“They then went to welcome the groom with an auspicious arati on a decorated plate. They were happy like the golden lotus blooming at sunrise.” (Janaki Mangala, 132)
mangala ārati sāja bahari parichana calīṃ |
janu bigasīṃ rabi udaya kanaka pankaja kalīṃ ||
The arati is well known to followers of the Vedic tradition. It is an offering of light to a respectable personality. It is a central paraphernalia item in any ritual. The mangala-arati is most auspicious, as it occurs in the morning right before the sun rises. The sun is the maker of the day, and so without it we couldn’t begin our work for the day. Work is necessary for finding all other kinds of auspiciousness, and so the sun should get some of the credit for whatever benefits come later. To honor the sun is a nice gesture, and so it is a central part of the tradition that worships a personal God. In the above referenced verse, the very same person is offered worshiped directly, under the pretense of a marriage ceremony. The symbolism inherent in the gesture did not get overlooked by the wise poet.
If there is a God, we should worship Him. Is it not true? Who would argue against such a point? God, in whatever way one would define Him, would have to be the ultimate order supplier. Since He gives everything, it would make sense to say “thanks” for that. If you’re going to say “thanks” once in a while, why not every day? If you’re going to do it every day, you’re going to need different exercises to fill the various timeslots. Otherwise you’ll go through the motions for five minutes and then go back to doing whatever you were doing. Then the worship becomes more conducive to forgetfulness.
The mangala-arati helps to start the day just right. Throughout the day we should worship God, but we have to work in order to maintain a living. We work to eat; there is really no other purpose. If we work to satisfy our senses, we will never be completely happy. This is because the senses are never truly satisfied. In fact, conditioning the senses to do with less is the better option. We condition the senses in order to lose weight. We do the same to keep the blood flowing strongly inside of the body. If we just went for straight satisfaction whenever there was an itch, we would not be happy at all.
If we have to work to eat, it means we shouldn’t have to work very hard. This is easy in theory, but in modern times the implementation is much more difficult. We do have to work hard just to survive. Bills pile up, costs for goods and services rapidly rise, and one brief bout of hardship can leave someone financially ruined. Therefore work is so important; at least that is how it is seen.
If you’re going to work hard to maintain a living, at least worship God in the morning. This is the start to your day. It sets the tone for how the rest will pan out. If you work first instead, then later on you might be too tired to worship. If you forget to worship, it’ll be easier to continue in that forgetfulness going forward. Pretty soon you’ll think that there is no God and that life is destined to be miserable.
The arati, which is the offering of fire usually emanating from lamps, is most auspicious in the morning; hence the name mangala-arati. The morning is the most auspicious time for all religious practices. Those practices shape your consciousness, which is the ultimate aim. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna states that whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail.
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, the term “mangala-arati” is used, but not in the context of the morning ritual. There are different aratis throughout the day, which are especially observed in Vedic temples. The temple is where the deity resides, and the deity is considered the visibly manifest incarnation of the Supreme Lord. The deity allows us to understand what God looks like in His various non-different forms. It discredits the weak attempts by the mental speculators to define God. It strengthens the conviction of the devotees, who know that God exists and that He is all-attractive.
Here the arati is offered directly to God in His incarnation as a warrior prince named Rama. With the personal form there are activities, which are known as lila in Sanskrit. Ordinary lila may or may not interest us. If it does hold our interest, it will only be for a brief while. God’s lila is known as nitya, or eternal. It is enjoyable today, tomorrow, a week from today, a year from tomorrow, and a thousand years into the future. This arati was offered to Rama thousands of years ago, and it is still wonderful to hear about.
The arati was a lamp placed on a decorated plate. It was offered directly to Rama from the women on the bride’s side. Rama was the groom in this instance, set to marry Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. From this verse we also learn what happens when devotion is offered in the proper mood. Not surprisingly, it should make one happy. How happy? So happy that the reaction is spontaneous; not mechanical.
The spontaneous reaction is described through the comparison to the golden lotus. In the morning, this flower opens up. It does so at the sight of the sun. Thus the sun’s rising is what makes the lotus happy; otherwise it remains closed up. In the same way, in worshiping God and making an auspicious offering of a lamp, the face should brighten.
The women here were golden-complexioned; hence the comparison to the golden lotus. Rama was a prince who appeared in the solar dynasty; hence the comparison to the sun. The lotus flower is also the perfect symbol of beauty. It is strictly God’s creation. No mind could ever come up with something like it. No factory could produce it using a single seed. The flower can only be attributed to God. It is so pure that it spontaneously reacts to the vision of God’s representative, the sun.
Here the origin of all light and heat was seen, and the lotus-like devotees naturally reacted in joy. In devotional service, which is the highest form of religion, the aim is to be happy. When the worship is proper, when both internal and external impurities are removed, the happiness comes automatically. Something as simple as an offering of a lamp can brighten one’s day.
Worship of Rama from bride’s camp,
To come through offering of auspicious lamp.
Mangala-arati best way to start,
Day before to work to depart.
Auspicious is morning time,
Right before sun set to shine.
In offering at Rama’s beautiful sight,
Ladies spontaneously with faces bright.
Categories: janaki mangala