: ➤ Navarathri festivals and divine lamps


Swami materialised 108 lamps and arranged them in the form of meru

As the number of devotees started increasing, the next Navarathri in the year 1992 was conducted at two different places, the first eight days at Tolaram towers and the last two days at Lakshmi Narayana temple hall of Ahobila mutt at Chembur. It was the first public function of Swami in Mumbai. Swami materialised 108 lamps and arranged them in the form of meru on the Navami Day. After the Pooja was over, Swami gave us lamps meant to be lit only thrice a month, one Friday inclusive. On the first day, one should visualize their family deity in the deepa jyothi and the whole family should take three rounds around the lighted lamp and pray. On the second day, the lamp is lit with ghee and the family's ishta daivam is invoked in it. On the third day, one should feel the presence of Chothanikkara Devi and pray to Her. Swami materialized a foot long shoolam which he later installed in a Devi temple at Kadathalaimedu, a town in south India. Now, the same foot long shoolam has grown as tall as three feet. At this function Swami asked me to take the japa of Ganapathi manthram and Bala manthram (Devi personified as a young girl) from one of his old devotees. I was greatly moved at his special concern and grace towards me. The thrilling and unique experience that my family had during this function has already been described in an earlier chapter "Swami a unique avathar".

Navarathri function in 1992 was again conducted at two places. First 8 days at Tolaram Towers and Navami Pooja at Mysore Colony. The significant aspect was that Sadguru Gnananandar took on the role of Gnana Ambikai and blessed the devotees with spiritual wisdom in the form of the lamps. The lamps depicted Gnananandar in the engraved form of Lord Ganapathi. The motto behind this was that instead of craving materialistic benefits, we should now try to acquire wisdom and realize the ultimate truth. For this, a guru is necessary. Realizing this, Swami gave this gnana deepam to the devotees and thus slowly guided them to Guruvandanam which will eventually lead them to the path of spirituality. Swami instructed us to chant "Gnana Ganesha, Gnana Skanda, Gnanananda, Gnana mukunda, Gnanambikai Saranam, Saranam" after lighting the lamp with ghee. He said that we should pray and invoke Lord Ganesha, Lord Murugan, Guru Gnananandar, Lord Krishna and Goddess Saraswathi in that lamp and offer our salutations to them.

The year 1993 function was a little different. Swami materialised a silver face of Kamakshi, another form of Devi. As per the divine command, the silver face of Devi was taken around by a priest to nine different houses in the early mornings. The devotees assembled there and chanted Kamakshi ashtothram while performing the kumkumam archanai which was then followed by devotional songs. After aarathi, it was taken back to the place where Swami was staying. In the evenings, we had the usual Lalitha Sahasranama archana and sang the devotional songs. After mangala aarathi, the function for the day came to an end with the distribution of prasadam. The last two days function was held at Ahobila mutt temple. Swami materialised 107 divine lamps invoking Devi Kamakshi in it and they were placed on a specially decorated rostrum and the lamps were lit on Navami day. The importance of the Guru, the holy saints, salutations to Guru and Devi Kamakshi, the essence of all mantras all these were invoked in the divine lamps. As per Swami's instructions, the lamp could be lit with ghee by the devotees either daily or on Tuesdays and Fridays or for a particular duration of time, as per the convenience of the devotees.

The Dassera festival of the year 1994 held on all the ten days in Ahobila mutt went off on a grand scale. Chandi homam was performed on all the nine days by Sivacharyas who came specially from south India. They were very pious and dedicated and performed the homam with full devotion. All devotees had a blissful time witnessing this sacred ritual. Much before the function, on the Tamil new year day, Swami had materialised two large idols of Devi, one in gold depicting the Melkaavu Chothanikkara Devi and the other one, a silver idol of Keezhkavu Devi (Goddess Kali). They were the two main presiding deities of the year's Navarathri function.

Earlier, Bombay was rocked by bomb blasts by terrorists. Many innocent people lost their lives. The whole city was shrouded in fear and anxiety and panic was widespread. To undo all these evil effects and promote peace and calm, Swami materialised these idols. There were countless souls of victims who died in the bomb blasts. Swami wanted to give salvation to these departed souls.

He got a divine command from Devi that the Kali idol should be taken to fifty-three devotees' houses and pooja should be conducted in the evenings at their homes beginning from 16th July till the start of Navarathri. A spatika Ganapathi materialised by him was taken along with the idol of Devi. Swami gave detailed instructions on how to perform the pooja. On all days, during rahukalam, the Devi was taken to the respective houses and Lalitha sahasranama parayanam was chanted with kumkumam archanai followed by devotional songs. The pooja was held between 5.30 pm and 7.30 pm. The residents of that house were asked to take the idol to the next house and the same procedure was followed on all the fifty-three days. Swami was not physically present during these Aadimasa poojas. The name Aadimasa pooja came about since it was held in the month of Aadi as per the Tamil Hindu calendar. During this month, people easily get affected by ailments like cold, fever and stomach upsets due to the monsoon. During the pooja, they could pray to Devi to protect them from diseases. The archana kumkumam was collected, mixed with the kumkumam used on Navami day and distributed as prasadam to everyone.

Swami said that through this pooja, he could find out the grievances of the departed forefathers of the different families and wipe out any curse of disgruntled ancestors. The 1994 function was unique in that it was open to anyone on all the nine days. Anyone interested could participate in the kumkumam archanai. Swami had given instructions to the participants in the pooja to keep absolute silence in the hall during the pooja, with no gossip and loukika talk inside the hall. The entire atmosphere was serene and pious as the Sivacharyas performed the homam with great devotion and dedication. In the evenings, decorations were done to the different manifestations of Devi with colourful flowers. It was really a feast to the eyes of the beholder. The proceedings left a lasting impression in the minds of all. It was as if we were at the Chothanikkara temple itself. The hall echoed with divine chants and devotional songs of Devi in the mornings and evenings. In between, there was a discourse by an eminent scholar, Muthuswami Sastrigal, who was a devotee of Swami. On all the nine days, he gave a discourse on Devi Mahathmiyam and enlightened all the devotees with his learned discourse. Just before Navarathri started, Swami had materialised 143 divine lamps of Chothanikkara Bagavathi. The lamps were placed on a specially constructed rostrum decorated with flowers. On Navami day, in the evening, they were all lighted with ghee and the entire place glowed in the divine light from the lamps, Sarvam Jyothirmayam. The hall was reverberating with chants of "Amme Narayana, Devi Narayana Lakshmi Narayana, Badre Narayana". Swami's face was smeared with vibuthi and then he was given an abhishekam with holy water. In his divine utterance in Malayalam, he said that Chothanikkara Devi who was manifested in him had come to earth to wipe out miseries, undo evils and promote peace. He further went on to say that the lamp should be lit with oil from 6 am to 6 pm and the devotees could seek Devi's blessings to fulfill all their desires. After 6 pm, it should be lit with ghee and one's prayer to Devi should be to bless them for divine wisdom. One can light it daily or for a particular period or on Fridays as per one's wish. He stressed that one's prayer to God should not be only to fulfill one's materialistic desires and wishes but also to seek Devi's blessings for a higher level of thinking, for attaining enlightenment absolute bliss, which is the real goal in one's life. The huge crowd gathered in the hall returned home at peace, in a blissfully spiritual frame of mind.