“Vishvamitra has his lotus-like hands affectionately over their hair, like red lotus flowers on baby cupid.” (Janaki Mangala, 64)
kākapaccha rivi parasata pāni sarojani |
lāla kamala janu lālata bāla manojani ||
To properly paint a picture with words, reference points are often used. They prove to be helpful, especially if the terms invoked are known to most people. In the Vedic tradition, the best picture of the Supreme Lord in all His beauty is painted through the many verses of poetry, both in the Sanskrit language and its derivatives. For issues of beauty, Kamadeva, the god of love, is often referenced, as his beauty is well-known. He is the equivalent of the commonly known cupid, so to help him instill lusty desires in others, he has lotus flowers around him. The arrows he shoots from his bow also have flowers on them, as the beautiful fragrance and sight of these natural wonders help to create an amorous mood. A long time ago, the transcendental affection shown by a spiritual master towards his child disciples could be better explained through a comparison to a young Kamadeva.
The scene in question was a grand sacrifice in the kingdom of Janakpur. A religious sacrifice is for the benefit of the Supreme Lord or one of His deputies. With a sacrifice you dedicate some time to an issue not relating to your personal interest. Even if you want to acquire something for your own comfort or you are establishing a rite of passage, the attention to religious life is there all the same, at least in the case of the pious. For instance, in the Vedic tradition the birth of a new child is celebrated with a sacrifice, for the desire of the parents is to bring auspiciousness to the occasion, to ensure that the child no longer has to suffer through birth and death.
Notice that the plea for auspiciousness does not have to relate to only personal wellbeing. The ability to have all of your amenities provided for in life does not represent the summit of existence. Rather, the advanced species that is the human being has a higher purpose to fulfill. They are the elder brother of the animal community, so they are to set a good example of tolerance, kindness, and dedication to piety. That piousness leads to a benefit for all, not just the person adherent to it. The benefit of following your occupational duty may not be readily known to someone who is sensually driven, but if we see some examples of different roles properly fulfilled, we can figure out the reason for the dedication and also the purpose behind the pleas for auspiciousness made by others.
A long time back, two sons of a famous king were on their way out into the wilderness for an indefinite period of time. They were quite young, and though they were young enough to still require adult supervision, their purpose in the forest was to defend against the attacks of the wickedest creatures on earth. The son of Gadhi, Vishvamitra Muni, had come to Ayodhya to request the protection of Shri Ramachandra, the delight of the Raghu dynasty and eldest son of King Dasharatha. After the king reluctantly agreed to allow Rama to leave, Lakshmana, the Lord’s younger brother, also accompanied the group.
“They pray to God to grant them blessings: ‘May You garner fame and return victorious. May You not lose a single hair while bathing.’” (Janaki Mangala, 29)
As they were leaving, the residents prayed for Rama and Lakshmana’s welfare. They did not want a single hair from their heads to fall while bathing, but they also wanted them to return successful in their duties. Children are the essence of innocence, and on this occasion, they left home because of the request of a respected sage. The citizens would have been excused for only thinking of the boys’ welfare, but they knew that to fulfill the higher purpose is more important.
The dedication to chivalry would create a peaceful condition in the forests for others who were carrying out their occupational duties. The brahmanas live by religious principles, and from their ability to worship God they can grant so many benedictions to the rest of society. If that dedication to piety is jeopardized by ill-motivated thieves and rogues, then the entire fabric of society crumbles.
Rama and Lakshmana successfully carried out their duties and then made it to Janakpur, where another highly pious person was carrying out his obligations. King Janaka was the host of a grand sacrifice to determine the husband for his beautiful daughter Sita. Marriage is also a religious tradition, meant to create a stable bond that can benefit both parties in terms of advancement in consciousness. The husband supported by a chaste wife can carry out his occupational duties as delineated by the Vedas and explained by the priestly class. The wife, at the same time, gets the protection she needs from her right-minded husband.
Oh, but if only finding the right boy for your daughter were easy. Janaka knew that his precious Sita deserved only the most righteous prince. Rama fit the position perfectly, as He had already protected Vishvamitra and the other munis in the forest from the worst attackers, so protecting Sita should not have been a problem for Him. Oh, and there was His beauty as well. Both Rama and Lakshmana seemed like creatures that didn’t belong on earth. It seemed like the creator took all of the beauty from his palette and placed it in their forms and then used whatever little beauty he had left over for the rest of the population.
The sacrifice in Janaka’s kingdom involved a contest with a bow, which originally belonged to Lord Shiva. Whoever could lift the bow first would win the contest. Many princes had already tried, but they couldn’t even move it. As if on a conveyor belt, they each walked up to the bow, tried to lift it, and then offered respect to it after having failed.
Now these two handsome youths were on the scene with the sage Vishvamitra. Everyone was looking at them, for their beauty was indescribable. The affectionate sage at one point caressed their heads with his lotus-like hands. Goswami Tulsidas compares this to red lotus flowers touching baby Kamadeva, or cupid. Kamadeva is beautiful to start, but in a childlike form he is more endearing. The child is innocent, and when decorated with nice flowers the innocence is enhanced even further.
All of the related parties who followed their occupational duties would be rewarded through Rama. The pious king of Ayodhya allowed Rama and Lakshmana to leave at the insistence of the sage. Vishvamitra gave powerful mantras to the two boys after they defeated the wicked Tataka demon. And now King Janaka was going to be rewarded for holding a contest to determine the husband for his daughter.
Shri Rama, in a young form that surpassed the beauty of millions of cupids, lifted the bow easily and won Sita’s hand in marriage. The goddess of fortune herself then further decorated the beautiful youth with a bluish complexion by placing the flower garland of victory around His neck. And for all of time she stays by His side as His beautiful and devoted wife. The perfect devotee Lakshmana also remains with Rama, and their number one servant, Shri Hanuman, completes the picture. That beautiful group remains with the devotees who always think of them.
Vishvamitra to Ayodhya went,
His two sons then Dasharatha sent.
Sacrifices in forests ascetics did,
Rakshasas brothers then to rid.
Holding contest Janaka did his part,
Proved to be a decision very smart.
In love sage put hands on each head,
Like Kamadeva with flowers red.
To their dharma all parties thus true,
That Rama to win the wise knew.