Travelogue: Back to America
The group was excited to return and share our stories with the family at the Devi Mandir. But, at the same time, leaving India was hard to do. The experiences, the people we met, the temples in which we worshiped, all have a sacred place in our hearts and we will seek to come back to India and re-live these moments on the next tour!
Our trip back to the United States took an unexpected turn when one of our family members became ill on the last leg of his plane journey back to the United States. When the plane landed in San Francisco, an emergency vehicle rushed him to the local hospital. He had contracted a form of pneumonia.
The next day, Shree Maa woke up at 2 AM with one idea, “What will my son eat while he is in the hospital?” She could not tolerate the thought and worried endlessly. So, She immediately knocked on Swamiji’s door.
Swamiji was already awake as he was sending out a flurry of emails to devotees and family members. Shree Maa kindly requested for him to take Her to the market as She had decided to buy food and cook for Her ailing disciple.
Swamiji, demonstrating his dedication and service to Mother, gladly prepared himself and went to warm up the car – but there was an obstacle in his path – the car battery was dead!
Swamiji quickly walked to the Dharmashalla and woke up Parvati, got the keys to her car, and drove Shree Maa to the market that early morning.
The time was now 3 AM and they finally located a Safeway Store in Napa that was open 24 hours a day. Shree Maa completed her shopping and they arrived home by 4:30 am. She then cooked up so much food that She could have fed three people for a week!
When they reached the hospital, she hand-fed the sick devotee. Then, She filled up the refrigerator near to his bed, spread a number of cooked dishes upon his tray table, and gave specific instructions for the nurses to warm the foods before serving them.
Shree Maa taught us all an important lesson that day. Her actions taught me that our journey to India was not over until every last one of Her children arrived back home safely. We are so blessed to have a Mother like Shree Maa who cares so much about Her children that She sacrifices Her own comforts to take care of us.
The trip has now concluded. The devotee is now home from the hospital and comfortably recovering at the Devi Mandir. No doubt, Shree Maa’s motherly affection has healed him. Each day he feels a little better, but full recovery will take some time.
Without your divine support, this trip would not have been possible. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
We bow to you!
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Satsang in Kolkata
One evening at the Meera Mandir, Shree Maa and Swamiji conducted a very large satsang. In attendance were many of Shree Maa’s very first devotees and several of Her immediate family members. The hall was large, but the devotees filled it up completely.
Several of the devotees in attendance were mesmerized by the worship, as some of them had not seen Shree Maa in over ten years.
After the puja, the entire group of devotees led by Swamiji and Shree Maa joined in the arati. The arati was filled with energy as every single one of the devotees offered the arati light and their love to the Divine Mother.
But this arati was not the ordinary arati. In this arati, both Shree Maa and Swamiji stood up, danced, and went into the crowd! As they did so, their enthusisam became contagious and the entire crowd broke out into dance.
Shree Maa went person to person, young and old, and personally danced with them.
Swamiji, who noticed that some of Shree Maa’s original devotees standing in the back were not dancing, made his way back into the crowd to encourage them to join in the festivities. He even grabbed the hand of one devotee and escorted him to the small stage where they both danced together.
The arati concluded with enthusiastic shouts of “Chandi Maa Ki Jai!” Swamiji began calling out various divine names at the end of which everyone would shout “Jai!” The gathering of so many devotees filled the room with the power of devotion.
To Shree Maa and Swamiji’s delight, a devotee named Trilochana sang a few songs that he had written for them. Long ago, Swamiji blessed Trilochana with his first musical instrument. Trilochana now is a highly accomplished musician and singer, typically drawing a crowd of 50,000 people or more to his concerts.
Swamiji too became blissful, but one could tell our beloved sadhu was looking for an opportunity to share this experience with our global family. Sure enough, as soon as the songs ended our Swamiji pulled out his iPad and snapped pictures of the lyrics. He is now in the middle of translating the lyrics, which will be posted on the website soon.
After all of the singing and worship, Shree Maa and Swamiji gave darshan to each and every person. These fortunate devotees received a blessing, a rudraraksha, a tilak, a chauder or a sari, and other special gifts.
Many of these devotees had known Shree Maa and Swamiji for most of their lives. As the evening progressed, several devotees shared their beautiful stories from the “early” years. I was amazed to see the impact that Shree Maa and Swamiji had made on their lives. Though most of them had not seen Shree Maa in years, they were still filled with so much devotion!
After darshan, Shree Maa blessed the food and everyone enjoyed a scrumptious meal. In her motherly way, Shree Maa walked around the room to ensure that everyone ate heartily. Swamiji sat near the altar and consistently gathered a group around him of devotees who were eager to listen to his divine message.
Our two Divine Saints mingled with their family and friends in Kolkata for about two hours. They are always giving to others and thinking of their upliftment. Consistently, in every leg of our trip, they give and give, and then give more. Kolkata was no different.
As the time approached late into the evening, Shree Maa and Swamiji gracefully exited the hall as they blessed everyone in their path. We had to leave early in the morning the next day as we were preparing for our trip back to the United States.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Dakshineswar, The Temple of Ramakrishna
This temple is special to our lineage as this is where Ramakrishna had spent most of his life worshiping. Shree Maa and Swamiji have long been connected with this temple.
We arrived at Dakshineswar by mid-morning and immediately noticed a long line of devotees in queue to receive darshan of Mother Kali in the main temple. We followed Shree Maa’s lead and first walked down the large staircase to the Ganga, which peacefully flows right in front of the temple grounds.
As Shree Maa stepped into the Ganga, She performed a beautiful puja to the river and then, together, we chanted one mala (108 repetitions) of the mantra “Om Hrim Gangayai Namah.” Some of the devotees filled up empty water bottles with Ganga water as requested by Shree Maa, as we were about to do pujas to the 12 Shiva Lingams.
As part of the worship, Shree Maa and Swamiji poured the Ganga water over each of the lingams.
At the end of every puja, Shree Maa touched her head to the Shiva Lingam and prayed “Lord Shiva please give everyone peace.”
As we went from temple to temple, it was exciting to listen to Swamiji’s stories and his tidbits of knowledge. For example, much to my surprise, he explained that the Devi Mandir Shiva Lingam, Napeshwar, is shaped in the exact same way as the Shiva Lingams at Dakshineswar. However, Napeshwar is many times larger than those of Dakshineswar.
Upon completing the pujas to the Shiva Lingams, we then made our way to the main temple for Mother Kali. They allowed Shree Maa, Swamiji and a number of the devotees to enter into the inner sanctum.
Shree Maa and Swamiji worshiped Mother Kali, doing the traditional puja as done by Shri Ramakrishna himself. Then, Shree Maa offered Kali Maa a beautifully jeweled red cloth and various ornaments. Mother Kali looked absolutely radiant!
I became very sentimental standing in front of the Goddess. I realized that this is the very same temple and the very same Kali Maa that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa worshiped when He was the pujari!
Now, we were here with Shree Maa and Swamiji in the same temple, performing the worship in the same way that Ramakrishna himself did. All of our hearts soared to watch the beautiful worship performed by Shree Maa and Swamiji in this sacred place.
After the worship we went to see Ramakrishna’s living room, where He had held many satsangs. Upon arrival, everyone there was in silence and meditating. We sat down and joined them for some time and were filled with a divine attitude upon seeing the place where so many great satsangs with Ramakrishna had taken place.
Swamiji fell into a deep meditation and sat deeply absorbed for some time. Our beloved Shree Maa meditated for a while and then stepped outside to wait for Swamiji. As She sat peacefully on the steps, She attracted many local temple devotees to Her. They were hoping to just get a glimpse of our radiant Mother. In Her infinite compassion, She blessed each of them with a Rudraksha Bead.
Afterwards, Swamiji recounted to us that, in the days of his intense tapasya, after he would complete a sankalpa, he went to this very same room. There, he meditated and expressed his gratitude to Ramakrishna for giving him the opportunity to worship God.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Festival for Annapurna, Varanasi
Thousands of devotees streamed in and out of the temple to get a glimpse of the golden Annapurna feeding the solid silver Lord Shiva.
We were fortunate to be able to visit the temple at this time, and even more fortunate that we were there with our very own Annapurna, Shree Maa, and Swamiji.
This was the very same temple where Shree Maa and Swamiji performed puja earlier in the trip.
As I stood in awe of the transformation of this temple, it occured to me that these decorations are the sublime expression of pure devotion. I could only imagine how much effort and time the devotees had spent beautifying the temple for Mother Annapurna.
Inside the main chamber of the temple, there were special murtis of Lord Shiva and Annapurna. Normally, these murtis are not available for public viewing and they are only brought out on special occasions.
Shree Maa enthusiastically entered the inner sanctum and, with some help from Her devotees, She made Her way up a very large step to get as close to Lord Shiva and Annapurna Devi as possible. She sweetly offered flowers, then respectfully touched the feet of Lord Shiva to obtain His blessing. She was thrilled to see Mother Annapurna and Lord Shiva standing together!
We all stood for a moment and offered our prayers to the Divine Mother Annapurna, who feeds all of her devotees.
My heart felt great satisfaction as I stood in the presence of two forms of Annapurna – the Annapurna murti and the living Annapurna as expressed in Shree Maa.
I felt great gratitude for Shree Maa, who is always preparing food for Her children and looking after their well being.
Thank You Shree Maa for all that you do!
Travelogue: The Forgotten Shiva Lingam of Varanasi – Agnishwara
It is said that whoever worships Agnishwara will have no problems from fire or lightning.
Most of the residents of Varanasi we spoke to had never heard of Agnishwara. They were not sure that there was such a Shiva Lingam in the town. But, our devoted family members in Varanasi took the streets, inquiring from place to place, and finally they located this ancient, forgotten Shiva Lingam.
The temple of Agnishwara was located below the house of a Brahmin family. Though it was a temple, the construction was actually in the first floor of their home. Here, the pujaris perform daily puja to the Shiva Lingam and, as the temple is not advertised, they get very few visitors.
We arrived by mid-morning and, when we arrived, they opened the doors to let the group inside. It was a tiny temple, barely enough room for our group, but we all squeezed inside. Shree Maa and Swamiji performed a beautiful puja for Agnishwara.
After the puja, our beloved Swamiji made a quick exit to a location a few ghats away. He exited so quickly none of us could follow him. His inspiration took him back to the cremation grounds, where he had done so much sadhana years ago. Negotiating his way in as close as allowed, he chanted the Chandi, alone, but filled with the light of God.
On the way back, a devotee commented to Shree Maa that, now that She and Swamiji had worshiped Agnishwara, maybe this Shiva Lingam would, once again, become a place visited and worshiped by many devotees. Shree Maa smiled and agreed that she hoped it would be so.
Travelogue: Shiva Temple in the Village
Swamiji has often told us that many of the greatest places for worship are “Anjan”, which means they are unknown to most people (as opposed to being the famous places of pilgrimage).
Outside the main city of Varanasi, Swamiji took us to a Lord Shiva Temple in a rural village. It was a beautiful area of farms and open plains. Mother Ganga flowed peacefully in front of the uncrowded temple, shining beautifully in the midday sun.
It was quiet here, and one could feel Lord Shiva’s presence in the silence. It was far different from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Here, we first visited a Durga Mandir where we made an offering of the 32 Names of Durga. Then, we made our way to the temple for Lord Shiva.
The large Shiva Lingam was located inside a very small temple and raised on a beautiful Vedi. Led by Swamiji, we offered all the articles of worship to the Shiva Lingam.
Then, Swamiji asked the priest if it would be okay for us to chant there. The priest was delighted to see people coming to the temple to worship and gave us a special spot right outside the doorway to the Lingam.
We set up our equipment, music stands, and iPads and chanted the Shiva Sahasranam, with a great view of the Shiva Lingam through the doorway.
Even in this obscure village, we were able to broadcast the chanting around the world. It was a great blessing that the Devi Mandir family has made such good use of current technology such that we could be sitting so far from urban society and still share all of the love and worship with devotees around the world.
As we chanted, I noticed there was no disturbance – no long lines of people moving in and out. It was just Swamiji, the mantras, the divine vibrations from the sanskrit chanting, and the beauty of the Shiva Lingam.
I felt intense peace at this remote temple and afterwards, the group expressed to Swamiji that we actually enjoyed this temple a bit more than the crowded city temples as, this was a place for people who truly wanted to worship.
Swamiji agreed and explained that, in the days of his intense sadhana, he had always had a preference for the village temples. There, he had little disturbance and the priests were always delighted that he had come to worship God.
Travelogue: Homa in the Cremation Grounds of Varanasi
Shree Maa, Swamiji, and the group took a boat ride up the Ganga to the Lalita Ghat. Lalita Ghat is adjacent to the famous Manikarnika Ghat, where many bodies are brought from around India everyday for cremation.
Swamiji recounted that this was the same Ghat where he and many other Sadhus of the past had come to perform tapasya. Sitting by the light of the funeral pyre, they would chant to God.
In his infinite kindness, Swamiji wanted all of the devotees on tour to have a similar experience. Currently, there are restrictions on sadhus entering Manikarnika Ghat to do Sadhana. Therefore, we sat at the Lalita Ghat, just adjacent to the Manikarnika Ghat, and performed a Chandi Homa.
It was early morning and the sun had just risen on the opposite side of the Ganga. The peaceful river was but a few steps away from the Homa Kund that Shree Maa and Swamiji constructed. Swamiji began invoking the sacred fire and many on lookers came to see what was taking place.
As Swamiji had lost his voice the prior evening at the Hanuman temple, Shree Maa led the chanting of the Chandi. Thanks to the inspiration of our Gurus, we were performing sadhana just like the rishis and sadhus of old and, even as Swamiji himself had some 30 years earlier.
As our Homa fire burned, we could also see the burning of the funeral pyres right next to us.
In the middle of the river and all around us, life was continuing in a myriad of ways. People were traveling to various destinations by boat. Dogs were playing. Cows were looming around us. In the midst of the somberness of death, life was so abundantly evident! What an inspiration!
Ironically, across from us, we could also see the end of life. The scene was perfect and we could have not wished to do anything else but worship the Divine Mother.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple in Varanasi
This temple is one of the sacred temples of Lord Hanuman in the city of Varanasi. It is believed that Tulsidas, the author of the Hindi “Ramayana” founded the temple after a vision of the Lord Hanuman at that spot.
Along the long walking path to the entrance of the temple, hundreds of monkeys were playing here and there, because all monkeys are regarded as members of Hanuman’s sacred army of servants to Lord Ram, and this is their special refuge in a teeming city of over one million devotees.
As we walked further, we came to the main temple area where there was a huge line of people waiting to see Lord Hanuman. It was a Saturday, and devotees worship Lord Hanuman on Saturdays, including the devotees from our own Devi Mandir. It is constantly amazing how many of the authentic Hindu traditions are being maintained in our Devi Mandir.
There were a few distinctions in this temple compared to others I have seen. First, this temple uniquely has Hanumanji facing his Lord, Rama, whom he worshiped with steadfast and selfless devotion.
Second, I was surprised to see just how active this temple is with devotees chanting and singing kirtan. Many of the people standing in the line for darshan were actively reading from the Hanuman Chalisa or Sundar Kanda.
Swamiji explained that the reason the Hanuman Temples may be more active with devotees doing sadhana is that many of the texts for worshiping Lord Hanuman, like Hanuman Chalisa and the Ramacharitamanas, are in a language called “Avadhi”.
Avadhi is much more familiar and accessible to most Indian people than is Sanskrit, and, so, the people are more empowered to understand it and read it. Chanting Sanskrit is often seen as something that only the Pundits could do.
It was a great joy to see a temple where everyone was able to worship.
In so many other temples only the priests were reciting mantras, while everyone else stood in line waiting to see the deity. This Hanuman Temple is a complete place of worship – a place where we really fit in!
We sat down among the many people, who were chanting and singing, and recited the Sundar Kanda. Swamiji chanted so loud that he lost his voice for a day or two. Afterwards, we went to take darshan of Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanumanji and offered our respect.
Travelogue: Kala Bhairava and Worshiping with Swamiji
Swamiji explained that wherever there is a Shakti Peetha for the Goddess, there is also temple for Lord Shiva, who protects that center of energy.
Kala Bhairava is Lord Shiva in the fierce form of Bhairava, who takes away all darkness, or the Supreme to which all dissolves at the end of time.
We entered the temple and passed by the stalls of many priests who were giving blessings to the devotees with a peacock feather brush. Then, the priests tied a black string around the devotee’s wrist, which is Lord Shiva’s prasad.
After we took darshan and offered a short worship in the inner sanctum, we found a nice location to the side of the temple and began reciting the Shiva Sahasranam.
We chanted the mantras with such a joy. We, ourselves, were gaining the inspiration by doing the sadhana, and when we saw the inspiration of the visitors to the temple, our inspiration grew all the more.
Many of the temple priests and devotees were watching us chant and seemed surprised to see us chanting and doing Sadhana with such devotion. One passerby remarked that he felt ashamed that many devotees of Indian origin do not worship with the intensity of devotion that we had demonstrated.
We chanted with such bhavana that our chanting echoed through the temple and other devotees actually joined our recitation.
When the Shiva Sahasranam was finished the energy was so intense that we were inspired to chant a few stotrams. Swamiji continued to lead us in more chants to Lord Shiva, until we had exhausted most of the Shiva Stotrams in Swamiji’s Advanced Shiva Puja Book. We sat quietly for a few moments as we felt the harmony of our own vibrations with that of the temple around us.
When we stopped meditating, Swamiji began reciting the mantras for offering dakshina. Surprisingly, Swamiji offered dakshina first to those who were chanting with us. One of those was a priest from another temple. Then, he also offerd dakshina to the temple itself, as well as the priests.
It is beautiful to see Shree Maa and Swamiji travel to these popular places of pilgrimage and revive the spirit of worship in everyone. For many Hindus, the temples have become a place to get darshan, pray, make offerings, and take prasad. But Swamiji and Shree Maa are always showing everyone the joy and the benefit of actually sitting down in the temples and spending time with God by doing sadhana.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Vishalakshi, Shakti Peeth in Varanasi
This beautiful temple is a Shakti Pitha and is a sacred temple dedicated to the Goddess. Vishalakshi Devi is the Goddess who is the goal of the universe. She is also known as “She with Enormous Eyes.”
As we strolled down the small alley way to get to the temple, we could feel Mother’s presence in the stillness.
I was surprised to learn that this Shakti Pitha actually had three murtis of Vishalakshi. The first murti was just inside the entrance of the temple. The second stands directly behind that murti, and is not visible to the public. The third murti was further into the interior of the temple.
Shree Maa and Swamiji performed worship to the Goddess, attracting many people who gathered to watch.
Then, Swamiji told the priest we would like to do a recitation of the 108 Shakti Pithas listed in the Devi Gita. The priest was concerned that we would get too much disturbance sitting in the front of the main temple, so he took us to the second, more private area of the temple. Much to my surprise, this was the location of the third murti of Vishalakshi.
As we chanted from the Devi Gita, I noticed that the very first amongst the names in the scripture is Vishalakshi of Varanasi! That realization made the recitation so memorable.
After the recitation, Shree Maa performed a short puja to the murtis of the Nine Planets and then to a Shiva Lingam, both of which were inside the small temple.
Shree Maa later recounted that She and Swamiji had visited this same temple long ago.
She told that at that time, almost no devotees came to this temple and very few people had read the scriptures and understood that this small temple was actually a Shakti Peeth.
This allowed them to easily worship Vishalakshi without the crowds.
Since their worship many years ago, the temple is now vibrant with devotees constantly coming to pray to the Divine Mother.
Everywhere Shree Maa and Swamiji go, they try to wake up the divinity that is inherent in each of us. By the example of their own love for God, even forgotten temples become filled with life again!
It is an endless privilege to watch their activities steeped in pure love.
Travelogue: Worship on the Ganga
At sunset, the group took a very scenic boat ride on the Ganga in Varanasi.
On this special occasion, Swamiji and Shree Maa were blessing the ring ceremony (engagement) of a devotee and his fiancé.
Shree Maa, with the help of a few devotees, quickly created a beautiful altar for the worship. Swamiji performed the Puja, which captivated the minds and delighted the hearts of the couple and all who were present.
It was a wonderful scene to observe Swamiji’s worship in the middle of the Ganga.
When Swamiji reached the Puja Naivedya (the offerings of worship), he offered the couples’ rings and all of the other gifts to God.
On this trip, I have witnessed on several occasions how Swamiji and Shree Maa inspire us to bring God into every moment and every event of our lives. This occasion was no different.
By watching the ceremony, I realized that Swamiji had integrated this important life event with the worship and love of God. All of the couple’s gifts, including their rings, which are the symbolic of this couple’s commitment, had become God’s prasad.
As we continued down the river, we floated by many famous Ghats of Varanasi. A Ghat is a set of stairs that lead down to the river.
The river Ganga plays such a large role in everyone’s lives and the Ghats are the places where they can connect with Her. There are Ghats for bathing, washing clothes, cremations and many other purposes.
One important Ghat for cremations is named Harischandra Ghat. The story is told that Harischandra became the servant of the Chandala and worked in the cremation grounds. Swamiji story explains this story in detail in the Swami Purana.
As we floated by, Swamiji told stories of the intense sadhana that he used to do at the cremations grounds.
Swamiji says worshiping in the cremation grounds gives rise to a special bhavana of detachment. You see that everyone is coming and going empty handed.
This attitude gives one a deep inspiration to continue seeking God and focusing one’s life in worship.
Travelogue: Trailinga Swami’s Ashram in Varanasi
We were about to visit a very special ashram, the Trailinga Swami Ashram. The late Trailinga Swamiji is an important guru of our lineage, and Shree Maa and Swamiji have told several stories about this amazing sadhu.
Having arrived via boat, we started our journey to the ashram by climbing up a very large staircase which was amidst several large buildings. Our beloved Shree Maa sweetly chanted “Om Namah Shivaya” on every step as we noticed little cubby holes carved into the walls with Shiva Lingams inside.
We were grateful to finally arrive at the ashram and, upon entering, the temple priest was very happy to see Shree Maa and Swamiji. It was obvious that they had met before.
We sat at the entrance of the temple for a short while – just enough time for me to notice that the walls of the temple were filled with pictures of Trailanga Swami, Sarada Devi, Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
The pictures served as a reminder of Trailanga Swami’s longtime connection with our lineage.
As we headed into the center part of the temple, there was a massive Shiva Lingam.
The story is told that Trailinga Swami pulled this massive stone from the bottom of the Ganga all by himself and placed it in the center of temple. Trailinga Swamiji then worshiped the stone as a Shiva Lingam.
With great love, Shree Maa and Swamiji did a full puja to the Shiva Lingam as the group watched.
In another part of the temple was a murti of Mother Kali. This was the same Kali Maa that Trailinga Swami worshiped. The group squeezed into a small area and recited the Kali Sahasranam. It was so beautiful to be sitting in the temple of a great sage of the past with the modern saints of today.
Afterwards, the pujari of the temple gave the special privilege to Shree Maa and Swamiji to perform puja to the murti of Trailinga Swami, something very rarely allowed for visitors to the temple. Shree Maa had a look of great joy as she worshiped Trailinga Swami. She then took a flower from the Murti and blessed everyone with that flower.
Shree Maa explained that, Trailinga Swamiji told his devotees that it was time for him to go into Maha Samadhi. The devotees began to weep in grief as they begged him to stay with them. Trailinga Swami told them that, if they made a murti of Him, then he would always be there with them. Shree Maa and Swamji performed puja to that very same murti that the devotees made in honor of Him.
Just below the murti is Trailinga Swami’s Maha Samadhi room. The kind pujari allowed the group to go into the Samadhi room of Trailanga Swami, a room where He often practiced meditation. The room is underground from the temple.
Swamiji remained down in the Maha Samadhi room the entire time while the rest of us were ushered in two by two. In that room we all felt such a silence and stillness as to inspire us to go deep within.
As we left the temple, we all felt a deep connection to the great sage from our lineage, who has such a powerful influence on Shree Maa and Swamiji.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Worship at Annapurna Mandir, Varanasi
On this special day, Shree Maa and Swamiji were given the rare honor of performing puja to the Divine Mother Annapurna, the Goddess who is full and complete in food and grains, and getting Her ready for public worship.
Shree Maa and Swamiji bathed the murti in water, milk, yogurt, ghee, and sugar. They then dressed Her with a red and gold sari that Shree Maa had specifically chosen for the Goddess from a devotee’s store in Berkeley, California.
She was adorned with numerous flower garlands as well and offered fruit from a huge basket that Shree Maa personally selected.
The group was privileged to be able to watch this puja in close proximity. The temple priests were so kind that, after the puja, each one of us individually was allowed to enter the inner sanctum. We received darshan of Annapurna Devi, while the priest offered each of us a flower garland and a piece of fruit.
It was the most touching puja I had ever seen as the Divine Mother was definitely present. But equally touching was the heightened level of respect I have for our two divine saints, who are so respected throughout India, that they were given the opportunity to perform this puja, as they have in temples wherever we have visited.
After the Puja we sat in the temple area and performed a homa with the Annapurna Sahasranam.
Please share in the power and beauty of this occasion by watching the video
Travelogue: Rudrashtadhayi at Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi
The Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi is one of the most famous pilgrimage places for Lord Shiva as, like Trymabakeshwar, it is one of the Jyotir Lingams.
Vishwanath, another name for Lord Shiva, literally means “Lord of the Universe.”
The temple is extremely busy, with large numbers of devotees coming to take Shiva’s darshan everyday.
Our group fortunately had passes to go very early in the morning when the main puja to the Shiva Lingam is performed and before the public darshan begins.
We all woke up around 1:30 am to get ready to go to the temple.
When we arrived, there was commotion about us entering. Even more confusing was, there appeared to be an unexpected, more complicated, process to let foreigners enter.
Shree Maa and Swamiji patiently stood to the side when the trouble occurred. After some time, Swamiji decided “enough is enough” and began our puja outside the doors of the temple. We all became inspired and joined Swamiji in chanting the mantras of the puja.
Swamiji demonstrated that it was not necessary to enter these famous temples to do worship. God is everywhere and we can worship Him just as well outside the temple as inside!
Magically, within just a few short minutes of Swamiji’s chanting, the issue was resolved! We were allowed into the temple with no special checks or trouble to the foreigners.
As we arrived at the main mandir of Vishwanath, I noticed the building was very tall, but the interior of the mandir was quite small. The top of the structure is made out of gold.
The large crowd combined with the tiny mandir made it difficult to view the Puja. However, Shree Maa and Swamiji had direct viewing, but even so, they were continously being bumped and jostled by the crowd.
There were about four pujari’s inside that tiny temple performing the puja. The pujaris performed the puja in sync with each other, working as a team, each with their own specific role. They offered water, milk, yogurt, honey, ghee and sugar to the beautiful lingam as they chanted the sanskrit mantras. Then they offered flowers and performed arati.
At the time of arati, Shree Maa wanted to get a bit closer, so we squeezed her closer to the front. She was so happy to be able to take blessing of the arati light and offer dakshina.
Once the puja was completed, we quickly moved her into a less populated part of the temple and waited for a short time as, directly after this morning puja, the gates to the temple opened and devotees who were gathered outside eagerly rushed inside to make their offerings.
There were so many people and the guards only let them have darshan for a split second – hardly enough time to offer their flowers, water, or anything else.
These generous priests brought a huge bucket of milk for Shree Maa and Swamiji so that they could perform an abhisekim to the Lord.
Shree Maa was so happy as she poured milk over Mahadev. Then, she handed the bucket to Swamiji, who did the same. Some of the devotees who were fortunate enough to be inside the inner sanctum at that time also were allowed to offer milk.
Shree Maa offered other items as – flowers, incense, light, kum-kum, while Swamiji chanted the mantras explaining the offerings. Then, she offered cloth to Lord Shiva and, to our delight, the priest gave to Swamiji two white dhotis with gold trim borders.
Afterwards, we sat down in a nearby area to recite the Rudrashtadhayi. Our group was very large, and, like in other temples, priests and devotees gathered around to observe our recitation.
Shree Maa had a special desire to demonstrate the spirit of true devotion to this sacred place. I believe she succeeded in doing so, as she chanted with all of her energy, and we were inspired to do the same.
By the completion, everyone who had been standing nearby was shouting Mahadev Ki Jai!
Travelogue: Durga Temple and Tulsi Manas Mandir in Varanasi
Varanasi, which is also known as Benares, Banaras or Kashi is one of the holiest cities in India and is located on the banks of Mother Ganga in Uttar Pradesh.
On our first day in this holy city we went to visit the Durga Temple at Durga Kund. Upon arrival, there was an irregular sound of loud bells ringing because each person rings a bell upon entering the temple. To the side of the entrance, a group of devotees could be seen performing a homa at the havan kund.
Shree Maa, Swamiji and the group were allowed inside the main area to perform a short puja to the radiant image of Durga. Shree Maa offered a beautiful red sari to the Divine Mother and the priests took the cloth and hung it around Durga Maa. Mother Durga was delighted to accept their offering.
Afterwards we made our way to a covered area nearby the main temple to recite the Lalita Trishati in honor of the Divine Mother.
Instantaneously, a huge group gathered around to enjoy the power of the mantras and the company of saints.
Being in close proximity to Shree Maa and Swamiji while they are chanting makes the mantras alive with energy. The combination of being with these holy saints in this sacred city compounded the energy. As we listened to their recitation of the Lalita Trishati, we could hear the life and meaning in the mantras.
Varanasi is a city packed with temples on every block and the Tulsi Mandir was a short walk away. The group enjoyed walking the streets of Varanasi from the Durga Temple to Tulsi Manas Mandir.
The Tulsi Manas Mandir, which is a temple dedicated to Lord Ram, is a huge building with marble walls inside. What makes this temple so amazing is that the entire epic of the Ramayana is written in engraved letters upon the walls of the temple!
The temple had several beautiful murtis of Sri Ram, Sita Devi, Lakshmana and Lord Hanuman as well. Shree Maa and Swamiji made offerings to the deities.
Then, the pujari presented a flower garland to Swamiji, but Swamiji took the mala off and, reciting the mantra, offered it to Shree Maa instead. We all laughed at Swamiji’s playfulness.
The pujari, not giving up hope, took a second flower mala and attempted again to put it on Swamiji. Swamiji took it in his hands and again offered it to his beloved Mother, Shree Maa.
This time the pujari was successful as Swamiji wore the mala himself. It was such a humorous scene to watch Swamiji play around and exhibit his humbleness. Equally entertaining was watching this persistent pujari!
The group then sat down to the side to recite stotrams from the Hanuman Puja. As we chanted the Hanuman Chalisa everyone clapped in rhythm. The sound of the singing and clapping echoed beautifully throughout the large temple building.
Next, we sang the Samkata Mochana Hanuman Ashtakam. At the end of the Ashtakem, Swamiji began joyfully singing, “Who in the world doesn’t know that monkey whose name removes all difficulties!” Everyone was soon singing along!
Right after our chanting, the evening arati began. Shree Maa stood up and danced with glee and the group followed. It was a night to remember in our first day in Varanasi.
Travelogue: Swami Veda Bharati’s Ashram
Shree Maa and Swamiji, who had met Swami Veda Bharati previously, received a special invitation to perform kirtan one evening. The group was fortunate to be included in this celebration.
Swamiji Veda Bharati, who is a disciple of Swami Rama of the Himalayas, is one of the key keepers and messengers of the ancient traditions taught by the Himalayan sages and teachers of the Vedic tradition. The traditions have been handed down from Master to disciple, generation after generation, for more than 5,000 years.
Shree Maa, Swamiji, and Swami Ramkripaluji were greeted by a huge crowd in a glorious manner.
One group was singing hymns from the Sama Veda to welcome them, while others offered them a garland of roses.
It was a delight to see such a respectful and joyous welcoming.
Swami Veda Bharati himself came and offered flower petals in loving worship of Shree Maa and Swamiji. This significant Indian Saint recently took a five year vow of silence and so, when we met him, he was not talking. Though words did not flow from his mouth, pure love flowed from the heart of this sadhu.
From our travels, it has become clear that the meeting of real saints is rarely a dull and distant affair, but rather, a joyous celebration of love at the privilege of being in the company of other pure souls. The love generated from their meeting each other overflowed into the hearts of the welcoming crowd gathered there.
We then entered the main building, which soon became completely packed with eager devotees.
One devotee, who had met Shree Maa and Swamiji previously, gave a short message of welcome and introduced them to the crowd. She prayed that Shree Maa show everyone, male and female, how to become more connected to the Divine Mother aspect within each of us.
As Swami Veda Bharati was in silence, to communicate he would type or handwrite notes. To welcome Shree Maa and Swamiji, He typed on the projector screen, “We welcome Shree Maa and Swamiji’s holy feet in our Ashram.” The feeling of connection and affection was so overwhelming!
After we settled in, Shree Maa sang the song Hari Nam. Her singing created a deep feeling of calm stillness throughout the room. Seeing everyone’s state, she asked that we all meditate for a few minutes.
Shree Maa then offered the song Jaya Guru in honor of Swami Veda Bharati. It was Shree Maa’s offering of love and respect to him. After the song she said smilingly, “Now I will sing a song for Guru’s Guru, do you know who that is?” When no one responded quickly, Swami Ramkripaluji said enthusiastically, “Shiva!” Shree Maa jokingly scolded him saying, “Why did you give it away?”
After singing for Lord Shiva, she then sang a song for the Divine Mother. By this time in the evening, it was approaching the time for the Ashram’s traditional meditation program. Swamiji, realizing this, asked Swami Veda Bharati if we should stop the kirtan so they could do their meditation. Swami Veda Bharati, looked at Swamiji and innocently shrugged his shoulders. It was clear that the meditation program could wait. Everyone laughed and knew he meant that Shree Maa should certainly keep singing.
When all the singing was completed, Shree Maa and Swamiji offered a cloth and dakshina to Swami Veda Bharati. Swami Veda Bharati rose from his chair and lovingly hugged Swamiji.
Of course, great saints think alike and, before closing the program, Swami Veda Bharati also made an offering to Swamiji and Shree Maa.
We were all left with the beautiful impression in our hearts of the true humility and love seen in the meeting of great souls. This love, this humility, touched the hearts of all present.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Sundar Kanda and Sharing With All
At the entrance, there is a small temple for Lord Shiva in the form of Daridya Dukha Hara, meaning “He Who Takes Away Poverty and Pain.” Shree Maa offered Her prayers here for the welfare of all Her children.
We sat down in front of this precious altar and recited the Sundar Kanda.
As we typically do, we setup the broadcaster using a device which connects to the cellphone network to get internet access. Sadly, we were not able to get an immediate connection.
It is not always easy to broadcast from the various temples which we visit. Some of the temples are on mountains or in caves, others are close to towns, while some are in remote forests. But, our creative and ever efficient Swamiji came up with another device from a different network provider. After diligently working with the electronics, Swamiji achieved success – it worked and we were up and running in no time!
On this trip, I have witnessed the power of Swamiji’s determination and intent. I have closely observed him as he goes to extreme efforts to implement the technology required to share the worship with our global family. Countless times I have watched him try again and again to get a connection.
Only those who sincerely love their family can demonstrate that level of commitment. Both Shree Maa and Swamiji are working diligently to inspire our global family. They are always thinking about us, blessing us, showering us with grace, and hoping for us to increase our devotion to God. It does not matter where a devotee resides – it could be on the other side of the world – yet, Shree Maa and Swamiji are with us.
This is an inspiring testament of their love for us.
Thanks to Swamiji’s efforts, we were able to broadcast the blissful recitation of the Sundar Kanda so everyone could join. The bhavana grew stronger and stonger as Swamiji and Shree Maa wove the Samputs, the mantras which come before and after each verse, throughout different parts of the recitation.
Sita and Ram sitting on the altar seemed to be especially delighted, as well as the devotees from the ashram who joined us.
This recitation of the Sundar Kanda was really unique in that Vairagis, in a Vaishnava Akhara, invited a Sannyasi to lead the recitation of their scripture in their temple.
Shree Maa and Swamiji have effectively become representatives of Savarni, who belongs to all castes, colors, tribes, by transcending all sectarian boundaries and uniting various branches of Hindu monks, who otherwise maintain strict separation.
Many visitors joined the chanting, along with the Vaishnava monks, and all were united in pure devotion to God!
Some people remarked that they had never heard the Sundar Kanda recited with such enthusiasm and devotion, and other naturally born Hindi speaking people were amazed at the clarity of the pronunciation and accents to the meaning.
After the completion, we were all invited for prasad, and we exchanged gifts.
Travelogue: Chandi Yajna in Rishikesh
We were blessed to be able to perform a Chandi Homa with Shree Maa and Swamiji on the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh.
The power of the fire ceremony, combined with the beauty of the Ganga, uplifted our spirits and filled us with light!
Please join in the blessings by watching this short video of excerpts from the Homa!
Travelogue: The Sadhu Community
At an ashram in Rishikesh, nearby to Swami Ramkripaluji’s ashram, a special puja for Lord Ram was performed.
This puja is called Ram Abishek or Rama Archana. Archana is a special, personal, puja done by temple priests in which the name, birth star and family lineage of devotees are recited to invoke individual guidance and blessings. Archana also refers to chanting the names of the deity, which is a central part of the puja.
It was a very large event and a beautiful offering to God as, with every name, they offered rose petals.
The day after this special worship, they invited many Sadhus to come and partake of the prasad from the worship. They also invited Shree Maa and Swamiji.
This invitation was a notable honor and a great sign of respect for our Swamiji because the ashram which performed the Ram Archana is from the Vairagi tradition, while Swami Satyananda Saraswati is a sadhu of the Sannyasi tradition.
Essentially, they were affirming to Swamiji that, even though he is from another tradition, he is welcomed with respect in the local Sadhu community.
Prior to our departure, Swamiji made friends with the heads of the ashram. had a short dialog with them, and performed namasakaram.
Travelogue: The Cave Temple of Tapkeshwar
Nearby to Rishikesh, in Dehradun, there is an ancient Shiva cave temple known as Tapkeshwar Mahadev Temple. This temple is in a cave and, to get to the location, one has to transcend down several stair steps, to which you enter into what looks to be a village of temples.
In addition, this pilgrimage place contains several beautiful murtis and temples where sadhus have done their sadhana.
There is a magnificent energy in this location, which inspires one to worship.
Swamiji explained that the temple name has two meanings. The first meaning is “the place of Tapasya.” Legend has it that, during the era of the Mahabharat War, this is the location where Dronacharya, the guru of the Pandavas and Karuravas, meditated and performed his Tapasya here.
This cave has special significance and meaning to our Swamiji, as he used to come to this cave often when he was performing his own Tapasya many years ago. He recollected that he would come to the cave and spend the whole day doing Sadhana.
Upon entering the temple, we first worshiped the Shiva Lingam, which had become indented from the constant drips of ganga water. Swami Ramkripaluji sang a devotional bhajan and Shree Maa and Swamiji made offerings to Lord Shiva, giving him a bath, flowers and other offerings.
Swamiji then went to meet the main priest to let him know we wanted to do sadhana. The priest graciously gave us a spot just above the Shiva Lingam to chant the Shiva Sahasranam.
The bhavana and the power of the temple cannot be expressed in words. One must experience this directly, but we have tried to share our experience through a slideshow and a short video.
Please click to the right or left of the picture below to scroll through the slideshow. Also, enjoy the short video excerpt of the Shiva Sahasranam.
Travelogue: Nilakanth Mahadev Temple
Shree Maa, Swamiji, and Swami Ramkripaluji took the group to a very special temple for Lord Shiva called the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple (also commonly referred to as Neelkantha, Nilkanth and Nilakanth) located just outside of Rishikesh.
Shree Maa explained that this temple is the location where Lord Shiva went to cool his throat after He had consumed the Halahala poison at the churning of the milk ocean.
Nilakanth literally means “blue throat” and is named after Lord Shiva, whose throat turned blue after drinking the poison.
This famous pilgrimage site is located up beautiful, forested, winding roads in the Himalayan Mountains. The road turned constantly, weaving its way through the mountains.
Just below, we could see the divine Mother Ganga with all of Her twists and turns.
The journey to the temple itself was a source of inspiration, not only for its beauty, but also for the realization that here, in these ancient mountains, so many Sadhus had come in the past to worship God.
Shree Maa was very excited for the group to receive darshan of Nilakanth Mahadev.
Swamiji too was thrilled about the prospects of our sadhana at the temple.
Nilakanth is itself a very famous pilgrimage place for Lord Shiva. Each person usually has only a short time to see the Lingam and to make a quick offering.
Miraculously, when we arrived at the temple there was almost nobody present!
Shree Maa and Swamiji were able to make all of their offerings to Lord Shiva. In addition, we all had the opportunity to offer a bath of milk to Shiva at the end.
We then sat down within sight of Nilakanth Mahadev and recited the Rudrashtadayayi.
At the end, Swami Ramkripaluji commented that, during the chanting, he had seen dancing mantras! He felt that Swamiji’s recitation was so full of energy that the mantras of the Rudrastadhyayi were dancing as we chanted!
Afterwards Shree Maa gave her blessings to all the online viewers.
I have noticed that in every temple we visit, the priests are always so happy to hear that we want to do our sadhana. They invariably warmly invite us in and give us a place near the deity to chant. Typically, at the end of our recitation, they offer their pranams and sometimes garland our beloved gurus Shree Maa and Swamiji with flowers. The Nilakanth Mahadev Temple was no different!
Shree Maa had enjoyed visiting Nilakanth so much that, when we sat down for Arati in the evening, she spontaneously invented a new song. She began singing “Nilakanth, Nilakanth, Nilakanth Mahadeva” to the tune of Jai Maa. Swamiji quickly chimed in and, before we knew it, the whole group was singing the joyous arati of Nilakanth Mahadev!
Upon reflection of the day’s events, I am grateful that I have benefited through the years from Swamiji’s teachings as I feel that he has better prepared me for this tour.
I am continuously amazed at how he translated so many stories and texts such that, wherever we visit, we understand the background, know which scriptures to chant, and can fit right into the bhava.
For example, in the Swami Purana Book, Swamiji tells the story of Nilakanth Mahadev – of Lord Shiva drinking the poison and its significance. He also explains this story in his own words in the first class of the Swami Purana Video Class. How fortunate we are to have this wisdom at our fingertips.
Swamiji has often stressed to us that we are from the “Universal Religious Tradition,” meaning, we worship all of the Gods and Goddesses.
In traveling with Shree Maa and Swamiji to a variety of different temples, I have a much better appreciation for the significance of our tradition. We can literally go into any temple and be accepted and warmly welcomed.
This is the beauty of our tradition, the universal tradition, which Shree Maa and Swamiji have imparted to us!
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Shree Maa’s Puja to Mother Ganga
In India, the river Ganges is not considered to be just a river, but rather a living Goddess. Her waters play such an important role in the lives of everyone. From watering crops to providing drinking water, She takes care of Her children.
After the sun rose in the morning, we went down to the banks of the river with Shree Maa.
On the shoreline of this sacred river, we noticed a rock that someone had brought and previously worshiped as a Shiva Lingam.
Shree Maa, delighted in seeing this auspicious Shiva Lingam, chose this location for Her worship.
Shree Maa offered lights, incense, flowers and dakshina to the Divine Mother in the form of Ganga. She handed us flowers as well so that we could do the same.
Then, after worshiping Ganga Maa, we participated in a puja that Shree Maa does every day – we made offerings of water and flowers to the sun.
While we had been doing our worship, three dogs had been standing nearby.
While most people tend to either ignore the dogs, or try to scare them away, our beloved Mother set a perfect example.
She actually honored the dogs by including them in the puja!
She offered those fortunate dogs flowers and worshiped them as Bhairava, which is a form, or manifestation, of Lord Shiva.
We were all surprised and learned a great lesson of paying respect to the presence of God in everything. She showed us what the Vedic Rishis of old also knew: God is everywhere, in everything and everyone, you just have to become aware of it.
It was a profound and beautiful moment, yet Shree Maa taught these truths not through the usage of words, but rather in Her own simple loving way. Her teachings shine through from the sincerity in Her actions.
We had worshiped God in every form we saw that morning – whether it was a rock, a river, the sun, or even a dog! In that moment, God’s brilliant light shone in all forms of nature!
Travelogue: The Temple of Daksha’s Yajna Where Sati Left Her Body
Shree Maa and Swamiji took the group to a very special temple, the Daksha Prajapati Temple, in the town of Kankhal, adjacent to Haridwar. This temple is also referred to as the Daksha Mahadev Temple and the Shri Daksheshwar Temple.
This temple, which sits right next to the Ganga, is believed to be where Daksha showed great disrespect to his daughter Sati’s husband, Lord Shiva, by not inviting Him to a special Yajna (fire ceremony).
This is the location where the Yajna took place and where Sati Devi left Her body. As such, it is a Shakti Pith, a special place for the worship of the Divine Mother.
Prior to my arrival to the temple, I had learned about the story, the events, and the significance from Swamiji (Click Here to watch Daksha’s Yajna Video). Knowing the story brought a special bhavana of respect and sacredness to this ancient temple.
While there is nobody that can tell a story with more expression than Swamiji, I found that being at the very location of where these events unfolded – seeing the homa kund – worshiping where Sati Devi left her body – brought even more “life” to the story.
It enhanced the meaning and heightened the sense of reality that I would not have obtained otherwise.
It seemed surreal being at the location of such a significant historical event. I became aware of an integration between the historical story and the physical location. The physical surroundings enhanced the appreciation of the story, and the story enhanced the significance of the physical location!
As soon as the main priest realized that Shree Maa and Swamiji had come, he moved himself to the station of the younger priest so he too could listen to the chanting.
Shree Maa first honored the Divine Mother by offering flowers to the Murti of Mother Durga which was to the side of the Havan Kund.
Then, we all assembled and, as a group chanted the Kali Sahasranam. With each verse we were calling out to the Divine Mother, who was no doubt listening to our prayers.
We really felt the power of Satsang there. We had a divine association with that sacred place, with it’s story, with our Gurus, with the other devotees and with the Goddess.
One could not help but to be inspired by this confluence of Divine associations.
The priest was also absorbed listening to the recitation of the thousand names of Kali.
After the recitation was complete Swamiji, in a playful bhavana, offered the priest dakshina and a cloth. When Swamiji recited the mantra for offering the cloth, the priest, took the cloth and placed it around Swamiji’s neck!
Everyone was filled with joy to see the love and respect offered by the priest.
Swamiji too was surprised and accepted the offered cloth graciously.
The priest, with great delight, then offered prasad to the entire group.
In the middle of the temple, and adjacent to Daksha’s Havan Kund is the famous Shiva Temple, with an ancient Shiva Lingam.
Led by Shree Maa, we offered our worship to Lord Shiva, the Divine Father.
We all felt our worship was complete as we honored God both as the Mother and the Father.
Gratitude comes to mind when I reflect upon the opportunity to live life consumed with loving God, with worshiping God, and traveling along side Shree Maa and Swamiji to visit the Temples of God.
Thank You Shree Maa and Swamiji!
Travelogue: Raghunath (Ram) Mandir of Rishi Kund at Triveni Ghat
We came to an area called Triveni Ghat, which is the center of the older part of Rishikesh.
There were many beautiful sculptures erected depicting Ganga Maa and other divinities.
After walking a little further, we reached a place called Rishi Kund. The word “kund” means pond, or a place that holds water.
It is estimated to be about 500 years old and it is one of the most ancient and sacred places among the places that Swamiji would show us when we come to Rishikesh.
This beautiful pond mirrors the temple of Raghunath, which is devoted to Lord Rama and Sita Devi. Though the temple has been refinished many times, it is one of the oldest places in Rishikesh.
Long ago, the people of Rishikesh would let the water from the Ganga flow into this Kund. Upon letting the water sit for some time, it would become warm – much warmer than the cold water flowing in the Ganga. People would then use this kund to bathe, as it was warm, inviting, and much more convenient than the river.
We had this ancient temple all to ourselves, but for an elderly pujari who was tending to the temple duties. He was a beautiful, kind soul and was so pleased to hear that we had come to recite the Vishnu Sahasranam.
Swamiji, who now carries the broadcasting equipment with him on all of his outings, quickly set up the broadcast to share our chanting with the online family.
We chanted together in beautiful unison, one page of names per breath.
As we continued, I noticed that our worship felt so intimate and so sentimental.
Imagine, sitting in that ancient Vishnu temple, chanting with Swamiji the Lord’s One Thousand Names, and offering every name with pure intent and intense devotion.
As we approached the end of the recitation, the speed of our chanting increased and Swamiji’s bhava became even more intense.
The temple, which we initially had all to ourselves, now started to attract people who were observing our worship.
Upon completion, Swamiji showed his love, respect and gratitude by gifting his very own orange sweater to the elderly temple priest. That priest is indeed very fortunate!
(Being in close proximity to Shree Maa and Swamiji on this trip has, without a doubt, shown me the art of giving. Shree Maa and Swamiji never stop giving! Whatever they have, wherever they are, and with no second thoughts – they give, they give more, and they keep on giving! What an excellent example for us to follow.)
The ecstatic priest was then given the opportunity to answer Swamiji’s questions, which was broadcast live for our family.
Swamiji asked the priest about his worship and what it was like living in the temple. The priest responded saying Satyam Shivam Sundaram: True Existence, Infinite Consciousness and Beauty.
The priest then told that his sadhana consists of the Vishnu Sahasranam, the Durga Saptashati, and sometimes he performed a Lakh (100,000) or more of his guru mantra japa every day.
Swamiji then asked if he could think of any other profession he would rather do for his livelihood, to which the humble pujari responded, “Only God would know if there was a better job than this!”
When the interview was finished, Swamiji thanked him and the gentle pujari bowed down, gave his pranams, and also blessed our online viewers.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Rishikesh and the Ganga
We traveled from New Delhi to Swami Ramkripaluji’s Ashram in Rishikesh. It is a beautiful ashram overlooking the Ganga.
The waters of the Ganga shine with beauty in the midday sun. It was hard to resist jumping in, so not long after arrival we went to take a bath in the river. The waters are cold but filled with divinity from the many Sadhus who have sat on her banks and sang the names of God.
This is a short video of the view of the Ganga from Swami Ramkripaluji’s Ashram. Please take Darshan of Ganga and let her Divine Waters wash over you:
In the evening we joined Swami Ramkripaluji for the ashram’s Arati. After singing many beautiful songs himself, Swami Ramkripaluji requested Shree Maa to sing his favorite sing, as he usually does, Atma Nivasi Ram.
The song means that Ram (God) lives in my Soul.
The next day we were again drawn to the beauty of Mother Ganga. Reciting the Chandi Path in the early morning on her banks was the greatest of privileges. It was as if the Divine Mother was there in the form of the river listening to the recitation.
Travelogue: Shree Adya Katyayani Mandir in New Delhi
Shree Maa and Swamiji love this temple and are known to frequent it on their trips to Delhi.
The temple was built in the 1970s, and covers close to 70 acres. It is a pilgrimage spot for devotees who constantly flock there to pay their respects to the Goddess.
He was a fascinating Sadhu, who sat in the location of the Mandir and told people that the Divine Mother had told him to build a temple there.
Upon entering the compound, we noticed there were separate mandirs for each of the deities like Maa Katyayani, Maa Mahishasurmardini, Ram-Sita, Radha-Krishna, Shiv-Parvati, Laxmiji, Ganeshji, Hanumanji.
In each of the mandirs, the architecture was awe-inspiring and the deities themselves were absolutely breath-taking!
We enjoyed going from mandir to mandir and paying our respects.
First, we worshiped the Shiva Lingam, chanting mantras while Shree Maa and Swamiji offered the various articles of worship: flowers, water, cloth etc.
Lord Hanuman, Lord Ram, Sita Devi, and Lakshman, were next, followed by the mandir dedicated to Radha and Krishna.
Shree Maa and Swamiji made offerings to each of them as we chanted their mantras.
Finally, we came to the temple of the Divine Mother in the form of Katyayani, who is one of the nine forms of Goddess Durga.
Pictures can’t express just how alive and real the Divine Mother looked. She was fascinating and I could not take my eyes off of Her.
The murti of the Katyayani is made of ashtadhatu, which is a combination of eight metals: gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, iron and mercury. She is a beautiful radiant gold color.
The priest opened the small gate to allow us to go closer to Her, so we could offer our worship.
Shree Maa offered a sari and flowers and then we all sat down in the center of the room to recite the Lalita Trishati.
Though the temple had a lot of visitors, Swamiji told the priest that we wanted to do special sadhana. As such, they tied a rope around where we were sitting to prevent the lines of visitors from disrupting us.
The constant flow of people often blocked our view of the diety, but every now and then, when the crowd lessened, we caught a glimpse of Her beautiful golden face.
When we finished chanting, Swamiji immediately stood up, grabbed the computer broadcaster and headed to the altar where the priest was sitting. Of course, Swamiji wanted to ask the priest a few questions for our online viewers.
Swamiji then asked him how long his puja typically would take to complete. The priest happily responded that he could perform the puja in five minutes or in five hours, depending on the situation.
Swamiji jokingly asked him if there was any limited on how long one could do a puja, to which the priest smiled and responded that there was no limit!
Swamiji then presented him with a copy of his own translation of the Chandi Path!
Afterwards we took darshan of another beautiful murti, Goddess Mahishasura Mardini, the Slayer of the Great Ego.
Upon departing, Shree Maa offered a red cloth to a tree in the temple.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Kali Temple and the Kali Sahasranam
On the night of Purnima, the full moon, we went to visit a Kali Temple in New Delhi and chanted the Kali Sahasaranam.
The temple area was quite large, and the priests recognized Shree Maa and Swamiji and greeted them with respect.
As we settled in, Swamiji easily set up the broadcast to share with the online viewers.
The recitation quickly became very strong as we became totally absorbed in the names of Mother Kali and the sanskrit vibrations flowed throughout the temple.
When we finished the text, Shree Maa and Swamiji made offerings of cloth, sweets and dakshina to the Goddess.
The priest also chanted some mantras for us and gave tilaks and prasad to everyone.
In that same temple, there was a Shiva Lingam which we worshiped with the the 108 names of Shiva, while Swamiji offered flower petals with each name.
We also chanted stotrams from the Advanced Shiva Puja book, offered a water bath to Lord Shiva, and a new cloth.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!
Travelogue: Shiva Temple at Ram Kund
Not only are there are number of beautiful temples within Ram Kund, but also it one of the four locations that host the Kumbha Mela.
The Kumba Mela is held every 12 years and devotees from all over India and the world gather at Ram Kund to take a sacred bath in its waters.
This particular location has gained importance because it is believed that Lord Ram bathed in the Ganges daily at Ram Kund while he was residing in Nashik.
Swamiji and the group walked the streets of Ram Kund and came upon a beautiful Shiva Temple which had a large white marble Shiva Lingam and an equally large white murti of Nandi.
Upon entering, it was apparent that we had this anctient temple to ourselves.
We were inspired to sit and recite the Shiva Chalisa and the sounds of our worship echoed in the small quiet temple.
We then sat in silence for a little while, taking the opportunity to become immersed in the divine vibrations of Lord Shiva. Hara Hara Mahadev!
Travelogue: Anandamurti Guru Maa’s Ashram
The group received darshan of four saints today all at the same time, as Shree Maa, Swamiji, and Swami Ramkripaluji took us to the ashram of the well-known Anandamurti Guru Maa.
To witness the gathering of these four saints was a special treat for all of us and I was eagerly anticipating what key learning I would take away to share with the Devi Mandir family.
When we arrived, I noticed a quiet peacefulness, as if time “stood still” here in this beautiful ashram, which was located far away from the hustle and bustle of the noisy city.
Guru Maa’s devotees kindly welcomed us all, gave us a Tilak of sandal paste, and offered us chai and water to drink.
They also honored Shree Maa, Swamiji and Swami Ramkripaluji with flower garlands.
After sitting down and greeting each other, our Swamiji joyously recited a special mantra for offering cloth as he gifted Guru Maa with a beautiful Sari that Shree Maa had picked out especially for her.
Then, Swamiji said the mantra for offering food and presented Guru Maa with sumptuous sweets.
Swamiji’s offering was so full of love and so exuberant that the surprised Guru Maa broke out in smiles and a joyful laughter.
I learned that the offering of gifts amongst the saints is a recognition of mutual respect and love between them. This mutual respect and love became even more evident as they all began to talk.
I noticed how comfortable they all were with each other. It was so refreshing to see that there were no pretenses amongst them. They were all so “down-to earth” and “real”, as if they had been friends in the past. It was a darshan that I will never forget!
Apparently, I was not the only on