NEWSLETTER - Last Quarter 2018

Dear Sai Brothers and Sisters,

             Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and welcome to this quarter's newsletter!  Our last quarter of 2018 was filled with many exciting events, from Navarathri, Vijayadasami-which also marked the Kumbabhishekam of the Dhwajastambam,  followed with Deepavali, Kartigai Deepam, Christmas, and Homi Baba's birthday and the Athi Rudram for our December function.

    October marked Navarathri which was celebrated by performing a Kali puja. There was a special alankara, abishekam and Sahasranama archana that was performed each day. 
    Every Navarathri is more special for Sai devotees because it culminates with Baba’s Mahasamadhi Day, which falls on Vijayadashami. However, this year was all the more special as this Vijayadasami marked 100 years since Shri Shirdi Sai Baba’s Mahasamadhi in 1918. In honor of this occasion, the function began on October 17th (Ashtami) and continued through Navami, and culminated on October 19th (Dasami), when the Kumbabhishekam for the Dhwajastambam was performed. Beginning on Ashtami, japam and havan was continuously performed, with chanting of mantras of the Gods, which are installed around our Dhwajastambam kodimaram-Ganesha, Garuda, Hanuman, Shri Chakra and Nandi. Preliminary poojas such as the Ganapathy pooja, Navagraha pooja, Vastu pooja and all other required havans for the kumbabhishekam were performed. The installation of the Dhwajastambam also marked the 1st day of the 48 day Mandala pooja, during which japam, parayanam, pradakshinam, pooja, abhishekam, and havan were performed on a daily basis. Saraswati Pooja also was performed. Usually on this day, everyone keeps his or her books in front of Goddess Saraswati during the puja. And on the following morning on Vijayadashami, devotees read one or two lines from those same books, seeking the blessings of Saraswati for a promising year in their academics. On Navami, we also performed Ayudha Puja, which in simple terms, means “worship of instruments.” On this day, all the tools that are used on a daily basis are worshipped. All the tools and instruments used by the staff in the ashram and in the annadhanam hall, were worshipped. This included the worship of our pots and pans, utensils, the car, lawnmower, and so many other items that are used for daily living. Flowers were offered, decorations were made, and sweets were distributed to commemorate this day!

    The function culminated on the 19th evening, during which Palak Utsavam (Palki procession) took place with 100 people in attendance. The energetic Nadaswaram was the ultimate highlight of the entire function, urging everyone in attendance, to dance and sing along. Our own Gurumaa danced along, doing kolattam around the temple! The energy and happiness in the air was palpable to everyone, and the function ended on a high note! Over the three day function, annadhanam was also performed with 600-800 people in attendance each day.
    During Deepavali, the entire ashram and temple were magnificently lit up with lamps, similar to the way that Baba would decorate Dwarakamai with lights every day. Bhajans were also sung in celebration. Following Deepavali, was Kartigai Deepam. Here in our ashram the entire temple and prayer hall was lit with hundreds of lamps!
    All these functions lead up to our December function, the Athi Rudram Parayanam which started on the 23rd and culminated on the 3rd.  A grand flag hoisting ceremony  was held on the 22rd as well, and was brought down on the 3rd, on the last day of the Athi Rudram Parayanam.
    Beginning on the 21st evening, preliminary poojas and havans were performed. These poojas include the Rakshogana Havan, Vastu Havan, which were all performed to clear the atmosphere of any imbalances, in order to ready the temple and its premises for the upcoming function and poojas.  The next day on the 22nd, the morning began with Ganapathy Pooja, Go Pooja, and Baba poojas as the preliminary poojas followed by Ganapathy Havan and Navagraha Havan, and Kalashastapanam which was done on the 22nd evening, to invoke Lord Shiva into the main kalash. The first day of the Rudra Parayanam fell on December 23rd. On this day, the morning started with the chanting of Bhagya Suktam which is recited for good luck and good fortune, followed by Sadhyojathavidhana Pooja which is a special pooja done for Lord Shiva, specifically to the crystal spatika lingam, in the main hall. Next, Mahanyasa was performed which is done to purify all our nerves for all the priests who are chanting. Following this, 22 Rudrams were chanted by all the priests which would comprise of the rest of the morning, until noon aarti time at 12 pm. On the second day of the Athi Rudram chanting, each priest was blessed and presented with a Spatika Lingam by Maa herself.
    In the evening . all the Ganapathis would begin Rudra archanai followed by Jata parayana and  Gana parayana in which the priests would chant the Veda Mantras in various complex combinations.
 Following the Avatharikai,  Palak Utsavam would take place in which the priests  chanting Chaturveda Parayanam (chanting of the four vedas) and offering nevidyam and aarti to Baba, lead the rest of the procession with the Divyatas-torch bearers-carrying actual torches of flames, behind them. Following them, the flag was held high with an umbrella held behind that. The devotees then followed at the back, holding the palanquin which held a golden murthi of Baba and was carried for one pradakshanam around the temple    This routine was then followed regularly throughout the rest of the days for the pooja from the 23rd until the 2nd of January. The final day on the 3rd, brought the culmination of the Athi Rudram Pooja during which a Rudram Havan was performed.
    This day was even more momentous and auspicious as it fell on a Thursday! Havan was done with five havan kunds in the yagashala, followed by the Mahapurnahuti. After the Rudram Havan, the nine kalashas which were being worshipped over the past 12 days, were used for Kalashalingam Pooja. During this pooja, jalam from each kalasham was used for abhishek to the main crystal spatika lingam in the hall. Afterwards, the nine kalashas were used to perform abhishek to Shirdi Baba, and the resulting collected jalam from Baba was used to perform abhishek to our beloved Gurumaa! We had approximately 1000 people in attendance to witness this magnificent culmination of our 12 day event!
    In the evening once more, Palak Utsavam was performed by all the devotees during which instead of one pradakshanam, three pradakshanams were done, and to add to the feeling of positivity and high energy, Nadaswaram was also featured bringing an extra ounce of energy and vigor to the end of our function!

    Three special events also took place in the middle of our Athi Rudram function-Christmas, Homi Baba’s birthday, and New Year’s Abhishek to Shirdi Baba.
    On Christmas Eve-the 24th, following the evening Avatharikai, all the devotees gathered by the Infant Jesus shrine to celebrate Christmas with festive Christmas carols. We even sang a Christmas carol in Spanish! We had three huge cakes and lots of chocolate for everyone to have and enjoy! The festivity could be felt in the air by all those in attendance! Everyone came together, sang, celebrated, and our own Gurumaa began dancing and clapping during the carols! It was an evening full of pure joy!
    On the 26th, a huge celebration also took place for Homi Baba’s birthday, during which, abhishekam, pooja, and aarti was performed for Homi Baba along with alankaram. All the devotees also recited Homi Baba’s shlokam, and of course we cut a cake to commemorate the special day!
    On New Year's Eve, all devotees gathered in the hall around 10 pm, to receive the blessings of Baba for the new year.  As usual, everyone was allowed in the altar to do abhishek for Baba themselves. At midnight, Maa released the new 2019 calendars for everyone to see! Maa then did the aarti for Baba and distributed prasad for over 300 people and the 2019 calendars.
    All in all, it was a busy, eventful, and enlightening 12 days, and it was wonderful to see the devotees come together and take part in the function!
    Aside from the special events, our regular monthly projects continue, including the medical camps, weekly annadhanam, Purnima Puja, and Pradosham Puja. We thank you all for your continuous support. Here’s to another wonderful quarter filled with love and happiness!

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