“Then I was quickly ready to depart for becoming a forest dweller even ahead of Him, as when lacking His association even residence in heaven is not to my liking.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.27)
sā aham tasya agrataḥ tūrṇam prasthitā vana cāriṇī ||
na hi me tena hīnāyā vāsaḥ svarge api rocate |
When you hear the title “goddess of fortune,” what comes to mind? Money sounds about right. Fortune has to have some value. Your fortune could include a large estate and many automobiles. Though these aren’t cash, they can be exchanged for it; hence their high value. There is a goddess of fortune described in the Vedic tradition. Though the typical depiction shows money being handed out, you would be surprised to learn that one of the ways to describe her is vana-charini, or forest-dweller.
Monkeys live in the forest. So do elephants, bears, tigers, lions and the like. You wouldn’t expect to find human beings there. For a person to take up residence in the wilderness is to accept great austerity. Some would say the austerity is needless, as what is there to prove? If you are renounced, why do you need to make a show of it? Why do you need to risk danger in your effort to renounce things?
These are good points, but in the case of the goddess of fortune, there was no choice. Her husband was ordered to go live in the forest for fourteen years. Moments prior, He was about to become the new king. Nothing is fixed in life, which means that plans are known to change. Rama is Bhagavan, so He possesses renunciation among other opulences. He has no problem shifting situations, even if the change wasn’t planned.
Bhagavan is married to the goddess of fortune. Many of His names reference this relationship. He is Madhava, or the controller of “ma,” who is the mother of the universe. He is Shridhara, or the controller of Shri, which is another name for opulence. He is Lakshmipati, or the husband of Goddess Lakshmi, who is the same Shri.
In His earthly pastimes, the Supreme Lord is Janakinatha, or the husband of Janaki, who is the daughter of King Janaka. Janaki is another name for Sita, who was not asked to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya. In fact, Rama requested her to stay at home, where she would be safe.
As Sita is the goddess of fortune, couldn’t she have showered opulence on her husband prior to leaving? Couldn’t she have made it so that He had so much wealth available to Him, carried around like luggage going through an airport? What she did instead was follow Him. According to the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, she did more than that: she was ready to go ahead of Him.
Her living in the forest made her a vana-charini. This isn’t a description you would typically associate with the goddess of fortune. In another part of the Ramayana, Shri Rama refers to her as a sadharma-charini, since she is His partner in the adherence to dharma, or duty.
“My dear beautiful wife, what you have said is befitting the occasion and also indicative of the greatness of your family heritage. You are dearer to Me than My life, for you are My companion in the performance of religious duties.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.21)
In devotional service, switching roles like this isn’t out of the ordinary. Rama is God Himself, and sometimes He lives in a kingdom and sometimes He goes to the forest. Sita is sometimes the king’s precious daughter and sometimes she roams the forest, supporting her husband. Shri Hanuman sometimes acts as the minister to Sugriva, sometimes as a chanter of the holy names, and sometimes as a brave warrior, infiltrating the enemy territory of Lanka. Through Rama’s grace, anything is possible, which makes service to Him the most worthwhile engagement in life.
Fortune to money the same,
Thoughts with Lakshmi the name.
As a forest-dweller also should know,
Ahead of husband Rama would go.
For God happy to make,
Any role ready to take.
Through Lord’s grace anything possible,
Like Hanuman’s success in mission impossible.