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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

SitaRama Kalyana Vaibhogame …



Year after year, on every Sri Ramanavami, my mind simply goes straight like a missile to my native place and fondly roam under the pandillu  (temporary shelters from Sun erected by roofing with Palmyra leaves)  erected for about a kilometer and a half or even more... all the way from the market abetting the three canals that are flowing like Bhavabhuti’s gad gada  Godavari … a massive assemblage of people under that sprawling pandiri … waiting for the priests to bring Rama and Sita from the Ramulavari temple in procession to the kalyana mandapam….  crawling through that massive crowd assembled to watch  SitaRama  Kalyanam …which is all set to double up by the Kalyana mahoortam...

and fearing the crowd... present and the prospective ... if one crosses that flood of people by walking along the margins of the gathering,  of course, under the pandillu through the main bazaar right up to Gandhi Chowk and beyond … up to the end of medical shops… that are decorated nicely … ceiling false-proofed with white cloth, sides adorned with garlands of mango leaves, there in the middle colored ribbons, paper cuttings… crisscrossing the roof … here and there chandeliers …  the whole road packed with people—male and female, children and aged moving slowly like a stream… speakers blaring out all kinds of sounds…. including the song of the daySeetha Ramula Kalyanamu Choothamu rarandi.... 

petty vendors , coming from different regions, selling all kinds of fancy things under those pandillu spreading their ware before the shops … all within that narrow strip.. some even placing their goods on the  wooden planks placed over the drains  and dancing to balance themselves while reaching to pick out a little away flung items … some shouting in Telugu, some in half Telugu and half Tamil, yet a few others in Hindi… indeed it is Hindi vendors who attract everybody’s attention, for their anxiety to speak Telugu makes everyone amused most … indeed I learnt my first few Hindi words under this pandiri from a vendor when he cried rhythmically: “Bacchhonki khel neki  cheese hai .. bachhe ki sath bap bhi khel sakathe hai, do ane me donombhi khelsakte hai…then translating himself into Telugu  he would yell : “pilla adochhu… pillaki sath talli bhi adocchuu.. beda me iddaru adochhu…” and that is what is pretty amusing to listen to for everybody …

Sita Rama Kalyan in Valmiki Ramayana
Under the protection of Sri Rama and Laksmana, sage Viswamitra completes his 6-day sacrificial proceedings. Viswamitra then tells Rama, “I stand accomplished of my purpose. You, the illustrious hero, have carried out my bidding and the name of Siddhasrama has been justified.”

Next day morning, Rama and Laksmana greeting Viswamitra and other Rsis, submit thus: “What injunction of yours we should carryout.” Then, with the nod of Viswamitra, Rsis tell them: “Janaka, King of Mithila, is about to perform a most pious sacrifice. We shall all go there. There you ought to see a marvelous bow, which no one could so far, including gods, bend it.”

Thus, Viswamitra, accompanied by Sri Rama and Laksmana and other Rsis, proceed towards Mithila to watch the bow-sacrifice of King Janaka. On the way, they break their journey on the bank of Sona at sunset. Later, crossing the Sona, they reach the bank of Ganga and spend the night there. There at the request of Rama, Viswamitra narrates him the story of the origin of Ganga. Later, on the way to Mithila, as Rama enters the hermitage of Gautama, Ahalya redeems her celestial form. She then offers hospitality to the two brothers as enunciated in the scriptures. Everyone rejoice the occasion.

Viswamitra, Rama and Laksmana and others finally reach Mithila. Nearing the hall of Vedic ritual of Janaka, Rama, expressing his praise for the arrangements made by Janaka for the ceremony,  prays to Viswamitra that he may decide a cottage for them too nearby. On hearing the words of Rama, Viswamitra arranges a camp at an unfrequented place that has refreshing water.

On hearing that Viswamitra arrived at the ceremony, King Janaka, keeping his family priest,  Satananda,  afore, rushes to Viswamitra and receives him with all humility by offering hospitality as prescribed by the scriptures. He then submits, “You have blessed me with your arrival at my sacrificial grounds along with many sages. Permit me to continue my sacrificial vow for twelve more days. After that, you could also watch the gods who appear to receive their sacrificial offerings.” Turning to the two valiant lads who look like a pair of gods descended on earth, Janaka questions Vishwamitra as to whose sons are they. Informing them that they are the sons of Emperor Dasaratha, Viswamitra narrates the whole story thus far happened.

Hearing how Ahalya was redeemed by Sri Rama, Satananda, son of Gautama and Ahalya and rejoicing  he narrates to Rama the story of Viswamitra.  On hearing the glorious narration of Satananda, King Janaka praying to Viswamitra to grant him leave as it is time for him to perform religious rites, and also to be pleased to pay a visit to him the next day, returns to his palace.

Next day, Janaka calling on Viswamitra, prays to let him know if there is anything that he can do for them. Then Viswamitra apprises Janaka about the eagerness of Sri Rama and Laksmana to see his superb bow. With their desire fulfilled, the two princes will return as they would.  Janaka then reveals them the glory of the bow and also tells them how he got it.  He then narrates how he got Sita from the track of the ploughshare while ploughing the plot set apart for a sacrifice; how she grew up as his daughter; the rulers of the land approaching him suing for his Sita; his bringing out the bow of Lord Siva and asking the princes to prove their valor by stringing it; and none were being able to toss it even; his rejection of them;  angered by his rejection, all those kings inflicting sufferings on his city; his praying the gods and as they pleased with his prayers their granting him an army complete in all four limbs and with it his driving away of the villainous kings from his capital.

“I shall now show that splendid bow to Sri Rama and Laksmana as well.” He also says, “if Rama strings this bow, I promise to give away my daughter, Sita, to the son of Dasaratha.”  Hearing the narration of Janaka, Viswamitra then asks him to show the bow to Rama. Janaka then orders his ministers: “Let the heavenly bow, adorned  sandalwood paste and garlands, be brought here.”

As commanded, his ministers coming back with an eight-wheeled coffer in which the bow of Shiva is ensconced, tugged by five thousand tall men of illimitable energy who could somehow tug it in, announce: “Oh king and sovereign of Mithila, here is the select bow …” Listening to his ministers, Janaka then submits to Viswamitra and to both Rama and Laksmana too thus: “Here is that exquisite bow, Oh, Brahman, which is held as a time-honored bow by the lineage of Janaka kings … Oh, eminent-saint, such as it is... let this be displayed to those two princes... “As prayed for by Janaka, Viswamitra then says to Sri Rama, “vatsa rāma dhanu paśhya—Child Rama, behold the bow!”

 Rama, opening the chest in which the bow is placed, and beholding the bow forthwith, says: “idam dhanurvaram brahman saspśhāmi iha pāinā / yatnavān cha bhavihyāmi tolane pūrae api vā ( 1-67-14)— I hereby hold with my hand this heavenly bow and shall try to toss it on my palms and even to bend it.”

“bāham—Amen!” said the king and the sage. As every one is watching, Sri Rama playfully seizes the bow at the middle, sets the string to the bow and as he bends it, lo! making a loud noise, it breaks into two at the middle.

Feeling relieved, Janaka submits to Viswamitra thus: “I have witnessed the prowess of the son of Dasaradha.. his feat is marvelous, inconceivable, and was never thought of by me. My pledge that Sita can be won only through valor stands redeemed today. My daughter, Sita who is dearer to me, remains to be given away. With your permission, I will send my counselors to Ayodhya to bring the Emperor to Mithila.”  

Accordingly, Janaka’s counselors, on reaching Ayodhya, inform Dasaradha how Sri Rama broke the bow of Janaka and won the hand of Sita, his daughter. They also convey him their master’s message sent with the consent of sage Viswamitra thus: “O illustrious King, by exhibiting his valor, your worthy son has decisively won my celebrated daughter. I have to now redeem my pledge by giving away Sita to that exalted soul. Be pleased to sanction it. Accompanied by your preceptor and your family priest,   O King, come soon and bring my pledge to completion.”

Dasaradha is delighted to hear the news. He then, taking the consent of sage Vasistha and Vamadeva as well as his counselors, proceeds to Mithila for the wedding. They are received with signal honor by Janaka and his people and are lodged comfortably.

Later, at the instance of Dasaradha, Vasistha glorifies the race of Ikswaku at the Janaka’s palace. Recounting his own pedigree, Janaka offers the hand of his two daughters, Sita and Urmila to SriRama and Laksmana, respectively.

Vasistha and Viswamitra jointly ask for the hand of the two daughters of Kusadhwaja, brother of King Janaka, in favour of Bharata and Satrughna and Janaka acquiesces the proposal.  Then Janaka submits to sage Vasistha thus: “kārayasva ṛṣhe sarvān ṛṣhibhi saha dhārmika / rāmasya loka rāmasya kriyām vaivāhikīm prabho  (I.73.18)—O pious seer, along with the other sages, conduct the nuptial ceremony of Sri Rama, the delight of the world, my lord!”

Saying, “Amen” to Janaka,  Vasistha, placing  Viswamitra and Satananda at his head, prepares a sacrificial alter at the center of the pavilion according to scriptural ordinance, and gets it decorated on all sides with sandal paste and flowers.

After that, duly escorting Sita, adorned with all the jewels and having comfortably seated her before the sacred fire opposite to Sri Rama, Janaka then says: “…iyam sītā mama sutā saha dharma charī tava / pratīchchha cha enām bhadram te pāim ghīhva pāinā (I.73. 25, 26)—This Sita, my daughter, is going to be your helpmate in discharging your sacred obligations. Take her hand in your own and accept her. May god betide you! She will remain exclusively devoted to you. She will ever follow you as a shadow.” Saying so, Janaka forthwith pours water through his hand into Rama’s hand, consecrating the kanyadan—giving away of his daughter to Rama as his wife—by the recitation of mantras.
Following Rama’s kalyan, Janaka invites Laksmana to accept Urmila, Bharata the hand of Mandavi, and Satrughna the hand of Srutakirti as wife and be married.    

Hearing the request of Janaka all the four princes grasping the hands of the four princess, going clock-wise round the sacrificial fire, the altar, as well as round Janaka and the sages, go through the rest of the rituals of marriage.

Next day, taking leave of Janaka, Dasaradha leaves for Ayodhya along with his sons and their newly-wedded brides.      
 Source:  Adapted from  Valmiki-Ramayana, Gita Press; www.valmikiramayan.net 
and as we move further down we come across flower vendors… and the mighty intoxicating fragrance of sampangi.. jasmine, kanakambaralu … maruvam… then the cloth shops… book stores and finally the Raju Soda Fountain and his badam palu, Soda, ice-soda and all other kinds of chilled beverages in the mirrored enclave that reflects the whole of Bose road, of course, in awkward shapes… nevertheless interesting to sneak a look....

suddenly as we enter the Bose Road … coming under the sweltering Sun and walking on the baking cement road … jumping up and down in discomfort for a step or two … then, of course, the anticipated  respite—respite from the bright sun and frying cement road… for we are already under the pandillu  in front of the Central Cooperative bank …stretching up to anjaneyaswamy temple ... a huge mass of people sitting under it … fanning with whatever they had in hands—pavitachengu,  palmyra fan, uttareyam, doesn’t matter, even Vishalandra paper, indeed anything that comes to hand—all eyes pinned on the stage where the idols of Rama, Sita, Laksmana and Hanuman are placed on a decorated pedestal… with priests all around with their bright bellies draped in zari-bordered white silken clothes and
their reciting of the mantras in a rhythmic style of their own which of course listened to devotionally though understood nothing of it… and finally the whole mass cheer hysterically as the main priest raises the mangalasutram for the bhaktas to stare and revere …  the pious ornament that Lord Rama is going to tie around Sita’s neck, of course through his agent, the main priest…  at the prescribed—muhoort… auspicious minute ….  accompanied by nadaswaram and the mantra ghosha—both go so well with the occasion that it sways everyone under the pandillu into a kind of ecstasy of their own… With everything thus coming to happy ending … suddenly everyone becomes conscious of the nauseating sweltering and come out of the pandillu heaving “ush” “ish”, all kinds of haas and ohos  and then begins the struggle for snatching a fistful of vadapappu (splits of Greengram soaked in water for four-five hours) and a glass full of panakam (made out of mixing jaggery, crude form of sugar and pepper powder in water)…  and finally as people walk  back home  in groups of their own… there on the way… so many datalu, philanthropists serving the tired masses with glasses and glasses of panakam … perhaps to enable people quickly assimilate the required glucose to walk back alright without dehydration and fainting, perhaps… safely walk back even long distance under that sweltering Sun  with a little comfort…"a good deed in a naughty world"... how many such dispensers of Panakam!… all those rich people perhaps thinking  they would get rewarded by god  come out with these servings all through up to evening… walking back in droves narrating one’s own experiences of watching the kalyanam … as the  whole town is still echoing  with recitations of Vedic mantras—chanting—associated with SitaRamakalyanam
and from the opposite side you would encounter the stream of incoming people who had been just offloaded by the train coming from Repalli side … that was another interesting scene to watch for as many people as there are inside the railway compartments, would be there on the roof-tops of the compartments  too … for us, all that looks like cinematic daredevilry… … 
indeed many of these people from villages come mostly to watch Edla poteelu cattle  competition shows conducted in the big stadium-like enclave erected temporarily  in the fallow land abetting Repalii railway track , near the outer signal of Tenali station, in which rich farmers from the near-by districts too participate in the competition ... entry was of course againstpurchase of tickets ... betting involving huge sums was so common; winners were presented with silver cups/shields, besides a share in the booty... in those days it was a kind of crazy activity among the farming community... indeed they look forward to these competitions year after year... ...   

or to watch the newly released cinemas… see all the four shows and then fly back by late night  … again on rooftops of trains.. and you know what .. without buying ticket too.. and in those days that’s another great wonder for us … something interesting to chat about next day in the school … either in the drawing class or citizenship class … as teachers of these subjects merrily sleep out  ... some of the boys who have been studying the same class for second time or third time used to share their experiences about their visiting these cattle competitions… drawing of 150 lb slab or a 250 lb slabs …that too in sand pits … … or something like that … they gloat about even their betting on a particular Ongole bull’s  and winning a fat sum but who knows what the truth is … … you know we have to simply listen … not only merely listen  but must listen with wonder about their greatness otherwise … … looking back … for us, who cannot yet decide independently to even go out of the house … all these things sound pretty exciting, no doubt… 

mere recalling of those memories is a dear delight … no matter, how many years, indeed decades have since elapsed … but this nostalgic trip on every SriRamanavami  is something that I could not but undertake…

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