“The spectacle and the noise in that city of bliss were so great that it is difficult to explain. The barat party was taken to their living quarters, where they received everything you could want, new and arriving constantly.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand, 15.2)
ānandapura kautuka kolāhala banata so baranata kahām̐ |
lai diyo taham̐ janavāsa sali supāsa nita nūtana jahām̐ ||
It is standard etiquette to treat your guests with the utmost hospitality. In Vedic culture, the hospitality is to be extended to even your worst enemy. You should think that your home is the home for the guests as well. This way you don’t get puffed up with all the stuff that you have. You don’t think that you are better than anyone else because your house may have more square feet than another’s. In this instance, the hospitality related to a marriage, and the groom’s party felt so welcome that it was like they were staying at a first class hotel.
“Is their house bigger than ours? What about their sound system? I bet we can crank ours up even louder. How many bedrooms do they have? Do they have central air conditioning? I still think our house is bigger. We did good in buying this place. I am very satisfied with all that we have.”
This competitive attitude is beneficial if it leads to the offering of good hospitality. This hospitality is the primary purpose to the home. This is the injunction of the Vedas, the scriptural tradition that is the basis for the modern-day religion known as Hinduism. The Vedas present eternal truths, which are like scientific principles. They apply to all people and to all time periods. Human tendencies do not change with time. There may be a higher occurrence of sinful activity in a given age, but the tendencies with respect to likes and dislikes, attachments and aversions, do not vary. This is because the scientific makeup of the core feature in an animate creature is always the same. That core feature can never be cut up, made wet, created, destroyed, or altered in any way.
“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.23)
A key Vedic principle for the householder is the offering of hospitality. Householder life is unique from the other three spiritual institutions, or ashramas. A householder is allowed sex life, and they also have a significant possession called the home. Even with this possession there is the call to offer hospitality, to give in charity, and to generally serve others. This is not a once a year occurrence, like say volunteering at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. Think of how good the volunteers feel on such a day. Now imagine feeling that same goodness all the time. If you feel such a way for a long enough stretch, you eventually purify your existence.
If you have a large home, that means you have the opportunity to serve more guests. Whatever they want is what should be provided. Even if you don’t like a particular food dish, if your guest does then it should be served. This only makes sense if you think about it. If you were a guest at someone else’s home, would you want to be served things that you don’t like? “Oh, but this is healthy for you. My husband and I are on a diet, so this is all that we are eating right now. Don’t worry, it doesn’t taste that bad.” This wouldn’t sit very well with us.
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, a scene is described where a party arriving to a wedding is shown to their living quarters. This is sort of like a staging area, a place to stay before the actual wedding takes place. We see that the meeting of the two parties, the bride’s and the groom’s, was a wonderful spectacle with great noise and jubilation. The city became one of ananda, or bliss, and so the whole experience was difficult to describe.
“That country is looking so beautiful, and the Vedas have described its purity. Known in the three worlds, Tirahuta [Janakpur] is the tilaka of the earth.” (Janaki Mangala, 4)
In the living quarters, the bridegroom’s party received everything they could want. Every day they got new clothes and other such items. This wasn’t required, but King Janaka, the host, did not want to hold back. He was the leader of a sacred land called Tirahuta, which is famous in the three worlds. Therefore he had a lot to offer, and he wasn’t going to be miserly in the least. The wealth of the recipients wasn’t taken into account, either. The arriving party was from Ayodhya, and it was the family of the king, Maharaja Dasharatha. Therefore they had immense wealth to offer themselves. Yet protocol dictated that Janaka provide everything to his guests.
The incident is noteworthy because it relates to the divine couple, Sita and Rama. Janaka is the chosen father of Sita and Dasharatha of Rama. Sita appeared from underneath the ground. Janaka found her while ploughing a field one day for a sacrifice. Rama appeared in the womb of Queen Kausalya after she ate the remnants of sacrifice. Thus in both cases the births were not in the conventional way. Sita and Rama appeared; they did not take birth. They can do that because they are God and His eternal consort.
God is one, though He can take many forms. In the Bhagavad-gita, He says He appears in every millennium to annihilate the miscreants and protect the pious. The pious filled the streets and the apartments in Janakpur when Dasharatha’s family met Janaka’s at the wedding of all weddings. That same hospitality can be offered by anyone today by making God the preferred guest in the home. Deity worship is a central practice of Vedic culture for this very reason. Rather than rely on a weekly trip to a house of worship, where you might only pray for material things, one can worship every single day by presenting the best offerings. You do this by having a statue or picture representation of God that you keep in a special place in the home. Through authorized methods of worship, such as the offering of flowers, the chanting of mantras, and the preparation of pure food, you show hospitality to the invited guest, the Supreme Lord.
Just like Dasharatha’s family, Rama doesn’t need such hospitality offered by us, but He accepts it anyway. Through such practice, we purify ourselves, becoming filled with goodness in the process. And purification of our existence is the real purpose to action. In the purest state, there are no miseries like birth, old age, disease and death. There is only constant celebration, like what was seen at Sita and Rama’s wedding.
Guests shown to rooms with fine beds,
Daily brought new garments of finest threads.
Topmost hospitality to them was shown,
Janaka treated them as family his own.
Purpose of home in this way to share,
With possessions give others attention and care.
With deity Supreme Lord to your home invite,
With love and offerings worship Him day and night.
Categories: janaki mangala