Ringing in the new year the way I do for the past four or five years holds a special place in my heart. I've had my share of the routine New Year bashes with close friends and/or in the company of some hundred strangers, shaking to silly music played out by a screaming DJ, and the works. Nothing against this, but like they say once you taste nectar, sugar loses its sweetness appeal. So it has been with me. If you'd have noticed, I take a vacation to my parents' during Christmas every year. It's not just a vacation but an opportunity that I design myself each year to spend the New Year’s Eve and ring in the first day of the New Year with some divinity for company.
While I'm not a ritualistic/religious person in the true sense, I do believe in the power of a force above us that guides us when we choose to seek its light and grace. I also shy away from discussing my relationship with the supreme or God, as we may choose to address, either on my blog or with a group, not because I'm ashamed or unsure but because it's a personal experience and I do not wish to lay it under the scrutiny of others. Yet, today, I'm here to share my experiences with a certain manifestation of the divine. I call it divine because there is no other word that seems to define it completely.
To begin with, I'm not much of a temple-goer. In fact the presence of humongous crowds at certain temples, the business-like attitude of the so-called priests and the over-all commercial modus-operandi puts me off since the essence of experiencing the positive vibrations that should reverberate in a temple is lost totally and I end up feeling relieved rather than re-energized after such visits. Yet, when I'm at my parents', I end up visiting this particular temple almost every day, that too voluntarily. This shrine of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Narayan somehow beckons me, and like me many others, to them. The peace and positive energy that I feel in their presence cannot be explained in words.
New Year’s Eve and the first day of every year are celebrated as the Kalyana Utsavam of the Lord and the Goddess. The utsava moortis are posed as the bride and groom and a real wedding is performed by devotees who play the roles of the Lord and the Goddess's parents, aunts and uncles. Two years back, the husband and I had been blessed to play the roles of athai and athimber to Lord Narayanar. It is a treat to the eyes and ears, to soak in the beautiful decoration and hear the divine music. I love being a part of the celebrations as I also get to sing songs in praise of the Lord. When I see so many devotees working selflessly to make this event happen and help the many social causes through the fund collection, it gives me great satisfaction to be even just a small part of it. When you experience such a spiritual high at the beginning of every year, what’s the need for other intoxication to feel good?
There's a special person here, lovingly addressed as Amma by all, because of whom the temple came into being. Blessed with the Devi's grace, she dresses up the Lord and Goddess in their rich finery and does the floral decorations at the temple. The beauty of it all is to behold. Many of us are skeptics, rational thinking people, and want to do nothing with anybody who says that he or she is closely associated with God. Naturally so, because we have blind rituals being followed, and numerous, wide-spread instances of Godmen duping people of their faith and wealth. However, I say from personal experience that Amma's spiritual and divine aura that comes from her pure devotion to the presiding deities, also manifested in her melodious compositions or bhajans, have the musical and spiritual power to transport any skeptic to experience divine bliss. These bhajans have been hitherto sung at devotees' houses and during auspicious occasions by Amma herself. It was perhaps the Devi's supreme will that these be known to the world when the auditions for Bhajan Samraat season 3 by Sri Sankara TV began in July 2014.
A team of six privileged singers and students of guru Amma under the name of Om Amma Bhajan Mandali, led by my own sister Chitra Krishnan, took part in the auditions and further rounds and emerged as the winners of the title. It was not easy 6 month journey at all, going through 13 rigorous and complex rounds in the preliminary, quarter and semi-final rounds. Yet I'm sure the experience is one that would be cherished by the entire team for years to come. I had been regularly posting the Youtube links of the team's performance on my FB page. If you wish to hear them, you can find them all under a single roof here.
The competition was predominantly a sampradaya one wherein the participants were required to sing only the traditional or sampradaya bhajans. Though an entirely new domain for Amma and the team, Amma with her sincerity, talent dedication and devotion trained the team and they emerged successfully at every stage. Their final performance was especially lauded by the judges and the viewers alike for the melody, devotion and divinity that dripped from each note sung. I consider myself privileged to having witnessed the event live at the CODISSIA trade fair auditiorium, Coimbatore on 21st Dec 2014. This date would be etched in our memories for more reasons than one. It's not every day that you get to see your loved one holding the winner's trophy at the National level. Does it require a special mention here to say what a proud sister I'm? :-) I wish the team more and more success.