||Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
With the days passing at Belur Math, I grew more anxious... as basking in the glory of this centre of spiritual influence was drawing to a rapid close. Comfort was sought from the fact that every moment carved an indelible niche in the bouquet of memories that hung in my mental closet. It will remain ever-ready to inspire and motivate me, should I fall prey to days of despondency or ignoble aspirations. But the next leg of my journey was also very close and dear to my heart.
As a little boy growing up in the Mill-housing-scheme of Hillview, I spent much of my childhood days visiting the Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple which was an approximately 5 minute stroll from home. A modest structure of stained windows and a hand-moulded-dome, it served its purpose at the time - of inspiring many... including myself, to surrender ourselves at the feet of Narayana. The infrastructure, although basic, emanated such divine vibrations that it magnetically drew devotees from their homes in their numbers. Devotees were also deeply satisfied with the handful of sweet-rice and sliced fruit 'parsad' after their evenings of 'satsang'. Elders of the Temple who were predominently educators would research topics from the scriptures and make it as palatable as possible for the seeking audience.
Tirumala is the abode of Maha Vishnu in the form of Venketeswara. We have become such friends since childhood, that He has never failed to invite me to His home on every visit to India. His abode, nestled within the seven hills, is the busiest pilgrim centre in India. Contesting with 10-20 thousand devotees for a little peek at His jewel-bedecked-body adorned with a glittering 'namo', the Lord in all His glory really explodes your heart with divine ecstasy and fills your eyes with liquid love. To date, all the queuing and waiting and even walking up the hills has failed to deter me from visiting again.
With the 'darshan' of the Father all done, and with the satisfaction saturating my being, I retired to Thirupati (the base of the hills) with the intention of visiting my Mother who adorns His chest as Sri. However, the country still being in the gaze of winter... night descended fast and by the time I reached the hotel, the night lanterns on the street reached their full luminosity. At the suggestion of the driver, the visit to Sri Padmavathi Temple was rescheduled to first light. The night became my enemy as it stood between me and my visit. I wrestled sleep the entire night and jumped with excitement at the sight of the sun creeping through the gaps in the curtain.
With all necessary morning routines and rituals behind, I was at the gate of the Temple. As if awaiting my arrival, the Mother signalled the security official to usher me in to the 'mandapam". What a marvellous site awaited me as I found myself witness to the 'Tirukalyanam' of Lord Maha Vishnu to Sri Luxmi Devi. The Temple priests busied themselves with all the rituals, as some 500 guests sat glued to the nuptials.
The officials tell me that this wonderful event is celebrated every month at the Temple. At that time I made mental 'pranams' to our forefathers for their efforts in bringing backing these ancient and rich traditions to South Africa. This very festival is celebrated as the biggest and major festival of the Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple in Tongaat, and this year marks the 98th Anniversary of the 'Tirukalyanam' at the Temple.
Presiding Deities at Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple
At face value, it sounds absurd that a wedding celebration is enacted monthly and annually at Temples all over the world... but on deeper research and analysis, a fundamental truth about our spiritual journey lays waiting to take the seeker across this ocean of 'samsara' to the island of freedom.
For the past 98 years, our elders have enacted the 'Tirukalyanam' of Maha Vishnu to Sri Luxmi Devi and Bhodevi, after which they are taken to the surrounding villages on a brightly and beautifully decorated chariot, granting graciously their blessings to all.
The prefix of 'tiru' elaborates the greatness and uniqueness of this wedding - much like the use of it in the Kurral or before some great personages name. Hence, to take it as a literal ordinary wedding of the Lord to two consorts simulataneously is a very low understanding of this beautifully profound spiritual idea.
The ultimate prize of all man, is a life free of pain, suffering and obstacles. This ideal is very much achievable in this world and time. Master Sri Ramakrishna continuously stressed that those who earnestly and sincerely sought after God, will without any doubt see God.
If we draw an analogy between the body and the 'Tirukalyanam', the Lord Maha Vishnu represents the 'atman'. Sri Devi represents the heart (compassion and divinity) and Bhoma Devi represents the intellect (discrimination and dispassion). The marriage represents the synthesis between the 'atman' (soul), heart and intellect. Once these three are linked and are controlled by the 'atman' (energy of the Lord), one will find that the path and journey in this life becomes paved with ease, bliss and eternal joy. This is only because everything that we do or undertake in life will be done with love and divinity from the heart... and be done selflessly and discriminately in a way that appeases the Lord within. Further, it shall be enshrined within all that we interact with.
May Lord Narayana -the one who pervades us all- enlighten us all, is my sincere prayer.
With love and prayers always