NEWSLETTER - News letter Jan 2016

            Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and welcome to this quarter’s newsletter! This past quarter, the very last one of 2015, was filled with numerous events including, Navarathri, Deepavali, Christmas, Homi Baba’s birthday, the infamous rains and floods in November, all leading towards the final December function, the Navakshari Samputitha Nava Chandi Homam.

            The quarter began with Navarathri, which was celebrated by performing a Kali pooja. Usually Kali in most parts on India is feared for her ferocious nature, but here in the ashram she expresses her all powerful, yet divine motherly love to all who take her darshan.  There was a special alankara, abishekam and Sahasranamaarchana that was performed each day.  We were overwhelmed by Mother Kali’s divine grace and presence. 

            Every Navarathri is more special for Sai devotees because it culminates with Baba’s MahasamadhiDay, which falls on Vijayadashami. On this day, we performed annadhanam at noon, and then did a PalakUtsavam in the evening while devotees sang bhajans to commemorate this auspicious day.  This is the day that our dear ShriShirdiSai Baba left his mortal coil to merge with the macrocosmic universe.  Though Baba is omnipresent, Vijaydasami is the single most celebrated day of the year to receive the grace and worship our Sai Baba. 

            During Deepavali, the entire ashram and temple were magnificently lit up withlamps, similar to the way that Baba would decorate Dwarakamai with lights every day. Bhajans were also sung in celebration. Following Deepavali, was KartigaiDeepam. This festival commemorates the supreme Lord Sada Shiva who appeared as an incredibly luminous pillar of light, baffling Lord Vishnu and Brahma.  In the famous south Indian temple town of Thiruvanamalai, on Kartigai Deepam, on the hill of Arunachalam, a huge jyothi (flame) is lit. This flame requires thousands of liters of ghee to fuel. It is a sight that can be witnessed from more than a mile away.  Here in our ashram the entire temple and prayer hall was lit with hundreds of lamps and Hanuman Chalisa was chanted in unison by all devotees.

            This year on Christmas, we not only celebrated the holiday itself, but we also inaugurated the arch gate at the entrance of Sri SaiDarshan. The event was attended by a number of devotees who all accompanied Gurumaa in cutting the ribbon, tied to the huge gate, to inaugurate the grand entrance to the temple and ashram. Christmas, as always was celebrated with lots of festivity. Abhishekam was done in the morning for Infant Jesus, followed by a celebration in the evening, when all devotees, children and adults alike participated.  The decorations included lights, along with candles, which were lit by everyone in the ashram while singing Christmas carols.

            Homi Baba's birthday is also a huge celebration in the ashram.  This year, there was a special abhishek done for Homi Baba in the morning, and then Maa cut a cake during the celebration in the evening. The 26th also marked the beginning of the December function, starting with the Navakshari Homam and Paduka Pradakshanam. The event commenced with a Ganapathi Homam, along with the standard pujas that were done every day, including Ganapathipooja, Go pooja, and a pooja for Baba. In the afternoon, the ladies who volunteer in the annadhanam hall and in the prayer hall joined together to perform kolattam(traditional folk dance using dandiya sticks) and kummi (also a traditional folk dance) for the Paduka Pradakshanam. The next few days through the 29th, the mornings consisted of the same pujas in the morning and GanapathiHomam, while in the afternoon, the dance performances alternated between the lady volunteers accompanied by ashram devotees, and by young children who also performed kolattam and kummi around the Padukas. On the 30th morning ,the Pundits prformed  Ganapathy , vastu, yogini shetrapala and vaduka pujas  followed by  Ganapathy, Navagraha and shanti homam and  in the evening, they chanted Chandi Parayanam and Lalitha Sahasranamam.

On the 31st morning 6.00 a.m. the pundits started  the Chandi homam and the Maha Purnahuthi was done at 10.30 a.m.

 To bring the function to a close on the 31st, the afternoon consisted of two fantastic Carnatic music performances. The first was a performance done by Mrs. Uma Bharat on the veena. The second performance was by Shri. P.V. Ajay Namboodiri on vocal, Shri. S. Ramakrishnan on violin, and Mannar koil Shri. Balaji on mridangam. A unique aspect of this year’s homam was the devotees having to chant the mantra “Aim Hreem Kleem Chaamundaaya Vichche” in the yaagashaala while the homam was going on, on all days of the function.

            A main highlight of this year’s function was the short skit after the conclusion of the function in the morning. Two of the ashram devotees, put on a small drama depicting Maa in several steps of her life, from when she was a young girl, to a present day version of Maa. The play was divided into three different scenes; the first scene of the skit depicted Maa as a young teenager who was requesting her teacher, Sister Louise, if she can leave her home and family to become a nun so she can achieve her lifelong dream of doing service. Sister Louise responds by encouraging Maa to instead stay with her family and religion and shows Maa that there are so many opportunities to do service right where she is. Fast-forward approximately 30 years, the next scene depicts the reunion of Maa and Sister Louise. Maa recounts her home life and how she had met Homi Baba, to Sister Louise and explains that she has found some direction in her life, but how she still longs to do service. Sister Louise explains the importance of keeping her faith in God, and that He will give her the opportunity to do service, at the right time in the right place. The last scene concludes the play with Maa and Sister Louise at the inauguration of the Balalayam in the ashram, at which Sister Louise explains her happiness to see how far Maa has come in achieving her dream of doing service.Sister Louise then goes on to cut the ribbon and officially inaugurate the Balalayam. This play was a small peek into several key points in Maa’s life which have shaped her as an individual and as our Guru, and shows us a small view of the steps Maa took to get to where she is today as our beloved Guru and mother.  The cast included AkilaSivakumar as Maa, Samhita Swaminathan as Sister Louise, and Mr. Murali as narrator for the drama.  The skit was followed by a power point presentation by Sundar Ram Gopalakrishnan a devotee from Delhi depicting the growth of the ashram in picture from year 1997 -  2015 and also some wonderful childhood pictures of Maa.

            On New Year's Eve, all devotees gathered in the hall close to midnight to wish Baba a happy new year.  As usual, everyone was allowed in the altar to do abhishek for Baba themselves.  At midnight, Maa did the aarthi for Baba and distributed laddus and the 2016 calendars to everyone.

            One of the most eventful times of this past quarter was the infamous rains and floods in November and early December. The rains had left so many people without basic necessities, food, and shelter. With Baba’s grace, the ashram was fine, despite the torrential rains and some flooding. Our Gurumaa went out into the Kannikapuram village to distribute about 120 blankets and various provisions to provide relief to the villagers.  About 220 bedsheets, pillow covers, and clothes were donated by Maa to ParisuthaNarkarunaiIllam, which is a home for those who are destitute and mentally challenged. 

            Aside from the special events, our regular monthly projects continue, including the medical camps, weekly annadhanam, bi-monthly visits to Veerapuram for providing dinner for the destitute people at ParisuthaNarkarunaiIllam, , Purnima Puja, and PradoshamPuja.

            May Baba’s grace and Maa’s blessings be showered on us all.Jai Sai Ram Jai Maruthi Jai Maruthi!