Joyous Jagaddhatri

Sri Lalita Sahasranama in its 173 verse speaks of Goddess Tripurasundari as Jagaddhatri
Vishvamaataa jagaddhaatri vishaalaakshi viraagini
Pragalbhaa paramodaaraa paraamodaa manomayi 
Vishvamaataa: Who is the Mother of the Universe,  Jagaddhaatri:  Who is the holder of the universe, Vishaalaakshi: Who has large eyes, Viraagini: Who is utterly passionless, Pragalbhaa: Who is surprisingly daring, Paramodaara: Who is supremely generous, Manomayi: Who is all mentation.

Divine Mother Sri Sri Jagaddhatri in full regalia - clay image used for worship at Ranchi Ramakrishna Mission TB Sanatorium, Courtesy: Raju

Today is navami tithi when Sri Sri Jagaddhatri puja is performed in the eastern parts of India. After the Master’s puja this morning I was immersed in the thoughts on Ma Jagaddhatri. There is a beautiful hymn on Her which when repeated gives an elevating experience. To my heart’s content I chanted this Jagaddhatri stotram.

In the Ramakrishna tradition, Jayarambati, where Holy Mother Sarada Devi was born, this puja was started. I wrote earlier about the famous Jagaddhatri puja in Ranchi Sanatorium with the title Magnanimous Mother wherein I gave the mythological backround and how it all began at the Sanatorium where TB patients are treated. It is indeed interesting how this charming puja began at Jayarambati itself and how Holy Mother was involved in it. I reproduce some extracts from Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi written by Swami Gambhiranandaji Maharaj.

Once, at the time of Kali worship, Nava Mukherji, as a result of some village feud, did not accept the gifts of rice and other things from Shyamasundari Devi, which were her contribution to the joint endeavour at worship. She had gathered together these things with the greatest effort and utmost sincerity; but another man’s cruelty now deprived her of the chance of offering them to the Deity. Her sorrow was so painful that she spent a sleepless night and went on repeating, ‘This rice I prepared for Kali, and this has not been accepted! Who will now eat this? Indeed it is Kali’s rice, and nobody else can eat it!’ Then a Deity appeared to her in a dream and awakened her by patting her body. Opening her eyes, Shyamasundari Devi saw the Deity, red in hue, sitting near the door with one leg placed over the other, who said, ‘Why do you weep? I shall eat Kali’s rice. Why do you worry?’ Shyamasundari inquired, ‘Who are you?’ The Deity replied, ‘I am the Mother of the Universe: I shall accept your worship as Jagad-dhatri.’

Next morning, Shyamasundari Devi said to the Holy Mother, ‘Dear Sarada, who is that Deity with red hue, resting one leg on the other?’ The Mother said, ‘She is Jagad-dhatri, to be sure.’ Grandmother then said, ‘I shall worship jagad-dhatri.’ She went on talking about that worship off and on. She secured from the Vishwas family about 400 lbs. of paddy. It was then raining incessantly. Grandmother said, ‘Mother, how shall I worship you? I can’t so much as dry the paddy.’ But through the grace of’ the Goddess it so happened, that though it rained all around, grandmother’s mat, on which the paddy was spread, had plenty of sunshine; and she got it husked and converted, into rice. The clay image of the Deity had to be painted after drying it under fire. Uncle Prasanna went to Dakshineswar to invite Sri Ramakrishna for the celebration. But he said, ‘Mother will come, aye! Mother will come! ‘That’s. excellent. But weren’t you in very straitened circumstances, my dear?’ Uncle replied, ‘You have to come, I have come to take you.’ The Master said, ‘I am as good as already there. It’s fine. Go, and have the worship. It’s fine indeed! It will do you good.’ The worship was duly performed. Many people from far and near were invited and heartily fed. The rice was enough for all. At the time of the immersion of the image grandmother whispered in the ears of the Goddess, ‘My dear, Jagai, do come again next year. I shall be making arrangements for you all the year round.’

Next year, grandmother said to the Holy Mother, Look here, dear, you too should contribute something; my Jagai (Jagad-dhatri) will be worshipped.’ The Mother remonstrated, ‘I can’t bear all that trouble. It’s enough that you had the worship once; why rake up troubles again? There’s no need; I can’t do it.’ Then she saw three figures in a dream at night – Jagad-dhatri, with her maids Jaya and Vijaya – who said, ‘Well, shall we go then?’ ‘Who may you be?’ the Mother queried in surprise. I am Jagad-dhatri,’ said the Deity. At this the Mother said in great consternation, ‘No, where will you go? Do stay on, I didn’t ask you to go.’ Thenceforth the worship continued uninterruptedly for some years. The Mukherji family had not then enough hands to help in the festival. So the Holy Mother had to be present every year for scouring the utensils and doing some other odd jobs.

As the day of immersion of the image on the first occasion happened to be a Thursday sacred to the goddess of fortune, the Holy Mother objected to bidding farewell to Jagad-dhatri on that day. The next day was the last day of the month, and the next the first day of another month. Hence the immersion took place on the fourth day.

The worship in the first four years was performed in the name of Shyamasundari Devi, in the second four, in the name of the Holy Mother, and in the next four in the name of her uncle Nilmadhav. The Holy Mother felt no need for continuing the worship after twelve years, because all had had their names formally proposed as worshippers. That very night after she had made the declaration, the Deity appeared to her in a dream and intimated that the family of Madhu Mukherji’s aunt had it in mind to worship Her, and asked her three times, ‘Shall I go then?’ The Holy Mother realized that Jagad-dhatri wanted to leave her after getting her affirmation; and so she took hold of the feet of the Deity and said eagerly, ‘I won’t let you go any more, I shall worship you every year.’ With this determination in mind, she later on secured about three and a half acres of paddy land with which she made a trust for the continuance of the worship. With the income from this land and some contributions from devotees, the authorities of the Ramakrishna Math, Belur, perform the worship every year with due pomp, at the Mother’s temple at Jayrambati. And as in the first year, so now too, the worship continues for three successive days – on the first day with all ceremonials but on succeeding days not so elaborately as was the custom during Mother’s lifetime. One on each side of the main Deity Jagad-dhatri, are placed images of Jaya and Vijaya. The devotees of the Holy Mother believe that as the Mother was none other than Jagad-dhatri Herself, when the latter is worshipped the Holy Mother too is adored as a matter of course.


Celebrations in South Africa

The Birthday of Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda

The 145th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda was celebrated at the Centre, Glen Anil on Saturday, 26 January 2008 (4:00 – 6:00 p.m.). The programme commenced with the chanting of invocation hymns by the Centre’s Choir group, singing of A Hymn to Swami Vivekananda and devotional bhajans by the Satsang Group.

The Keynote Address was then delivered by Sri Swami Vimokshanandaji. The Swami stressed that the ideals and values that Swami Vivekananda taught were universal in nature and would be beneficial to the South African society as a whole to develop in appreciating “other” cultures so that human society can live in peace and progress.

A DVD presentation on the Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishtan Hospital in Kolkata, India was then shown. The audience had the glimpses of the early phases of the Ramakrishna Movement in India which was service-oriented to the suffering public as taught by Swamiji. The DVD was appreciated by one and all for its graphic account on the development of the leading Hospital. Thereafter, the Guest of Honour, Mr Jeph Mtshali (General Manager: Tourism & Corporate Strategy; Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism – KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Ministry), addressed the congregation on the topic “Intercultural Understanding”. He drew parallel observations from Swamiji’s teachings in order to bring a unified view on the understanding of the different cultures.

A graceful kathak dance by Kumari Sasha Naidoo followed. The programme concluded with peace chants led by Pravrajika Ishtaprana of the Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville. Supper was then served to all devotees.

12th January

On 12th January which is Swami Vivekananda’s solar birthday, celebrated as National Youth Day in India, the Centre had an evening Satsang. Swami Saradananda of the Centre spoke on Swamiji and some of his dynamic aspects that give people strength of mind to face modern challenges.

Tithi Puja

As per Hindu Almanac, Swami Vivekananda’s birth tithi fell on Tuesday, the 29th January, 2008. In a quiet and solemn way, the tithi puja was observed with a few devotees joining in to sing the suprabhatam stotram at mangala arati. A detailed puja was done thereafter. In the evening during the weekly Gita class, Vimokshanandaji threw light on the duo rishis nara-narayana combination and how Swamiji as nara rishi as identified by his Master Sri Ramakrishna fulfilled the wonderful command of him in serving the poor, destitute and suffering people.

Youth Programme

Earlier, a Youth Programme to commemorate the Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda was held on Sunday, 13 January 2008 (7:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.), at the Centre, Glen Anil.

The programme commenced with satsang, which included the chanting of kirtans and bhajans, a reading from Swami Vivekananda’s “Complete Works”, meditation and peace chants. Thereafter the youth proceeded to the Swami Nischalananda Hall for breakfast. A Youth Seminar on Swami Vivekananda was then conducted, and the following topics were discussed:

Swami Vivekananda and the Rise of India

Processing Youth Energy according to Vedanta and Vivekananda Literature

The never-ending source of Life

After a short break, a DVD presentation of the address by the Honourable Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the former Prsident of India on Youth Day (Ramakrishna Mission, Porbandar, Gujarat, India – 12 January 2006) was shown. This was followed by a series of audio-visual presentations on the activities of the Ramakrishna Centre  of South Africa. The programme concluded with satsang. Lunch was served thereafter. Registration for this youth retreat was limited to 100 youth.

Celebration at other Natal centres

Swamiji’s birthday was enthusiastically celebrated in Northern Natal centres of Estcourt, Ladysmith, Newcastle, Dundee and Glencoe. Ladysmith Centre on this occasion distributed 500 hampers to the poor while Dundee Centre gave away fruit juices and bread packets to 250 black poor children. Newcastle Centre had a Youth programme.

Among the Southern Natal centres, Pietermaritzburg, Durban central, Chatsworth, and Phoenix centre celebrated the event with cultural items. Chatsworth Centre held a Youth Seminar also. In all these places, Swami Vimokshananda spoke on Swamiji’s life and teachings.