July 18, 2010 – Final Day of Alwar Bhakthi Samarajya Mahotsavam – Sai Sathyanarayana Puja by 1100 couples

The culmination of the five day festival celebrating the devotion of the Alwars was to be on July 18 with the performance of the Sai Sathyanarayana Vratam (worship and vow of Lord Sai Sathyanarayana) in the Divine Presence. The morning saw the pushpabhishekam being performed to Lord Narayana (wherein 21 varieties of flowers were offered to the Lord) after the Veda chanting and bhajans.

About 1100 couples sat in neatly arrayed rows and columns in the Sai Kulwant Hall by 4:00 p.m. The Pooja (worship) in the traditional manner began at 4:30 p.m. with everyone following the instructions of the priest who was conducting the ceremonies over the microphone.

The decorations in the mandir were simply superb and elegant. There were huge pots that seemed upturned to let out a cascade of flowers. Fruits had been ‘taste’fully arranged along the skirting of the stage. Birds and animal statuettes too were part of the decoration. On entering the hall, one could feel a whiff of freshness and celebration. The air was saturated with the heavenly aroma of incense and camphor intermingled with the fragrances of the flowers and fruits.

The Sathyanarayana Pooja is performed before or on any major occasion like marriage, house warming ceremony, birth of a child, getting a new job, etc. It is also done during times of achievements as an offering of gratitude to the Lord.  Basically, it is an all-time worship which can be performed on any day for any reason.

That day, of course, it was very special. The worship was being done to Sathyanarayana Himself! (What a happy thing that Swami would be the presiding deity. It is also surprising that this idea to conduct the Sathyanarayana pooja on a massive scale in the Divine Presence did not occur to anyone before!) The worship began and all the couples religiously participated in it. When a major part of it was done, the priest said that everyone should pray for Swami’s arrival before doing the final offering.

And so, everyone began to chant the Sai Gayatri mantra. The chanting went on till 5:50 p.m. - the time at which Swami arrived. Swami was welcomed by the priests and He then moved into the Sai Kulwant Hall led by this delegation of Veda chanting priests. Swami took two complete rounds in the hall blessing all the couples who had gathered.

It was a grand sight - Sathyanarayana descending to bless His devotees as they performed the Sathyanarayana Pooja. Swami then took a round of the portico and arrived on stage. Now the final parts of the pooja were conducted by the priest and Swami was the presiding deity.

At the end, it is customary to read the glories of the Lord and very aptly, the story of Swami’s life was read out. It was a beautiful experience and after 25 minutes, when the narrator concluded, Swami blessed prasadam to be distributed to all. It is said that one must never miss the prasadam of the Sathyanarayana Pooja and the efficient distribution in hard leaf plates ensured that everybody received.

It was sumptuous and consisted of tamarind rice, sweet pongal, kesari baath and bobbattu. Swami now granted group pictures to the priests and also to the family that had organised the whole five day festival. Blessing them, Swami sat watching the distribution for about 15 minutes. At 7:15 p.m., Swami moved into the interview room. He retired to the residence about half an hour later.

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