“In the gates of the city, the steps by the river, and the stores they made decorations for a welcome. Sprinkling so much fragrant water on the roads, they sang of the great auspiciousness.” (Janaki Mangala, 182)
ghāṭa bāṭa pura dvāra bajāra banāvahiṁ |
bīthīṁ sīn̄ci sugandha sumaṅgala gāvahiṁ ||
When visiting important pilgrimage sites in India, the word “ghata” comes up quite often. There is the ghata named after this person and the ghata named after that person. “You must visit these,” the tour guide will tell you. From the context used, it would seem that the ghata is a place of greater significance than what it actually is, steps leading to a body of water. The major rivers in India are considered sacred, like the Ganges, Yamuna and Sarayu. Bathing in them is considered very auspicious, as they are associated with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore the steps that lead towards these bodies of water become very important.
Stores are where commerce takes place. If you own a store, you likely earn a living through it. In America it is said that the majority of jobs get created through small businesses, such as the storefronts found on the busiest roads of the city. Nothing is guaranteed in such ventures. Just because you are profitable today doesn’t mean that you will be tomorrow. If you become very profitable, you become a target for your enemies, who consist not only of rival businesses but politicians as well. Your employees have the freedom to leave your business and go work somewhere else. Therefore the store owners are always preoccupied.
The gates of the city give the first glimpse of your town to the foreign traveler. If they have never been to your town before, they will get the first impression from the gates. In modern times there are large signs on the roads leading in. “Welcome to such and such city,” the sign will say. Then it might list some interesting facts, things for which the city is famous.
In Ayodhya a long time ago, everything stopped for the arrival of a beloved son. The steps leading to the river were now decorated. So were the stores and also the gates to the city. It was like a holiday, where everything stops and the people get a break in order to relax. Here the break was for rejoicing. No one told them it was a holiday. Everyone acted spontaneously. They were so happy that Rama was back. He was coming home with a new wife, the beautiful Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. Also coming home were Rama’s three younger brothers and their father, the king of the town.
The people sprinkled fragrant water on the roads and constantly sang of the auspiciousness. A clay field requires regular watering in order to stay loose and soft. Sort of like the maintenance of a clay tennis court, the dirt roads required careful attention in order to stay fit for travel by carts. The fragrant water used here provided for a nice atmosphere. Far from the congested and foul smelling city streets of today, Ayodhya on that day looked and felt wonderful, from home to home.
Everything stopped because of the nature of Rama. The people loved Him so much. He had every good quality imaginable. He was kind. He was forgiving. He knew the truth. He was self-realized. He understood the difference between matter and spirit. He did not view one citizen as an enemy and another as a friend. He looked at everyone as a well-wisher, and in fact that’s what they were. He never ran from responsibility. No matter how difficult the task was, Rama would take it up when asked. He was not worried about losing anything. If he had to lose the whole world to protect His citizens, He would. And He would not be any sadder as a result.
These are some of the qualities of God. He is the ultimate well-wishing friend. He is the supreme enjoyer and also the proprietor of all the worlds. It is in the makeup of the soul to serve. This means that we feel best when we act for someone else’s enjoyment. In therapist speak, it is considered bad to depend on someone else for your happiness. “You’ll never be happy that way because you can’t control how someone else feels.” It may be the case that the recipient’s reaction is out of our control, but there is no denying that service is what lights up the otherwise disillusioned embodied soul stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of happiness and misery, which are neatly packaged inside of the two events of birth and death.
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)
If you’re going to act for someone else’s enjoyment, might as well make it God’s. He is the supreme enjoyer. This means that He is the person who will appreciate your efforts the most. He will reward you accordingly. Not necessarily with a new car or a large balance of money, He’ll give you an even better gift: devotion. With that reward you can drop everything and prepare for a grand celebration in His honor at any time. With that gift you can be blissful even in a tense situation. With that reward you can concentrate on His lotus feet that traversed the fragrantly watered streets of Ayodhya. And most importantly, with devotion you can remember Him at the time of death, the time when what you think matters most.
Gates giving first glimpse of the town,
Ghata leading to rivers of renown.
Bazaars where commerce takes place,
All decorated for Rama’s arrival to await.
City streets sprinkled with water fragrant,
Pleasant aura for His return triumphant.
Rama coming home now with new wife,
Rewarding everyone with eternal devotional life.