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Importance of the Maha Kumbhabhishekam

All the Acharyas gathered to offer prayers to Sri RaghanvendraSwamy before the beginning of the morning ritual.

The Maha Kumbhabhishekam celebrationsof the Sri Maha Vallabha GanapatiDevasthanam temple in Flushing, NewYork, are over and serenity prevails. Reverberatingsounds of the nadaswaram and thavil andthe melodious Vedic chanting of the priests, resplendentin their red and orange silk dhotis andangavastrams, which echoed in the neighborhood,has quietened. So has the chattering ofthe eager devotees, who dotted the streets topartake of the free distribution of maha Prasadon all days of the holy event which began onJune 1, 2011 and ended in a crescendo on June5, 2011.

The palpable excitement that filled the atmospherefor five days when tens of thousands ofdevotees from across the Tri-state area andother states converged at the temple has all butsimmered down. And the intrepid Dr UmaMysorekar, President of the Hindu Temple Societyof North America, who spearheaded theambitious expansion project of the Temple, finally,has a few moments to spare.

In a special interview with NRI Today, Dr.Mysorekar, known for her unflagging enthusiasmto increase public understanding of Hinduismin North America through initiation ofinterfaith meetings, educational and cultural activities,describes the celebrations as "satisfactoryfrom both religious and spiritual points ofview."

Discussing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunityfor devotees, particularly young IndianAmericans, to receive divine blessings duringthe Kumbhabhishekam, she says, "The ritual isperformed with the sole purpose of eradicatingall illness, and to obtain rich benefits for wellbeingand for the healthy propagation of progeny."

Cow (go) puja is done on the first day before the actual services of the rituals leading toconsecration..

On the day of the Kumbhabhsihekam Gaja(elephant) Pooja is done as the presence ofthe elephant is considered auspicious andconsidered to represent Lord Ganesha.

Sri Hanuman 'Moolavar & Utsavar', SriGaruda, Sri Dhanvantari before installation.

"It is believed to homogenize/synergize thedivine powers of the deities. This purificationceremony is usually performed every 12 yearsor after major construction/renovation to nullifyany unintended transgressions and/or deficienciesin the daily religious services and recitationof the mantras etc."

According to her, "All these celebrations arefilled with so many rituals, which if properlyunderstood have so much depth and meaningand bring great joy, inner peace and bliss to thedevotees."

Dr. Mysorekar's knowledge of Hinduism andits rituals is so vast that it is awe-inspiring. Andit is evident when she continues to elaborate onthe ceremonies. "Kumbha means the Head anddenotes the kalasa, Shikara or Crown of theTemple's Gopuram, an ornate structure whichstarts out wide on the bottom and narrows as itrises high and Abhishekam is a ritual bathing.The Kumbha is bathed with the holy watercharged and sanctified by continuous chantingof all the four Veda mantras and performanceof havans.

"The Kumbhas are connected by asilver/golden wire from top to the deities andthe holy water trickles down through the wire tothe Deities installed in the sanctum sanctorumof the temple. Thus, the Deities, until then justbeautifully sculptured granite stone Vigrahas,are believed to transform into a vibrant andvivid representation of the God with inherentgrace and grandeur conferring divine blessingon all devotees."

"Whenever the deity, the permanently in-All the Acharyas gathered to offer prayers to Sri RaghanvendraSwamy before the beginning of the morning ritual.Cow (go) puja is done on the first day beforethe actual services of the rituals leading toconsecration..

On the day of the Kumbhabhsihekam Gaja(elephant) Pooja is done as the presence ofthe elephant is considered auspicious andconsidered to represent Lord Ganesha.Sri Hanuman 'Moolavar & Utsavar', SriGaruda, Sri Dhanvantari before installation.

Acharyas sitting inside the Maha Mantapa to sanctify the kalasas.

stalled stone Vigraha inside the sanctum has tobe moved, religious services have to be temporarilysuspended to allow renovation, it hasto undergo balalayam (bala – small, alayamtemple)."A ritual called Kalakarshanam temporarilycaptures and transfers the divine power infusedin the Deity by chanting of the mantras, fromthe Deity to a kalasa (a pot filled with water anddesignated to represent the Deity). The kalasais sanctified by homams (a ritual before firewhere the Deity is invoked) and the divine energyis transferred to "Chitra pata" (line drawings).The stone Vigraha devoid of divineenergy is now considered to be in Balalaya,"she adds.

The Navagrahas.

Poornahuti (conclusion) of Vastu Homa.

Devotees in the Maha Mantapa participating in the celebrations.

Responding to aquery on when andhow was the Balalayamof the Deitiesin Sri Maha VallabhaGanapati Devasthanamlast performed,Dr.Mysorekar says, "Itwas performed in twostages – March 1,2009 for Sri Siva, SriParvati, SriNandikeswara, SriValli Devasenasameta Sri Shanmukhaand Sri Kamakshiand on April 27, 2009 for Sri Maha VallabhaGanapati (for renovation of the sannidhi) SriVenkateswara, Sri Mahalakshmi, Sri Brahma,Sri Nagendraswamy and the Navagraha."

The Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devasthanamwas first consecrated on 4 July 1977 and thefirst re-consecration was performed in 1998.Development projects were taken up in 2006when two new granite sannidhis and gopuramsfor Sri Siva and Sri Valli Devasena sameta SriShanmukha were constructed as also two smallgranite sannidhis for Sri Parvati and Sri Kamakshiand expansion of the Maha Mantapam(prayer hall) and renovation of the sannidhi ofSri Maha Maha Vallabha Ganapati was completed,the second re-consecration was performedfrom July 9, 2009 to July 13, 2009. Thisonly marked the partial completion of expansionof the Temple.

Upon completion of the construction of newgranite sannidhis of Sri Venkateswara, Sri Mahalakshmi,four Gopurams on all the four sidesof the Temple and one 50 feet tall Rajagopuramat the entrance to the Temple's Maha Mantapam(Main prayer Hall), new sannidhis of Sri Nagendraswamyand the Navagrahas, the Jeernodharana(rejuvenating) Kumbhabhishekam forSri Maha Vallabha Ganapati , the Kumbhabhishekamof all the above deities/gopurams andthe Nootana Rajagopuram(new king of towers)and Pratishtapana (installation) of Sri Hanumanin a new granite sannidhi were celebrated fromJune 1 to June 5, 2011. But the actual Kumbhabhishekamceremony was on June 5, 2011when the ritual bathing of the Kumbhas on allthe towers was performed at an auspicioustime," she says. Even though Dr. Mysorekar hasaccomplished one of the biggest undertakingsof her life, she has no time to sit back and relax.

There are new horizons to explore and new territoriesto chart. After overseeing the establishmentof a mammoth-sized 16,000 square footcommunity center, she now reveals the temple'splans to conduct an internship program on templeadministration and management to youngsters."In this way they will be better equippedto administer temples in the US," she adds.

Her future vision also encompasses a "Yoga& Meditation" hall and an outreach center at thetemple to expand all the existing outreach activitiessuch as senior center, education includingreligion, Sanskrit, Hindi, other Indianlanguages and some academic subjects andYouth related activities. But at the center of herheart is the dream of have a Hindu school. "It isjust a dream. But we shall see," she reveals witha broad smile.