KalyanUtsav of Lord Balaji

Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches us that we should only beg God for His service life after life. This is the actual meaning of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. When we are chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare Hare, we are actually addressing God and His energy, Hara. Hara is Krsna’s internal potency, Srimati Radharani or Laksmi. Jaya radhe! This is daiviprakrti, and the devotees take shelter of the daiviprakrti, Srimati Radharani. Thus the Vaisnavas worship Radha-Krsna, Laksmi-Narayana and Sita-Rama. In the beginning of the Hare Krsnamaha-mantra we first address the internal energy of Krsna, Hare. Thus we say, “O Radharani! O Hare! O energy of the Lord!” When we address someone in this way, he usually says, “Yes, what do you want?” The answer is, “Please engage me in Your service.” This should be our prayer.

–          His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Teachings of Lord Kapila)

Marriage is an occasion of great joy. In most traditions of the world, this ceremony is celebrated with great pomp and joy. These ceremonies are accompanied by great festivities including excellent music, decorations, finest foodstuffs,   fire crackers, and a lot more. It’s an occasion in which all relatives come together and work for the joyous event.

 

We are all children of God, Krishna, and out of His great kindness, the Lord gives us an opportunity to participate in His own marriage ceremony. What a great fortune this is! The same good fortune that was available to the residents of Mithila when Mother Sita was married to Lord Ramachandra, the same bliss that was available to the residents of Dwarka when Lord Krishna married princess Rukhmini, was made available to us when we celebrated the marriage of Lord Balaji with Andalat the New Vedic Cultural Center in Pune.

Perhaps you are hearing of Andalbefore or maybe she is completely new for you. In any case, I would love you give a short introduction to this Divine Couple.

Who is Andal?

Andal was a very great poet and saint who appeared in southern India in the year 3102BC. Infact, she is considered as one of the twelve Alvars (saints) and the only woman Alvar (saint). She is also believed to be an incarnation of Bhumi Devi, the Divine Consort of Narayana. AndalThiruppavai, the compilation of devotional poems sung by her, is still recited by devotees during the month of Margali.

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The life history of Andal tells us that Vishnucitta(also known as Sri PeriAlvar) found her, as a little baby girl, under a Tulsi plant in the temple garden of Srivilliputtur  (in southern TamilNadu). He gave her the name Godhai, meaning ‘the gift of Earth’. Vishnucitta brought her up in an atmosphere of love and devotion towards the Lord. The intensity of her love and dedication towards the Lord grew so much that she decided to marry Lord Ranganatha only and no one else.

As she grew, her determination to marry Lord Ranganatha also increased. She also started making a unique offering to the Lord. She used to wear a flower garland first herself and then offer it to God. As an explanation, she said that first wanted to see whether the garland looked good or not by wearing it herself and looking in the mirror. Only after she was convinced that the garland looked nice, did she offer it to God.

One day, her father saw her doing this and admonished her from repeating this act. Godhai made a new garland for the Lord. The same night, Vishnucittareceived a vision from the Lord, who told him that He heartily accepted Godhai’s offerings of the used garland, as it carried her fragrance. From that day onwards, Godhai came to be known as “Andal”, the girl who ruled over the Lord.

As Andal reached the marriageable age of 15, her father asked her to get married. She replied that she would marry only Sri Ranganatha. After this incident, Vishnucitta again received a divine vision, in which the Lord instructed him to send Andal to Sri Ranganatha Temple at Sri Rangam fully decorated as a bride. At the same time, the priests at Sri Ranganatha Temple also received a vision where the Lord ordered them to prepare for the marriage. As the bridal palanquin was entering Sri Rangam, Andalwas unable to control herself in her urgency to meet her beloved Lord. She jumped off the palanquin and ran into the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord Ranganatha and served Him eternally, never to be seen by common eyes.

A Living Tradition

When one is trained to become conscious of his position, he understands that he is the servitor of the Lord. “Brahman” refers to a state of self-realization. Even a devotee who is not advanced in knowledge of the Absolute Truth but who offers obeisances with great devotion, thinks of the Lord, sees the Lord in the temple and brings forth flowers and fruits to offer to the Deity — becomes imperceptibly liberated. Sraddhayanvitah: with great devotion the devotees offer worshipful respects and paraphernalia to the Deity. The Deities of Radha and Krsna, Laksmi and Narayana, and Rama and Sita, are very attractive to devotees, so much so that when they see the Deity decorated in the temple, they become fully absorbed in thinking of the Lord. That is liberation.

–          His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Teachings of Lord Kapila)

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This wedding of Lord Balaji and Andal is still celebrated in India today. During the month of Margashirsh, the Dhanurmasa Festival is celebrated in memory of this story that had occurred in ancient times.

In keeping with this tradition, a similar ceremony was held in the ISKCON NVCC’s Balaji temple. Every day of the Margashirsh month was celebrated by worshipping Andal with Lord Balaji.  Verses of the Thiruppavai composed by her were sung. On the last day, i.e. the Purnima day of Margashirsh month, a grand marriage ceremony of Andal and the Supreme Lord Srinivasa was held in the traditional Sri Vaishnava style. This day fell on Sunday, January 12 of the New Year. The preparations for the wedding were carried for several days. Devotees were very enthusiastic in making various arrangements for the wedding. The temple was decorated very gorgeously with flowers, rangolies and various traditional arts. Authentic south Indian musicians were invited for playing auspicious sounds during the marriage.

The ceremony started with a fire yagna in the early evening. The Balaji temple was beautifully decorated with auspicious garlands and lamps. South Indian priests  performed the wedding. Lord Balaji and Andal were brought before each other in traditional south Indian custom. Both were dressed very gorgeously and looked the perfect couple. Devotees came in from all quarters to witness this most auspicious occasion.

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Devotee couple HG Shyamrasprabhu and his wife Vrajdevipriyamataji came especially from Bombay to act as the bride’s party and did the kanyadanam of Andal. Devotees were enthralled by the continuous chanting of Vedic mantras and the South Indian style music of the mridangam and nadaswaram. Many devotees prepared bhoga offerings for the Lord. A grand fireworks display also marked the occasionand wonderful prasadam of various kinds was distributed to everyone. It being a Sunday evening, many devotees and newcomers alike were able to witness the event.

The preparations and the ceremonies have left an indelible impression on our minds. We hope and pray that we get opportunities to serve the divine couple in any small way in the future as well.

-by Preeti Katkar