“They prayed to Ganesha and Parvati for Sita and Rama. The king, the relatives and the people of the town were all happy.” (Janaki Mangala, 114)
sīya rama hita pūjahiṃ gauri ganesahi |
parijana purajana sahita pramoda naresahi ||
If someone tells you that they are praying for you, you know that it is a really nice gesture. Especially if they are actually praying and not just saying so, it means that in their most vulnerable state, where they submit to the will of the divine creator, they ask Him to bestow His welfare upon you. They could ask for so many other things; be it money, fame, fortune, or good health. Within that time of prayer, they instead think of you, and so to hear such a thing is very flattering. The people of Janakpur a long time ago were so innocent that they actually prayed for the welfare of the Supreme Lord and His wife. The divine figures who were petitioned for help are themselves devotees, so surely the prayers would not go unanswered.
Have we ever heard of such a thing? It’s like going to church and saying:
“Oh God, I love you so much. I think you’re the best. You’re the only one I’m devoted to. I prayed today for your fame and fortune to continue. I want you to be glorified all the time. I want that you should always remain with the people you love the most. I pray that whatever events you want to unfold go down without a hitch, to your liking. I know that these seem like silly requests, but they are what I want. I know that you give the devotees whatever they ask, that you will stop at nothing to please them. If you are really true to your nature, you will hear my prayers.”
In Janakpur, the prayer was even better because the people didn’t know the divine natures of Sita and Rama. There is only one God. No need to belabor the point, as the fact is obvious to any rational thinking human being who is not too puffed up with false pride. There is a singular controller, a guiding hand to the non-randomness we see in the nature around us. How to address such a person and how to know Him may be difficult to accept with confidence, but there is still the inherent understanding that there is a God. Even the staunchest atheist succumbs to the forces of nature at the time of death. In their case that very death represents their God. Thus everyone is a servant of a higher nature.
The Vedas say that there are many forms of the original Godhead. This is because so many activities take place through the desire for divine sport. And those activities are tied to specific features. In some forms the features aren’t as clearly laid out. Some forms exhibit more of the features, while others exhibit less. Some forms are more attractive to some, while others attract a different kind of worshiper. The idea is that no one should be shut out from worshiping, irrespective of where they live, who their parents are, or what language they speak.
Sita and Rama are God’s energy and the Supreme Lord respectively. This information is given in the Vedas. The bona fide spiritual traditions that emanate from the original person sometimes have different ultimate conclusions. Some take Sita and Rama to be the original, others take them to be incarnations of the original Lakshmi Devi and Lord Vishnu, while others take them to be incarnations of the original Shrimati Radharani and Shri Krishna. In whatever tradition you follow, Sita and Rama are still not ordinary. Their qualities alone make them worthy of worship.
The residents of Janakpur can attest to this. They knew nothing of Sita and Rama’s true identities. They were won over simply by their qualities. And what were those qualities? Rama was kind, sweet, chivalrous, brave, respectful, handsome, beautiful, and a firm protector of propriety, or dharma. Sita was the most beautiful woman in the world, very shy in her behavior, and a copy of her father Janaka in adherence to dharma. Thus Sita and Rama were a perfect match. When the opportunity arose the people in Janakpur wanted the two to wed.
Lo and behold, Shri Rama was the only prince to lift the bow in the contest at Janaka’s assembly, qualifying Him to marry Sita. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala we get further descriptions of what went on in the town in preparation for the marriage ceremony. It is said that the people prayed to Gauri and Ganesha. They did so for Sita and Rama, not for their own benefit. Gauri is another name for Mother Parvati, who is also known as Durga Devi. She is the wife of Lord Shiva and she takes charge of the material creation. The material nature is like a fort that is difficult to overcome; hence the name Durga. The threefold miseries of life are symbolically represented in the trident held by Durga Devi. Those who want to feel less of a sting from the effects of the mind and body, the natural forces under the control of the celestials, and the influence of other living entities pray for Durga Devi’s kindness.
Ganesha is the respected son of Parvati and Shiva. He is pretty much the face of Hinduism, as he is known to so many. The reason his worship is so common is that he removes obstacles for his worshipers. And who wouldn’t want obstacles removed? Ganesha is a dedicated son, as he considers his blessed parents to be his life and soul. He is so respected by God that he is granted the high honor of being the first personality worshiped in all Hindu ritualistic functions.
The tricky part of worshiping Gauri and Ganesha alone is that, by definition, they only grant material benedictions. The material relates to the temporary body within the current lifetime. The spiritual relates to the integral animating force within all living beings. The spiritual relates to the soul, which is eternal and thus of higher importance. It is better to seek out the welfare of the soul than the body.
Were the people in Janakpur ignorant of their true identity, then?
Actually, during this time the Vedic culture was still very strong, so everyone worshiped Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and other divine figures as almost habit. The people were so pious that if anything good happened, they immediately attributed the success to the blessings of Shiva and his family. In this instance, they did not seek out personal rewards. They cannot be considered to be in the material consciousness, for they wanted the pleasure and safety of Sita and Rama.
Goswami Tulsidas, the author of the Janaki Mangala, is of like mind with the people of Janakpur. In his writings he often offers prayers to Ganesha as well, and he asks only to have the obstacles removed so that he can keep Sita and Rama in his heart. The people of Janakpur essentially asked the same thing, and in this style of worship there is no danger of material contamination. Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha act at the behest of Shri Rama, but they are devotees in their own right. They are more than happy to see the marriage of the divine couple, the glories of whom Shiva constantly describes to his chaste and beautiful wife.
To Gauri and Ganesha let us pray,
To make special Sita’s day.
Rama, of a beauty without compare,
His welfare too must be there.
Our prayers we know they will hear,
For to them Sita and Rama are so dear.
From their kind blessings to get,
In auspiciousness wedding to be set.