Peethadhipati Swami Narayananda blessing performers. (All photos: Balaji Temple, San Jose)

Navaratri Durga Puja was celebrated with great devotion at Balaji Matha Temple in San Jose, Calif., writes Madhumita Banerjee.

On all of the nine days Sri Sri Chandi Parayan and Chandi Hom (fire ritual) was conducted in the temple premises by Swami Narayananda.  Devotees were graced with Darshan of Maa Durga, Maha-Lakshmi and Devi Kanyaka Parameshwari in different attires.  Sometimes she was Shakambhari Devi, appeasing the hunger of this Universe. Regally outfitted as Sri Sri Parambhattarika Lalita-Tripura-Sundari, Mother blessed Her devotees with Bhukti (satisfaction) and Mukti (salvation).  Maa Siddhidaatri was venerated with Phoolangi seva (decoration of flowers) gracing the devotees with blissful happiness.  Every evening prayers were conducted by Swamiji, with devotees chanting Mother’s glory. This was accompanied by Kumari Ka – Puja (prayers to the living Goddess in the female child).  Then the devotees enjoyed the performances of various local talents, of all age groups, and ended each festival day with preetibhoj.

Sri Durga Devi Pullangi Seva at Balaji Temple.

Swami Nityananda assisted in all the Poojas & Alankar.

On Sept. 30, Vijaya Dashami, the concluding day of the puja, Swami Narayananda led the devotees into praying to the Mother Goddess as Maha-Kaali (Power of Universal Knowledge Tatvagnan-Shakti), Maha-Lakshmi (Power of Soul: Sadatmak-Shakti) and Maha-Saraswati (Power of Mind: Chit-Shakti), seeking Her everlasting love and blessings. Swamiji prayed to the Goddess of learning, Maha-Saraswati, to bless the children and others in their endeavors.  He explained why we, children of the Universal Mother, should pray to Her, Who in these three forms is the prevalent “World Sustaining Energy.” She is the un-abiding force, that steers the inert mass of all that makes this Universe, come alive.  Maa Saraswati through Her benevolence energizes our mental prowess; then acquiring the blessings of Maa Kaali enables us to contemplate the reason behind the existence of this world.  When these exercises come to fruition, then Maa Lakshmi fills the aspirants existence with bliss.

Peethadhipati Swami Narayananda blessing performers.

Sumangali-Puja was conducted on this day.  This is a prayer specifically conducted by and for all married women present, as Mother Goddess is present on this earth in this form too.

Swamiji spoke about the significance of Durga Puja and the Nava-Durga (nine manifestations of Maha Shakti Maa) that we pray to during these Navaratri (stretch of nine days).  First as Shailaputri, she is revered as the daughter of the King of mountains, Himavan. Second, She is Brahmacharini, the ascetic virgin. Third as Chandraghanta, She carries the Moon on Her bell-shaped crown. Fourth, She is Kushmanda, referring to Her as the Mother of this Universe. Fifth, Skandamata is the Mother of Lord Kartikeya, the commander of the army of Gods. Sixth, She blesses us as Katyayani, the daughter of Sage Katyayan. Seventh, Kaalraatri is the fierce manifestation of MahaKaali, destroying the darkness of ignorance. Eighth, as serene MahaGauri, She is effulgent MahaLakshmi. Ninth manifestation Siddhidaatri, is MahaSaraswati, when the grace of the Almighty Mother blesses us with the benevolent culmination of all universal achievements (Siddhis).

Peethadhipati Swami Narayananda blessed kid for Aksharabhyasam.

Peethadhipati Swami Narayananda spoke to the devotees about the significance of our heritage of Sanatan Hindu Dharma.  He asked the devotees to follow the age-old heritage of Hinduism with honesty and pride.  Swamiji, urged the devotees to be faithful to our Hindu heritage and practice it with patience and tolerance.  He stated that the devotee needs to be attentive to their religious education, dedicate a part of their time seriously, even if once a week, but in a disciplined manner.  Swamiji stated that while praying, pray faithfully with understanding.  At home, or at temple one should be sincere in their prayers.  However demanding life is, one has to leave everything aside for some time and focus their concentration on the Almighty.  He maintained that the householders should help their partners in prayers, as they support each other in their daily lives. Swamiji concluded His speech by emphasizing that we need to realize the important role we have been given as a human being.  We should endeavor to make our lives fruitful with the help of the jewels of learning in the Hindu scriptures. One should allow oneself space and time to study the Hindu scriptures and for soul searching to comprehend their roots. Our prayers are our conversation with God. Our ascension is in our hand. As Hindus, we should consciously apply the values of Sanatan Hindu Dharma faithfully and diligently to our lives both inside and outside our home.  This will enable us to uplift our lives and surroundings, and in turn help our fellow humans and spread happiness to enrich Mother Earth.