SRI SAI DARSHAN TRUST

NEWSLETTER - 1st Quarter 2021

 

Sai Ram Jai Maruthi Jai Maruthi! Welcome dear Sai brothers and sisters to the first newsletter of the year. Filled with exciting and fun events starting with Pongal, all the way to the splendor of Maa’s Jayanti celebrations, this quarter was busy and full of celebration and pure happiness!

 

            The first day of Pongal fell on January 14th this year and is essentially known as the “Happy Pongal!” day, on which people all over Tamil Nadu decorate earthen pots and prepare pongal (a South Indian kichadi) in celebration of the new year’s harvest that God has provided us with. It was traditionally celebrated by farmers, but over time has become reason to celebrate for everyone-especially the children who get excused from going to school for these few days!

 

            Day 2 of the Pongal celebration fell on January 15th and is known as “Mattu Pongal.” On this day, the mattu (cows) are worshipped and celebrated, as they are essentially the sole reason for the successful new harvest and agriculture, as without the cows, we would not have milk and oxen to plow the fields for crops to grow into. For this reason, on this day, the cows are worshipped and honored with great reverence. The main event of course, was the outdoor cookout. Our Gurumaa sat under a tree, just outside the Goshala, and with an old fashioned pot placed atop bricks and logs for fuel, Maa cooked an irresistible, mouth-watering “Chakkarai Pongal (sweet pongal).” This year, for the annadhanam held during the week of Pongal, the ingredients that were distributed to all, comprised of those required for all the families to make pongal!

 

            Next, in February, we started with Pratishta of both Dhanvantari and Ganesha idols that were worshipped during our December function, in Sundaram Medical Foundation as well as Adyar Cancer Institute. On February 3rd, at Sundaram Medical Foundation, we first did the pratishta and ashtabandhanam of Dhanvantari and Ganesha. Lord Ganesha was installed in a newly constructed temple, within a hospital specifically dedicated to Covid patients in Mogappair, while Lord Dhanvantari was installed in the hospital in Annanangar. The next day on February 4th, the mahakumbabishekam took place for both deities. The function was done in a grand manner with beautiful alankaram, lots of prasadam, and was attended by almost 150 devotees! Annadhanam then followed the function and was enjoyed by all!

 

            On February 6th, the second set of Dhanvantari and Ganesha idols from the December function, were worshipped and installed at the Adyar Cancer Institute. Pratishta and ashtabandhanam were done on the 6th while mahakumbabishekam was performed on the 7th for both deities in the temple constructed by SSDT for the hospital. The whole function once again, was done elaborately with over 10 different abhishekams, and was attended by over 100 people! A moment of silence was kept in remembrance of Padma Vibhushan Dr. Shanta, who as previously mentioned was the head of the Cancer Institute. She unfortunately passed away just prior to the Pratishta at the institute. She is remembered for her pure heart and for her immense dedication to help all those around her.

 

            February 26, 2021 was a very special day for everyone. It marked Sri Sai Darshan Trust’s 25th year in service to Baba. Congratulations to all for SSDT’s silver jubilee! This year, the trust anniversary was celebrated grandly! Pratishta of both Lord Dhanvantari and Saandeepani Muni was performed. All the Likhita Japam books which were worshipped during our December function, were placed a week prior to the Trust Anniversary, inside a hollow cement peedam. This Likhita Japam sadhana was started at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and continues even today. We should all take note and appreciate the significance given to the Likhita Japam Sadhana by Baba. He has repeatedly enforced how important it is that we continue writing 11 time on a daily basis, and He has now made it a part of this permanent structure to protect us, infinitely. After being placed inside the peedam, the books were covered and sealed with cement, atop which Lord Dhanvantari stands, to protect us all from disease and ill health. The Likhita Japam Padma Peedam stands across the yaagashala. In the ashram, Saandepani Muni was installed near Nagamma. Saandepani Muni, who is worshipped for his knowledge, is the guru of Lord Krishna from when he studied in Saandepani Muni’s gurukulavasa. The day was celebrated in an elaborate manner and was followed by Annadhanam, all of which was attended by around 80 people! It was a wonderful day full of happiness and inspiration to continue living with the purpose of serving. And congratulations to all the devotees on completing 25 years!

 

            “Om Namashivaya!” Shivaratri fell on March 11th this year. We all joined together to worship the destroyer of time, Lord Shiva at our “Atma Lingam,” the shrine dedicated to Him, located in front of the main prayer hall. All those who attended, kept vigil and participated in performing a “naalu kal” pooja (pooja done four times throughout the night), at 6 PM, 9 PM, 12 AM, and 3 AM. Rudrabishekam and Puja were performed 4 times throughout the night as well. The puja was done with milk, curd, honey, ghee, panchamritham, pancha gavyam, lemon juice, chandan, tender coconut, vibhuti, and sugarcane juice.

 

            The main highlight of this quarter and this newsletter was Maa’s Jayanti celebrations which occurred on Maa’s calendar birthday, on March 31st. For the first time in Sri Sai Darshan, Ksheera Saagara Manthana (Churning of the Milky Ocean) sadhana was performed. Our sadhana alluded to the familiar story of the devas and asuras tugging on each end of Vasuki, who was wrapped around the mountain which was resting on the back of Vishnu in His Kurma Avatar. Vishnu then gives darshan to all as Lord Dhanvantari, the one who holds the Amrutham (immortalizing nectar) in his kalasham. However, before the amrutham is given, the constant movement of the mountain turning side to side, churns the milky ocean and produces haalahala, the lethal poison. Lord Shiva then drinks this poison on the earnest request of the devas and asuras, but is stopped by Parvati who holds His neck to stop the poison from being fully consumed, giving Lord Shiva His blue neck, hence the name, Nilakanthan. Thereafter, Dhanvantari gives Darshan to all and comes forth with his Amrutha Kalasham.

 

For our function, devotees joined together prior to the event, to construct the mountain, tortoise, as well as Vasuki. On the day of, the sadhana started with the churning of the milky ocean; devotees stood on each side of the mountain, pulling Vasuki on either end. Everyone in attendance chanted the Dhanvantari mantra in unison. As the milky ocean was churned, haalahala was produced. We requested our dear Maa, to save us from this poison, as she is our representative of Lord Shiva on Earth. Once the haalahala was consumed, Lord Dhanvantari was invoked by the continuous chanting of the Dhanvantari mantra. He gave his Darshan, and was worshipped with an elaborate puja, archana, as well as a dance. The amrutham was then handed over by Dhanvantari to Maa, to be distributed to all those in attendance. Following the sadhana, Padha Puja for Maa was performed with silver padukas and shodashopachaara puja. This was followed by bhajans, madhyana aarti, and annadhanam! This Ksheera Sagara Manthana sadhana is symbolic not only of the story we all know, but moreover, of the constant tug between the good and bad forces within us, that battle each other on a constant basis. We all continuously battle these good versus bad thoughts and feelings, and pray to God to help us through the turmoils in our lives, and bless us. However, as we saw in the sadhana, before we are blessed with all good things, we have to go through some suffering. For us, we have Maa. As our Guru, she takes it upon herself to take all our troubles on herself, to ease our suffering, and in turn gives us blessings at all times. This sadhana was us honoring Maa, for all that she has done and is continuously doing for all of us, to ensure our well-being, inner peace, clarity, success, and happiness. We bow our heads in utter gratitude for everything Maa has done for all of us, and for always guiding us on the right path. The whole day was filled with joy, energy, thankfulness, and so much love for our dear Gurumaa!

 

            On the charitable front, Sri Sai Darshan Trust donated 1.5 lakhs to Shankara Nethralaya for funding treatments for patients. Next, SSDT donated 1.5 lakh rupees to the Adyar Cancer Institute. This donation will go towards research in the field of cancer and for funding treatments for patients, as well as meals for the patients in the institute.

 

            As mentioned in the previous newsletters, the precautions and instructions given by Maa are to be followed strictly on a daily basis. Though the Likhita Japam books have been collected, Maa has instructed us to keep writing on a daily basis, to continue to give us inner strength, healing, and detoxification.

 

          As always, it goes without saying that the Poornima puja, Pradosham puja,  are taking place without fail. As of early September 2020, Sri Sai Darshan Trust, opened up the temple to the public only on Thursdays. All preventative and safety measures have been implemented and are being strictly enforced. Medical camps which occur on every second Saturday have been placed on hold for the time-being due to the pandemic. As Annadhanam also cannot take place in the ashram, packaged groceries are being distributed to people in surrounding villages, by SSDT on a regular basis. We thank you, all devotees and well-wishers, for your continuous support. Here’s to a wonderful quarter and year filled with love, happiness, and good health!

 

 

 

May Baba’s grace and Maa’s blessings be showered on us all.

 

Jai Sai Ram Jai Maruthi Jai Maruthi!