On 2015 Ugadi eve, we in South Indian Society (SIS) were privileged to have a special satsang with His Holiness Sri Sugunendra Theertha Swamiji. He is the head of Shree Puthige Matha, 30th in a great lineage beginning with Sri Madhavacharya himself. It is one of the Ashta Mathas with a hereditary right to be in charge of the famous Udupi Sri Krishna Temple under the Paryaya system. During the Paryaya period of 2 years, the head of the relevant matha stays within the temple all the time, doing more than 10 pujas every day. The next 14 years, the other mathas get their turns.
The current Puthige Swamiji is one of the the youngest - while still in his teens - to have been a paryaya-swamiji in 1976-78. He has since done two more paryayas, 1992-94 and 2008-10. In 1997, he decided to travel abroad, to spread the authentic message of Lord Krishna. Since then he has visited 20 countries and has established several branches outside India, including 6 in North America. This is the first time he is spending a few days in London, doing his daily poojas, en route to the USA. On his way back to India, he has been invited to the Vatican for a meeting with the Pope.
20th March, 2015 was a particularly auspicious day: earlier in the day we had near 100% solar eclipse in the UK. It was the eve of Ugadi and also of Vasantha Navrathri that will culminate in 9 days in Rama Navami. It was also Amavasya thithi. So the Acharya decided to come early and do a Chandi patha and Durga Puja. Sri Yogendra Bhatt, the learned priest from the matha temple in New Jersey, did the puja, under the benign presence of the Swamiji. On arrival, the Swamiji was welcomed with traditional poorna kumbam and pada puja.
Durga puja is a rigorous and elaborate puja. First the yanthram, with precise measurements, is installed, using specially prepared coloured rice, with a silver lamp, kuthuvilaaku, at the centre. The core part of the puja is reciting the entire Durga sapthasathi. Also called Devi Mahatmiyam, ‘the greatness and magnanimity of the goddess’, and Chandi paatha, it comprises 700 verses. Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswathi are all invoked in the pooja.
For all those present, it was truly a rare opportunity to witness a traditional Durga puja in London, performed by a priest with authentic initiation into the puja and reciting.
Cradle Pooja for Lord Vittala
Durga pooja was followed by ‘thottil’ or cradle puja for Lord Krishna in his form as a child or Sri Vittala. Normally one sees this type of pooja only in temples in India. Finally, on behalf of all present, a guru pooja was performed for the Swamiji.
The Swamiji then delivered his Anugraha Bhashan. A summary of the speech is in the SIS website. The Swamiji extolled the virtue of Devotion. Quoting Bhagavat Gita, he said that where there are ‘ananya bhakthas’, with devotion and no other thought, there the Lord appears. ‘Sri Krishna’, he said, ‘has come to this place, to bless you all.’
Dr Nandakumara, Executive Director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London, thanked the Swamiji on behalf of all present. He said that it was a privilege to have come and witnessed the real pooja as it is done in Udupi and listen to his anugraha bhasan. Nandaji also quoted Bhagavatham to reiterate the Lord’s message: ‘Where there are devotees, there I am.’
The proceedings of a remarkable evening ended with everyone present receiving individual blessing and akshaya from the Swamiji.