Sri Ram Navami Celebrations at Atlanta Hanuman Mandir
Atlanta April19, 2014: Over 3000 people participated in the Sri Sita Rama Kalyanam organized by The Hanuman Mandir on the auspicious day of Sri Rama Navami. The festival celebrations started on the New Year’s Day Ugadhi or Gudi Padwa on March 31st and went on for nine days (Vasantha Navarathri) culminating in the grand Kalyanothsavam on April 8th. Each of these days was observed with a specific Homam (Sri Rama Naama, Manyu Sukta, Garuda, Hayagriva, Lakshmi Narayana, Sudarsana, Maha Sudarsana Narasimha, Narasimha), Ishti and Paarayanam.
The temple head priest Sri Srimannarayana Swami and Sriman Laxman Swami worked relentlessly during all the nine days in making this festival a truly divine experience for the entire congregation. The last four days of the festival witnessed special events where students and teachers from several top traditional dance schools in Atlanta performed much to the delight of hundreds of devotees. Carnatic musicians and Bhajan groups from around North Atlanta also utilized this opportunity to sing for the pleasure of their dearest lordships. Pallaki Uthsavam (palanquin procession) was celebrated in the premises of the temple on Sunday April 6th. Hundreds of devotees participated in the procession singing the glories of Lord Rama and Mother Sita and danced in extreme ecstasy where Lord Rama was carried on the palanquin. It looked as if Sri Rama had come to Alpharetta from Ayodhya to bless his sincere devotees.
The best of the 9 day festival was reserved for the last day where the divine couple Rama and Sita were brought together in the celestial wedding for Loka Kalyana Praapthi. The nine day Havan was concluded with Maha Purnahuti on the last day. Performing Kalyanam of Sri Sita and Rama on the appearance day of Sri Rama (Navami) has been a centuries old tradition in South India especially originating from the holy place Bhadrachalam which is considered Dakshina Ayodhya (Ayodhya of the South). The ceremony started at 6.45PM but by then hundreds of eager devotees are already waiting for the curtains to open. Arrangements were made in the yard to accommodate fifteen hundred devotees under the tents but the entire area was full in no time. Festival started by enthusiastic devotees chanting Jai Siya Ram. Soon, there was unprecedented crowd from all over North Atlanta who thronged to the temple to seek darshan of their beloved lordships. Special seating arrangements were made for senior citizens and handicapped. The festival was celebrated in authentic Vedic style wedding chanting the sacred mantras. Atlanta’s most senior priests Sri Seshavataram Swami and Sri Rangachary Swami lead from the front performing rituals while our temple priest Sri Srimannarayana Swami narrated the significance of each ritual in the wedding to the audience. Sri Laxman Swami’s recited the sacred mantras with utmost devotion. Devotees actively participated in the event by chanting loudly the names Govinda Govinda at the end of each ritual. The whole evening was transcendental as one devotee stated after the event “I attended the Seetha Rama Kalyanam festival at Hanuman Temple. It was an ecstatic feeling to be there. Deity alankaram was a feast for the eyes. We could not lift our eyes from the alankaram. Mantra vibration really made us forget the mundane world. This will stay vivid in my memory forever.” The wedding was followed by “Samrajya Pattabhishekam”, the coronation of Sri Sita and Rama as the emperors of the entire universe. Everybody welcomed the lordships into their hearts and surrendered themselves unto their lotus feet. This is the real Saranaagathi as preached by our ancient scriptures and sages of all Sampradaayas.
One devotee who is a regular visitor to Tirumala Tirupati fondly remembered her experiences and drew a comparison a day after; “I have had the privilege of attending many Kalyanotsavams at Tirupati. Yesterday’s, kalyanotsavam/pattabhishekam at Hanuman Mandir was done with equal fervor and much greater enthusiasm than any others I have witnessed. Felt totally blessed to be part of such tradition and grandeur. Truly celestial! ” When the organizers are just getting overwhelmed and tensed looking at the thousands of visiting devotees, several young and enthusiastic devotees came forward voluntarily to assist in the food distribution, seating control and clean up. This is when we all understood that the event was truly organized, controlled, blessed and accepted by Sri Rama Chandra Swami and Srimati Sita Devi and sent Rama Sena. Dinner Prasadam was prepared entirely by Sri Madhuri Puranam.
Alpharetta Police estimated the crowd to be more than 3500 and the traffic control was truly a herculean task. Every effort was made to recognize and felicitate the sponsors of this event and trustees of the temple.
“The board would like to sincerely thank all the assistant priests who supported in the mantra chanting on the stage. We would also like to thank all the dance schools and musicians who voluntarily participated for the pleasure of Sri Sri Sita Rama Chandra Swami. Special thanks to all the vendors who sponsored for the event. Last but not the least, it’s the volunteers – Rama Sena did an outstanding job during the nine day event ensuring that the entire event goes as planned. A big thanks to all the devotees who came all the way to seek the blessings of the divine lordships and participated in this grand event. All the devotees were very happy and the congregation is very much looking forward to the next grand occasions Hanuman Jayanthi on May 23rd and th e Grand Jagannatha Parivaara Ratha Yatra on June 28th,” said a board member.
“It was an ecstatic feeling to be there. Deity alankaram was a feast for the eyes. We could not lift our eyes from the alankaram.Mantra vibration really made us forget the mundane world.This will stay vivid in my memory for ever. Alpharetta and all the devotees who were there are really blessed to witness this celestial wedding,” said Gopi, another devotee.
“It was really so blissful to attend this auspicious event! Thank you God,” added another devotee, Srilakshmi N.
“Truely a wonderful experience. Credits to Sriman Puranam ji for visualizing this grand event and bringing it to reality. Lakshmanji’s arrival is truly a blessing and perfect match for Srimanjis enthusiasm to serve Sri. Rama. Alpharetta is blessed,” said Kishore.