A holistically enriching experience
Worshipping Sri Raja Rajeswari Devi as Mother Goddess, we have equalled her to a mother, the most trusted and loved human relation. “Lalitha Sahasranama,” the holy hymn from Brahmanda Purana that is a composition of a thousand names of the Goddess extolls Her as Avyāja karuṇāmūrti; meaning that her infinite grace is motherly and nurturing by nature. Hence, worshipping the Goddess must reflect, in fact, exceed love for one’s mother. A day of worship, beginning with waking Her up till singing a soothing lullaby after a day filled with a series of events must make us experience the warm company of our beloved mother.
Mother Goddess is Sharadaradhya: one who is pleased by worship during Sharad Ritu, the months of autumn. Hence the significance of Devi Sharannavaratri, one of the important festivals of Avadhoota Datta Peetham, Mysore. Devi Navaratri performed by Parama Pujya Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji consists of numerous elaborate rituals carried out with rigour and in breathtaking opulence. Commencing with a procession leading to the venue followed by Kumari puja, Navavarana Puja, Homa, Annarchana, Abhishekam, Divyanamasankeertana and arati, ashrama bustles with activity. These series of ceremonies, summarised in the following paragraphs, teach us, in a nutshell, how to revere, perceive and worship the Goddess, much in contrast to reducing Her to an idol in a temple.
Each day of this festival begins with a procession of the Goddess along with Parama Pujya Sri Swamiji and Pujya Sri Datta Vijayananda Teertha Swamiji on a bedecked chariot led by devotees happily dancing in fervour. Drawn from the main temple, the chariot arrives at the sprawling Nada Mantapa filled with thousands of eagerly awaiting devotees, where rituals will be performed. The divine entourage is welcomed with Purnakumbha and other honours and rituals.
One of the thousand names of the supreme mother, Bālā, describes Her as a young maiden. Līlāvinodini, another name, refers to her childlike, playful nature. Perceiving this divinity in such young girls, ‘Kumari Puja’ is performed by Sri Swamiji, to girls aging one to sixteen. Another name Shuddha Mānasā gets reflected in the clean minds of the chosen children. Following Sri Swamiji, all the priests and participating devotees offer their respects to the Goddess perceived in these girls.
Navavarana Puja, the event of utmost significance during these celebrations, is a unique puja in which the performer visualises the culmination of this puja as reaching the centre of the Srichakra, by ascending the nine “avaranas” or levels in which various celestials reside. Worshipped as śrī cakrarājanilayā, the one residing in the Srichakra, seated at the centre as Bindu Mandala Vaasini, is the Supreme Mother, Goddess Rajarajeswari.
With highly intricate spiritual connotations, Navavarana Puja can be successfully performed only by spiritually elevated individuals. Symbolic of Mother Goddess’ cosmic energy residing within such a superior soul, Sri Swamiji, in the attire of the Goddess, performs puja to each of the nine kalashas installed around the puja mantapa, circumambulating it several times, symbolic of the journey to the centre of Sumeru.
The name Pancha Sankhyopacharini reveals to us that Mother Goddess is fond of worship with the five methods of gandha, pushpa, dhoopa, deepa and naivedya. Appeasing the Goddess, Sri Swamiji offers various symbols of auspiciousness such as turmeric roots, bangles, flowers, cloth, betel leaves and coins, each unique to the Goddess of each one of the nine days. Also praised as Sarvoudana Preeta Chittha, Goddess is fond of a variety of food preparations. Known to be Pāyasānnapriyā, Snigdhaudanapriyā, Guḍānna prītamānasā and Mudgaudanāsakta cittā, Milk Rice and Ghee rice is offered to Goddess Gowri, a preparation of sprouts and rice is offered to Raja Rajeswari and jaggery rice to Goddess Chandi on the eighth day.
Offerings to Sri Mata
The Supreme Mother is extremely fond of art and is worshipped as Kalāmālā as She is adorned with a garland woven out of all forms of art. The names, Kaḷātmikā, Kaḷānāthā, and Kaḷānidhiḥ, also reflect the oneness of arts with the divine Goddess. Gānalolupā, one who enjoys music, is worshipped by Sangeeta seva, music concerts rendered by world-renowned artists. This year’s artists, Carnatic vocalist, Vidushi Bhargavi Venka tram and Hindustani vocalist, Vidushi Mahalakshmi Shenoy, in addition to several popular compositions of Saints Purandara Dasa, Tyagaraja and others, rendered brilliant improvisations of Sri Swamiji’s compositions giving the audience a novel experience of Sri Swamiji’s music.
Kavyalapa vinodini, another name means that She enjoys being extolled in epics. Vyahruthi, verily grammar is worshipped with a recitation of the rules of grammar known as Vyakarana seva. Mother Goddess, Sāmagānapriyā, who is very fond of Vedas is appeased by chanting of verses from different Vedas by renowned Vedic scholars. The Goddess, Lasya Darshana Santushta, who is pleased by dance, is presented with captivating dance performances. Similarly, Shastra seva and Purana seva, recitations from ancient texts are offered to the Goddess. After performing homa and abhisheka, the series of offerings conclude with a soothing lullaby, gradually relaxing the Goddess.
For Nada Brahma Sri Swamiji, a celebration is not complete without a charged, bhajan session, Divyanama Sankeertana! This year, Sri Swamiji chose to elaborate on the divine text of Tripura Rahasya, the teachings of Lord Dattatreya to Parashurama. This work reveals the profound knowledge of the Supreme Goddess and is replete with very important and valuable lessons. Interspersed with lively bhajans, these discourses are invaluable gifts from a preceptor to His blessed disciples. Each day concludes with a mellifluous arati singing the glory of the Divine Mother performed by Parama Pujya Sri Swamiji and the junior seer. A visual delight, a festive extravaganza and a spiritual journey to the inner self, Navaratri at Avadhoota Datta Peetham is a holistically enriching experience. For further updates on the festival, stay tuned to our weekly column.
Compiled by - Nagini Nagamani