Sri Ayyapa Pran Pratistha Mahotsavam in St Louis

Padi Pooja of Holy 18 Steps
Padi Pooja of Holy 18 Steps

ST LOUIS: The Hindu Temple of St. Louis celebrated Prana Prathista Mahotsavam of Sri Ayyappa, Sri Kanyaka Pramesweri and Sri Veera Anjaneya (Sri Hanumanji) from June 6 to 8.

Around 2000 devotees from the states of Missouri, Illinois, Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan and California experienced the divine energy through various spiritually related programs – Pujas, Homams, Ratha Utsavams of Kanyaka Paramesweri, Anjaneya, and Ayyappa, recital of Sunder kanda, devotional lectures, Siva-Parvathi Kalyanam, Pathinettu Padi Pooja and finally, Irumudi submittal to Lord Ayyappa. In order to maintain the tradition of Hindu festival, the devotees were served banthi bhojan with banana leaves.

Prana Pratishta literally means “establishing the life” within the sacred Deity. Sri Ayyappa Prana Prathista began with the formal handover of the ritualistic authority to Brahmasri Tantry Divakaran Namboodri by the Hindu Temple management. Followed by this, the Tantry performed Prasada Shudhi, the rituals to purify the Maha Sannidhanam. Sri Ayyappa idol was formally handed over by the shilpis and the Tantry performed Jaladhivasam.

Lord Ayyappa was in Jaladhivasam (water bed) for the entire night. On June 7, Sri Ayyappa was taken out of the water. The Tantries prepared the Idol for the next day’s Prana Prathista. Each and every ritual was performed to incorporate energy into the idol and put in a bed for rest the whole night.

On Sunday, the Tantries focused their energies on conducting poojas for the Peetam for consecrating Sri Ayyappa on the Peetam (holy seat). At that time, Kalasa and navarathna sponsors brought the holy water and navarthnas to the Maha Sannidhanam. The Tantry placed the yantra and navarathnas alcove under the Peetam.

In the meanwhile, with rituals and chenda melam around, the chief shilpi opened the eyes of Sri Ayyappa. The grand finale of the Prana Prathista was Jeeva vahana, where the Chief Tantry with the assistance from the other Tantry and Temple priests consecrated Lord Ayyappa in the Peetam. All happened in the midst of vadhiya gosha and sarana gosha of Geetha Mandalam group of Chicago and hundreds of devotees respectively that filled the air of the entire Temple.

When the Tantri removed the white cloth, Nithya Brahmachari showered his blessings to all who were waiting this to happen in St. Louis for close to ten years. It was a moment of extreme vibration and the devotees were in full throttle to realize the presence of Lord Ayyappa as if He came from Sabarimala to St. Louis to bless us.

The Tantries did the alankarana of Lord Ayyappa with Maharaja ornaments and turban in the head (visiri madippu) in closed doors and opened the door for devotees for mangala arathi of Alankara priyan. When the Maha Sannidhanam door was opened, the entire Mahasannidhanam was filled with sarana gosha. Devotees witnessed the Shantha swaroopa Ayyappa in raja alankaram. The Tantris also consecrated Upadevatas of Sri Ayyappa Maha Sannidhanam – Sri Kannimoola Maha Ganapathy, Sri Nagaraja and Maligapurathu Manja Matha.

On the evening of the Prana Prathista, The Tantry performed a special Padi Pooja to invoke the Padi as part of the Maha Sannidhanam which was witnessed by hundreds of devotees. Kids sang “deva saranam” in synchronization of the Tantry’s pooja for every step. These eighteen steps signify the spiritual path to self-realization.
Sri Ayyappa Maha Sannidhanam is the second of its kind in the US with Sri Ayyappa in Shantha Swaroopa posture, the architecture of Sabarimala temple and the Sanctum Sanctorum resembling Sabarimala. The Maha Sannidhanam also serves as a spiritual center for exhibiting Ayyappa avatars (forms) from five Ayyappa temples in India – Erumeli, Achankovil, Ariyankavu, Kulathupuzhai and Pandalam.

Ashwin Patel & Raja Rajasekaran