“Worshiping Vishvamitra, explaining things and getting his permission, the king became happy. Then the tilaka and wedding details were written on a decorated scroll and given to the family guru for being sent to Ayodhya.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 14.2)
kausikahi pūji prasansi āyasu pāi nṛpa sukha pāyaū |
likhi lagana tilaka samāja saji kula gurahiṃ avadha paṭhāyaū ||
In professional sports, when a player’s contract is up, negotiations begin for a renewal. Since the player is a public figure and someone who knows the management and its affiliates very well, often times he won’t negotiate the contract himself. Everything will go through the agent. The two parties have different interests. The owner’s side wants to limit the value of the contract. They also want to avoid getting locked into an expensive long-term deal that could leave them stuck with a bad player. The player wants to make as much money as possible, for as long as possible.
Each party will have to talk down the other if they are to be successful. The player may say, “Well, look at what other players in the league make. They aren’t as good as me, so why shouldn’t I get paid more? Such and such is the price tag now for a player of my caliber.” The owner’s side will say things like, “This was your best year so far, but other years haven’t been so good. We’re ready to make a fair offer, but we don’t think that you will be so great. Take this deal now and perhaps we can renegotiate in the future.”
Rather than let tensions mount to the point that both sides dislike each other, the agent is inserted into the equation. Representing the player, he can say pretty much whatever he wants and not have it affect the relationship between the player and the team. The agent looks out for the player’s interests. The player trusts the agent to get him the best deal.
A similar thing took place in Janakpur a long time ago, except all of the parties involved were pure. There was no haggling necessary, but since the parties were so pious, they went through the proper channels as a mere formality. This tells us that someone whose piety is rooted in real religious principles is automatically respectful. They don’t have to separately endeavor for acquiring the trait of respectfulness.
The agreement in question did not relate to a contract to play anything. The agreement related to something as old as man himself: marriage. King Janaka vowed to give away his daughter Sita to the first prince who could lift an extremely heavy bow originally belonging to Lord Shiva. Many princes tried, but only the prince of Ayodhya, Lord Rama, managed to lift it. When the bow subsequently broke in Rama’s hands, the sound of victory filled the air. Everyone on Janaka’s side was thrilled, as were the residents of Janakpur. The rival princes were sad in defeat, but Rama’s side was happy too.
While Janaka had his whole family around to celebrate the occasion, Rama’s entourage consisted of only His younger brother Lakshmana and the famous sage Vishvamitra. The guru became the representative in this instance. In the Vedic tradition the guru is the representative of God; he speaks the Lord’s message based on the authority of the disciplic succession he belongs to. The genuine disciplic succession originates in God, so the bona fide guru’s message is always valid.
Here the guru also acted as Rama’s representative, but in His direct presence. Rama is the Supreme Lord in the spiritual manifestation of a warrior prince. Rama and Lakshmana served Vishvamitra like respectful disciples just to show the proper code of conduct to the world, but Vishvamitra’s role as representative couldn’t be masked completely. After Rama lifted the bow, the marriage could have started immediately, but King Janaka followed protocol. It was Vishvamitra who brought Rama and Lakshmana to the contest. He was the elder as well, so Janaka wasn’t going to follow through on something without his permission.
From the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that Vishvamitra gave his consent after being duly worshiped by the king. The sage then drew up the announcement of the wedding and gave it to Janaka’s family priest, Shatananda. That announcement was then sent to Ayodhya. In the Valmiki Ramayana, which contains the original accounts of this most glorious wedding, Sita recounts how Rama first got His father’s permission before proceeding with the marriage. Rama’s representative in this instance was the catalyst for receiving that permission.
Rama participated in the contest after Vishvamitra got permission from King Janaka. Now Sita would marry Rama after Janaka got Vishvamitra’s permission and Rama got Dasharatha’s permission. Very respectful were all the characters associated with Rama. Later on, after several years of marriage, Rama would be exiled from His kingdom for fourteen years. Sita very badly wanted to come along and she was finally able to do so after taking permission from the superiors. Lakshmana accompanied Rama after getting his mother’s permission.
“After obtaining the permission of the elders, I must go accompany You. If I am separated from You, O Rama, I will surely renounce my life.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 29.5)
So much respect was shown during this ancient time, but today the channels of communication aren’t nearly as strong. Families can easily go many years without talking to one another. If something good happens to you, then it is easy to proceed without notifying others. Despite the degraded condition of the modern age, the respect shown to the spiritual master is still required. The compulsory nature of the approach towards a bona fide guru is mentioned quite often in Vedic literature because it especially prevents one from mentally speculating about God. Without approaching a guru, one is left to their own imagination to think of God and how to connect with Him.
The guru follows authority. Vishvamitra was worshiped by Janaka, but that alone didn’t suffice for consent in the marriage. Even Vishvamitra, a brahmana, gets permission from others, so who are we to think that we can approach God without first learning about Him from someone who represents Him? And the kind representatives of the Lord, who are the real saints of the world, are more than happy to divulge information about Bhagavan, the Supreme Lord who is full of opulences. They make one stipulation, however. They ask that we be sincere in our inquisitiveness. If our desire is to deceive the world with a concocted form of religion, the guru’s words will not be so forthcoming. We won’t even be able to properly understand their message should it come to us in written form. The respect offered by the interested parties at Sita’s svayamvara teaches so many lessons, including on how to make the most out of life.
Tilaka and wedding details on scroll set,
But first permission of Dasharatha to get.
Janaka for marriage of daughter was ready,
First offered worship to sage of vow steady.
Protocol went up the right chain,
Then only Rama Sita to gain.
Understanding of God through representative to flow,
Otherwise His true nature heart never to know.