Golden Kavach ceremony turns temple into pilgrimage place

Lord Balaji after Kavach adornation
Lord Balaji after Kavach adornation

CHICAGO: Grayslake in Lake County, some 40 miles away from Chicago Downtown, turned out to be a Teerth site (a pilgrimage place) for many an Indian living in Metro Chicago for two days in August – Friday August 23 and Saturday August 24 – as one of the most revered Indian deities – Lord Balaji – was to be adorned with Golden Kavach.

Hundreds flocked to the Hindu Temple of Lake County in Grayslake for two days to participate in and witness a most elaborate ritual that would precede formalizing of placing gold plated cover on the idol of Lord Balaji. Besides learned priests in the temple, the Mandir management headed by Dr Harsh Kumar had also enlisted the services of priests from New Jersey who conducted near eight hours of ceremony beginning Friday evening and virtually lasting till noon on the next day.

The gold plated cover or Kavach was specially ordered from India in eleven different parts costing over two million rupees – the cost being borne by sixty plus devotee families of Lord Balaji living in and around Grayslake. The two day program commenced with the recitation of Vishnusahastra Namam on Friday August 23 at 6 pm but the main ritual was reserved for morning next day.

Hundreds of devotees gathered at the temple much before the start of Puja around 8 am which started with Sri Venkateshaar Subrpabhatm. This was followed with Vishwaksena Puja at 9 am and then the there was the real start of Procession with Kavach around the Temple chanting of Vedic Mantras and Lord’s name. The actual adorning of the Kavach was a near two hours ceremony participated by hundreds and it was over by noon. The temple management honored those devotees who volunteered with donations and other help for Kavach and the ensuing ceremony.

All those present were served with Mahaprasadam but before that the priests conducted Pushpa Yagam.

Lord Balaji is believed to be incarnation of Lord Vishnu who descended the earth and lived at Seven hills in Tirumala after Goddess Mahalxmi left him in heaven and came to live in Kolhapur over a small misunderstanding involving a Rishi named Kashyap.
Seven Hills in Tirumala is even now a special place commemorating the union between the two. Everyday, a Kalyana Utsavam is conducted to celebrate the divine union that stretches to eternity. During the Brahmotsavam at the temple, turmeric, kumkum and a sari are sent from the temple to Alamelu Mangapuram, the abode of Padmavati.

Besides Lord Balaji, Grayslake temple houses idols of Indian deities Lord Ganesh, Lord Ram and his Parivar, Radha Krishna, Lord Shiva , Navdurga and Jain Teerthankars. It was formally established six years ago. It is unique in more than one sense as it is patronized by Indians haling from North, South, East and West of India. It celebrates all major Indian festivals with grace and pomp.

The Temple conducts Yoga and Education classes. It also provides services of priests to those who need them. Pandit Anil Joshi is the lead priest, a scholar of Sanskrit and an astrologer. Pandit Ganesh Ji is the other priest well versed in Hindu scriptures. Dr Harsh Kumar in a talk to this paper said that the Mandir management has announced two programs for the current year – one is Navratra celebration beginning October 5 and culminating with Ravan Dahan on October 13. The other big event is Diwali-New Year that would be highlighted with reciting of Akhanda Ramayan Path starting on October 31 and ending next day November 1.

Ramesh Soparawala

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