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BY MAHADEV DESAI
Photos by ByteGraph Creations
Atlanta,GA: Thousands of devotees thronged to the Shirdi Sai Temple of Atlanta in Suwanee, Georgia to offer their prayers and seek Sai Baba’s blessings at the joyous and spiritually suffused Guru Purnima Celebrations on Saturday, July 12, 2014.
Guru Purnima is celebrated on the auspicious full moon day in the month of Ashada. Guru Purnima or Vyas Purnima is celebrated in reverence of the universal teacher.
The temple had daylong celebrations, which began with at 5:45 am with Kakad Aarati, the ceremonial awakening of the Lord. Following this, the Nava (9) Kalasa sthapana was performed invoking the lord in the form of energy into the 9 kalasas (pots). The ritual was performed by the learned and experienced Temple priests Srinidhi Kadambi and Amol Kulkarni, in the presence of hundreds of devotees who had turned out for an early darshan of Sainath. After the puja rituals to the kalasas, the priests performed the havan in the name of Lord Sainath, Ram Parivar and Shiv Parivar.
Around 9 am, the priests performed abhishek (ceremonial bath) to the larger than life and blissful main deity of Shirdi Sai Baba along with the utsav murthy and the padukas. The hour long ceremony with Vedic chants energized the whole sanctum and the devotees present.
The stage was set for the decoration of the main sanctum. This year, the priests had chosen a theme to replicate the Guru Sthan present inShirdi,India. Guru Sthan represents the place under the neem tree in Shirdi where Saibaba meditated. Volunteers had worked tirelessly for the past few days to create a replica of Guru sthan which was later assembled in the sanctum. While the decorations were going on, bhajan singers engaged the audience with their uplifting bhajans.
Around 11 am, the priests performed abhishek to Lord Dattatreya. Shirdi Saibaba is considered an avatar in the lineage of Lord Dattatreya. Upon completion of the ceremonial rituals and decorations, the noon Aarati was performed at 12 PM. Devotees were pouring in and by about 1 pm, approximately 1000 people had already made Sai Baba’s darshan.
Around 3 pm, more than 100 families participated in the community sai vrat. Sai vrat is similar to satyanarayan vrat where the 9 governing planets, ashta dikpalakas (rulers of the 8 corners) and the five presiding deities are invoked along with Lord Sainath. As an added feature this year, the 52 week sainath paduka puja was also performed as part of this sai vrat.
The dhoop aarati at 6 pm was followed with Palki Seva at 6.30 PM. Devotees enthusiastically sang and danced to the loud beat of the drums throughout the palki procession around the temple while dazzling firecrackers lit up the sky overhead.
The significant part of the elaborate rituals of Guru Purnima is Guru Pranam – the act of submitting oneself to a guru and touching his feet in respect. Chapter 22 of Sai Satcharitra says “How to meditate on Baba? No one has been able to fathom the nature or the form of the Almighty. Even the Vedas and the thousand-tongued Shesha are not able to describe it fully; but the devotees cannot but know and look at the form of the Lord, for they know that His Feet are the only means of their happiness. They know no other method of attaining the supreme goal in life, except meditating on the Holy Feet.”
The devotees lined up in the sanctum by 7:15 PM to take the opportunity of reaching out to the Baba, touching his feet and receiving his blessings. The queue started inside the sanctum and the long line stretched out into the plaza and tent area. Priests chanted Vishnu Sahasranama and Lalita Sahasranama as the devotees went up to touch the feet of the Lord. Later, volunteers continued chanting “Om Sai Namo Namaha, Sri Sai Namo Namaha, Jai Jai Sai Namo Namaha, Sadguru Sai Namo Namaha” till 10 pm.
More than 2,500 people visited the temple between 7.30 and 10 pm. All were accommodated to do Guru Pranam. The Temple had courteously arranged for a separate lane for convenience of senior citizens, pregnant women and families with infants.
TheTemplekitchen served delicious Maha Prasadam to all the attendees from 11 am to 11 pm. The dedicated volunteers efficiently and cheerfully managed the parking lot throughout the day. More than 100 volunteers worked ceaselessly to help in the sanctum, kitchen and parking areas to ensure that devotees had a smooth and safe darshan.
The joyous celebrations concluded with community archana on behalf of the entire local community, followed with Shej aarati at 10.30 PM.
With the blessings of Lord Sai Baba, dedication, commitment and hard work of the Temple Officers, priests and volunteers, the mammoth and spectacular Guru Purnima Celebrations were truly memorable.