Wherever you go in India there always seems to be a lot of people. But when you get five or six thousand in a relatively small compound, all excited, waiting for their beloved Sita to arrive, you start to wonder, 'Where do they all come from?'
The occasion of Rama and Sita's wedding during the month long celebration of Ram Naam Aradhana at Swami Satyananda's tapobhoomi (sadhana place) brought the people out in droves, all dressed in their best clothes, the local women resplendent in their most colourful saris, feet painted in the local custom of the marriage ceremony, hordes of children, faces bright with excitement and anticipation, moving in chattering flocks. Children are universal, the same the world over, little, bubbling packages of life force. Perhaps Indian children are more so.
Sita is their beloved; she is something to everyone. Her marriage is the most festive and happy event. Much of her life could be considered tragic; exiled by her husband, abducted by the demon Ravana to Lanka, banished along with Rama from the kingdom of Ayodhya one dramatic tragedy after another. Every aspect of her life is magnified through the mind of nearly every Hindu. Read aloud, enacted throughout India, the Ramayana is the story of Sita and Rama. Sita's marriage is one of the few moments of happiness and fulfilment, without the shadow of tragedy looming, even if for only a day.
So thousands of excited people wait for Sita (a murti or image but as real as if she were there in the flesh) to arrive and join her husband. The atmosphere is very infectious whooping, catcalling, bustling, bubbling, crowding, pushing, jostling, laughing, as if intoxicated. Swami Satyananda laughing and enjoying himself. Swami Niranjan trying to manage the crowd over the PA system and looking a bit worried.
And in she came, borne in a very flash, decorated car. The crowd went wild. It was the first time in the month that the compound was full and everyone is pushing forward to see Sita. The car stops and she is carried and escorted by twenty or so local ladies, all dressed in new saris brought by the Italian devotees. Up onto the stage where she is united with Rama to much singing and rejoicing. Screened by a cloth which is held up, the nuptials are performed. The cloth is withdrawn and the newlyweds give their darshan together for the first time.
In the tradition of weddings nearly the world over, the occasion is celebrated with songs, some risque. The village women sit and sing of Swami Satyananda: He doesn't even have enough clothes to wear..., and of Swami Niranjan: Not even enough hair for his choti.... There is much laughter. And for the remainder of the month Rama and Sita were there together on stage and the celebrations went on under their benevolent gaze. Performers and speakers saluted them as they came and went from the stage. Dancers offered their grace and elegance with a handful of flower petals. Rama and Sita were together and we all rejoiced.
What a day! People left after dark still aglow with excite- ment. More than the westerners the day belonged to the Indians, especially the village people. It is their Sita and she is with her beloved, come what may.