In The Game of Love, the Loser Wins

Tree of Knowledge

By Niranjana KarthigaiRajan

In Ramayana, as King Janaka entrusted his beloved daughter in marriage to Sri Rama, he said ‘Iyam sita mama sutha saha dharma chari tava‘. Which means that “Hey Rama, my daughter Sita will ever walk with you in the path of dharma”. The primary purpose of marriage is to pursue dharma (being righteous and to carry out sacred duties of life), for which togetherness, intimacy and involvement between the couple is vital. The physical desires are meant to make this bond stronger and to carry forward religious duties through progeny.

24 K gold in its purest form is not suitable for making ornaments, whereas when gold is mixed with copper it becomes more durable. Similarly, only when men and women unite as a couple can they accomplish sacred rituals of life.

One of the rituals in the Hindu wedding ceremony is Sapthapadi. Sapthapadi refers to the seven mantras the groom recites, pleading Vishnu to follow in the footsteps of the bride as she takes seven steps and to bless her with good health and prosperity. At the end of the Sapthapadi, the groom utters a mantra from Rig Veda and takes a commitment. The mantra translates as:

“Having taken seven steps, you have to be my friend. We have become friends now. I won’t break from this friendship and may you not go away from this friendship. Let’s stay together. Let’s follow our dharma together. Let each other live in harmony and be lovable with kind-heartedness, and lead our life sharing food and prosperity. Let’s fast together. If I’m the heart, you be my words. Oh, soft-spoken lady, welcome!”

What a heart-melting mantra! Having used the word ‘friend’ consecutively, the groom promises to enter the union as equals. There is no mantra in the Hindu scriptures about breaking a marriage. Having said that this bond is a friendship, where is the need for the couple to get apart?

On the banks of River Godavari 

When Sri Rama and Sita were staying in the Dandakaranya forest, they had a swimming race in the river Godavari where Lakshmana had to preside as the judge. The rules were laid, Rama and Sita had to swim to another bank and again come to the starting point. Lakshmana sat on a rock besides the river, overseeing the contest. 

Sri Rama was swimming faster than Sita. After touching the other bank and was on His way back, He realized that the graceful Sita was splashing Her arms elegantly in an attempt to swim faster. Watching Sita struggling to reach the other side, Rama contemplated thus, “To Whom am I going to win?” and then He voluntarily decelerated and let Her finish first.

She was surprised that she had won over Her Lord and after sighting Her husband only mid-way, Sita began to giggle merrily, and Lakshmana exclaimed to Lakshman, ” Hasn’t your brother learnt the art of swimming from your guru ?” To which Lakshmana responded hilariously, “Oh, yeah. He missed those swimming lessons.” Seeing Sita’s laughter, Sri Rama admired how she was happy in spite of the adversity they faced in the forest. 

There is a saying in Tamil which goes, “pathiniku thorpan parama rasikan”, which means, “The one who loses to his wife is a great enthusiast.”

Amplifier to Love

Alas, we are in pursuit of a lifestyle marked by extremes of emotion – either love or break-up. But between these two lies a wonderful facet of love – oodal. Life without oodal is monotonous. This beautiful Tamil word ‘oodal’ has no equivalent English translation. In Sanskrit, it’s pranaya rosham. Unlike the uncontrolled anger that ruins relationships, the expression of fake wrath occurring between lovers after a tiff is ‘oodal’ that amplifies love.

Once when Sita was applying sindoor on her forehead, Sri Rama unusually wished to play a prank with Her and He wiped off the sindoor. Since sindoor symbolises a women’s marital status and being regarded as auspicious, Sita got furious. She turned her face against Sri Rama and there was silence between them.

A couple of days rolled by, and both of them started to pine for each other, and felt guilty. Sri Rama regretted his act; on the other hand, Sita felt sorry for getting angry and hurting Her beloved husband who approached Her with the mere intention to play with Her. 

One of them had to break the ice and initiate conversation. Sri Rama took the lead, devising a plan. He sat on the swing and voluntarily removed and threw his ring and called out someone to find his lost ring. Sita, who was aware of Sri Rama’s intent, rushed in search of His ring and handed it over to Him.

Sri Rama might be a valiant King and an incarnation of Sri Maha Vishnu but for Him losing to His wife was a delight. He has showed us the way of how to treat women in the right way. Sri Rama’s valour is not just evident in fighting 14,000 rakshasas single-handedly in Dandakaranya, sending Mareecha into the ocean, killing the mighty Vali or slaying the ten-headed demon Ravana. His true Valour is only remarkable on losing to his beloved wife Sita. As the saying goes in Thirukkural (Tamil couplets written by Thiruvalluvar during 5th Century CE), amongst lovers’ argument – the one who loses the argument seems to enjoy the pleasure of victory after reunion. So, in the game of love, the one who loses is the winner.

Niranjana KarthigaiRajan

* Published in print edition on 7 June 2019

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