Index of earlier Bulletins
August 10, 2006
The morning of 10th August began with great eagerness. It was the first of the eleven days of the Athi Rudra homam proper. Prior to 5:30 am the entire Kulwant hall was packed to capacity. At the centre of the hall was an ornate table in wood with a marble topping. On it was placed the pedestal with the Lingam. Overlooking the Lingam was a majestic array of homa kundas, eleven in all, the Pradhana kunda (primary pit) at the forefront and ten others distributed on either of its sides. Each homa kunda was in the shape of a square, 6 feet in extent. It attained a height of 3ft in a three tier fashion and had an inner diameter of 5ft. The priests had begun the day by getting the Lingam ready for Swami to do the prana prathista (installing life). They performed the kalahoma, angahoma, kalaavahana, Netronmeelanam and so on. Two groups of priests sat on either sides and were chanting the Arunaprasna in swasti (line wise chanting). The white-stone Lingam sat on its silver pedestal. On it was smeared a third eye of sandal paste and vermillion. It was decorated with a garland of bilva leaves. It had above it a silver-golden bowl, hanging from a support, with intricate carvings and studded with precious gems. The sublime settings appeared to be of another world so much unlike what we come across in mundane life.
Swami came out of the Yajur Mandir at 6:14 am. He was welcomed by the sonorous chanting of the Rithwiks, the nadaswaram, the conch and the gong. He came in the car and went about to give darshan. Everyone eagerly waited as Swami came over to the centre where the Lingam was placed. He got down from the car in front of the Lingam itself and was welcomed by the head priest with holy water to be offered to the Lingam. Swami was extremely gracious to get down there itself and to the joy of everyone present He proceeded to do the prana prathista for the Lingam. He was helped on to a pedestal and offered water which He sprinkled on the Lingam with the aid of a long brush braided from holy grass. He then tapped on the Lingam with the brush. Meanwhile the head priest performed the worship by offering turmeric, vermillion and sacred grains to the Lingam.
Swami then materialized a third eye for the Lingam. It was plate in gold 1 inch by 21/2 inch in size with a red gem at its centre. Swami Himself placed the eye on the Lingam below the sandal paste and vermillion mark. It stuck there and completed the picture. Swami looked at it till He was satisfied. The priest then performed Aarathi to the Lingam and to Swami together. Swami was all the time watching intently the third eye on the Lingam instilling it with power and vibrations. After a while He went around the table glancing and smiling at the Lingam. His look was that of a happy mother. It was a divine communication between the two forms of the same Divinity and a veritable feast for all our eyes.
In all the solemnity that surrounded Him Swami found time for humour in His own way. There was a wire hanging from a post appearing to obstruct Swami's way. When one person went to lift it above Swami's head, Swami smiled and conveyed to him that He would easily fit under it indicating His tiny frame! He then proceeded to the centre stage to the sofa and seated himself there indicating the commencement of the yagnam. The yagnam began with a song in Tamil by a small boy calling out to Lord Sankara as the mother and the father of all mankind. It set a tone of devotion to the entire proceedings.
At 6:40 am the head priest went to Swami with the Arani (a piece of carved wood to generate fire) used for creating fire out of wood and got them blessed. Then by a process called the Arani manthana, the priests created fire from two pieces of wood by churning one with the other. The fire began as a little cinder in the wood to which was offered dry fibre, grass and sticks. It consumed all of them in no time and became big enough to be placed in the Pradhana kunda. The head priest then went to Swami with the implements used for the yagnam like the silver and wooden spoons used for offering ghee into the yagna kunda and got them blessed by Swami. The priests then went about getting the Pradhana kunda ready for the yagnam through an elaborate Shaivagama procedure. In the meantime numerous logs of wood were offered into the pit feeding the fire that was slowly gathering in strength.
Swami watched with great attention as the fire began to consume bundles of wood as it raged and shot forth with its golden tongues consuming everything in its reach. Ghee was offered to it from a wooden spoon dipped in a golden bowl. In the meantime the two groups of priests had completed the arunaparayana and the suryanamaskara mantras. At 7:35 am the head priest spoke giving the significance of the event. He mentioned how fortunate the people were to have witnessed the prana prathista of the Lingam done by Lord Shiva himself. Prana prathista concludes with the naming ceremony of the Lingam and it was named as Saieeshwara. He then brought to notice the enormity of the occasion by saying that the yagnam had started in the holy star of Sravana, which is the star of Lord Vishnu and is set to complete on the star of Arudra, the star of Lord Shiva. There was resounding applause when he concluded that we all were blessed to have the Lord Sankaranarayana Himself amidst us.
This was followed by the panchamruta abhisekham for the Lingam. It consisted of worshipping the Lingam with various items such as water, milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, flowers, vibhuti-water, tumeric-water, and sugar. All this went on with the priests chanting excerpts from the Namakam worshipping the various parts of Saieeshwara, the Lingam. The panchamruta abhisekham ended with the priest pouring milk into the silver cup above the Lingam from which there was a steady trickle of milk onto the Lingam. All these were intently watched by Swami and every now and then, He would ask and clarify the various procedures. Everything was done as per His command.
At 7:45 the chanting of the Rudram began. The entire audience gathered in unison to chant the Rudram eleven times. At the end of the every chanting the head priest worshipped the Lingam with flowers and did arathi to the tune of the nadaswaram and the conches. After the second Rudram was completed Swami got up and proceeded to the interview room at 8:13 am. At 9 o'clock, He left for Yajur Mandiram. After the third Rudram chanting, the priests began to get the other yagna kundams ready for the yagnam. As the eleven times of the Rudram were completed the ten other yagna kundams were ready for the Rudra homam and Sai Gayatri homam. The rituals concluded with Mangalaharathi at 12:15 pm.
As the evening session of the second day's proceedings was to commence, everyone eagerly awaited Swami's arrival. The priests started the session at 3:10 pm, just before Swami's arrival. Swami came into the mandir at 3:20 pm amidst the vedic chants and music played by the naadaswaram troupe. The proceedings continued in Swami's presence. The head priest gave a sacred bath to the Shivalinga named 'Saieeshwara' and thereafter the ghanapaatha of the sacred mantra 'Rudram' continued as vibhuti abhishekam was performed on the lingam. Swami then went into the interview room at 4:25 pm and came back after 15 mins. Thereafter a scholarly exposition on 'Rudra' was given by Shri Srikantha Rao. Later the learned speaker went on to explain the efficacy of the Rudra - Namakam and Chamakam mantras. Then came a surprise package with two performances by child artists - rather, child prodigies. The first of them was a rendering of a stotram in praise of Lord Shiva. The boy was blessed with a chain created by Swami. The second performer was an 8 year old flute player, who played a famous keertana enthralling one and all present in the gathering. Immediately after these performances came the much awaited discourse from Swami. Swami began with his famous poem 'Khanda Khandantara........' and stressed on the stanza that described the rich culture of music, arts and literature as if to bless these little boys who performed splendidly. Bhagawan emphasized on the significance of 'yagna'-offering one self to God. In the course of the discourse Swami also told students the importance of good company and to speak politely without any trace of hatred or jealousy. After the Divine Discourse, Swami asked for bhajans to be sung while Prasadam was distributed to all. The day's proceedings ended with mangala aarati at 6.20 pm.
Images from August 10th are available at the Book Trust site.
During the Ati Rudra Maha Yagnam, Radio Sai will be broadcasting special half-hour capsules daily: The schedule page lists this programme as "Sounds from the Ati Rudra Maha Yagnam being conducted at Prasanthi Nilayam."