“First applying turmeric, they are singing of the auspiciousness. They are doing the family rituals, filling the kalasha and applying oil.” (Janaki Mangala, 115)
prathama haradi bandana kari mangala gāvahiṃ |
kari kula rīti kalasa thapi tulu caḍhāvahiṃ ||
“In Hindu marriages the bride and groom get covered with dirt beforehand? They essentially put mud all over their bodies? What is the reason for this? How about all the pots that get laid out and the singing? Why such a big deal over a marriage? In a few years they’re going to despise each other anyway. I can see why people prefer the city hall marriages. Less fuss; no making a big deal out of nothing.”
Each tradition has their own rituals related to a wedding, and the Vedic tradition is no different in this regard. As it is the most ancient, it uses articles that are still commonly found today. There needn’t be a costly ceremony if basic things like turmeric, oil and pitchers are around. Regardless of the tradition, the purpose of the pomp is the same: to make the occasion more festive. And in Janakpur a long time ago, they had a lot to feel festive about.
You could go with the simple marriage. The bride and the groom show up in front of a judge, get their marriage license, and then go their merry way. You save a lot of money this way too. Of course the parents likely aren’t involved in such a ceremony. If they had any say, they would want some kind of celebration. After all, marriage is a lifelong journey, one not to be entered into lightly. Why not celebrate it? We have parades when our sports teams win championships. We have graduation ceremonies for people successfully completing school. We have a celebration when a new president enters the Oval Office. Is it too much to ask for a celebration for a wedding?
The wedding referenced above took place a long time ago. The arrangements were made by the King of Videha, Janaka. The two people getting married had no say in the arrangements. This event was for their parents, relatives and people of the town. Everyone in Janakpur knew Sita Devi, King Janaka’s beautiful daughter. They were very happy that she was marrying Rama, the beloved prince of Ayodhya.
From the verse above we see that the ceremony started with the applying of haldi, or turmeric. Seems strange to put mud all over your body, but such a practice is meant to bring auspiciousness. We see that in the background was the sound of auspicious songs. We get these descriptions from the Janaki Mangala, a poem authored by the famous Vaishnava saint, Goswami Tulsidas. Mangala means auspiciousness, and in this case the auspiciousness relates to the marriage of Janaki, which is another name for Sita.
All the family rituals also took place, with kalashas filled and oil applied. Haldi and kalasha are staples of the wedding in the Vedic tradition. Thus nothing was held back. The people of the town got to join in on the festivities. In an ordinary wedding, if we don’t know the participants very well, the most we can contribute is showing up to the actual ceremony. We sit through the religious part of the wedding and then enjoy the reception by eating and mingling with other attendees.
As this wedding related to God and His eternal consort, everyone got to participate. Never think that because you lack skill or notoriety that somehow you are then shut out from worshiping. There is no such thing as a big devotee or a small devotee in the eyes of the Supreme Lord. Sincerity is what matters most. In school, we can give identical sets of building blocks to students and then ask them to build something. The student who builds a castle will be praised more than the student who builds something much simpler, but in devotional service the distinctions are made based off the effort alone. As God says in the Bhagavad-gita, He is the ability in man.
“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)
As He is the ability, one person may be blessed with more skill than another. Yet it is how that skill is utilized that matters in the end. In Janakpur, some people helped with the actual arrangements, while others just stayed in the background and sang. Their singing was just as important as the other work going on. In the same way, know that today any person can celebrate Sita and Rama’s marriage by remembering them and repeating their names over and over again. Rama is also known as Krishna in His original form. Sita is His energy, so she can be referred to as Hare. The maha-mantra thus addresses them both: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
All the effort may seem a little over the top, but in worshiping God there is no wasted effort. Every time His name is recited, one becomes purer. Every time one travels back in time and gets excited over the prospect of the most virtuous man in the universe uniting with the most beautiful and chaste woman, the consciousness goes one step closer towards reaching its constitutional position of servant of God.
To prepare for wedding of bride so dear,
First on her body turmeric to smear.
One could hear in the background,
Auspicious songs beautiful sound.
Filled golden pots put into place,
King, queens and people of smiling face.
Traditions gave wedding festive taste.
For Sita and Rama, never effort a waste.