“Sita’s younger sister, who was also very beautiful, was given to Lakshmana. Shrutakirti, who had every virtue and good quality, was given to Lakshmana’s younger brother.” (Janaki Mangala, 154)
siya laghu bhagini lakhana kahun rūpa ujāgari |
lakhana anuja śrutakīrati saba guna āgari ||
Any parent with multiple children around the same age knows the issue with gift-giving. As soon as one child gets something, the other one wants it. Typically the younger voices their displeasure more than the older. As the younger ones get what they want more often, rather than explain the triviality of the issue, the parents get the same toy for the younger one. Then the older one naturally complains: “It’s not fair. Why do you always give them what they want? This is my toy. I got it for my birthday. Why should they get the same thing? When I used to cry for things you would just tell me ‘No.’ Now they do the same thing and you give in.”
Such are the ways of sibling rivalries, and not much can be done to stop the competition. The best bet for the parents is to always purchase the same toy in pairs. Another way is to designate a specific toy for the enjoyment of all, a sort of shared ownership. The parents behave this way because of the love they feel for the children. They don’t want any particular child to feel slighted. Though the parents may be more lenient with one than another, it does not mean that they love any one of the children more than the others. It would be like someone asking you if you loved your father more than your mother, or vice versa. In a typical situation, you love both of them equally.
The parents don’t choose which one of their children to love more, and so they try their best to not show favoritism. This attitude in its purest form was exhibited by a father with his new son-in-laws a long time ago. The sons belonged to the King of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha. They were four brothers who loved each other equally. What guided the three younger ones was their utmost respect, compassion, and concern for the eldest, Shri Rama. They were more than thrilled at His marriage ceremony, which was not arranged in the typical fashion.
In the time period in question, the Treta Yuga, kings would give away their daughters to other princes for marriage. This was how the marriages were arranged. There was no free intermingling between men and women. This was done to protect the women. Rather than leave them vulnerable to the perils of illicit sex, where one is more or less used for the bodily pleasure they can provide, the fathers would find a lifelong protector for their daughters when the age was right. This system also helped to keep the men focused, as they didn’t have to worry about how their family lines would continue. They didn’t have to worry about finding someone to support them in their religious efforts, which were taken to be the most important duties in life.
Rama would have been the ideal choice for any king looking to marry off his daughter. Rama was kind, sweet, gentle, strong, brave, courageous, and very respectful. These seemingly contradictory qualities appeared in Him in full. King Janaka, who had the most beautiful daughter named Sita, would have chosen Rama in a second, had he known that the eldest son of Dasharatha was roaming this earth.
Unaware of Rama’s presence, Janaka held a contest instead. This way the chosen husband for Sita would be known to be the strongest person in the world. As his daughter was very attractive, winning this contest would at least give pause to other kings who might think of stealing her away. A beautiful woman is a magnet for men; this is just nature’s way. If she likes, she can fend off suitors more easily by wearing a wedding ring. The presence of her husband will serve as the strongest deterrent for others looking to go beyond friendship with her. To win this contest required lifting an extremely heavy bow originally belonging to Lord Shiva. Thus the winner would have the most strength to use in defending Sita.
Rama won that contest. He got to marry Sita. For the ceremony, His family from Ayodhya came to Janakpur, the city ruled by King Janaka. The king was so happy to give Sita away to Rama that he felt the need to be more generous. Sita has every good quality. Think of every virtue you would want in a person. Now imagine that they exist at the highest levels and are always on display. Though this combination seems impossible, it is found in Sita, who was thus the perfect daughter for the righteous Janaka.
Janaka didn’t want to part with his precious daughter, but he did so to follow protocol. Moreover, Shri Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His avatara as a warrior prince. A sincere offering to God never goes in vain. One is never a loser by sacrificing something for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord. Indeed, Sita is Rama’s eternal consort, so it was due to the benevolence of the couple that Janaka got the chance to make the offering to Rama.
Janaka didn’t want the three younger brothers to feel slighted. Janaka’s younger brother had two beautiful unmarried daughters. They were then given away to Bharata and Shatrughna respectively. Bharata’s wife is described as parama manorama, which means “supremely pleasing to the mind.” Here Goswami Tulsidas says that Shatrughna’s new wife, Shrutakirti, had every virtue and good quality. While all four brothers were sons of Dasharatha, Lakshmana and Shatrughna were the youngest two and they appeared from the womb of Queen Sumitra. Therefore here Shatrughna is referred to as Lakshmana’s younger brother.
Lakshmana, who was with Rama during the contest of the bow, received Sita’s younger sister Urmila as a wife. It is said here that she was also very beautiful. The brothers were already so happy for Rama to wed Sita. There was no sibling rivalry amongst them. If there was ever any competition, it was in how to please Rama. Janaka treated all four brothers like his sons, and so he made sure that none of them would feel slighted. All four brothers were matched with ideal wives. The generosity of Janaka knows no bounds, as he gave everything to Rama and His family. In the process, his devotion continued to flourish, which is the best possible reward to any activity.
When having young children two,
Gift-giving causes bind for you.
While pleased with toy is one,
For the other happiness is none.
From this dilemma to be freed,
Two gifts, so that both are pleased.
For happiness of all brothers to ensure,
Janaka made sure wives for all four.
Not needed since in love all to unite,
Still, scene to give all spectators delight.