“Taking the victory garland in her lotus hands, Janaki is looking so beautiful. What poet is there who can describe such a grand picture?” (Janaki Mangala, 107)
kara kamalani jayamāla jānakī sohai |
barani sakai chabi atulita asa kabi kohai ||
Here Sita Devi is ready to place the victory garland on her soon-to-be husband, Lord Rama. While the victory has brought joy to the entire town, to each person there is a unique happiness. It would be natural to assume that the triumphant party would be joyful, as would be His friends and well-wishers, but in this instance the happiness of the person giving the symbol of victory is specifically addressed. She was radiant with beauty from her happiness, and the picture was too wonderful for any poet to describe.
One way to understand what Sita was feeling is to repeat the same event in the present. “How can we do this? How can we go back to that famous moment in time when Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, broke the amazingly heavy bow of Lord Shiva? How can we recreate the suspense? The victory was more remarkable because it was surprising. It was astonishing because of the many previous princes who had failed to lift the bow. To recreate the scene would be like skipping to the end of a movie without having experienced the entire buildup, no?”
The fact that we know of this incident today shows that we can recreate the event to some degree. The poets glorified the event in song and thereby immortalized it in the process. From this one verse alone, Goswami Tulsidas has allowed us to travel back in time using the mind. We can try to picture the beauty of Sita’s lotus-like hands as she held the garland of victory. We can imagine the joy she felt and the anticipation in her heart as she awaited placing that garland on the deserving victor.
She wanted Rama to win as soon as she saw Him. She knew that none of the other princes gathered there that day were right for her. Not that she wouldn’t serve her husband regardless. Her father, King Janaka, taught her the principles of religion since her childhood. She was ready to accept a husband and dutifully serve him so that both of them could advance spiritually. She didn’t need this advancement since she is eternally the consort of the Supreme Lord, but in this time period she set the proper example for all the people of the earth.
King Janaka drew up the contest to determine Sita’s husband. Just as the princes assembled in Janakpur were eager to have Sita as a wife, Sita was invested in the outcome going her way. She wanted Rama as a husband, and so when she held the victory garland in her beautiful hands, she was one step closer to making her dream a reality. When someone finally achieves what they truly desired, especially when it looked like there wouldn’t be success, the happiness is unmatched. The joy is so powerful that it cannot be contained. Therefore the poet here says that the picture of Sita holding the victory garland cannot be described accurately by anyone, no matter their superior eloquence.
One way to partially recreate the same scene is through worshiping the deity. Sita and Rama have been worshiped ever since their time on earth many thousands of years ago. They are known as incarnations of Lakshmi and Narayana. Lakshmi is the goddess of fortune and Narayana the source of all men. Narayana is also known as Vishnu and as Krishna. A Vaishnava is one who worships Vishnu or one of His non-different forms, as this kind of worship is directed to a personal God. The Personality of Godhead has transcendental features that the devotees, His fragmental expansions, can contemplate upon, worship, describe, and be fully immersed in.
The abhisheka is a central component of deity worship in the Vaishnava tradition. It is a bathing ceremony. The deity is not dirty; it is transcendental due to the authorized way in which it is constructed and then worshiped. The bathing ceremony is for the worshiper’s benefit. It allows the souls that are servants by nature to serve. It’s like a general being given a mission or a hockey player being allowed to play a game. There are temporary designations we accept throughout the journey of life based on our material capabilities, but every soul’s original designation is servant of God. Any chance we are given to act on that designation should be capitalized upon. And someone who allows for that opportunity to materialize is to be known as a true saint.
The Vaishnavas are saints in this regard, as they pass on the tradition of deity worship. The tradition originates with the Supreme Lord, who is thus known as the most merciful. When performing the bathing ceremony, one takes the designated liquid and pours it from a conch shell over the head of the deity. When one is doing this they can immediately go back in time to when Sita held the garland of victory for Rama. They can pretend that they are declaring both Sita and Rama to be victorious, to be the most beautiful couple that is so kind to allow the fallen souls to worship them in such an intimate way. And that worship is key to the personal relationship, something no person can take away from us. Someone may teach us how to worship and how to understand God, but in the end the formation of the relationship is up to us. To make God our own is to realize the true boon of the human existence.
Rather than imagine what God looks like and what He does, we can rely on the words of the saints like Tulsidas, who from a single verse in his works gives us the chance to spend the entire day thinking about God. That beautiful garland lay in Sita’s hands, awaiting its destiny of hanging from the neck of the beautiful Shri Rama. God is glorious, something which His triumph in Janakpur reminds us of.
When bow shattered the entire earth shook,
Janaki then victory garland in her hands took.
To go around Rama’s neck flowers did wait,
To reach final destination, ideal state.
For sentiments from that day to understand,
Worship deity with conch shell in hand.
Then pour sacred offerings from the top,
And vow to love Sita and Rama without stop.