From Mumbai, Shree Maa, Swamiji, and our group made our way to Nashik, the home of the Jyotir Lingam named Tryambakeshwar. It was very pleasurable to have Swami Ramkripalulji in our presence as well.
Upon arriving at the temple, we were all given special permission to go to a darshan line for special guests so that we did not have to wait in the queue with the large crowd.
After taking darshan of Tryambakeshwar, our group sat down to recite the Shiva Sahasranam.
In the area of Tryambakeshwar, there are many pujari’s present waiting to do puja for people. Our host had appointed one priest to stay with our group so we would not be bothered. The reality turned out a little different.
The priest began reciting the prefatory mantras for taking the sankalpa.
Swamiji, Shree Maa and Swami Ramkripaluji chanted along with him.
The pujari, however, took the Sankalpa to recite the Rudri, consisting of two chapters from the Rudrashtadhayayi.
Swamiji politely informed the pujari that our group was planning to recite the Shiva Sahasranam and that we were not planning to sit idle while watching the pujari chant.
The pujari protested, saying that he had already taken the Sankalpa to chant his Rudra Path! Swamiji agreed that it was fine for him to chant the Rudra Path, but kindly requested the pujari to sit to the side.
In this way, we were all able to begin our own recitation of the Thousand Names of Lord Shiva. In Her loving way, Shree Maa offered flower petals with each name.
While we were chanting, our assigned pujari was reciting the Rudri in a very loud voice. It was apparent that he was not accustomed to Sadhus coming to the temple and performing their own worship.
However, the chanting of Swamiji and the rest of our group was much louder than the single voice of one pujari. In fact, we chanted with such vigor and entusiasm that the sound of the Shiva Sahasranam swept through the building, though there were several pujaris chanting in the small area near the Tryambakershwar Deity.
Our recitation captured the attention of several people in the line for darshan. It also drew pujaris and priests towards us, who came peering at the books and iPads to see what we were chanting.
In the most beautiful turn of events, the pujari who had been assigned to us finally decided to leave his recitation and to join in on our chanting! He was able to view the Shiva Sahasranam mantras from one our devotee’s iPad.
Playfully, during the recitation, when we reached names like “He Who Has Great Matted Hair,” our Swamiji would make a motion of offering toward Swami Ramkripaluji. For names involving Brahmans, he kindly pointed to our assigned pujari. Everyone enjoyed our devotional chanting and bhava.
On reflection, it was a joyous experience to be there in that ancient temple, where so many great sadhus had worshiped so many years ago. We sat in the same location. We chanted the same names of Lord Shiva. We worshiped Him in the same ways as our respectable ancestors and the great sages of old.
At the end of the Thousand Names of Lord Shiva, the priest quickly completed his sankalpa and sang a short song. Swami Ramkripaluji expressed his devotional bhava while singing a song about Sri Shankaracharya. We could feel the eyes of everyone in the temple looking upon us with gratitude.
Later that same day, we watched a special puja and procession for the deity of the Five Faces of Lord Shiva. Shree Maa, Swamiji and the group all watched as the Priests performed a silent puja to the faces of Shiva.
The Shiva Lingam wears the five faces like a cap, much the same as Shree Maa’s Shiva Lingam at the Devi Mandir.
Then, we also were blessed with darshan of His crown, which is believed to have been given to the temple by the Pandavas in ancient times.
Almost everyone in the city gathered to get darhan of the Faces of Shiva.
It was heart-warming to witness the devotion of so many people, who were standing in the hot sun with utmost respect and attention, with just on hope – to get a glimpse of the Lord and to watch His procession around the town.
The demonstration of pure devotion from the people residing in India is something that will long be remembered.
Jai Maa! Jai Swamiji!