Sita is one among many national heroes of Nepal. Sita is ever exalted as the highest example of womanhood—beautiful, pious, courteous, loyal and unassuming. To her birthplace in Janakpur in southern Nepal thousands upon thousands come from all over India and Nepal to celebrate her marriage to Lord Ram each year on the fifth day of the waxing moon in late November or early December.
On the first day a great procession starts from Ram’s temple. His idol, dressed as the bridegroom, is placed under a lavishly decorated Khat on the back of a caparisoned elephant. A fringed, gold-tipped ceremonial umbrella is made to whirl constantly over his head while musicians play and a cheering mob swarms along his route to the Janaki temple of Sita a short distance away. The next day, her idol is carried amidst a great fanfare to Ram’s side in a re-enactment of Hindu wedding ceremonies, including rituals before the sacrificial fire.
The kingdom of Mithila in southern Nepal, now called Janakpur or Janakpurdham, once was ruled by king Janak, whose very name is synonymous with wisdom and goodness. According to the legends, one day, when the childless Janak was tilling and sanctifying the land, preparing it for a religious ceremony, he discovered a beautiful baby girl lying in a furrow. He carried her to the palace, where she grew into a princess of breathtaking loveliness. When she was about 16 Janak held a great tournament wherein the one who could bend the divine bow of Lord Shiva—which had been presented to Janak as a gift—would win fair Sita’s hand. Princes and kings came from far and wide, but each failed to bend the tremendous and powerful bow.
It so happened that Ram and his brother Lakshman were in the vicinity of Janakpur, having just finished off a horde of demons. With great ease Rama not only curved the bow, but snapped it in two. Its rending sounded like an earthquake and thousands of onlookers fell to the ground in awe. When the lovely Sita put the wedding garland about Ram’s neck there was universal applause, and the throng cheered to see this meeting of Eternal Lovers. It is said their hearts communed without speech, such was their divine love.
A sumptuous wedding ceremony was held wherein Ram’s three brothers were also united with neighboring princesses. When these gorgeously arrayed couples held hands and thrice circumambulated the sacrificial fire, the marriage dais, the king and all the hermits, flowers rained down from heaven and celestial music was heard. Then Ram and Lakshman took their brides with mountains of costly gifts, in a wedding procession that stretched for miles across the plains. When they reached the city of Ayodhya, Ram’s home, they found it festive with flowers and shining like and abode of the gods.
Most of Nepali know the life-story of Ram well, and the myriad characters who shared his adventures. As this day is observed as one of the auspicious days by Hindus in Nepal, don’t get surprised by the wedding processions on the street or couples getting married in different temples around Nepal.