive and uplifting context.
“Whereas in the Vedic tradition, there is austerity involved. For instance, Goswami Tulsidas remarks that three marriages in particular are similar. In how they came about, in the scene of the father giving away the daughter to the groom, we have Parvati to Shiva, Lakshmi to Vishnu, and Sita to Rama.
“Rama had to win a difficult contest of lifting the bow of Shiva. That was the only way for any person to marry Sita. The father was in charge, because the matter involved protection of the daughter. Sense gratification was not the objective.
“The ocean gave away Lakshmi as part of the affair of churning the ocean between the suras and the asuras. Parvati underwent tremendous austerities to become qualified to receive Mahadeva as a husband. The parents and relatives were not exactly thrilled that she was marrying a person who is renunciation personified.
“Is this a proper emphasis? Should marriage be something to look forward to, to be happy over, or is it with sacrifice-intent only? I would think that the latter holds up better in the long run. The senses are never fully satisfied, so I can see why people otherwise break up, get divorced, argue, and the like.”
The entirety of Vedic culture involves sacrifice. It is at the very foundation. Lord Brahma, the creator, long ago when deep in meditation heard the word tapah. There was no one else around, so the significance of this sound should be obvious.
स चिन्तयन् द्व्य्-अक्षरम् एकदाम्भस्य्
उपाशृणोद् द्विर्-गदितं वचो विभुः
स्पर्शेषु यत् षोडशम् एकविंशं
निष्किञ्चनानां नृप यद् धनं विदुः
sa cintayan dvy-akṣaram ekadāmbhasy
upāśṛṇod dvir-gaditaṁ vaco vibhuḥ
sparśeṣu yat ṣoḍaśam ekaviṁśaṁ
niṣkiñcanānāṁ nṛpa yad dhanaṁ viduḥ
“While thus engaged in thinking, in the water, Brahmaji heard twice from nearby two syllables joined together. One of the syllables was taken from the sixteenth and the other from the twenty-first of the sparsha alphabets, and both joined to become the wealth of the renounced order of life.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.6)
For the cultured human being, there should be four general stages to life. The life of a student is difficult and austere. There is emphasis placed on learning the true nature of the individual as spirit soul. There are limits on sense gratification, difficulties imposed by the teacher, and restriction on sex interaction.
Marriage is the second stage, but this is more a way to curb sense gratification than indulge it. Live happily together, husband and wife, producing for the household and giving amply in charity. Just as the government survives on the tax revenue it collects, so the other orders of society survive on the work of the householders, i.e. the people who are married.
Vanaprastha is the next stage, and the sacrifice here is giving up work. Trading the office-job for travel. Sannyasa is the last stage, and this is total and complete renunciation. Reliance only on the mercy of the Divine, flowing through His servants in this world.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is so kind that He sets an example for others to follow. As Shri Rama, He does not require a teacher. He does not need a wife, nor does He need to prove Himself in a contest of strength.
He follows the spiritual guide, Vishvamitra, and lifts up the mighty bow of Shiva. He accepts the hand of Sita in marriage, and He shows the proper example of family life, with all its difficulties. The human existence is a struggle from beginning to end, but with the assistance of Rama and the saints who glorify Him, every sacrifice made for further spiritual realization is worthwhile.
Sacrifice from beginning to end,
Benefits to afterlife to extend.
Even in marriage union seen,
Like in Janaka’s city scene.
Rama lifting the bow there,
So that strongest man aware.
Parvati austerities for Shiva so,
Blessed in yajna vow to go.