Seeta, more commonly known as Sita, is a character in Hindu theology. She is the wife of Rama, and as such is one of the main characters in the Ramayana. Hindu epics commonly use leading characters to represent male / female duality; as such, Seeta represents the female (Prakriti) and is believed to be the incarnation of the Mother goddess. Rama, the protagonist in the tale Ramayana, is Seeta's husband. He represents the male or the 'Purusha'.
The word 'Kalyanam' means marriage in Sanskrit, Telugu, Malayalam, and Tamil. The occasion of her marriage to Rama is celebrated as Vivaha Panchami which falls on Margashirsha Shukla Panchami as per Valmiki Ramayana. In the Hindu religion, Rama and Seeta are avatars, or reincarnations, of Vishnu and Lakshmi. Another famous divine couple, Krishna and Raadha, are also reincarnations of Vishnu and Lakshmi. Both divine couples are reborn on Earth to expunge frightful enemies that cannot otherwise be overcome. The relationship between Vishnu & Lakshmi, Rama & Seeta, and Krishna & Radha is widely regarded by Hindus as the perfect love; as such, the style of their marriages (or "kalyanam") as described in ancient Hindu writings is used as the baseline for Hindu marriages today. This article discusses Rama & Seeta's marriage, or kalyanam, in particular.
There are two ways of conducting Seeta Kalyanam. The age old, vedic and traditional method which is the prescribed method of marriage that every Hindu still follows. There is the Naama Sankeerthanam method. In the Naama Sankeerthanam tradition, the marriage is conducted by Bhagavathas (devotees who sing the Lord's praise). This tradition consists of two phases:
The first phase
In the first phase, bhajans are sung and dancing takes place. The Lord and his consort are requested to join in the festival. In Raadha Kalyanam, 'deepa pradakshinam' takes place, that is, devotees circle an oil lamp while singing and dancing. The singing and dancing starts in the evening and goes on into the wee hours. While bhajans are being sung, other bhagavathas dance around an oil lamp. The dancing also involves the re-enactment of the Gopikais' dance. The gopikais' anguish when Krishna leaves them also finds place in the day's events. The bhagavathas who represent the Gopikais dance with enthusiasm, however, after a few songs, they sit down singing Krishna's praise and beg him to come back. However, Krishna does not return until the gopikais surrender to Him.
The second phase
The second phase is the actual marriage which is re-enacted very realistically. Two devotees representing Seeta's parents (King Janaka and Queen Sunayana) give their daughter Seeta in marriage to Raama, whose parents, Dasaratha and Kausalya are represented by two other devotees. One of the rituals involved in the festival is a dance which is performed holding (or rather brandishing) an olakai (a thick stick used to dehusk grains). Wheat grains are ground with the olakai. The husk covering the grains represents the worldly desires that veil the soul. The soul is represented by the grain. Raama Naama (the name of the lord) is enough to remove all the coils of desire.
The 'mangalya dharanam' or the wearing of the holy matrimonial thread takes place after which there is more dancing and singing. This time the dancing and singing represents the ecstasy and the joy of all those who actually witnessed the marriage of Seeta and Rama.