Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Sita and the Ketaki Flower

by Mantra & shlokas on Friday, June 3, 2011 at 3:52pm
 Romaharshana told the assembled sages, It is easy to please Shiva.  But Shiva must never be worshipped with a ketaki or a champaka flower.

 Why, what is wrong with these flowers? asked the sages.

 Let me tell you about the ketaki flower first, replied Romaharshana.

 Rama’s father Dasharatha asked Rama to spend fourteen years in the forest.  So Rama went to the forest with his brother Lakshmana and his wife Sita.  The three of them started to live on the banks of the river Falgu.  News reached the forest that Dasharatha had died in their absence and a shraddha (funeral) ceremony had to performed for the dead king.

 Rama sent Lakshmana to a nearby village to get the necessary ingredients.  Time passed and Lakshmana did not return.  Rama then went to get the ingredients and look for Lakshmana.  But Rama too did not return.  It was almost noon and the ceremony had to be performed before noon.  In desperation, Sita decided to perform the ceremony herself.  She went and bathed in the Falgu river and lit an earthen lamp.  She then made the offerings (pinda) to the dead ancestors herself.

 Immediately, a voice was heard.  Sita, you are blessed, it said.  We are satisfied.

 In utter amazement Sita watched some disembodied hands appear in the air to accept the offerings.

 Who are you? Asked Sita.

 I am your dead father-in-law, answered the voice. The funeral ceremony has been successful.  I have accepted your offerings.

 But Rama and Lakshmana are going to believe me, said Sita.  They will never believe that such disembodied hands appeared out of thin air to accept the offerings.

 They have to. answered the voice.  You have four witnesses.  The first is the Falgu river.  The second is the cow over there.  The third will be the fire.  And the last one will be the ketaki bush.

 Rama and Lakshmana returned and said, Cook the food quickly.  There is very little time left.  We have to complete the funeral ceremony before noon.

 Sita told them what happened, and naturally, the two brothers did not believe her.  They made fun of her and suggested that she was lying.  Sita called upon her four witnesses, but each denied that it had seen anything.  Without arguing any further, Sita cooked the food and Rama made offerings to his ancestors.

 A voice was then heard from the sky.  Why are you calling us again? it said.  Sita has already satisfied us.
 I refuse to believe that, said Rama.

 Indeed, it is true, retorted the voice.  Ask the sun god.

 The sun god confirmed that everything had happened just as Sita had said it had.  Rama and Lakshmana were ashamed that they had doubted Sita and were also impressed with the power of her virtue.  But Sita cursed the four false witnesses.  She cursed the Falgu river that it would henceforth only flow underground.  She cursed the ketaki flower (pandanus odoratissimus) that it would never be accepted by Shiva as an offering.  She cursed the cow that its mouth would henceforth become impure.  It had, after all, lied with its mouth.   The hind sections of the cow would however continue to be pure.  And finally Sita cursed the fire that it would consume everything indiscriminately.

 That is the reason why a ketaki flower must never be used to worship Shiva.

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