During the Labor Day weekend, I had the fortune to visit Sri Venkateswara Temple, Pittsburgh with Arya, Prashanthi, Chaitanya and Chaitanya’s mom.
Actually on Friday, 2 September, 2011, after I woke up and getting ready for the office, suddenly I felt very down in my spirits. So when I saw Prashanthi’s invitation to join with them to visit Pittsburgh, without a second thought I immediately accepted. And I am very glad I did as Venkateswara Swamy has come into my life again.
We went to the temple on Saturday, 3 September 2011 and Prashanthi and Chaitanya had participated in the Kalyana Utsavam. The priest was explaining that we should experience that ammavaru as our daughter and we were performing our daughter’s kalyanam with the Lord Venkateswara and we should feel the bliss of Kanyadanam. Somehow when I closed my eyes, at least for a few minutes, I was overwhelmingly happy that I and my husband were performing our daughter’s wedding and undoubtedly my whole heart and mind were filled with total happiness and I was in an absolute blissful state.
Then after the Kalyana Utsavam, Chaitanya felt like staying back at the temple for some more poojas. But Radha and Hemchand garu invited us to their place for dinner. So we decided to come back to temple for Ekantha Seva after dinner which we did. We have decided to come back to temple for Suprabhatham (at 8 a.m.) the following day. In the United States, we allowed God to sleep for more than 10 hours.
So we went to the temple little before 8 a.m. But by that time, many people were already there. We were standing at the very back. Then I decided to move upfront compromising to stand at least to the side but in the front. Chaitanya’s mom and I moved to the front and suddenly the doors for the Garbha Gudi had opened and people were allowed to go inside (which I did not know that we could go in). So we were able to get into the Garbha Gudi. Before the doors were open, someone came to me with a small Suprabhatham booklet and asked whether I was ‘Telugu’ and handed over that to me and brought another one for Chaitanya’s mom. When I looked at mine, it was not Telugu one but was Tamil. No regrets.
In this connection, I had to go to flashback of almost 30 years, when I religiously attended the Suprabhatham every Saturday at Flushing Temple, New York for almost 6 to 7 years. My husband (who worked as the Commissioner of Endowments for several years and came to this country to administer Hindu Temples in the USA) told me that venna (butter) and sugar are being offered as prasadam to Sri Venkateswara Swamy at Suprabhatham time at Tirupathi, I did practice that custom for almost all the years I have attended Suprabhatham.
Since I have attended this event for several years even though a very long time ago, I memorized it more than 90% and I am confident that I could chant with a group without the transcript. To mention another fact – it was set up as an alarm on my Ipod – actually I set up Suprabatham, Vishnu Sahasranamam, few Annamacraya keethanalu, Ramadasu Keerthanalu (almost plays for 4 hours since 5 a.m.) and I am very much ashamed to confide that they serve as background to my sleep. One day for sure I would wake up before that time and do the chanting at home. That has been one of my ongoing determinations.
So we were inside and everyone was sitting so that everyone can see Lord Venkateswara. I was fortunate enough to get to sit in the middle just in front of Him. I was overwhelmingly rejoiced as I could stare at him throughout the seva and I was glad that I did not get the Telugu transcript of Suprabatham. If I had gotten it, I would have been engaged in reading it from the book and missed the opportunity to see Lord’s face.
Many things thumped back to my memory during those 30 minutes –
1. The time my husband and I attended Friday Abhishekam at Tirupathi (in 1998), that too sitting in front of Lord Venkateswara (that was an awesome surprise from my husband – once in a life time experience; I was completely in another world. Based on ancient Hindu spiritual customs, this is performed once a week, typically on Fridays. As a Hindu custom, this Seva is for wedded couples (husband and wife) only. As a “don’t-disturb” rule, children under 12 years of age are not admitted – No exceptions. In Tirumala, it assumes a most ethereal, rare significance in that it is the most sought after “seva” (form of worship for the Lord by a devotee). Devotees virtually make a beeline for this Seva because watching the priests bathe the idol is the most emancipating of experiences, given that the belief of the devout that the idol is actually a manifestation of the Supreme Divine being Himself and not just a manually carved idol. I do not know what the current status on allowing the number of les into the Garbha Gudi to sit in front of the Lord, but I remembered that only certain number of couples (I do not remember exactly, but definitely less than 10 couples) was allowed inside. With the grace of God, we got that privilege.
2. My dad used to have three big photographs (Alivelu Manga, Venkateswara Swamy and Gandhi garu) on the wall in front of his bed to see and pray to them once he wakes up in the morning and before he goes to bed.
3. A priest saying at Chilukuru temple not to close the eyes when we get a chance to be in front of Him.
4. The Saturdays we were attending Suprabhatha seva.
5. The greatest blessing Lord has showered on us by choosing my husband to lay down the Sankusthapana for Sri Venkateswara Temple, Pittsburgh in 1976.
6. A scene from Annamayya – When Lord came to Annamayya to detour Annamayya’s life towards a path for the purpose Annamayya was born; Annamayya challenging the Lord that there was no beauty on this whole universe that could be compared to the beauty of his cousins, then when the God insisted that He would show him that beauty, then Annamayya answers that if such a beauty exists (“no, such beauty exists nowhere”), then he would become a slave to that beauty and the whole experience of Annamayya looking at Sri Venkateswara – entha Bhuvana Mohana Roopam antae – Kalaganti Kalaganti – Even now I could feel that experience. I could even get ‘goose bumps’ even now imaging that Lord’s face at that time. I had that kind of experience sitting through the whole Suprabhatham and that continues afterwards.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f9vxmuDjbE – Watch this video from 4.50
After that seva, I came out of Garbha Gudi so that some more people would get a chance of having His Darshan (people who had sponsored Sahasranamarchana could sit inside). But my experience had not stopped with that. I was sitting outside the garbha gudi. People were allowed to sit on the sides only. I sat at end of one side. But a priest had asked me to sit at the center, maybe I was on his way. So I had another VIP seat, sitting in front of Him – unobstructed view of Srinivasudu. It is to the end but at the center when everyone was sitting to the side, I got a center seat My joy knew no bounds – extremely happy for HIS Blessings and made a vow to God that I would visit Him at Pittsburgh once every year.
I have to mention another small incident that happened – when we revisited the Temple for Ekanatha Seva on Saturday night, we went to the hall downstairs to take some pictures of my husband performing the Sankusthapana picture which the Temple authorities were kind enough to preserve it, Chaitanya asked me if know anyone at the Temple and I said ‘no’. Then he said that it was not fair and that I should get some special treatment (not exactly the same way he has expressed, but that was his feeling). I told myself it was ok, I am not waiting to be recognized by any human beings but the God Himself has to do something.
And that’s what happened the following day – an euphoric experience.- Enthamatramuna evvaru talichina antha matramae neevu – An emotional journey and I could feel the presence of my husband and Lord Venkateswara with me throughout those two days.