Sri Sri Durga Puja 2011 at Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad
From Sunday October 2 to Thursday October 6 a grand worship of Shakti in the form of Sri Sri Durga was arranged by Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad. In a world torn by tempests of feminism and post-feminisim, this unique tradition of India--worshiping the Universal Mother as the All powerful destroyer of evil and sustainer of good--is unique. This is what that keeps our culture free of turbulent gender wars too.
Not only this, the 5-day celebration is a context for strengthening devotion, discipline and discrimination between what is right and what is wrong. The Mother has one feet on her lion-vehicle and the other on the dreaded Asura Mahisasura. In addition, there is the folklore associated with this celebration. Durga here is Uma, the doughter of Giriraja [Mountain-king] Himalaya and his Queen. Once a year she comes from the abode of her husband, Siva, to visit her parents with her four children Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartikeya. Behind them come all the gods and goddesses to catch a glimpse of the warmth of hospitality being accorded to the beloved dauther Ambica (Durga) in her parental home.
All these are evident in the living image installed at the Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad in the Puja Mandap. The breathtaking beauty of the Mother and her four children, the eye catching decor of the altar, the colorful flowers and the serene expressions on the faces of Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother flanking the two sides of the worship create a unique ambiance.
On the first day - that is, October 2nd the Mother's worship began at 6:30 a.m. with Chandi Puja followed by Chandi Parayana led by Swami Samshuddhananda ji. The latter is an eagerly awaited event as many devotees rushed from home to reach in time and participate fully in the soothing cadence of the 2.5 hours long chant. This schedule was followed for the next three days - October 3rd, 4th, and 5th - while on the 6th there was only chandi Puja at 8:30 a.m. but no Parayanam, as it was the day of Nimajjanam.
On all the 5 days, following the Chandi Chanting and Puja there was Pushpanjali. All devotees and Swamijis of the Math participated in this flower-offering of respects and devotion to Mother Durga. The mantras were chanted under the guidance of the clear, distinct and singing intonation of Adhyaksha Maharaj Rev. Swami Jnanadanandaji. Then these flowers were offered at the feet of Mother Durga by Swami Bodhamayanandaji Maharaj ably assisted by Brahmacharis. Then the devotees were given some sweet prasad.
Except on Mahastami Day, October 4, where this programme was supplemented by Special Puja of Sri Ramakrishna Deva with Sixteen items in the temple from 8 a.m. followed by bhajans and a Homam at 10:45 a.m. At 12 noon a special arati was offered to Sri Ramakrishna who is 'sarva deva devi swarupa' - the embodiment of all gods and goddesses including Mother Durga. After this, lunch prasad was also distributed to more than 5000 devotees. Each morsel of the holy food not only nourished the body but seemed to invigorate all the koshas/planes/aspects of the human being.
And on the last day, October 6th, after the Mother and Her four childern were given a formal farewell in the darpan visarjan ceremony, devotees were asked to see the feet of Mother Durga reflected in the mirror immersed in water - the symbolic significance is to immerse the heart in devotion and enshrine the Mother's feet there, so that she is close-by to us for the rest of the year till she comes back again for next year's celebration of Durga Puja.
The evening programme on the first four days - October 2, 3, 4, and 5 was a melodious offering to the Mother. After Sri Ramakrishna's evening Arati in the temple, at 7:15 p.m. there would be special Arati in the Puja Mandap for the Divine Mother. Amid the rejuvenating singing of Ayi Giri Nandini, lights and other ritual objects would be waved before Mother Durga during Arati. This was followed by moving melodies on the Mother, an event which is as fulfulling as it is blissful as it takes the mind from the mundane to the sublime effortlessly. This feast for the soul was followed by distribution of prasad - a boon for the body.
On the last day - Vijaya Dashami, October 6th, the bhajans from 7:10 to 7:45 p.m. were followed by Vedic chants encapsuling the 5000 year old tradition which has survived uninterrupted and continues to inspire, sustain and guide us even today. This was followed by the sprinkling of Holy water - Shanti Jal - to bring 'the peace that passes understanding' into the lives and minds of the assembled devotees to serve as a prop on which they can lean in times of weal and woe alike. In her fierce form Mother Durga appears only to ensure such peace and by inundating the devotees with Holy Water Rev. Swami Jnanadanandaji Maharaj ensured that each one of us participated in and shared this peace and bliss. After this prasad was distributed bringing to a close the uninterrupted presence of Primordial Shakti in our hearts and minds. But as Revered Maharaj reminded the devotees everyday after Pushpanjali, the Mother would remain with us, if we pray, surely. As one of the favorite songs of the Master records.
Dakar moton dakte jodi pari
Ashbi na tor emon sadho nei
(If I can call you (the Mother) earnestly, you do not have the power to evade me and stay away)
This is a test for each devoted heart to try out--are we powerful enough in our devotion to make the Mother powerless to stay away? Such an exercise could keep us close to the Mother till Durga Puja next year. When Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad will once again provide all devotees of the twin cities an opportunity to reiterate their faith in Mother Durga.