Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Swami Narayananda at the Balaji Temple in San Jose, Calif., July 4.


The Balaji Temple in San Jose, Calif., celebrated its fourth anniversary (fifth “Kumbhabhishekam”), from June 3 to June 5, writes Madhumita Banerjee. ­– @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #BalajiTempleSanJose #ArtofLiving #SriSriRavishankar


The celebrations began with devotees sitting down for ashtottari (108) kalash puja led by Narayananda Swami, June 3. Swamiji prayed to the Gods for their blessings for the Temple and the devotees’ family and blessed the devotees with dhotis and saris. He spoke about the significance of the kalash puja, where God was invoked and prayed to 108 (auspicious number) times by the attending families and priests.

Narayananda Swami with (l-r): Rishi Kumar, Pandit Habib Khan, Milpitas Mayor Jose S. Estevez, and Mrs. & Mr. Kansen Chu. (All photos: Balaji Temple)

Narayananda Swami with (l-r): Rishi Kumar, Pandit Habib Khan, Milpitas Mayor Jose S. Estevez, and Mrs. & Mr. Kansen Chu. (All photos: Balaji Temple)

After the conclusion of the puja in the temple Ananda Hall, the devotees sat down in the main temple for Mahalakshmi Abhishekam. Amidst Vedic chants the Goddess was venerated with milk, honey, yogurt and many sacred items. The prayer ceremony was performed by Swamiji, assisted by Vittala Nityananda Swami and some devotees, namely, Prabhuram, Thyagarajan, Parthasarathy and Chandrashekhar Vittaladas at the main altar.

After the end of the Shodashopachara puja Narayananda Swami in his brief speech thanked the devotees for their whole-hearted assistance in getting the arrangements done for the anniversary celebrations and blessed everyone with prasadam. Later the devotees enjoyed the tasty mahaprasadam for dinner cooked by Vijayalakshmi Narasimhachariar Tirumalai.

(L-r): Rishi Kumar, Kansen Chu and Cupertino Vice Mayor Savita Vaidhyanathan  presenting appreciation plaques to Narayananda Swami.

(L-r): Rishi Kumar, Kansen Chu and Cupertino Vice Mayor Savita Vaidhyanathan presenting appreciation plaques to Narayananda Swami.

The second day of the celebrations, June 4, started with devotees sitting down to finish 108 kalash puja in the Ananda Hall. It was the day of the auspicious Shanaischar Jayanti. Swamiji invoked the Gods and Goddesses blessings for the Balaji Temple and the devotees and the kalash puja concluded.

With a few devotees to assist him, Narayananda Swami ceremonially released the first print of the “Char Dham Yatra” book. This book is a chronicle of the Char Dham Yatra undertaken by Narayananda Swami with a few Balaji Temple devotees in the year 2015, to the Char Dhams in Uttarakhand, India.

Narayananda Swami mentioned the importance of experiencing a pilgrimage like Char Dham Yatra in ones own life. Krishna Sheelam introduced Sharad Banerjee, a designer of the discussed book. Sharad Banerjee briefly spoke about his gratitude for Swamiji’s guidance for making this wonderful experience of the yatra possible and encouraged the devotees to make an effort to avail of a similar opportunity in future.

Elango Velayuthan thanked the volunteers and devotees for making the anniversary celebrations a huge success. He also thanked R.K. Swami for his huge help in completing the construction work around the temple in time for the celebrations.

Narayananda Swami with devotees praying to Sun.

Narayananda Swami with devotees praying to Sun.

The devotees followed Swamiji carrying the 108 kalashas from Ananda Hall by performing parikrama of the Temple grounds to the Main Temple. Narayananda Swami performed Abhishekam of Lord Balaji with the contents of the 108 kalashas. Vedic chants followed by Vishnu Sahasranama, prayers and songs by the devotees culminated in an ethereal ambiance. Finally, Lord Balaji gave darshan to his devotees in his Vishvaroop Avatar. Swamiji gave an uplifting speech and blessed the devotees with delicious Laddoo Prasadam made by Vijayalakshmi, Narasimhachariar Tirumalai, Padmavati Gottipati and Leena Chawathe. The devotees then proceeded to partake warm snacks of medhu vada, pulihodharai and piping hot chai. The kids had a frolicking time playing in the temple grounds.

Renowned Bay Area Indian Classical Music guru Pandit Habib Khan along with his disciples entertained the temple devotees with a rousing musical concert in the afternoon in the Ananda Hall. Local dignitaries, Kansen Chu, Assembly member 25th district; Savita Vaidhyanathan, Vice Mayor, City of Cupertino; Jose S. Esteves, Mayor, City of Milpitas; and Rishi Kumar, Saratoga City Councilmember; graced the uplifting cultural program.

Narayananda Swami carrying “kalash” with devotees.

Narayananda Swami carrying “kalash” with devotees.

Mahesh Nihalani was instrumental in coordinating the visit of the dignitaries. Elango and Prasanna received the dignitaries. In recognition of the dedicated service provided by the Balaji Temple and Narayananda Swami over the years, spreading the message of peace and Indian Hindu Cultural Heritage, the dignitaries individually presented Swamiji with commemorative plaques as a token of appreciation. Swamiji felicitated them in a true Indian tradition of atithi devo bhava (guest is God).

Swamiji attentively sat through the musical program and blessed the participants at the end of the program.

The day ended with devotees enjoying a grand dinner sponsored by Turmeric restaurant in downtown Sunnyvale, courtesy of Arvind and O.P. Choudhary.

Narayananda Swami (c), with [r-l]: Manoj Bhamra, Prabhu Goel, R.K. Swami, Rajkumar, Habib Khan, Elango Velayuthan, Vittala Nityananda Swami, Mahesh Nihalani, Sharad Banerjee, Parthasarathy, Krishna Sheelam, and Thyagarajan.

Narayananda Swami (c), with [r-l]: Manoj Bhamra, Prabhu Goel, R.K. Swami, Rajkumar, Habib Khan, Elango Velayuthan, Vittala Nityananda Swami, Mahesh Nihalani, Sharad Banerjee, Parthasarathy, Krishna Sheelam, and Thyagarajan.

The last day of the celebrations, June 5, started with a melodious flute recital played by Shreyas Bharadwaj, accompanied by Keshavan Narayanan Srivatsan on violin and vocal and by the youngest of the group Varchas Bharadwaj on mridangam. The enchanting rendition in Indian classical Raga by these three young blessed souls touched the hearts of the audience. Pradeep Joshi through his organization “Sangeet Dhwani” presented this fabulous program for the Balaji Temple anniversary. Narayananda Swami expressed his deep appreciation of the little talented artists and felicitated them with Dhoti and Angavastram and blessed them for a bright and prosperous future. Joshi and his unstinted dedication to bringing forth the local Indian classical musical talent to the local community was commented upon with a heartfelt gratitude from Swamiji.

The devotees were then swept into a marvelous Kalyanam Utsavam of Lord Venkatesh, Sridevi and Bhudevi. The joyous occasion ended with devotees offering Pushpanjali and Dakshina. After the completion of the divine marriage ceremony, the utsava murtys of Lord Venkatesh with His two brides, Sridevi and Bhudevi rode on a chariot (Rath) traveling the Temple Grounds giving Darshan to His devotees.

This special chariot was constructed by the temple devotees Puttapaiah, Ashok Chawathe and R.K. Swamy in the temple premises.

The wedding procession was accompanied by the priests chanting Vedic Mantras, devotees carrying umbrellas, billowing fans to the sound of bells, beating of drums, and blowing of conch shells.

Devotees sitting down for “kalash puja” in Balaji Temple Ananda Hall

Devotees sitting down for “kalash puja” in Balaji Temple Ananda Hall

The Rath Yatra arrived at the Main Temple door where a welcome home ceremony was performed and the chariot entered the Temple. This was followed by a grand Aarti. The overjoyed devotees venerated the Lord and hailed His glorious name and sought His blessings with pure devotion.

Narayananda Swami gave a brief speech on the motto of Balaji Temple and the selfless service and dedication to the lotus feet of the Lord. This marked the end of the Fourth Anniversary Celebrations of the Temple. The devotees proceeded for lunch. The tasty Mahaprasadam was cooked by a few women devotees of the Balaji Temple with great love and care. Thereafter the devotees were plied with fruits and sweets and savories from the divine marriage ceremony.

As for the Bhagavat Dharma, it merely means that whatever we do with our body, speech, mind, habit or ego, all such acts should be dedicated to God.