Our stay in Rishikesh was drawing to a close. Devotees from all over India were calling from their hearts for Shree Maa and Swamiji to come see them, and we knew it was time to move forward on our journey.
First though, prior to departing, Swami Ramkripaluji made one small request of Shree Maa and Swamiji. He requested for them to perform the special Griha Pravesh Puja in the new apartment flat which some of his devotees had obtained for him.
This special puja purifies the space and invites God into the residence. Many saints and devout Hindus will not make use of a new home until this puja is done.
Swami Ramkripaluji was so overcome with joy that his face lit-up with an “ear-to-ear” smile that seemed as wide as the Himalayan Mountain range!
With excitement in his voice, he repeatedly said, “Thank You Maa! Thank You Swamiji! Thank You!”
Shree Maa loves the devotion of Swami Ramkripaluji, and I knew She would make this a special event for him.
Upon arriving in Rishikesh, Shree Maa had received a fairly large-sized beautiful five metal murti of Lord Ganesh. As part of Her daily puja, She had been worshipping Him all of the days while in Rishikesh.
As many of you know, Shree Maa never goes anywhere empty handed, and on this special occasion She decided to bring along Her Lord Ganesha!
He was heavy, so it took two of us to carefully wind our way down three flights of stairs to the cars.
We gently placed Ganesha, The Remover of Obstacles, in the back seat, keeping the front seat open for Swami Ramkripaluji. As we were getting into the cars, Swami Ramkripaluji saw the murti of Ganesh and recounted that Ganesh is the Agra Devata.
The word “agra” means foremost and front, meaning Lord Ganesh is the first to be worshipped in any puja. Because of this, the devout Swami Ramkripaluji requested us to move Lord Ganesh to the front of the car.
There was an obstacle though. The Ganesha murti was quiet large. So large that He could not sit on the dashboard, nor between the driver and passenger seats.
As we debated what to do, Swami Ramkripaluji simply sat down in the passenger seat and requested for us to place Lord Ganesha on his lap.
In the blink of an eye, the obstacle was removed! Jai Ganesha!
Swami Ramkripaluji could once again be seen with a child-like grin on his face as he escorted Lord Ganesh on his lap down the bumpy roads of Rishikesh.
It wasn’t too long before we reached the apartment. We immediately assisted Lord Ganesh out of the “lap of divine luxury” and into the apartment, while Shree Maa scoped out a most befitting location for Ganesh in a quiet corner of the main bedroom. She placed a sparkling red and gold cloth for his seat and instructed us to carefully place Ganesh on top of it.
We took a quick tour of all of the rooms of the apartment and then sat down to perform the Griha Pravesh Puja.
This Puja can vary in degrees of complexity, but at its most basic level it involves a puja to Ganesh, Kalasha Sthapana (Establishment of the Pot) and Prana Pratistha (Establishment of Life). After which, the water from the pot is spread around the house as a blessing.
At the end of the Devyarthavashirsham it states: “If it (the Devyarthavashirsham) is recited at the time of establishment of life within a deity, life will be established.”
After the puja, we sang the song Jaya Ganesha Ganapati Daya Nidhi, which is the first song we sing at Saturday night kirtan at our own Devi Mandir.
As is typical, Swami Ramkripaluji requested Shree Maa to sing his favorite song, Atma Nivasi Ram. She sang with such great intensity that Swami Ramkripaluji, who sang along with Her, went into devotional ecstasy.
Swamiji then performed Visarjana, the returning of the Divine Energy to the unmanifest, to the pot where he had established life.
He then took the pot, which is filled with water during the Puja, and with a flower, sprinkled the blessed water around the house while reciting the Gayatri Mantra as we walked behind him also reciting the mantra.
In this way, Swamiji purified the house and established the divine energy from the puja throughout the premises. Now it had become a fitting place for a Great Soul like Swami Ramkripaluji to reside.
As we were leaving the apartment, Swami Ramkripaluji looked at me and said, “You have forgotten the murti of Ganesh! Don’t you need to take Him with you?”
I respectfully told Swami that the Ganesha is a gift from Shree Maa and Swamiji, who had established Him here to bless his residence.
Swami Ramkripaluji’s expression was filled with awe, as if he was in total disbelief. With great reverence and appreciation, he bowed to that beautiful murti of Ganesh, which was now alive and infused with divine energy.
The sacred gift, in the form of the puja and the Ganesha murti, was Shree Maa and Swamiji’s way of saying, “Thank you” to Swami Ramkripaluji for his genuine hospitality.
From letting us reside at his ashram, to the usage of his cars, to the offering of the service of his own disciples, Swami Ramkripaluji demonstrated great respect and loving seva toward Shree Maa and Swamiji.
I think back to our arrival at the ashram, to that humorous moment of joyous bantering between the two Swamis, and further to Swami Ramkripaluji’s words, “No! No! Swamiji! I am only saying that you should consider this your own place. You are most welcome here.” Swami Ramkripaluji lived up to those words. He truly meant it!
In turn, it was inspiring to see the way in which Shree Maa and Swamiji demonstrated their deep humility and sincere appreciation to Swami Ramkripaluji through the puja and the murti.
And now, it is time to depart. We will greatly miss Rishikesh – its beauty, the comfortable ashram, the impeccable hospitality, and, above all, the beautiful smile of Swami Ramkripaluji, which can light up even the darkest of rooms.
But, just like leaves fall from the trees in the wintertime only to re-sprout in the spring, we pray that our departure from the holy land of Rishikesh will eventually lead to another blossoming for us here next year.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji! Jai Swami Ramkripaluji!