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Love and Light

Rudra Ekadashi Homam

With the Divine Blessings of our Lord Sathya Sai, the much anticipated Rudra Ekaadashini Homam was conducted successfully at the sacred and holy premises of the Shri Venkateswara Temple in Birmingham on the 1st of July 2012. The purpose of the Homam, as enunciated by our dear Bhagawan during the many Yagnas performed in His Presence and under His Guidance over the past 5 decades, was to fulfil our lives by offering collective prayers for peace and welfare of the world: For Loka Kalyana. The Homam had another purpose too: To offer our loving gratitude to our dear Lord, Master, Guide and Satguru Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba on the auspicious occasion of Gurupoornima!

Unsurprisingly then, about 2000 devotees travelled from all corners of the UK to participate in this Homam with great fervour, enthusiasm and love. Also, for all those embarking on the ‘Sai Jyothi- Journey to the Divine Light′ National Pilgrimage 2012 to Prasanthi Nilayam, this was the second Sadhana Meeting day to be spent in intense prayer and contemplation of the Lord.

In the days preceding the event, it had been raining quite incessantly, causing some anxiety amongst the devotees from Region 3 and Region 4 who were taking the lead in organising this event in the grounds of the Temple! But their fervent prayers were indeed answered, much to the joy and relief of everyone involved. The day dawned in bright and warm sunlight, with clear blue skies, gentle winds, and not a single drop of rain! In fact, although rain was forecast for the day by the meteorologists, the cosmic elements were in perfect balance all day long, as if in acknowledgement of the sincere and sacred motives of the assembled gathering of devotees.

Whilst the devotees were seated in an orderly fashion in the gigantic marquee erected especially for this event, and the priests surveyed for the final time all the arrangements made, as bhajans started and the conches blew at 8.30am, Lord Rudra in the form of the white marble Sayeeswara Lingam was brought in a procession by the group of 25 male chanters specially chosen to lead the chanting of Sri Rudram. They started from the Shirdi Sai Mandir in the Temple precincts dressed in their orange robes and chanting various vedic prayers whilst carrying the Lingam under a colourful, traditional, silk umbrella with great reverence, humility and love. As they entered the marquee and proceeded towards the main altar where the Lingam was to be installed for the day, there was a palpable surge in the energy levels in the ambience. The Lingam was carefully installed by the priests on a beautiful pedestal near the main altar.

The main altar was so grand and tastefully decorated that it attracted everyone’s attention immediately. Swami’s Image at the centre of the Stage was riveting, transporting everyone instantaneously into His Presence! The Stage was also adorned by images of Shirdi Sai and Lord Venkateshwara (the presiding deity of the Temple), and the multifaith Sarvadharma Emblem. The Sayeeswara Lingam was placed on a raised pedestal, with the sacred vessels (Kalasham) containing waters from the holy rivers placed in front of it, and the sacrificial urn (Homagundam) painted in auspicious colours placed after these. The attention to detail and the precision of all these arrangements reminded many of those assembled of Prasanthi Nilayam during the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna indeed!

The priests started the Homam with an invocation to Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles, followed by an ancient ritual to welcome the Lord and then making sixteen customary offerings. This was followed by a brief talk by Dr. Anand Venkataramanan, a Saistudent and currently the Spiritual Coordinator of the Merton Sai Centre in London. Dr. Anand explained the significance of the Sri Rudram chant and the various rituals that would be sequentially performed during the Homam. Rudra Ekadashini (i.e. chanting the Sri Rudram 121 times) is performed by chanting the entire Namakam 11 times prior to each of the eleven verses of Chamakam . The Namakam portion of Rudram offers prostrations to different forms of the Lord while the Chamakam portion of the Rudram seeks for spiritual, mental, emotional and physical benefits.

The Sri Rudram chanting for the Homam was commenced by the priests and was lead by the team of the 25 male chanters and 11 female chanters. These devotees had been studiously learning the Sri Rudram chant over many months, and had attended in preparation for this event many special sessions to perfect their intonations and pronunciation that are so essential whilst chanting. This group consisted of devotees from all age groups including children, and from those belonging to various linguistic, racial, cultural and religious backgrounds. They were accompanied by an ever-growing number of devotees in the gathering who have been learning to chant the Rudram across various parts of the UK. The entire place and its sorrounds was reverberating with the full-throated chants of such a huge number of devotees, and the atmosphere was filled with immensely powerful and purifying spiritual vibrations.

In addition to witnessing the various offerings made to the sacred fire during the Homam, it was perhaps even more spiritually elevating to see the Abhishekam being performed to the Lord in the form of the Lingam. Various couples and families took turns to participate in the Abhishekam worship, as representatitives on behalf of the entire gathering. The Rudra Ekadashini was then followed by a Sai Gayathri Homam which allowed each and everyone to participate in the chanting. The Purnahuti that followed brought the 4-hour chanting to a crescendo and marked the completion of the Homam, after which the priests went around sprinkling the holy water on the devotees as a blessing.

As Prasadam (sacred food) was served, various prayers dedicated to Lord Shiva (Ashtakams and Stotrams) were recited by the Lead bhajan and music team. Then followed an inspiring and insightful talk by Dr. Mahesh Narayan who reminded the gathering of the self-purification that one must be engaged in constantly so as to experience our inherent divinity. He quoted extensively from Bhagawan’s divine discourses, Bhagawad Gita and Adi Sankara. Mrs. Manorama Prasad, a renowned vocalist from the tradition of Carnatic music and a devotee of Bhagawan Baba, offered a garland of devotional songs by various composers such as Swami Dayananda Saraswathi, Adi sankara, Muthuswami Dikshithar, Saint Purandhara Dasa, Saint Tulsi Das, and so on. She enthralled the audience with her soulful rendering, humility, and devotion. Her rendering of Prema Muditha Manase Kaho and other Abhangs struck a chord in everyone’s heart, drenching everyone in joy and bliss. Dr. Kiran Patel, the National Chairperson of the Sai Organisation in UK, then shared his thoughts and experiences from the day. He congratulated the youth who participated actively in this event, and exhorted one and all to participate actively in the Sai Mission, and be firmly established in each one’s ‘Journey to the Divine Light’. After Mangala Arathi, everyone including the priests, temple officials, and devotees left carrying with them a sense of great inner peace, contentment and joy.

Such a beautiful event is but possible only due to the Grace of the Almighty Lord! All of us are eternally indebted to the Lord for granting us the sacred opportunity to be a part of such special events in our lifetime. Our special thanks to the authorities of the Sri Venkateswara Temple who have been instrumental too in organising this event and in providing us unstinted help and support all through.

- Spiritual Teams, Regions 3 & 4, SSSSO UK