Ornaments of Devahuti and of women in general


Srimad Bhagavatam verse 3.23.28-29 recitation:

Translation by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada: “The girls, being very respectful to Devahuti, brought her forth, and after bathing her with valuable oils and ointments, they gave her fine, new, spotless cloth to cover her body. They then decorated her with very excellent and valuable jewels, which shone brightly. Next they offered her food containing all good qualities, and a sweet, inebriating drink called asavam.”

This is the story of Devahuti, who was the daughter of Svayambhuva Manu and Satrupa. She was married to Kardama muni. Devahuti and Kardama muni were not an ordinarily married couple. Their marriage was in fact arranged by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. They both are considered as ideal grihasthas, husband and wife. Just like Bhava and Bhavani – Shiva and Parvati.

Kardama muni is described as ‘sadhu’ whereas his chaste wife, Devahuti is described as ‘Sadhvi’ (female sadhu). Srimad Bhagavatam verse 3.23.1 mentions: “Maitreya said to Vidura, After the departure of her parents, the chaste woman Devahuti, who could understand the desires of her husband, served him constantly with great love, as Bhavani, the wife of Lord Shiva, serves her husband.” Kardama muni was equally renounced just as Lord Shiva. Kardama muni was very pleased with her service and said (Bhag 3.23.6), “O respectful daughter of Svayambhuva Manu, today I am very much pleased with you for your great devotion and most excellent loving service. “

After completing their austerities, they decided to travel by air. Kardama muni created a divine airplane by the dint of his mystic yoga power. The airplane was as vast as a town. The airplane would not only take them around the earth but would take them to different planets and lokas in the heaven (svarga loka) and to planets beyond heaven like Jana loka, Mahar loka, Tapo loka. They would get to see the scene view of Ganga river flowing into the heavenly planets and descending to the earth planet. There are also other tourists who visit these places. All of them are siddhas (perfected beings with mystic powers). Thus life is not just on earth but the whole universe is filled with different living entities in various species of life. Srila Sukadeva gosvami has elaborately discussed these various living places of the universe in Srimad Bhagavatam.

As a part of their preparations, Devahuti was being bathed with valuable oils and ointments by her friends. For a long time, Devahuti did not pay attention to elaborate procedures of bathing and dressing due to her being absorbed in assisting her husband in devotional service. After bathing, her young girlfriends, with great respect, gave her fine, new, spotless cloth to cover her body. Next they offered her food containing all good qualities, and a sweet, inebriating drink. Then they adorned her with variety of ornaments. Thus they made her ready.

However, Devahuti also had a different category of ornaments too. This chapter describes her other ornaments as a sadhvi. They are: titikshasva karunikah, sudridah sarva-dehinam, ajata-shatravah shantah, sadhavah sadhu-bhushanah (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.25.21) – The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime. In fact these sublime qualities were her real ornaments. That is why the great personality like Shukadeva gosvami is elaborately discussing the personality of Devahuti in the Srimad Bhagavatam.

Thus her ornaments were her genuine qualities like ‘titikshasva’ tolerance. In the service of her husband, she had to tolerate many things with patience. She was a princess and her father was king Manu who was the governor of the universe under the administration of Lord Brahma. There are 14 governing Manus in one day of Lord Brahma. At present the government is by Vaivasvat Manu. Each such government consists of Manu, various incarnations of the Godhead, Indra – the king of heavenly planets, the seven great sages, Manu’s sons and family, etc. So each Manu has such a team in his administration. So Devahuti was such a great princess of a great king of the universe. Srila Prabhupada wrote in one previous purport how she gave up every royal opulence. Not only that, she also gave up all lust, anger, greed, pride, envy and illusion. This princess gave up her royal residence and started living in a hermitage. Instead, Devahuti acquired ornaments with all good qualities – sadhu bhushanah. One of them was ‘ajata-shatravah’ – one without any enemies or more precisely, one whose enemies are never born. In fact, WE give birth to our enemies. Originally, there is nobody like our friend or our enemy in this world. Yet in this material world, filled with various concepts of dualities, we begin to consider someone as our friend and someone as our enemy. This concept of our duality gives birth to our enemies. However in Bhagavad Gita 4.22 Krishna describes how His devotees are enemy-free: “yadrichhaya labha santushto, dvandvatito vimatsarah, samah siddhav asiddhau cha, kritvapi na nibadhyate” – (He who is satisfied with gain which comes of its own accord, who is free from duality and does not envy, who is steady in both success and failure, is never entangled, although performing actions.)

Thus this sadhvi Devahuti was also ‘yadrichhaya labha santushto’ – satisfied with whatever came on its own accord. Staying in a hermitage in the middle of forest, eating roots and forest fruits – she was satisfied with it all.

She had no envy – vimatsarah. For a woman it could be quite difficult to be free from envy. Often envy is quite prominently present in the women class. She had no enemy, and was peaceful (shantah). To be peaceful, and not quarreling, this is also quite challenging for a woman. Women are famous or de-famous for being quarrelsome. (laughter). It is said by Chanakya Pandit that “mata yasya gruhe nasti bharya capriya-vadi, Aranyam tena gantavyam yatharanyam tatha gruham”. Meaning – If there is no mother at home and the wife is quarrelsome, does not speak very nicely with husband, disrespectful, then he is recommended to leave home and go to the forest. However this Devahuti is a real “dharma-patni” following the religious principles of being a wife, peaceful and being free of envy. Thus she is ‘sarva-guna-sampanna’ or bedecked with the ornaments of various good qualities. She was not only described as eating food that was ‘sarva guna sampanna’ or food with all good qualities; but she was herself bearing all good qualities of human life.

If one desires to have a wife, he should desire a wife like Devahuti. Of course the husband should be like Kardama muni in the first place. Thus Kardama muni and Devahuti were ideal couple as husband and wife. It is said the ideal husband-wife should be like Lord Ram and Sitadevi as well.

In the given verse, it is said that Devahuti was thus decorating her body with various ornaments. This process of decorating of the body by a wife and her beauty are meant only for her own husband and for no one else. According to Vedic system, a wife, who beautifies her body with various apparels and ornaments, does not go alone outside the house without her husband. If the husband is not in town or gone on foreign tour, the wife does not decorate herself with rich clothes and ornaments. She does not go in public functions in such situations but stays home in absence of her husband. Her adorning herself with apparel and ornaments is only for the pleasure of her husband. The purpose behind this concept is that the husband’s heart should be attracted to his wife alone so that he can remain satisfied with only one wife and does not go out to hunt for women. He can thus observe his austerity of having only one wife, of “eka-patni vrata”. Similarly, the wife’s austerity is to remain wife of only one husband “eka-pati vrata”. Thus they both have to observe the austerity of having only one spouse. Lord Ramachandra is one such ideal husband and ideal householder with His ideal wife Sita devi. Sita devi also proved to be an wife – by remaining simple in the forest, by faithfully following the austerity of her husband in the forest.

Thus a woman’s `”vesha-bhusha” or adorning is meant only for the husband and not for others’ pleasure as a part of her austerity as “pati-vrata”. Every couple of husband and wife is responsible for thus establishing the right religious principles of married life. Otherwise, men and women do not follow their respective dharma (religious duty) of being a good husband or good wife. This results into “dharmasya glani” or decline in religious principles. In such scenario, the women tend to decorate their bodies and make a show of their bodies for the sake of other persons, leaving aside their own husband. This is exactly what is happening in today’s world. It is precisely the exhibition of women’s bodies that is going on in today’s world. In their decorations, women do not even cover their bodies enough. Women are actually selling their bodies – through movies, entertainment, and advertisements. In every advertisement for every product, they put up a woman and exhibit her bodily beauty for cheap sale of their products. As if the woman like a machine – a sex machine. Women on their account have made themselves very cheap because they fell in their values. They degraded in their thinking process. Their minds are attracted towards the superficial.

Devahuti is called “manasvini” – not superficial. Her mind never ran outwards towards superficial attractions of sense enjoyment with other men. She remained “manasvini” – controlled in her mind. That is why it was possible for her to acquire other good qualities – like peacefulness, merciful, without enemies etc. Srimad Bhagavad Gita also enlists these qualities in Verse 18.42: shamo, damas tapah shauchah, kshantir arjavam eva cha, jnanam vijnanam astikyam, brahma karma svabhava-jam – (Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness—these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work.)

A Brahmana’s wife is called “brahmani”. Devahuti was real ‘brahmani’. She practiced sense control, and mind control – manasvani. A muni (thoughtful sage) is manasvi , mananashil – meditating. Devahuti was also inclined towards contemplation and meditation. She was not just “sundar”, bodily beautiful but was also “su-shila” beautiful with sublime qualities.

The Brahmana friend of Lord Krishna, Sudama – his wife was also su-shila, endowed with sublime qualities. Shukadeva gosvami described Sudama’s wife as sadhvi, sushila, charitravan – wife like a sage in thinking and qualities and chaste.

Thus, when such personalities like Kardama muni and his sage-like wife Devahuti do devotional service of the Lord and faithfully worship the Deity by decorating the Deity with various ornaments, they themselves get adorned with divine qualities. These qualities become their ornaments.

.Trinad api sunichena, taror iva sahishnuna; amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada Hari (Siksastaka 4). It is recommended that one decorate one’s neck with these four ornaments all the time: humility, tolerance, not hankering for self honor and ready to offer all respect to others. We should wear a necklace made up of these four qualities like a ‘kanthi mala’ (necklace) around our neck. “Manada” means one who is ready to give “mana” or respect to others. Similarly the word “a-mani” means having no desire for “mana” or respect for self.

It is likely that a person who possesses these qualities is able to chant the holy names of the Lord. Caitanya Mahaprabhu keeps these three conditions for being able to chant Lord Hari’s name incessantly – humble, tolerant, not desiring for self respect and always ready to offer respect to others. (namra, sahishnu, amani and manada). These qualities allow one to chant Hari incessantly.

When we adorn our bodies with ornaments, rich hair style, rich apparel etc., we do it all in front of a mirror. When we decorate our bodies, our image which is reflected in the mirror also gets all these decorations and ornaments. The image in the mirror is called ‘prati-bimba’. The person standing in front of the mirror is ‘bimba’ and his image or reflection in the mirror is called ‘prati-bimba’.

“Tadvad”, meaning on the same lines, we are the shadow or “pratima” reflection of the transcendental form of the Supreme Lord. It is said, “man is made in the image of God.” God made the man and the woman in His own image. If we decorate the transcendental body of the Lord or the form of His Deity, then you will understand that the devotee who is decorating the Lord also gets decorated.

Sri Vigraharadhana nitya nana, sringara tana-mandira marjanadau; Yuktasya bhaktan cha niyunjato ‘pi, vande guroh sri charanarvindam. (Sri Guravashtaka 3). (The spiritual master is always engaged in the temple worship of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna. He also engages his disciples in such worship. They dress the Deities in beautiful clothes and ornaments, clean Their temple, and perform other similar worship of the Lord. I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of such a spiritual master.) Thus when we do sringara (ornaments and clothing)to the Deity “the archa vigraha”, we also get decorated with sringara. It is indeed the decoration and ornaments of our soul! What are the ornaments of the soul? – “sadhavah sadhu bhushanah”. The soul of such a sadhu gets adorned with sublime qualities. In this way, the sadhus and sadhvis get decorated and adorned with good qualities because they adorn the Lord’s body.

This activity of doing sringara to the worshipable deity or archa vigraha of the Supreme Lord is one of the nine ways of devotional service. “sravanam, kirtanam, Vishnoho smaranam, pada sevanam, archanam, vandanam, sakhyam, dasyam, atma nivedanam”. These nine ways are ‘Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Sri Vishnu, remembering these aspects of the Lord, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words)—these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service.’ (srimad Bhagavatam 7.5.23).

Decorating the Deity is archanam out of the above nine processes of bhakti. It also includes offering food with love and devotion. (patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayachati, BH Gita 9.26). We could offer to the Lord “chappan bhoga”, that is 56 different types of rich preparations of food or we could just offer just one simple preparation. Shabari from Ramayan just offered only berries to the Lord. Whatever may be offered, but most importantly it has to be offered with love and devotion. If we offer with love and devotion, why would the Lord not eat? If the Lord does not eat what we have offered, that is because we do not offer with utmost love and devotion. This archanam also includes cleansing and decorating the temple of the Lord. The word for this love and devotion is “bhaktya”.

Similarly, Devahuti’s service for the Lord was full of devotion (bhaktya). We can also do many such services for the temple and for the archa vigraha of the Lord in the temple. There are so many service we could do for the Deity. Preparation of food stuff for offering, making garlands, cleansing the temple, stitching clothes for the Deities, stitching curtains for decorating the temple, decorating the temple floor with colorful powders (rangoli) and so on. Doing all such services for the Lord with love and devotion will in turn adorn us.

If women thus get adorned due to loving service to the Lord, it will not matter whether they do or do not decorate themselves with the so called ornaments and jewellery. On the other hand, if they simple decorate themselves with various ornaments without doing any devotional service, they will never be satisfied with their personal adornment. Their lust for more and more jewellery and more and more rich clothing never ends. The Sanskrit word for woman “stri” means vistara or expansion. A woman’s mind is constantly engrossed in thinking about how to collect more and more opulences in terms of house, jewellery, household items etc. It is not a woman’s fault though – the Lord has designed a woman’s mind in that fashion. Then they want to expand the family by having children. Thus women are characterized by ever expanding desires. Nowadays, women get many new ideas for their never ending shopping listing by watching television and alluring advertisements about various products. These advertisement convince us that we need to eat this item, drink that item, smear this item on our bodies, need this machine for the house and so on. There is no end to this expansion if the women do not take to devotional service of the Lord.

If a husband wants to run the family with a low expenses budget, then he should engage his wife in the devotional service of the Lord. Then there will always be a shopping list for the Deity besides the wife’s personal shopping list. Thus the husband should give her the archa vigraha Deity of the Lord and ask her to decorate the Lord with fine clothes, ask her to offer food every day and ultimately ask her to make the whole house as the temple for the Lord. By this process, the tendency of the wife for having an ever expanding personal shopping list will be curtailed to some extent. Otherwise, even in the old age women remain busy with their personal adornment with makeup, plastic surgery, dental cosmetic and what not.

After all, there is vanaprastha ashrama after grihastha ashrama! Preparations for the transition to vana prastha have to begin while in householder status. Attributes like detachment, renounced attitude, simplicity have to be cultivated while in householder life to help transition into next Vanaprastha ashrama. Vanaprastha is meant for both the husband and wife and not just for men.

Thus the scriptures mention about two types of adornment: one is decorating oneself with rich clothes, ornaments, and all different processes of decorating the body. The other type of adornment is “sadhavah sadhu-bhushanah” – ajat shtravah, shantah. The first type of adornment is about beautifying the body with the jewellery, clothes etc. However, the second type of adornment is about beautifying the soul. The ornaments of divine qualities enhance the glory of the soul. The real purpose of life is beautifying the soul with the ornaments of divine qualities.

There are 26 well known qualities – known as the ornaments of the Vaishnavas. When we serve the Supreme Lord, when we decorate His Deity, then we get naturally decorated with these qualities. Serving the Lord includes hearing and chanting His names and His glories. Indeed the primary service is hearing and chanting. Hearing and chanting the descriptions of the ‘rupa-madhuri’ or the transcendentally beautiful form of the Lord will naturally lead to our detachment and renounced mood. In that state, we will not be much worried about beautifying our so called bodies.

Srimad Bhagavatam (1.7.10) has this verse about ‘atmaramas’ (those sages who take pleasure in the spirit self) – atmaramas ca munayo, nirgrantha apy urukrame, kurvanty ahaitukim bhaktim, ittham-bhuta-guno Harih (All different varieties of atmaramas [those who take pleasure in atma, or spirit self], especially those established on the path of self-realization, though freed from all kinds of material bondage, desire to render unalloyed devotional service unto the Personality of Godhead. This means that the Lord possesses transcendental qualities and therefore can attract everyone, including liberated souls.) This verse suggests that there are some ‘atmaramas’ who could be advaita-vadi or brahmanandi. These impersonalists are without any material bondage, without any attachments. Yet the Lord’s transcendental qualities attract the hearts of these impersonalists. This was said by Suta Goswami when he was asked about Shukadeva goswami. He was asked that if Shukadeva goswami was such an atmaram, brahma nandi, and materially detached, highly renounced yogi; then how come he got attracted towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In reply to this question, Suta goswami said this verse “ittham bhuta guno Harih”. It is the divine magic of the transcendental qualities of the Supreme Lord that they attract everyone’s heart, even the impersonal heart of the atmaram muni. That is why it is said, “akamah sarva kamo va, moksha kama udar dhih, tivrena bhakti yogena yajeta purusham param” (SB 2.3.10) – A person who has broader intelligence, whether he be full of all material desire, without any material desire, or desiring liberation, must by all means worship the supreme whole, the Personality of Godhead. It does not matter whether we are akama, sarva kama or moksha kama, the Lord’s supreme qualities will equally attract us.

Thus if hearing and chanting are a part of devotional service, we should always be engaged in hearing the descriptions of the Lord’s beauty, the Lord’s ornaments and the process of His adornment by mother Yasoda when she decorates the Lord’s body every morning before sending Him to the forest. Yasoda bathes Krishna, decorates His body with different varieties of ornaments, and finally gives a beautiful flute in His hands. There are so many varieties of descriptions of the Lord’s beauty and His decorations. His ‘vara-mauktikam’ or special gem, His ‘kanthe cha muktavali’ or large variety of necklaces, His ‘makara kundale’ or special shark shaped earrings, His ‘sarvange Hari chandanam’ or body covered with chandan, and His Ghanashyama color or the hue of His bodily luster as a fresh rain cloud. On the backdrop of His rain cloud color, His pearl necklace is compared to the a line of swans. With His rain cloud color, His peacock feather is compared to the rainbow; and His yellow dazzling garment is compared to the lightening. All these descriptions can attract our hearts to Krishna and can make us His devotees.

There is a story of a dacoit, named Daku Bhagat. Once he heard the descriptions of the Lord’s beauty and the Lord’s decorations. He totally gained great faith in the Lord’s existence and decided to find Him. He thought it would be the best deal if he could steal the ornaments of such a fabulously decorated person. Upon enquiring he came to know that the Lord lived in Vrindavana. The dacoit started his journey towards Vrindavana with a constant remembrance of the Lord’s descriptions. He contemplated and meditated upon the descriptions of the Lord’s beauty throughout his journey. Due to his complete engrossment in constant remembrance of the Lord, he was blessed to see the real form of the Lord. And what did he do upon seeing the opulent form of the Lord? He totally forgot to steal the Lord’s ornaments! Instead he became a devotee!! Hari bol!

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