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Swami emphasized the need for selfless service

   The entire Navarathri function in the year 1995 was celebrated at the Ahobila mutt hall. Sivacharyas performed the Chandi homam on all the days and Sri Muthuswami Sastrigal enlightened us with his erudite discourses. Swami had materialised Mukambikai divine lamps. The underlying significance of this lamp was loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu. Swami emphasized the need for selfless service. He urged the devotees not to dwell on self and family only but also serve others in any way possible. He also stressed that selfless service to humanity is superior to devotion and said that every devotee should stay at least for a day at the temple and render all help possible. Love all, hate none, love ever, hate never — these were some notable words of wisdom uttered by Swami during the function. He said that service to others must be the prime motto in our life, which should be etched firmly in our minds. One should practice purity in thought, deeds and words. Swami advocated a life of selfless service, peace and prayer to all the devotees. On the seventh day, during the archanai, in the evening, the electricity failed and the entire place got plunged into darkness due to a heavy downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning. All felt sad that the archanai could not be continued. Everyone started chanting — Om Sri Shakthi Bagavathi Narayanee Namoh Namaha. A miracle happened at that time. An imprint of the lotus feet of Devi appeared in the kumkumam kept in front of Swami. Everyone witnessed that and were overwhelmed with wonder and devotion. Soon, the power was restored and the archanai continued. Thus, Swami made us realize that the archanai had indeed reached the lotus feet of Devi. Swami had predicted three months before the onset of Navarathri that on Dasami day, at 8 am, there would be a heavy downpour but the function would gone on uninterrupted. On Dasami day, at the exact time predicted, there was a heavy morning downpour. The real wonder was that we had rains only in Chembur and nowhere else in Bombay on that day.

   In the year 1996, for Navarathri festival Akhanda Lalitha Sahasranama archanai was held from 8 am to 8 pm throughout the day without a break. The first eight days' poojas were held in four different houses and the Navami day celebrations were conducted at Ahobila mutt hall. Swami wanted the devotees to take part in the Lalitha Sahasranama archanai at least once, at any time convenient to them during that period. The archanai was followed by devotional songs and finally aarathi was performed. There were many devotees who had been feeling very bad that they could not fulfill their wishes of climbing Sabarimalai hills to worship Lord Ayyappa, due to their old age and ill health. Keeping this in mind, Swami materialised divine lamps of Lord Ayyappa and eighteen coins depicting the sacred eighteen steps that he distributed to the devotees during the function. He briefed us about the significance of the lamps. He said that the lamp should be lit with ghee on the first three days of every month as per the Hindu calendar and also during the Mandala kalam and Makara kalam, that is roughly from 15th November to 17th January. This duration coincides with the temple being kept open in Sabarimalai. After lighting the lamp, if one went around it three times chanting Swamiyai Saranam Ayyappa, one would get the same benefit and blessings from Lord Ayyappa as obtained by climbing the Sabari hills. During all nine days, the Lalitha Sahasranama archanai, the devotional songs, the chanting of Swamiyai Saranam Ayyappa kept the minds of all the devotees charged with pure and sacred thoughts. Swami had materialised small shankus (conches) which were unique and which it seems, can be obtained only once in thousand years. On Navami day, I was also gifted one such conch from him. On that day, my first book on Swami in Tamil, "Amma Irukkumidam" was released by him.

   In 1997, Navarathri function was again conducted at Ahobila Mutt Hall in Chembur, Mumbai. Chandi homarn was performed on all the nine days. Swami materialised silver lamps of Lord Murugan with his consorts on either side with the peacock. This lamp was known as the Sivayoga Subramania lamp. Swami wanted us not to get too entangled with materialistic desires and strive for wisdom. These lamps can be lit daily with ghee and prayed to. Everyday from 3 to 5 pm, Sri Radhakrishnan, a devotee of Swami gave religious discourses on the glory of Devi.

   In the year 1998, Swami was not physically present at the functions. The Navarathri festival was held in three different places at the same time. Swami stayed in Kumbakonam on all the nine days observing mouna vratham and performed poojas in solitude. In Bombay, as per Swami's order, Navarathri was celebrated on the first eight days in eight different houses. On navami day, it was conducted in the Hanuman temple at Subhash Nagar, Chembur. Madras devotees assembled at the siddhar peetam in Tambaram, Madras and a similar function was held there. Swami had said earlier that each family should bring any one of the lamps given by him earlier. Both husband and wife should have unanimously select one lamp without any discussion. There should not be any difference of opinion between husband and wife in selecting the lamp and both should have the same pious thoughts and feelings towards the lamp. In that case, they would get the full blessings. Swami had instructed that the lamp be brought to the Hanuman temple on Navami day and be lit with ghee. A special rostrum was made to keep the lamps and all the Bombay devotees assembled there. The function started at 5.30 pm. Though Swami was not physically present for that function, everyone could sense his divine presence on that day.

   In the year 1999, the main deity of siddhar peetam, Goddess Kalyana Bagavathi wanted to be the presiding deity of the Navarathri function and She wanted to be adorned in a golden kavacham. Swami blessed the devotees with golden lamps depicting Goddess Mahalakshmi, which he materialised with his siddhis. The significance of this lamp was that it depicted Devi as a protector and saviour of all devotees and was to be kept in safe custody. A replica idol of Kalyana Bagavathi and a gold kavacham for Her were made and brought to Bombay for the function held in the Hanuman temple. For the outstation devotees, accommodation was provided in the rooms near the temple. Because of limitation of space, Swami wanted the local devotees to commute from their houses. Normally, I keep kolu (idols of different gods and goddesses kept in steps with a kalasam at the bottom row) during Navarathri time and invite a few married ladies and offer them the customary haldi kumkum. Since I stayed at my sister's house and had locked the house, I requested Swami if He, as Devi personified to me, would accept haldi kumkum, blouse piece and coconut and my pada namaskar to Him. He agreed, much to my delight.

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