The four sons of Dasharatha circumbulate the altar during their marriage rites
Urmila is a character in the Hindu epic Ramayana. She was daughter of King Janaka of Janakpur and his wife Queen Sunaina and also a younger sister of Sita. She was wife of Lakshmana, younger brother of Rama. They had two sons - Angada and Chandraketu. When Lakshman went to exile along with Ram and Sita, Urmila was ready to accompany him but he hesitated and asked her to stay back in Ayodhya to take care of his aging parents. Urmila is notable for her unparalleled sacrifice called Urmila Nidra.
In Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, there is a temple dedicated to Lakshman and Urmila. The temple was built in 1870 AD by the then ruler Balwant Singh of Bharatpur and is considered as a royal temple by the royal family of Bharatpur State.
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When Rama was exiled to the forest for fourteen years on Kaikeyi's insistence, Urmila persuaded Lakshmana to permit her to following him into exile but to no avail. Lakshmana reasoned that he will have no time for her in his day and night steadfast service to his brother and that Urmila's welfare was in staying back. He persuaded Urmila that her welfare would be a concern in the forest and could hinder his services to his brother. After much persuasion, Urmila reluctantly agreed to stay back contemplating if she could serve her husband any way possible.
As the night fell on the first day of the exile, Lakshmana stood guard over Ram and Sita with a strong resolve not to sleep until the exile ended. As Lakshmana stood guard over his brother's dwelling, a resplendent goddess called Nidra Devi manifested before Lakshmana. On Lakshmana's enquiry, she introduced herself as the Goddess of Sleep and informed him that not sleeping for fourteen years is an act of defiance against nature. Lakshmana requested Nidra Devi for a way out so that he could carry out his Dharma towards his brother. Impressed by Lakshmana's devotion towards his brother, Nidra Devi put forth a workaround that if someone bears the burden of Lakshmana's share of sleep for fourteen years, he could have the exemption for fourteen years. Lakshmana requested Nidra Devi to approach his wife, Urmila, to help him.
In South India, Urmila Nidra is a term used to refer to deep sleep by a person who cannot be woken easily.
- Valmiki Ramayana, English verse translation by Desiraju Hanumanta Rao, K. M. K. Murthy et. al.
- Ramayana, English verse translation by Ralph T. H. Griffith at the Project Gutenberg
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