July 14, 2010 – Day One of Alwar Bhakti Samrajya Mahotsavam

The Alwar Bhakti Samrajya Mahotsavam (ABSM) - a five day festival to celebrate the devotion and dedication of the twelve Alwars to Lord Narayana - started on July 14. Alwar means one who is immersed in the Lord; they were Tamil poet saints with ancient Dravidian Culture of south India who lived between the sixth and ninth centuries and espoused devotion or bhakti to Vishnu-Krishna in their songs of longing, ecstasy and service.

They are revered all over by the Hindus in particular and are considered as the different syllables of the 12-syllabled mantra - Om Namo Bhagawathe Vaasudevaaya. Thus they are regarded to have emanated from the different paraphernalia of Lord Narayana like the discus, the mace, the sword, etc. and are credited to have been responsible for bringing out the essence of the Vedas in Tamil.

It was in celebration of their love for God that this five day festival culminating in the Sathyanarayana Pooja was organised. The main stage in the Sai Kulwant Hall had an elaborate altar. The central figurine was of Lord Krishna annihilating the serpent Kalinga. The twelve Alwars were lined on either side of Him - six on each side. The idols of Ganesha and Garuda too were present.

At 5:15 p.m., Swami arrived for darshan. He took a complete round but when He came to the front, His attention was fully on the idols onstage. He made enquiries about them and straight moved up the stage. The preliminary worship was done and the priests got the various sacred items blessed by Swami. Bhagavan then lit the lamp to mark the beginning of the function. Doing that, He moved into the interview room as the Veda chanting continued.

He came out a few minutes later and sat listening to the Vedic chants. It was a nice experience to see Swami join in the Veda chanting at various intervals. It gave added enthusiasm to the chanting team and conferred inspiration to learn to those who had no idea of what was being chanted. After this went on for 15-20 minutes, Swami asked the organisers of the event what the programme for the evening was. There was a speaker who would elaborate on three of the twelve Alwars. Swami asked for the mike to be brought and then blessed Sri Vidwan Nidumamidi Srikanta Rao who was the speaker of the evening.

The learned speaker introduced the Alwars to the audience as he spoke in flowing Telugu. Soon he was narrating stories of love and devotion. He quoted Swami’s poem, “Allah enuchu” to emphasize the fact that the Alwars too were not biased by religion, caste, creed or race. The stories he narrated were all interesting. Swami however got “immersed” in the Alwars when he narrated the stories of Kulasekhara Alwar from Kerala who was actually the monarch of the land.

So involved was he in Rama that when the Ramayana was being narrated and the point where Rama stood facing the demonic hordes was reached, the Alwar would stop the narrative. He would then command the general to have the armies ready for battle on Rama’s side! Swami became very moved with this story and the next too which involved His great devotee Hanuman.

It was an interesting story set during the building of the great bridge of boulders to Lanka. All the boulders on which the name of Rama was written floated miraculously to constitute the bridge. But when Lord Rama threw a rock, it sank! Rama was perplexed it is said as he asked Hanuman the reason for it. Hanuman replied, “Lord! The power of your name makes the boulder float.

But when you don’t hold on to something and drop it, what else can happen other than it sinking!” These stories of pure love and devotion brought joy to all hearts who understood Telugu. Those that didn't were moved by the sight of Swami getting touched.

At about 6:45 p.m., the scholar concluded. Swami blessed him and enquired into the programme for the next day. Aarthi was taken and prasadam was blessed for distribution. Spending a few minutes in the interview room, Swami retired for the day.

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