Tulsidas Goswami, in his Ramcharitmanasa, starts with the Mangalacharan by offering his obeisances to Ganesha and Saraswati Devi.
वर्णानामर्थसंघानां रसानां छन्दसामपि।
मंगलानां च कर्त्तारौ वन्दे वाणीविनायकौ॥1॥
Mangalacharan is an invocatory prayer. It is a request to the Gods to keep all distractions, ill-omens and inauspiciousness away from the auspicious work they are about to begin. It is a tradition and a part of Sanatana Dharma that before commencing auspicious tasks, one should evoke Lord Ganesha. This is because he is Vigna Vinashak (Destroyer of all obstacles).
Significance of Mangalacharan in Ramcharitmanas
Ramacharitmanasa itself has the capacity to burn all inauspiciousness and it invites only auspiciousness in the life of a devotee. Inspite of that, Goswamiji, offers obeisances to Ganesha and Saraswati to maintain the decorum of Sanatana Dharma and the Vedic tradition. By documenting Mangalacharan in the Ramacharitmanas he has set an example for the future generations.
If a devotee has a firm conviction that by directly invoking Sri Sita-Rama, all obstacles diminish, then such a mood is also justified by the scriptures. If we look at the attributes of Saraswati and Ganesha and analyze them carefully we find that it is Sri Rama and Sita only who function through them. So, if a devotee directly invokes Sri rama and Sita Devi in Mangalacharan there is no violation of scriptural rules. The mood should be genuine and intense.
Significance of Saraswati and Ganesha with respect to Sri Sita-Ram
Saraswati devi represents the Goddess of Knowledge, Music and hymns while Ganesha is the Lord of auspiciousness, the one who removes all obstacles from. Saraswati Devi is evoked so that we are able to present and understand knowledge in its purest form, without any distortions created by the mind. But, Sita Devi is the benefactor of uncountable Sarawati Devis. All celestial goddesses worship Sita Devi as She is the prime potency that enlivens other goddesses. She is the very source of Knowledge, sound and other hymns that manifest through Saraswati devi. She is Param Vani (Source of Saraswati). Therefore, by directly addressing Sita Devi in mangalacharan, we are tapping into the source of Devi Saraswati. On the other hand, if we analyze Ganesha as Vi-nayaka it indicates Sri Rama. Vi- refers to Vishista or Special while Nayaka means hero or Sri Rama.
Therefore, Goswamiji, maintains the custom of invoking the two deities as a part of Santana Dharma. But, at the same time he reveals his internal mood in a concealed manner. He invokes His Ishta Devata or (Dearest Lord), Sita-Ram and takes their blessings before he begins the Ramacharitmanas.
भवानीशंकरौ वन्दे श्रद्धाविश्वासरूपिणौ।
याभ्यां विना न पश्यन्ति सिद्धाः स्वान्तःस्थमीश्वरम्॥2॥
वन्दे बोधमयं नित्यं गुरुं शंकररूपिणम्।
यमाश्रितो हि वक्रोऽपि चन्द्रः सर्वत्र वन्द्यते॥3॥
Now, he pays his respects to Lord Shankara (Shiva) and his consort Bhavani (Parvati) by whose grace the Lord seated in His heart gets revealed. Without their blessings even proficient spiritualists cannot get a glimpse of Bhagawan. By addressing the two deities thus, Goswami ji evokes the Guru Tattva. Shivji is Param Guru.
वन्दे विशुद्धविज्ञानौ कवीश्वरकपीश्वरौ॥4॥
Here, Tulsidasji, evokes Kavishwara (Sage Valmiki) and Kapishwara or the King of Vanaras, Hanumanji. He says that both these devotees of the Sri Rama live in the forest. Their residence is described as the embodiment of Sri Rama and Sita Devi’s pastimes. He prays to those two beings who are always soaked in the divine pastimes of the Lord and whose activities are enveloped in it.
Glories of Sita Devi in Ramacharitmanas
सर्वश्रेयस्करीं सीतां नतोऽहं रामवल्लभाम्॥5॥
यन्मायावशवर्ति विश्वमखिलं ब्रह्मादिदेवासुरा
यत्सत्त्वादमृषैव भाति सकलं रज्जौ यथाहेर्भ्रमः।
यत्पादप्लवमेकमेव हि भवाम्भोधेस्तितीर्षावतां
वन्देऽहं तमशेषकारणपरं रामाख्यमीशं हरिम्॥6॥
Goswamiji, glorifies Srimati Sita Devi before Sri Rama. Why didn’t he glorify Sri Rama who is the Supreme Lord and then Srimati Sita Devi who is His eternal consort? In Sanatana Dharma, if we take a closer look at the worshipable forms of deities, like Shiva, Rama, Krishna, Narayana, we find that their eternal consorts are addressed prior to them as Gouri-Shankar, Sita-Ram, Radha-Krishna, Laksmi-Narayana and not the other way round. What is the reason for such a chronology? Sanatana Dharma intentionally follows this chronology and we can understand this by our own example.
Though a baby is carried in the mother’s womb, it is not created by the individual efforts of the mother alone. Both, the father and mother give rise to a child. Yet, a baby first recognizes the mother and then the father. A child first identifies the mother as she is in close proximity of the child. Her position cannot be taken by the father as she protects and fulfils the needs of the child. Until the mother introduces the father, he remains an unknown entity in the baby’s life.
This is the reason, why Tuslidas ji first glorifies Sita Devi as the potency or Shakti of Bhagawan. She is further glorified as the creator, maintainer and destroyer of the Universe. She is the dispeller of sorrow, pain and ill-omens and the benefactor of peace, prosperity and fulfilment.
Yet, after such exalted glorification, Goswamiji does not pay his respected obeisances to Sita Devi until he addresses her as Sri-Ram-Vallabha or the beloved of Sri Rama. Goswamiji, pays respect to Sita Devi as the eternal consort of Sri Rama as that Her Supreme form. Though Sita Devi was initially hailed as the creator, maintainer, destroyer, dispeller of inauspiciousness and fulfiller of desires, Goswamiji does not pay His respects as all these forms fail to describe her most pristine identity. These forms are just an introduction and does not even mark the start of her glorious identity. Her dignity and magnanimity can only be experienced when she is glorified as the eternal and most cherished beloved of Sri Rama. She is an expansion of Sri Rama and is therefore non-different from Him. The one source of the Jivatma splits into two as Sri Rama and Srimati Sita Devi.
Glories of Sri Rama
After this, Goswamiji pays his obeisance unto Sri Rama. He reveres Sri Rama as the master of Maya because of which the various planes of existence manifest and come to life and celestial beings like Brahma and other Devatas perform their duties. Tulsidasji describes Maya as the illusory potency because of which the false material world appears real just like a rope appears like a snake at night.
Maya deludes all living entities and takes them away from Bhagawan. The ocean of material existence is a product of illusion. The only boat available to cross this mighty vast ocean as written by Goswamijji is Sri Rama. Without holding unto His lotus feet, we cannot cross the ocean Maya.
He affirms this statement in Vinay Patrika by saying, other than Sri Rama’s lotus feet there is no shelter available. All other things, which might appear to be shelters is in reality Maya. Sri Rama is Patita-Pavan or the very embodiment of grace as he delivers the most-fallen souls.
Devatas will accept gifts and offerings from human beings provided they follow all rules and regulations. They maintain purity while making offerings to them. But, Sri Rama accepts the most-fallen ones and purifies them. He relives them from all sins and accepts even those sinners who have committed the most horrific crime of killing Brahmins and cows, (Brahmahatya). If he commits this sinful crime, which has horrific consequences according to the Vedas in the material planet (in the form of chronic illnesses, mental problems, etc.) as well as in the hellish planets, surrenders unto Me, I’ll purify him and relieve him of all his sins. Such is the greatness of our ever kind-hearted Sri Rama.