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Chapter 7 (d)
Winning Sita

Sudhama took with him a group of courtiers and scholars and royal priests; he got ready tastefully decorated chariots to bring the Imperial Party and reached the Palace where Dasaratha was staying. He submitted to him sweetly and softly, the message he had brought, and with profound obeisance, invited him to the palace of Janaka. Dasaratha was ready; he moved out with his entourage and reached the Durbar Hall of Janaka, very soon. They greeted each other as befitted the occasion and their respective status and occupied the seats laid for them.

Then Dasaratha rose and said, "Janaka! For the Ikshvaku Dynasty, the sage Vasishta is God on Earth! He is our supreme preceptor. He can speak with full authority on the traditions of our dynasty". As soon as Dasaratha sat down, Vasishta stood before the assembly and spoke as follows: 

"Royal Sage! Listen, all those who have assembled! Brahman, the Unmanifested Supreme, the Eternal, the Pure, through the exercise of Will created Marichi; Marichi’s son was Kasyapa and his son was Surya; Surya’s son was Manu, Manu had a son named Vaivaswatha Manu; he ruled over the people and earned the appellation, Prajapathi. ( See also S.B. 2.7)

A son lkshvaku was born to him; he was the first overlord of Ayodhya; and so the dynasty itself came to be called the Ikshvaku Line. Ikshvaku’s son was Kukshi. Kukshi's son was named Vikukshi. His son was Bana; Bana's son was Anaranya; Anaranya had a son who was named Trisanku. Trisanku's son was Dhundhumara, Dhundhumara’s son was Yuvanaswa; Mandhata was the son of Yuvanaswa; his son Susandhi had two sons, Daivasandhi and Presenjit. The famous Bharata was the son of Daivasandhi. Bharatha’s son was Asitha; when Asitha was ruling the kingdom, a coalition of the Haihayas, Thalajanghas and Sasibindus invaded the realm and Asitha had to flee to the Himalayan region with his two queens. He took refuge in the region called Bhrgu Prasravana and after a few years passed away there itself.

"Both his queens were enceinte when he died. They sought asylum in the hermitage of Chyavana who was filled with compassion at their plight; he consoled them, saying, 'Mothers! Do not entertain any fear. This is your very home. You will have safe delivery; you will have strong splendour-filled fortunate babies’. His blessing came true. Within a few days, the elder queen delivered a son named Sagara; and, he was installed as the emperor of Ayodhya. "His son was Asamanja, who had a son called Amsumantha; Amsumantha's son was Dileepa, whose son was named Bhagiratha. Bhagiratha begot Kakustha. Kakustha’s son was Raghu. Raghu had a son, Pravardha. Pravardha had Sudarsana as son and Sudarsana, Agnivarna. Seeghraga was the name of the son of Agnivarna. Maru was the name of the son of Seeghraga. After him, the throne came from father to son, to Prasusruka, Ambarisha and Nahusha, in succession.

"Nahusha's son was Yayathi and Yayathi's son was Nabhaga. Nabhaga had Aja [compare with Chapter 2] as his son. Dasaratha is the eldest son of Aja, and his four sons, a precious jewel each one, are Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Satrughna. Rama, the eldest of the four, raised, bent, strung and broke the Bow of Siva.

"0 Royal Sage! This royal dynasty is sacred and pure. Every one born in this line has earned spiritual illumination and has shone in spiritual splendour. They are rooted in righteousness, and, withal, are in the front rank of heroes. Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Satrughna are precious lamps that shed luster on the annals of the clan.

"I must now suggest that it would be desirable to have this auspicious samskar of marriage celebrated for Lakshmana also, for he is the reflection of Rama. Your daughter Urmila can well shine as the spouse of Lakshmana. Do not hesitate; resolve accordingly and make the necessary preparations". Vasishta blessed the gathering and resumed his seat.

After listening to the narrative of the Ikshvaku Dynasty, from the lips of the great sage Vasishta, Janaka rose from his throne and said, "O Brahmarchi! When the scion of a noble clan intends to gift his daughter in marriage, he has to announce the historic glory of his clan, hasn’t he? I have resolved to follow your example and recite the story myself, for it gives me great joy to recapitulate the names of my forefathers and recall their majesty. My birth with this body happened through the blessings of forefathers of this dynasty. It will be justified and its purpose fulfilled only if I describe them myself to this vast gathering."

Janaka stood prayerfully before all. Vasishta agreed with the request and gave the permission sought. Janaka then began the narration: "Brahmarshi! Revered Preceptors! Maharaja Dasaratha! In the very distant past, there was an emperor named Nimi who adhered firmly to the path of righteousness, and who was therefore famous for might and foresight. His son Mithi built this City, Mithila, to serve as the capital for this kingdom. He was the first sovereign of this region. His reign was very popular and his subjects were happy and prosperous. His son, Sudhavasu had a son Nandhivardhana who ruled after him. Nandivardhana's son was Sukethu and Sukethu’s son was Devaratha. Brhadratha was the son of Devaratha, and Mahavira was the name of the son of Brahadratha. Mahavira had as his name indicates, vast prowess. His son Sudhrthi had a son called Dhrshtakethu. Dhrshtakethu's celebrated son was Haryaswa; Haryaswa had a son named Maru; Maru's son was Pratheendhaka; Pratheendhaka’s son was Keerthiratha. Keerthiratha had a son named Devameedha. Devameedha's son was Vibudha; Vibudha’s son was Keerthiratha; Keerthiratha’s son was Maharoma and Maharoma's son was Hrswarupa. He was a talented ruler, a strict adherent of Dharma. He was acclaimed as a Mahatma. He is my father; I am indeed very happy to acknowledge that my father was an ideal personage. The truth is I am now ruling happily over this Mithila City as a result of the merit acquired and handed down as heritage by my forefathers.

"My brother Kusadhwaja is much more to me than a brother. I revere him as a divine personality. He is more of a friend to me than a brother. I brought him up with such love and affection that I have developed great attachment to him. Years ago, when the King of Sankasya demanded that I should yield the Bow of Shiva to him or else, meet him in battle, I refused and he laid siege to Mithila City. This was the signal for a bitter war between us during which Sudhanva was killed and I made my brother the ruler of Sankasya. That City is shining bright on the banks of the Ikshumathi River. Seen from afar, it reminds one of the Celestial Chariot of the Gods, famous as the Pushpaka Vimana! Let me tell you now of another auspicious idea that the Gods have inspired in me.

"I have brought him here today so that he might share in the joy of the wedding celebrations. Brahmarshi! You commanded that Rama wed Sita and Lakshmana wed Urmila, the other daughter of mine. I accept the command with immeasurable joy. Sita is a celestial damsel and she will wed Rama as the Hero’s Gift. I shall bow my head in all humility and gladness and give away Urmila to Lakshmana.

"I have another representation to make now for your consideration. Maharaja Dasaratha! You have four sons all born of the same heavenly gift of Grace. Why allow two to remain single? It will contribute to our happiness fully if they too are wedded. It is the asterism of Magha today. This is a good day to commence the rites and have the preliminary ceremonials. The day after, under the asterism Uttaraphalguna, I seek your assent to gift the two daughters of my brother, Mandavi to Bharatha and Sruthakeerthi to Satrughna in marriage".

At this every one in the huge gathering acclaimed the proposal, exclaiming, "Subham!" "Subham!" (Most welcome! Most welcome!) Their applause rent the sky. 

When Emperor Janaka made this suggestion about the marriages of both Bharatha and Satrughna, the sages Vasishta, Vamadeva, Viswamitra and others deliberated among themselves. Dasaratha was easily persuaded to assent and then they informed Janaka thus: "0 King! The two Royal clans the Ikshvaku and the Videha, are filled with holy traditions, the sanctity of which is beyond measurement. The greatness of these two dynasties cannot be measured and described by anyone, however learned or proficient. Dynasties of this status or any that can be pronounced equal to them in nobility, have not appeared on earth before. It is indeed a very auspicious event that these two are now brought together by these bonds of marriage.

"This is highly appropriate, laudable and holy. In addition, we are glad that the brides and grooms are fit in every way for each other. Janaka! Your brother, Kusadhwaja is one who knows and practices Dharma. It is really good that he too should become related to Dasaratha through the marital bond of his daughters. It is a source of immense joy. Hence, we are ready to bless the marriages of his daughters, Mandavi and Sruthakeerthi with Bharatha and Satrughna. Our wish is that these Royal dynasties should be bound close by these marriages".

Janaka and Kusadhwaja fell prostrate before the sages overcome with delight at their wish being fulfilled. "This is no ordinary event. How fortunate we are that we have been blessed with this consummation! How lucky that the sages agreed to this proposal and eased the path. Sages will never encourage inauspicious happenings. We shall reverentially obey all your commands", they said.

Vasishta then said, "No, why should we postpone these two weddings to the day after or some later day! Tomorrow is auspicious for all. It will be very good if all four weddings are celebrated on the same day". Janaka replied, "I am blessed, indeed! Worthy Preceptor, Emperor Dasaratha has been, since long, your disciple, executing whatever you commanded. We brothers too, from this day, are your disciples. All our burdens are on your shoulders; direct us how to proceed, how to act, we shall unquestioningly follow". They stood awaiting his reply, with hands folded in utter humility and reverence. At this, Dasaratha rose and said, "Ruler of Mithila! The virtues I find in you two I cannot describe in words! You have made excellent arrangements for the stay and reception of such a magnificent array of Maharajas and Maharshis, as well as of the vast mass of people who have thronged this City. I shall go back to my residence now and carry on the rites of Nandi and Samavarthana in full concordance with Vedic prescription". The brothers honoured him duly as he emerged from the hall and took leave of him at the main entrance as befitted his status. They then went to their own palaces to fulfill their assignments.

Dasaratha performed the Nandi rite; very early in the day he made all the four sons perform the Samavarthana rite. He fixed golden ornaments on the horns of cows selected for being given away to pious Brahmins, along with costly vessels for milking them. It was a feast for the eye, the scene of the boys giving the cows away! The citizens of Mithila felt as if the deities of the four quarters were before them with Brahma in their midst; the four sons around Dasaratha appeared thus to them.

While this gift was going on, Yudhajit, the Prince of Kaikeya, brother of Queen Kaikeyi, the mother of Bharatha arrived. His father was yearning to have his grandson, Bharatha, for some time with him, and so he had hurried to Ayodhya, but he learnt there that the Royal family had left for Mithila for the marriage of Rama. His father, he said, had no knowledge of the wedding of Rama. He too had no idea that it was happening. So, he had come over to Mithila, since he could witness the marriage and also communicate the desire of the grandfather to have the grandson with him for some time. Dasaratha was glad that he could come.

That night, Dasaratha spoke endearingly to his sons and others on a variety of pleasant topics. No one in the camp slept. Every one was impatiently awaiting the dawn of the happy day, when each could witness the wedding ceremony of their dear princes. Each one was overwhelmed with joy as if his own son was the bridegroom or his own child the bride. Their Ananda can be compared only to Brahmananda; that was the measure of their love towards Rama and his brothers.

Early in the morning Janaka proceeded to the special dais on which the rituals of the wedding were to be gone through; he was accompanied by a highly spiritual splendour-showering group of sages. He then completed the preliminary rites and was awaiting the arrival of the bride-grooms and their parents and kinsmen. Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Satrughna had their ceremonial baths; they wore yellow silken dresses; they had silk cloth wound round their heads; they were bedecked with many ornaments studded with diamonds and sapphires; they gave the impression that they were alluring, heart-captivating Gods who had come down from Heaven.

The auspicious hour named Vijaya was drawing near and they approached the dais preceded by musicians whose instruments struck up a melody that reached the dome of Heaven. The Councilors of the Court, the feudatory rulers, and their attendants followed them carrying huge plates of jewels, silk clothes, gold coins, and other auspicious articles essential for the ceremony.

The populace gazed upon their beauty and prowess, without even winking the eye; they confided to each other that the dignity of their bearing marked them out as Divine, and not human at all. They exclaimed, "0, What charm! What a surge of beauty"! Every one was filled with amazement. "They are denizens of heaven come down on earth," they whispered among themselves, as the bridegrooms passed between the thick rows of onlookers. Women swore that they had never cast their eyes on such charming princes. Every window and terrace was packed to overflowing. At last, the Princes reached the dais, and seated themselves.

Then Janaka and his brother, Kusadhwaja, brought their daughters to the dais. They had been given ceremonial baths and elaborately and beautifully decorated as befitted brides on the wedding day; they wore veils, and followed their fathers, with thousands of maids following them, carrying fruits and flowers, heaps of red and yellow cosmetic fragrants, rice grains, jewels, and gems. It seemed as if the treasures of Mithila were flowing in a full scintillating stream in the wake of the wedding.

The four brides were shining like magnificent lamps. They sat face to face, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Satrughna on one side and opposite them, Sita, Urmila, Mandavi and Sruthakeerthi. A velvet cloth was held as a screen between. The residents of Ayodhya and the nobles who had come from there sat behind Dasaratha and the residents of Mithila and those invited for the wedding ceremony by Janaka sat behind him on the elevated dais. 

The eyes of all were drawn by the elaborate artistic and rich decorations which distinguished the marriage shamiana. It was all gold, silver and flower and silk and velvet, festoons and flags, candelabras and columns, arches and finials. One could not take the eye off any of these once it drew one’s attention. The vast area was filled to overflowing with kinsmen and well-wishers. It looked as if Mithila itself was experiencing the thrill of the wedding and enjoying the celebrations as if they were her own.

Soon, Dasaratha rose and politely reminded the Preceptor Vasishta, "Why should we delay?" Hearing this, Janaka stood before Vasishta with folded arms, praying that he should himself officiate at the ceremony.

Vasishta agreed and with Viswamitra and Sathananda accompanying him, he lit the sacrificial fire, in the centre of the dais, while Vedic scholars and experts in Vedic recitation raised their voices and repeated hymns appropriate for the auspicious ceremony.

They arranged around the Altar of Fire, golden plates decorated with flowers and sandal paste, full of tender sprouts of nine species of grains. There were also incense burners, sacred spoons for offering oblations in the holy flames, golden water pots, cups, and such other articles essential for the rite. They spread the holy kusa grass thick on the floor, so that it lay as level and as smooth as laid down in the texts. Then, they began to pour oblations into the fire while reciting the hymns which assure happiness and prosperity to the brides and bridegrooms; every rite was gone through with meticulous accuracy and correctitude. The initiatory threads were tied on the wrists of the Princes and princesses.

The next rite was the rite of gifting the brides. Vasishta called upon Janaka to come forward; he came near the Sacred Fire Enclosure, dressed in regal splendour and wearing all the regal jewels. As directed by the sage he held the hands of Sita and placed them in the outstretched palms of Rama; his eyes streamed tears of joy; coconut symbolizing prosperity had already been placed in the palms of Rama and after Sita’s hands rested on it, milk was poured on the hands by Janaka as part of the ceremony of gifting. Janaka spoke these words to Rama at that time: "Rama! Here is Sita, my daughter. She will tread your Dharmic path from now on. Accept her. She brings prosperity, peace and joy. Hold her hand with yours. She is highly virtuous and true. From this moment, she will follow you like your shadow, ever." With these words, he poured water on the hands of Rama, to set the seal on the gift

Then he came near where Lakshmana was; he said, "Lakshmana! I am giving you this bride, Urmila, accept her", and with the prescribed mantras, he completed the ceremony of gifting her to the bridegroom. Similarly, he approached Bharatha and pronouncing the Vedic mantras traditionally used for the wedding, he gifted Mandavi to him as his bride. In the same manner Sruthakeerthi was gifted by him with the pouring of holy water and Vedic recitation to Satrughna. After this the scholars well versed in Vedic lore completed the customary rites and rituals for drawing upon the wedded couples the Grace of the Gods.

Then Janaka rose and standing in the centre of the dais, he announced to the bridegrooms, 'Darlings! Our daughters are to be installed as mistresses of your households. The auspicious moment has come". As soon as he said so, with the blessings and approval of Vasishta, the four brothers held their brides each by their hand and they circumambulated first the sacred fire, and then Janaka and Vasishta the Preceptor, and prostrated before them.

While they were doing so, showers of flowers fell upon them; joyous music rose from a galaxy of instruments. The distinguished gathering acclaimed the moment and scattered rice grains on their heads, wishing them all the best in life. The jubilation with which they cheered "Subham! Subham", shook the sky. It filled all ears with delight. The gods played divine music in heaven; elysian drums were beaten in ecstatic exaltation. The minstrels of heaven sang hallelujahs.

On the dais, court musicians sang the traditional wedding songs describing the splendour of the marriage ceremony and extolling it as on a par with the marriage of Lord Siva and Gauri. They sang it in a rich variety of ragas and melodies, filling the atmosphere with vibrations of delight. The four brothers with their brides stood on the dais facing the vast gathering, and bowed In acknowledgement of their cheers and greetings: "May you be happy for ever", "May everything auspicious be added unto you".

The brothers, resplendent in their youth, heroism and beauty, proceeded with their brides into enclosures behind the curtains from where their mothers were watching the ceremony, so that they might prostrate before them and be blessed by them. Then, they returned to the palace allotted for the stay of the Royal Party. From that day, for three days, the populace witnessed a magnificent variety of ceremony and festival, packed with joy and jubilee. The people of Ayodhya who had come to Mithila as well as the inhabitants of Mithila itself could not distinguish night from day! It was festivity without intermission. 

The day after the wedding, Viswamitra went to Dasaratha and told him that the mission upon which he had resolved had been fulfilled. He called the brothers close to him; he fondled them very affectionately. He blessed them profusely, and turning to Dasaratha, expressed his intention to proceed to the Himalayan regions. At this, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Satrughna fell at the sage's feet. Viswamitra then went to the palace of Janaka and told him also that his desire had fructified triumphantly! He blessed Janaka, and the brides, Sita, Urmila, Mandavi and Sruthakeerthi. He announced there too that he was proceeding to the Himalayas. Dasaratha and Janaka and many others of Ayodhya and Mithila were in a fix; they could neither let the Sage depart, nor persuade him to stay. At last, they laid at his feet their load of gratitude and took the dust of his feet when he left, blessing every one.

The third day, when Dasaratha expressed his desire to leave for Ayodhya, Janaka did not Interpose any obstacle, but made all arrangements for their departure. He gathered the courtiers and attendant maids that were to accompany the brides; he collected and filled many chariots with the articles that they had to take with them. He gave as presents large numbers of elephants, chariots, horses and cows. He presented to the sons-in-law jewels and precious gems in plenty; also a vast variety of priceless gifts that could be used in daily life. With the dawn of the next day, the caparisoned chariots were ready for the journey. The women of the court were in tears; indeed, to speak the truth, all the women of the City were weeping at the departure of the four dear princesses.

Unable to bear the pangs of separation from Sita and Urmila, many nurses and maids broke down with grief. The mothers held the hands of the sons-in-law and prayed to them to treat their daughters gently and with affection. "They know no hardship or sorrow, they have grown up soft and tender," they pleaded in pathetic appeal. They wept as if they were losing their very eyes. At last, they ascended the chariots and moved off. The City was filled with gloom, as much gloom as the ecstasy it was filled with for three days Previous!

Janaka found it hard to take leave of Sita; he tried his best to curb the flow of tears; he accompanied Emperor Dasaratha for some distance describing to him the virtues of Sita and pleading with him to treat her with loving tenderness; with tears in his eyes, he prayed that he may be informed frequently of her welfare and happiness. He spoke also of the other brides and evinced great anxiety on their behalf too. Dasaratha responded most sympathetically; he spoke soothingly, trying his best to allay the agitation of his mind. He said, "Janaka! We have no daughters of our own. So, these are the daughters whom we longed to fondle so long! They are both daughters and daughters-in-law for us. There will not be anything wanting for them; all things necessary for their joy and happiness will be provided. Do not worry or grieve in the least. Return fully assured of our love and affection for them". Thus saying Dasaratha ordered his chariot to halt.

Janaka alighted from the chariot of the Emperor and approached the brides who were seated with the bridegrooms. He consoled them in various ways to bear the pang of separation from the home where they had been reared so lovingly. He imparted courage, and quoted many Dharmic texts which enjoin loyalty to the husband and the husband’s kith and kin. He reminded them how they have to treat the servants of the household which each of them was now entering. He accepted their respectful prostrations and caressed them once again and blessed them. When he turned his back on them to proceed to Mithila, he burst into sobs; nevertheless he ascended his chariot and moved towards home. The chariots sped Ayodhya-wards and Mithila-wards; very soon they were miles apart.

When Janaka reached Mithila, the apartments of the Palace were empty, with no sign of life, no shine of joy, no sound of elation. He could not be there even for an instant. Mithila was a City of Grief. Janaka sent for Sage Sathananda and the Ministers and in order to free his mind a little from the upsurge of sorrow, he had a number of items of business discussed and settled with them. In the midst of the discussions, his mind would wander into sadness again; he used to give replies unrelated to the problems raised. At this, one minister said, "0 King! The separation from Sita seems to have caused great grief in your heart. No father can escape this separation and this grief. Once she is gifted to the bridegroom, the father’s duty is to reduce the attachment gradually; this is a matter not unknown to your Majesty. And, we know that Sita is no ordinary maiden! She is a Divine Angel. So, separation from her must cause you greater agony. 0 King! The daughters are Divine; and, note, the sons-in-law too have Divine Splendour! They appear to have descended from Heaven. In Mithila, every one, young and old, had that feeling, and that reverence towards them. It is really a wondrous coincidence that such bridegrooms have been wedded to such brides, worthy in every way, in physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual characteristics, in status,  wealth, power, family honour, dynastic sanctity and religious faith. This cannot happen to all. Therefore, the daughters will have happiness, without the least diminution. Their lives will be filled with greater and greater joy as the years roll by". They recalled the grandeur of the marriage celebrations and calmed the agitated mind of Janaka. They engaged themselves in consoling him and restoring his equanimity and mental peace.



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