“As the kumuda flower blooms at the sight of the moonrise, like that Ayodhya alighted in happiness. All the poets sing of the glories of Rama’s wedding.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 24.1)
bikasahiṁ kumuda jimi dēkhi bidhu bha'i avadha sukha sōbhāma'ī |
ēhi juguti rāma bibāha gāvahiṁ sakala kabi kīrati na'ī ||
This one poet wants to write about love. They’ve been scorned too many times in the past. They’ve had many unpleasant experiences in the romance department. This other poet wants to write about nature. They particularly enjoy the spring season. The flowers in bloom, the honeybees buzzing about, the gradual departure of the cold winter chill - these things are ripe to be described in verse. With as many topics as there are for discussion, in those directions the various poets will turn. One topic, however, can unify all. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, the kavis, the poets of sharp intellect, unify in praise of the wedding of Sita and Rama.
Poetry may not appear to be so valuable today, but its influence is still present, though one has to look a little harder to see it. As the noted playwright and poet Shakespeare quipped, brevity is the soul of wit. The less amount of words you can use to convey your message, the more powerful the message will be. Consider the song versus the book. If I can put my thoughts into a melodious song, it will be easy for others to repeat it. With a few lines, so many others will parrot my sentiments, even without knowing fully what the words mean.
Meanwhile, the same sentiments described at length in a paper or book are not as easily consumed by the public. For starters there is the time factor. Listening to a song requires much less time than reading a book. You can listen to the same song many times in the same amount of time it takes to read the book just once.
So the power of poetry is still alive and well in the form of the song. In times past, poetry was also put into song, and the words became more meaningful due to the limited communications channels. In ancient times, there was no television or radio. There weren’t newspapers, either. If you wanted to describe something important, you needed to put your words into poetry and then hopefully be able to sing the resultant verses.
The kavis thus became very important. In the Vedic tradition, the kavi can be likened to a bard. It is said that the famous Homer had memorized his lengthy works like the Illiad and the Odyssey. He would recite them from memory when called upon. Similarly, Vyasadeva and Valmiki Muni could also recite their lengthy works without using reference tools. Hardly anything in history compares to the Mahabharata in length and substance, and Vyasadeva had the entire thing memorized.
The verse quoted above comes from a very short work known as the Janaki Mangala. It is authored by a kavi whose name is Tulsidas, which means “servant of the tulasi plant.” The tulasi plant is a goddess, and she is very dear to the Supreme Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is the personal form of God, a clearer picture to give definition to the abstract concept of a supreme controller. Janaki refers to the daughter of King Janaka. Her name is also Sita, and she is the eternal consort of Vishnu’s incarnation of Rama, the prince of Ayodhya.
Thus the kavi who is a servant of Tulasi Devi, who is dear to Vishnu, authored a poem turned into song for glorifying the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama, particularly focusing on the marriage of Rama to Sita. From this verse we can gather that Tulsidas did not do anything new by authoring his poem. At the time of Rama’s wedding, so many kavis sung of the glorious event. They all united on the one subject matter. And they described the event very happily, for everyone in the town was happy.
The happiness of the people was like the blooming of the white water-lily at the ascent of the moon in the night sky. This means that the people of Ayodhya were spontaneously happy; no one had to tell them to react in a certain way. They were not afraid of the royal family. They would not get punished if they did not react appropriately. Rather, no one could stop them from being happy. Even if Rama were to tell them to stop celebrating, they wouldn’t. He was their bright moon, Ramachandra, and they were the water-lilies connected to Him. This relationship represents real yoga, the connection of the individual soul to the Supreme Lord.
Just as the spontaneous happiness of the people was a sign of perfect yoga, so too the singing of the kavis in celebration of Rama’s wedding gave an indication that they were not separated from God in interests. Poetry covering any other subject is limiting. It is not yoga since the connection to the Divine is not direct. There is a connection to God’s separated energy, known as the material nature. Sita Devi is the pleasure potency energy, and in the marriage to Rama the pleasure energy and the energetic unite. The energy that are the poets always sing of that wonderful occasion, showing that only in yoga is there eternal happiness full of activity.
One poet interested at nature’s sight,
Another about unrequited love to write.
But only on one subject all kavis to unite,
Devotion to Rama, like moon shining bright.
Happiness in Ayodhya rising at the wedding,
Like water-lilies vision of Ramachandra getting.
These words not concoction of mine,
Glorified too by poets of the time.