Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Happy Reception

[arati plate]“Planting auspicious trees, decorating with rice flour, filling the thalis with yogurt and grass for the arati, the lovely ladies looked beautiful with their fawn-like eyes.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 23.1)

maṅgala biṭapa man̄jula bipula dadhi dūba acchata rōcanā | 
bhari thāra ārati sajahiṁ saba sāraṅga sāvaka lōcanā ||

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In the chand sections of his Janaki Mangala, Goswami Tulsidas sums up some of the preceding verses. Here we get a review of how Shri Rama’s return home with His new wife Sita was celebrated in Ayodhya, the dhama that is home to both the Raghu dynasty and all of Rama’s votaries. If the Lord’s devotees don’t live there physically, they at least remain there in spirit.

[Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra]And what do they remember when contemplating that lovely place? So many important moments in Rama’s life took place there. One of them was His return home from having gone on a lengthy journey with the sage Vishvamitra. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana also went along. The two left home unmarried, but returned home with beautiful brides, who happened to be sisters. Rama’s father, the family priest, and Rama’s two other younger brothers, who were now married too, also returned home.

When the four princes returned the residents of Ayodhya held something like a wedding reception. In the modern age, it is not surprising to find close family members spread apart geographically. One person lives in one country and another person lives across the ocean. Even when the family members live in close proximity, it is not a guarantee for frequent visits. If someone lives nearby, you think, “Oh, I can see them anytime.” Saying this repeatedly, enough time passes that the visits become rare.

As everyone is spread out and busy with their daily lives, for the occasion of a marriage it is not likely that all the important people can attend. The event might not fit into their schedule. Perhaps they don’t want to travel so far to witness a ceremony they have no real interest in. Perhaps there is an ongoing squabble with the person hosting the event.

Whatever the reason, a good way to satisfy the needs of many is to have multiple ceremonies. Have a ceremony in one place and a second one later on in a different place. This gives more people a chance to celebrate with you. All of the people of Ayodhya could not attend Rama’s wedding in Janakpur. They didn’t even know that He was there, for the Lord left their midst on a critical mission. He was asked to protect the peaceful sages residing in the forest from the attacks of wicked night-rangers. As police may be called to duty at any time and any place, so Rama and Lakshmana were expected to go anywhere they were needed.

As Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in an incarnation form, He doesn’t require much to be satisfied. The gesture is what counts most, not the quantity or the extravagance. If a person from today were to time travel to Ayodhya during Rama’s time, they may mistakenly think that the people were poor. The people lived in simple dwellings, did not have electricity, and lived off the land. But based on the offerings made, we see that the people were anything but poor.

They planted pious trees all around. A pious tree is one that bears fruits. Conversely, a sinful tree is more or less for decoration. It does not provide nourishment. If you plant a pious tree, someone many years down the road can benefit from your work. If a banana falls from the tree and gives them food, you played a hand in feeding them.

Thalis were filled and made ready for an arati, or a ceremonial offering of a lamp. Everyone was decorated nicely, and this was the case in each home. Tulsidas tells us that the women in the homes arranged everything. They were housewives, working women and independent at the same time. No one told them to worship Rama. This kind of worship is spontaneous, and it is most appreciated. These women wanted nothing from Rama; rather they wanted only to give.

[Sita and Rama]And these were the most beautiful women, having eyes like a fawn. We know that the people of Ayodhya had shri, or beauty. Rama brought back shri personified in Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. Sita is Lakshmi, who has many other names, with Shri being one of them. Where there is God, there is the goddess of fortune. Where there is Lakshmi Devi, there is opulence. And so it was fitting that the reception in Ayodhya was lacking nothing.

In Closing:

Since marriage took place in distant home,

Ayodhya to have reception of their own.

 

Though living life very simple,

Items of opulence there ample.

 

Pious trees, beautiful patterns drawn,

Arranged by ladies of eyes like fawn.

 

Shri personified to home bringing,

Glories of Her and Rama singing.

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