Navaratri Day 4
On her tour of India, Shree Maa and the group visited the Bagalamukhi temple.
Walking up the road on Nilachal Hill, the streets changed from the red and gold of Kamakyha Maa’s offerings to the golden yellow of offerings for Bagalamukhi Devi.
One of the ten Devi Mahahvidyas, She Whose Face has the Power to Control has a golden complexion, wears a yellow sari, and sits in an ocean covered with yellow lotuses. She is said to bestow the boon of stunning one’s adversaries into silence. Her glowing yellow temple perches in a forested hillside.
In the evening, we made preparations to take our arati around the Kamakhya temple with clay torches, burning frankincense, camphor, and coconut husk.
Just as we were preparing to enter the temple gates, I heard drumming. From around the corner burst a raucous band of young drummers, dancing girls, and horde of tumbling kids to join our procession. My mouth literally dropped open for the time it took to process that something like a Bollywood musical number had just sprung to life around me.
Everyone carried a different offering into the temple. Shree Maa danced to the rhythm of the drums. We had bells, fans, umbrellas, the boom of a conch, lights, torches, incense, the whole shebang.
It was like a dance party crossed with a parade for the delight of the Mother. People showered Shree Maa with flowers and petals. At one point Maa showed her moves in the center of a circle of sparkling teenage girls.
Please forgive the quality of the pictures. Dancing, waving an umbrella, and acting like a bouncer for Shree Maa kept me pretty occupied. One mischievous little boy threw flowers into my mouth every time I opened it to chant “Jai Maa!” I definitely swallowed a few petals!
That just may have been the most fun I’ve ever had at arati.
Shree Maa Ki Jai!
Kamakhya Maa Ki Jai!
Navaratri Days Two and Three
Chandi Homa under the sky with Shree Maa might be my favorite way to start the day. Maa led this morning with lots of shakti for an extra kick.
After Homa, we went to Shree Maa’s brother, Poltu’s house for lunch. Shree Maa’s sister, Bhula, and niece, Supurna, welcomed our Mother with malas and smiles.
Shree Maa’s family generously adorned us all with traditional Assamese gamchas. The men on tour (Prasanth, Pranavananda, and Raj) pose graciously with their cloth.
Our trip even included cooking lessons. Bhula, Shree Maa’s sister, gave Ashish some cooking lessons and big smiles always followed as we devoured the dishes. Bhula cooks almost as well as Shree Maa! It must run in the family.
Shree Maa told a story about a modest pot of kitchari. Many worried about running out of food but Shree Maa said, “Don’t you touch that pot! I will serve!” After serving hundreds of people, there was still food left. Her amazing grace!
Having been constantly stuffed on this magical pray, sing, eat, eat, eat tour with Maa for a couple weeks now, I laughed and said, “Never ending food would be your miracle, Maa.”
Swami Pranavananda said, “It’s a siddhi, actually. Annapurna siddhi.”
Maa laughed and said, “There is no doubt I have Annapurna siddhi!” All our laughter jiggled bellies stuffed after yet another gorgeous meal.
On the way back from lunch, we visited the cremation grounds and Kali temple that Shree Maa used to visit alongside the Brahmaputra River. Here, the Brahmaputra River runs by the cremation grounds.
Maa told the story of a physics professor whose husband died in a scooter accident. After his funeral rites, the bereaved wife never left these cremation grounds.
The lady sat there for years, barely uttering a word, just “writing, writing, writing,” Maa said.
If you asked her what she was writing, the woman would only say it was the future.
Shree Maa used to visit her and bring her new saris and petticoats because she always wore the same old sari.
Shree Maa said the spirits of the cremation grounds wrote through this woman. The local people would bring her paper so that she could continue her “writing, writing, writing.”
This story beautifully shows how, when we empty ourselves, God will work through us and things automatically come to us. No struggle is necessary when we are aligned with God’s intent.
We then visited a Kali Temple near the cremation grounds. Every day with Shree Maa is so inspiring!
Adventures in Assam and the First Day of Navaratri
While in Assam, we visited the Bhuvanesvari Temple, the Goddess as Ruler of the Earth that reigns from the pinnacle of Nilachal Hill.
Bhuvanesvari is one of the Das Mahavidyas, or one of the ten great forms of knowledge, symbolized in the ten faces of Mahakali that we see on the Cosmic Altar.
Here is a lovely picture of Shree Maa’s sister Bhula, the preist from the Kamakhya temple, Prashant, Kamalama, Shree Maa, and Swami Pranavananda outside the temple:
This is Shree Maa and Kamala leaving the temple:
Swami Pranavananda and Muni Baba acted as palki bearers for Shree Maa on the way back down from the temple of the Ruler of the Earth. It was so nice to see Shree Maa was in such good hands!
The next morning was the first day of Navaratri and we were thrilled to get to the Kamakhya temple.
The Kamakhya Temple is one of the 51 Shakti Pithams and honors the ten Mahavidyas: Kali, Tara, Sodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika.
The temple itself was adorned with multiple garlands on the outside.
Most of our group got in line at 4:00 am for the darshan of Kamakyha Maa.
It was the best time I’ve ever had in line for four hours.
The people around us joined in as we sang mother songs.
When we reached a stopping point in the line for a couple hours, we sat down and Swami Pranavananda led us in chanting the Chandi Path. It was an interesting recitation as people were literally stepping on us and climbing over us.
The priests escorted Shree Maa inside without her waiting. The black ancient stone walls are covered in worn carvings caked with sindur. Brilliant red hibiscus flowers adorn every surface. It was wonderful to find Shree Maa already inside the temple making offerings.
After our darshan, Shree Maa visited with one of the temple priests.
Then Swami Pranavananda led us in the first of nine Chandi homas on the roof of our guest house. Shree Maa had a view of the main Kamakhya temple. And we could see the misty blue hills of Assam surrounding us.
For evening arati we all joyously packed Shree Maa’s room with songs and devotion.
Navaratri in Assam
While in Assam, we spent a couple days finalizing our plans for Navaratri. We rounded up supplies and hunted for the perfect place to do the homa. Our sankalpa was to do Chandi homa all nine days to pray for universal peace.
Kamakyha is the Shakti peeth said to be the resting place of the yoni and womb of Sati. Our hotel overlooked the beautiful roof of the temple:
The temple pundits allowed Shree Maa alone the darshan of Kamakhya Maa without the four to five hour wait in line. Maa came out and said, “Wow. What a darshan!” Though she said there were so many people that she was nearly crushed.
Later, after arati, we performed padi krama (walked the temple three times) and Shree Maa offered lights to the Goddess. What was amazing was we were blessed with no crowds!
The next day, we did padi krama again, and afterwards Shree Maa led the assembled crowd in bhajans. Can you find her in the picture below?
They gave our beloved Mother a front row seat and the microphone. She was amazing! Maa sang – Oh, how she sang! Even the temple dogs came over to gaze longingly at the Mother -seriously!
Afterwards, the crowd swarmed towards Maa for her blessing.
It was like a “mosh pit” for the Mother (like swarming a rock star for you older folks not familiar with “mosh pit”).
We formed a protective circle around Shree Maa, but people literally dove under our legs to get to her. I can’t say I blame them!
On day six, we filmed evening arati at Kamakhya:
We offered lights again afterwards and called it a night!
What a trip – and now Shree Maa is on her way back home to the United States. Stay tuned for the arrival date.
Last Days in Delhi and Arrival in Assam
On our last evening of Delhi, Shree Maa’s cousin and her family joined us for arati and satsang.
Here are Shree Maa’s cousin’s grandchildren. It was up for some good-natured debate whether there was a family resemblance or not. When I showed Maa this photograph, she agreed that the granddaughter looks similar to her.
In this beautiful kumari, perhaps there is an echo of what Shree Maa looked like as a girl.
Today the charming Rupam, Sanjay, and their daughter Diksha came to take us on a tour of Delhi. First we went to the ancient Qutb minar, the 12th century victory tower.
Then we went to visit the Lotus Temple of the Baha’i faith. Inside, it was a vast simple space full of light for people of all faiths to pray in silence to the Divine. It was a like a temple for Savarni, He of all Castes, Tribes, and Colors. A temple for all of us.
This temple reminded me of Shree Maa saying, “Be simple. Be true. Be free.” So may it be for us all.
Next, we flew from New Delhi to Guwahati, Assam. Here are Shree Maa and devotees having a chai break in the airport.
￼When we landed in the airport Shree Maa’s brother Poltu and niece Supurna, greeted her with smiles and flowers.
We are now safely under the wing of Prashant Baba, a devotee of Shree Maa and Swamiji, who manages our logistical lila: scheduling, hiring taxis, translating, bartering, serving, and helping Maa.
￼Here, Prashant is bargaining for Kamalama with the Kamakhya temple in the background!
On top of a forested hilltop, the Kamakyha temple area bursts with people, animals, and outdoor shops draped in red.
We checked into the hotel right next to the temple and found a gazebo in a museum garden to chant the Chandi Path, surrounded by artifacts.
Maa’s sister Bhula and niece brought Shree Maa the most delicious food for lunch. The second the subji hit my tastebuds, my body melted because it reminded me of Maa’s cooking.
Abundant eating is part of Shree Maa’s blessing! We are so excited to spend Navaratri here in Assam with Shree Maa, her family, and Kamakhya Maa. Maa said, “It is my birthplace.”
Day 3 in Delhi
Today we visited Katyayani Mandir Shakti Peeth to make offerings to Katyayani, The Ever Pure One.
Shree Maa and all of us in her entourage were treated with the utmost respect.
I left my shoes in the car and walked barefoot to the temple. I rather liked the pilgrim feeling of having filthy feet and a pure heart. Even so, next time I will probably keep my socks on!
The temple priests guided us past the throngs of people, and behind the gate so that Shree Maa could get close as the priests performed a puja. It seemed fitting that being with Mother unlocked the gate so we could get closer to God.
This is the silhouette of Shree Maa’s hand just as she offered a flower to the golden face of The Ever Pure One.
Then we sat in an open circle and Maa led us in singing a few chapters from the Chandi Path and the Mahishasura Mardini stotram, the hymn of victory to the Goddess as Slayer of the Great Ego.
Our small group grew as people gathered and filled the carpets around us. The bhava increased right along with them.
Afterwards, the pundit guided us to a private room where they offered us prasad, chai, and stories about the founding of the temple.
We also visited the majestic adjacent Lakshmi temple.
In the evening Swami Pranavananda guided us through Vishnu Sahasranam Homa.
Today was packed with devotion. Even through my exhaustion (or jet lag), I can hardly wait for more.
Day 2 in Delhi
We visited the Kali Bari temple where we received the darshan of Kali, She Who is Beyond Time. Kali takes away all our darkness. Maa blessed the pundit, made offerings, and asked the pundit to bless Sanjay’s health.
Then we went sari shopping in Sarogini market. The discard pile of cottons and silks grew into a mountain. The army of shopkeepers scrambled to fulfill Maa’s specific requests. Sanyasi orange turns out to be surprisingly hard to find.
Then we hunted through the chaos of Sarogini market for sun umbrellas for Maa and me. Maa told me in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t wear my sun hat because it would make me look like a foreigner!
Joydeep’s family came back for arati again tonight and afterwards this remarkable family shared more stories of their multi-generation devotion to Shree Maa. Maa said Joydeep would know that she had come by her smell alone. She described him as “Very strong in truth. He suffered for truth.”
Joydeep took his bride Parvati to meet Shree Maa in 1975. Joydeep told Parvati that that Maa was the Divine Mother, but Parvati had her doubts. She said to Joydeep, “If she really is the Divine Mother, then she will know to give me this exact garland.” On meeting Parvati, Shree Maa immediately placed that very garland around Parvati’s neck. Parvati started crying and said “I’m sorry I doubted you.”
Parvati emotionally told us that upon his death, Maa called her to say, “Don’t worry, I kept him with me.”
This story is one of joy and continuity, for this evening Maa bounced Joydeep’s adorable grandson, Raghavendra, on her knee and gave him his first taste of chocolate.
Shree Maa said, “Joydeep was my heart.”
We’ve met many families who drop everything to travel together to the feet of Shree Maa. To borrow a phrase from Muni (sadhu brother also on the trip) these loving, devoted families are “top shelf.”
Stay tuned for the next dose of adventures. May the Divine Mother bless us all.
Evening Arati at Kamakhya
Arrival in Delhi
After our separate flights, we rolled in at various times through the night and all made our way to Sanjay’s home in Delhi.
Today after our sadhana, Devitya and Sanjay drove us to the Fancy Store.
If you’ve seen the Cosmic Altar that we have now have at the Durga Sadhan Mandir, the Fancy Store would look very familiar to you.
All of the cloth, dresses, and adornments on the Gods and Goddesses over the years have come from this store.
The shopkeepers brought Shree Maa bolts of shimmering, sequined, and bejeweled fabric.
Shree Maa chose what she’d use to adorn the Devis and Devas, the Shining Ones, with even more light.
This evening Shree Maa was visited by long-time devotees, Joydeep’s wife and family, as featured in Living with the Soul. We shared arati, songs, and stories.
Divyansh is Joydeep’s son; his wife, Vaishali, shared this story:
Divyansh and Vaishali had been trying for a child for some time. Divyansh was in Calcutta, and heard that Shree Maa would be in Delhi, where Vaishali was taking classes. She rushed over for Shree Maa’s blessing right after class.
Shree Maa gave her blessing and a little plush Ganesh. Within the week, Vaishali discovered that they were expecting, even though her husband was in a different city! Upon the birth of Joydeep’s grandson, Raghavendra, the three of them were showered with love and gifts from Shree Maa and the US.
Our adventures in auto rickshaws, haggling, delicious food, and devotion to the Mother are only just the beginning!
On March 7th, Shree Maa and a group of devotees spent the night at Ashish and Abha’s exquisite home in San Francisco prior to an early departure for India out of San Francisco International Airport.
Shree Maa had her little Ganesh and her tiny puja items all packed up for the plane.
The Divine Mother never stops offering her love to God and to her devotees!
As we prepared to leave, we were all laughing through the logistical gymnastics required to get a show like this on the road.
We juggled rides – who would sit where.
We negotiated sleeping places.
We had many fun games of musical suitcases as we moved Shree Maa’s belongings between suitcases and tried to squeeze and optimize the space all the while staying within the weight limits.
I am sure this “musical suitcase” lila will continue throughout the trip.
All our luggage bears the tools of the Mother’s trade: puja supplies, gifts, even pots and pans for cooking!
I am lucky enough to be carrying with me Shree Maa’s MahaDeva and other treasures like yummy chocolate Horlick’s.
This is my first trip to India, and my first trip with Shree Maa. My name is Lauren Duker, and I have been asked to send in Travelogues and pictures to Pushpa for editing and posting. I am delighted to be in service to the Devi Mandir family and hope you enjoy reading about the trip.
On the evening before we left, two of Shree Maa’s devotees, Anita and Naren, held the loveliest satsang and dinner in their home. We first chanted the Devi Suktam and bowed to the myriad aspects of the Goddess around us and within us.
After chanting, Anita made the most wonderful food to nourish our bodies before our journey. Shree Maa especially praised Anita’s homemade chapatis!
Anita also shared her mother’s pickles which are made with mangos from her grandmother’s mango farm. Three generations of deliciousness!
So many came together to carry out various parts of our trip and I was touched by the planning, the behind the scenes support, and the harmonious contributions that it takes to make a trip like this happen – from Vish, Sadatma, and Abha giving us rides – to the people feeding us – to Munisha giving me extra clothes – and to a friend who took care of a dog so nobody missed their flight (long story!).
We even got support from the remote Goddess satsang, which is a global network of women who chant on skype regularly. This week they chanted the Aparajita stotram and gave us special blessings for a safe and victorious journey.
So many of you have helped, prayed, and made this possible. Shree Maa arrived at SFO in great spirits thanks to all of your efforts!
We carry all of your love with us. Please stay tuned for the next Travelogue!