August 20, 2010 – Varalakshmi Vratam in the Divine Presence

The Varalakshmi vratam is an important ceremony in the Hindu calendar for the ladies. The ceremony is performed by married Hindu ladies on the Friday before the full moon in the month of Sravana in the Hindu calendar (corresponding to July/August in the western calendar).This worship is done by married Hindu women to seek the blessings of the goddess Mahalakshmi, wife of Lord Vishnu, who is considered to be the abode of wealth and prosperity.

There is a legend that says that this vratam was recommended by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati to secure opulence of all kinds. There is also another legend that tells of a very pious lady Charumati who was asked by the goddess Varalakshmi, in her dream, to do the vratam in order to fulfill her wishes. Friday, the 20th happened to be one such ‘august’ day and the morning saw the worship of Mahalakshmi being conducted in the Sai Kulwant Hall.

But, as is the case for any other day, the specialty in Puttaparthi is the physical Presence of divinity. Swami did not come for darshan in the morning and the final worship was scheduled for the evening. The stage had an altar of the Goddess and the priest was seated in readiness. The central marble block had been mostly occupied by the women and a quarter of it was occupied by the students.

It was 5:15 p.m. when all the heads turned to the west to glimpse the lovable form in orange! Swami moved gently through the ladies’ side. He was led by a procession of the Mangalavadyam and a lady holding the poornakumbham. As He moved into the gents’ side, He told the lady leading Him to await His arrival on the stage as He would come there after completing the darshan round. Moving through the gents’ side, Swami arrived on the stage via the veranda.

He took the candle that was offered and lit the lamp. The elderly lady and a little girl offered floral tributes to His lotus feet and then, Swami sat on the ladies’ side of the stage, at an angle to the altar. The priest continued to chant mantras and the worship went on. It was here that everyone realized that they were going to witness a beautiful scene.

Considering Swami as Sai Lakshmi and the Divine Mother, a prayer was submitted to worship His feet as the various names of the Mother Goddess were chanted. Swami graciously agreed. So it was that the elderly woman on stage first anointed Swami’s feet with turmeric and kumkum. Having done that, on behalf of everyone present, she began to place flowers at His feet as each name was chanted. It was such a feast for the eyes. The Lotus feet being decked by all types of flowers!

The worship went on and soon a small mound of flowers had grown on His feet. Swami too kept looking at His feet with a childlike curiosity and everyone sitting in the front rejoiced at this spectacle. Rituals began with Lakshmi Puja and Shodashopachara Puja followed by related rituals including the Sai Ashotathara Shata Namaavali. Swami sat through all the worship and everyone participated in it.

Once the chanting concluded, the priest began to speak. Speaking on the significance of the ritual conducted in the immediate Divine Presence, he extolled Swami, calling Him as Lord Dakshinamurthy in physical form. With His presence, Prasanthi is verily the Kailasha (residence of Lord Shiva) and Vaikunta (residence of Lord Vishnu) he announced. He concluded his short talk with Jai Jai kars to Swami and everyone in the hall joined in chorus to say “Jai”.

Swami then permitted Ms. Bhagyalakshmi from Chennai to sing on the occasion. She began by offering her gratitude to Swami for what she considered as the greatest moment of her life. Beginning with Ganesha Vandanam, the artist went on singing for the next fifty minutes.

In the meanwhile, Swami said that He would move and sit on the gents’ side of the stage. Settling there, He began to listen and enjoy the songs being sung. The flowers used to worship His feet were taken away for distribution.

Among the ladies side, traditional items were distributed to one and all. Swami also blessed prasadam to be distributed. He sat listening to the songs on one hand and observing the distribution that was happening on a large scale. At about 6:50 p.m., Swami told the artist to stop and asked for the aarthi.

After the aarthi, he asked one of the students in the front as to whether there was any programme the next day. After that interaction, Swami blessed everyone with both His hands before retiring for the day.

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