“O supreme eternal energy of the Personality of Godhead, O supreme mystic power, O supreme controller of this material world, O goddess, please be kind to us and arrange for our marriage with the son of Nanda Maharaja, Krishna.” (Gopis praying to Goddess Katyayani, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 22)
When a young girl reaches an age suitable for marriage, it is natural for her father to feel apprehension. Fathers generally have great affection for their daughters since it is their duty to provide full protection to the girl in her youth. In the Vedic tradition, when a girl gets married, she is given away to the husband and her family. In essence, she relinquishes ties to her birth parents and creates new ones with her husband’s family. Thus it is imperative for a father to find a husband who will provide complete protection for his daughter.
In any civilized society, it is seen that the women and children are catered to first. There is even a saying for this, “Women and children first”. This rule applies to emergency situations. If there is a fire or other major emergency relating to life and death, it is the standard etiquette to first ensure the safety of the children and then the women. By nature, women are the fairer sex and also the mothers of society. If we see a family where the children are well behaved and pious, it is to be understood that their mother must have done a good job in raising them. The mother carries the child in the womb for nine months and then looks after the child during the crucial early years. A peaceful society can only come about if there are good parents to guide the children. At the same time, women must be protected; otherwise there will be major problems.
“When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Krishna, the women of the family become corrupt, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vrishni, comes unwanted progeny.” (Arjuna speaking to Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.40)
If the women in society are not protected, one of the negative consequences is the unnatural rise of illicit sex. In the Vedic definition, there are many categories of sins and various definitions of what activities constitute sin. Nevertheless, there are four primary activities which are considered most sinful. By sins, we mean anything that keeps us bound to the repeated cycle of birth and death; something that keeps us away from the righteous path. Our current life is by no means our first one. The gross material body is temporary. It has a time of creation which we refer to as birth. The body also has a time of destruction which we know as death. Throughout this time, our original identity as spirit soul is unchanged. The soul is eternal, but the body is not. The type of birth we have is determined by our qualities and desires. In a nutshell, if we want to remain in the material world, God lets us do so. A sober person will realize that true happiness can never be achieved through mundane sense gratification. The spiritual realm is our true home. If we have a sincere desire to return back to home, back to Godhead, then God will gladly take us there. In this regard, sinful activity is anything which keeps us from achieving the ultimate perfection of life, that of becoming God conscious.
“For one who worships Me, giving up all his activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, who has fixed his mind upon Me, O son of Pritha, for him I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 12.6-7)
The four biggest impediments to spiritual advancement are meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex. Of these four, illicit sex is the biggest obstacle since sex represents the highest form of material sense gratification. For this reason, illicit sex should be avoided at all costs. Sex desire naturally exists, so it doesn’t have to be completely eliminated, but rather it should be controlled. Regulated sex life is allowed through the institution of marriage. In novels and cinema, marriage is depicted as an institution of romantic love, but in actuality it is a completely religious institution, aimed at providing spiritual enlightenment. In the Vedic system, a person’s life should be divided into four stages. These stages are called ashramas since they are meant to provide gradual spiritual enlightenment. Married life is the second time period, known as the grihastha-ashrama. If people are married as soon as they have any inkling for sex desire, there is no question of illicit sex. Today, however, this situation doesn’t hold true. Men and women have the independence to freely intermingle. While on the surface this may seem like a good thing, its major pitfall is that illicit sex becomes rampant.
Sex desire is especially strong in men. The idea of men wanting to “sow their wild oats” is not just a myth. Sex desire is very strong and it is also very hard to satisfy. In today’s world, it is quite common to see men jumping from one sex partner to another. In many instances, a person is lauded for his ability to “score” with girls. These “ladies men” actually cheat other women since all they are looking for is sex. A man meets a woman and then tries his best to woo her into having sex with him. After having sex, the man feels no obligation to ever talk to the woman again. If the woman should accidentally get pregnant, she is left to beg for child support or money from the government to help her raise her child. This type of behavior isn’t even seen in the animal society. Animals have no care for decorum or rules of propriety. They will have sex with pretty much anyone and everyone. Nevertheless, we still see that the male animals will often take care of their consorts should the female get pregnant.
The human society is supposed to be a civilized one. We have a much higher level of intelligence than the animals. This heightened brain power should be used to cultivate spiritual knowledge. In Sanskrit, the scriptures are referred to as the shastras, meaning that which governs. It is man’s duty to act in a regulated manner; otherwise he is no different than the animals.
“There is no possibility of one's becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 6.16)
It is quite common to see that those who are expert in scoring with women are also expert in lying. Great politicians have become notorious for their philandering ways. This shouldn’t be surprising. These same politicians are experts at lying to their constituents and cheating others out of their hard earned money. It makes sense that they would have no respect for their wives or the women they use for sex.
Fathers are men after all. They know better than anybody else just how vulnerable unmarried women are. This underscores the importance of finding a suitable husband for the daughter and getting her married as soon as possible. This was the situation presented before Maharaja Janaka of Mithila many thousands of years ago. Through his good fortune, he found a young girl one day while ploughing a field. The girl was none other than the goddess of fortune herself, Lakshmiji, appearing on earth in human form. Janaka immediately took the girl in as his daughter and named her Sita since she was born of the earth.
“After seeing that I had reached an age suitable for giving me away to a proper husband in marriage, my father became overcome with fear and anxiety, like a man who was about to become poor. Even if a father be like Indra himself on this earth, he obtains ill treatment from the people in general, both subordinates and superiors, if he keeps his daughter unmarried. Realizing that this precarious situation was not too far off, the king became lost in an ocean of anxiety and could not cross it, like one who has no raft.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.34-36)
Sita Devi was perfect in every regard. She was actually a devotee all her life. People may have different standards for judging character and for rating another person’s piety, but in the Vedic tradition, those who are pure devotees of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are viewed with the highest respect. Pure devotion to God doesn’t come easily, so those who exude such characteristics should be considered first class. Janaka didn’t know that Sita was Lakshmi, but he still understood just how great a daughter he had. For this reason, he found it very difficult to find a suitable husband for her. He thought to himself, “My daughter is perfect in every regard. I can’t think of anyone who would be a suitable husband for her. She is also my life and soul, and if I lose her, I will have nothing. Nevertheless, if my daughter is of age and still remains unmarried, I will be ridiculed throughout society.” Since the kings belonged to the kshatriya class, it was their duty to provide protection for all the citizens and to also set a good example. Honor and reputation meant everything to the kings. Janaka didn’t think anyone was worthy of marrying Sita, but he resolved to get her married anyway since that would maintain the good reputation of his kingdom and all his ancestors.
For her marriage, Janaka decided that he would hold a grand ceremony where princes would be called to come and try to lift the bow of Lord Shiva. The bow had been given to Janaka on a previous occasion and it was considered impossible to lift and string. This way, even if no one were to lift the bow, at least Janaka would be saved from ridicule. The result of this plan was that Janaka received Lord Rama as a son-in-law. Lord Krishna had incarnated at the same time as Lakshmi, appearing as the pious prince of Ayodhya named Rama, the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha.
Among many other things, God is the ultimate protector. One who takes shelter of His lotus feet will never have to worry about anything ever again.
"Give up all varieties of religiousness, and just surrender unto Me; and in return I shall protect you from all sinful reactions. Therefore, you have nothing to fear." (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)
Due to his love and affection for Sita, Janaka found the ultimate protector for his daughter. The lesson here is that we should all follow Janaka’s example by leading our dependents towards God. Though it may not be possible to receive Lord Rama as a husband, Lord Krishna in His original form can accept an unlimited number of wives. All women should accept Krishna as their husband, and thus they will always be protected. This was the behavior of the gopis of Vrindavana. As young girls, they visited the temple of Goddess Durga and prayed to have Lord Krishna as their husband. Though they were never formally married, through their personal dealings with the Lord, they had a relationship far more intimate than that of a ordinary marriage.
Janaka was a great king and great devotee of God. His affection for God and His devotees gave him the intelligence to find the perfect husband for Sita. If we are devoted to God, we can rest assured that we will always find Him wherever we turn.