Text size: A A A

Please Click Here
to Return to
Love and Light

Region 1 - New Years Day Celebrations at the Sai Mandir

New Year’s Day Celebrations began at the Sai Mandir on New Years’ eve, with our traditional bajan from 11pm. On the stroke of midnight, the Mandir, completely packed with devotees, saw the New Year in with Mangala Arathi to our beloved Bhagavan. After the serving of prasadam, many devotees joined the congregation in the adjoining Ghanapathy Temple to witness the first Abishekham to Lord Ganesha in the early hours of 2013 – a truly spiritual way to see the New Year in!

Celebrations continued at a more reasonable hour later on that day. New Year’s Day is one of the most special dates for the devotees of Merton Sai Centre, because it marks the anniversary of the opening of the Sai Mandir – the first purpose-built Mandir for our beloved Lord in the UK. Marking its’ 32nd anniversary, it was so wonderful to see so many devotees, young and old, coming together, from far and wide, to share this very special day with each other.

For many of the Merton Sai Centre Volunteers, they had been up most of the night, helping to cut vegetables, cook and help with marshalling the 1000’s of devotees who come to the Temple on New Year’s Day. Thus, their time to achieve spiritual peace came when they joined the devotees in the Sai Mandir for the spiritual ceremonies that began at 2pm.

Sridhar Iyer from the Temple came and began the proceedings with vedic chanting and a beautiful Ghanapathy Homam. The ceremony then continued with Laksharchinai – the recitation of the 1008 names of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Every devotee was given a plate of turmeric-coloured raw rice, with a picture of Swami, so that each devotee could do their own archinai (offering) as each of the names of our Lord was recited. It was wonderful to see every single devotee, from the youngest of children to the oldest of grandfathers, reciting and offering the rice with such love and devotion to Swami. As the 1008 names were being said, groups of devotees were brought forward to the front of the Mandir to sit in front of the altar to offer flower petals for each set of 108 names. The sevadal organised this so well that by the end of the laksharchinai, every devotee had been given the opportunity to offer flowers at the Lotus feet of our beloved Lord, drawing tears from many who participated, feeling the closeness of our Lord, heart to heart, in those moments of spirituality.

Interspersed within the recitation, Lingam abhishekham was done to the two Shivalingams that Swami had materialised and the blessed water from these abhishekhams was distributed as prasdam to all who attended. The ceremony concluded with a beautiful hour-long bajan and Mangala Arathi, followed by Mahaprasadam for the approximately 1000 devotees who attended the ceremony that day. And after the joy and spirituality of the celebrations, even the Mahaprasadam of rice and curry was so special!

Last year, a pilot project from Jaffna Sai Centre was created – the Easwaramma Livelihood Project – a "not-for-profit" project, created as an exchange of love and support between the devotees of the UK and Sri Lanka. Devotees from the UK helped to ship over 800 kgs of raw rice, parboiled rice and rice flour, which had been grown, processed and packaged by farmers and widows, in the Northern province of Sri Lanka, who had been severely affected by the ethnic war and natural disasters in Sri Lanka. Most of the produce was quickly sold to devotees at the Temple and also by dedicated volunteers in other areas of the country. All the money raised was sent back to Sri Lanka to help buy more seed and proper equipment, in an effort to help those affected by the war to regain their trust, dignity and ability to stand on their own two feet. This love and support enabled them to send 10,000 kgs of raw rice, parboiled rice, special flour and curry powder at the end of 2012!

So it was decided to launch this second phase at the Temple on New Year’s day and volunteers were kept busy all day, selling the 1kg packets to devotees, who couldn’t wait to go home and try out this produce that had been made in their homeland – and they were delighted to find that they didn’t have to wait!
Because it had been decided that the first consignment of rice should be used to make the first Pongal (special sweet rice) in the Temple and the red rice and curry powder should be used to make the mahaprasadam to serve at lunch for the devotees! So even in the food that was served and eaten that day, Swami’s divine presence was felt in each morsel that was eaten!

That day, 48 kgs of rice from the Easwaramma Livelihood Project was cooked to serve to the devotees and over 1000 kgs of rice, flour and curry powder were bought by devotees to take home and share with their families. And thus, each and every one of those who came to the Temple and Sai Mandir started the year with the blessings of our Lord and were able to take that peace and well-being home to share with their loved ones – knowing that they were helping those less fortunate than themselves, beginning 2013 with prayer and service, and keeping Swami ever-present in their hearts and minds.