SRI BALA CHARANAM.
MAY 20th, 2009.
MY DIVINE EXPERIENCES WITH SRI BALA.
ASTONISHING, AMAZING, INCREDIBLE BALA!
Over the course of the past month a lot of astonishing experiences have occurred in my life and it was only after receiving the blessings of Sri Ezhilmani yesterday, that I commenced to write this blog. I shall summarize below the many events that preceded my recent trip to Chennai before going on to describe the countless “Leelas” ( Divine games) enacted by this mischievous Child Goddess , the life-force of the village of Nemili!
HOW BALA STAGED MY TRIP TO CHENNAI
After publishing the pencil sketch of Sri Ezhilmani and his wife on my website in March 2009, I was immediately directed by Bala to portray her in nine distinct images. These drawings, she told me almost in the flash of a second, were to illustrate the song “ Bala Navarathna Malai” written by Sri Baba.G some years ago.
As usual Bala’s instructions were very clear, simple and precise. “ Draw nine images of me projecting my form on top of various animals . These paintings will definitely help those who are suffering from the malefic effects of the Nava Grahas ( nine planets). Don’t worry, she said ( I could see her smiling in my mind), you will know which animal to pick out for each picture”.
Without any hesitation and following my usual prayers to Sri Bala, I started work on the first drawing. “Vahanas” or animal demi-gods are generally depicted in Hindu mythology as being closely associated with specific deities. However, I was at a complete loss regarding the manner in which to depict Sri Bala for each respective verse of “Bala’s song-garland of nine gems” ( Nava Rathna Malai).
I need not have worried. The moment my pencil touched the paper gently, I simply “knew” in my mind the particular animal associated with each verse. Within three days, I had completed six images in the form of pencil sketches and started work on the seventh one.
The date was March 30th, 2009. Following my customary prayers, I arranged a clean sheet of paper on my table and picked up a pencil. I closed my eyes and meditated on Bala asking her to give me a suggestion. By now, I had depicted her alongside horses, astride an elephant, seated majestically on a swan and smiling happily behind peacock feathers spread out like a fan. Even a fierce eagle looked blissful when Bala was perched on top of him and a ferocious lion’s gaze seemed tinged with love the minute I drew Bala half-hidden in his mane!
“ How shall I depict you this time, Bala?” I asked her repeatedly that morning and got no response. However, I did get the unmistakable impression or the persistent thought that I had to draw a bull or “Nandi”, the sacred mount of Lord Shiva.
Without delay, I set about this task and for the next three hours I toiled away trying to draw a bull. I was listening to Bala’s songs all the time and my mind was totally concentrated on this child goddess. However, it seemed I could not draw well at all that day. My “nandi” certainly did not resemble a divine bull and consequently every pencil stroke had to be erased until the sheet of drawing paper developed a large hole where the bull’s head should have been positioned.
Sighing, I got up and approached the little photo of Bala propped up in my puja cupboard. I kept looking at her for a long time asking her to give me a direction. Finally, my legs got tired and just as I was going to throw the crumpled up drawing paper away in the bin, I got a lightening suggestion.
Very simply, the voice (in my mind) said “ Place me on top of Kamadhenu
(a celestial cow).
Overjoyed, I sat down at my table. Another fresh sheet of paper was taken out and within half an hour I had completed the entire picture. Bala grinned at me mischievously perched on the shoulders of this divine, wish-fulfilling and boon-bestowing divine creature, as if to say “ I was merely playing with you today”.
I went to sleep that night , jubilant and happy as if I had won a big lottery!!
During this period , I was still in London and had no thought about either visiting or making a trip to India. Little did I know how dramatically things would change the very next day!
On March 31st, I emphasise this date because it adds up to Four which is Bala’s number, a sequence of events took place within the span of ten minutes which resulted in my booking a flight from London to Chennai. While the reasons for this sudden travel plan aren’t too important, the dramatic manner in which the proceedings took place left me completely stunned.
I called Sri Bala Peetam after booking my flight. It was no surprise for me that I was only able to get a seat on the flight departing London on April 4th, arriving in Chennai at 4 a.m. on April 5th, Sunday.
It seemed to me that Bala was reiterating the fact that my trip down to Chennai at this particular juncture was for a purpose! Sri Ezhilmani was delighted to hear that I would be in Chennai on that particular day since it coincided with the monthly Parayanam ( group prayer) at Sri Bala Peetam. He told me to come directly to the Peetam after a couple of hours rest following my journey.
Just as I was going to conclude my conversation with Sri Ezhilmani, I remarked about the pretentious manner in which Bala had made me draw her seated on top of Kamadhenu instead of Nandi. His reply took me completely by surprise. He said “ Of course, what else do you expect? Bala hates to sit on a bull. Nandi is Shiva’s mount and Ambal will never sit on him by herself. Now, you place her on top of a Kamadhenu and she will sit there happily”.
These were his exact words!
I marvelled at the manner in which Sri Bala orchestrates events in people’s lives and in my case, even a small drawing for her has to be “just right”. Ignorant as I am of the correct protocol with respect to religious art, she certainly saw to it that even inadvertently I did not commit a mistake. I thanked her with all my heart.
Since I had a few days left, I hurried on and finished the remaining three pencil drawings of Bala for the Navarathna Malai song.
These pencil sketches are still awaiting my return to London so I can paint them in the lovely, vibrant colors that Bala loves , embellish them and later write about their significance in detail before publishing them on my website ( or rather, “Bala’s” site on which she wants me to write!).
THE COMMENCEMENT OF BALA’S DIVINE PLANS
I arrived in Chennai on Sunday, April 5th. The flight was right on time and I carried only hand- luggage since it was my plan to exit the airport quickly without waiting endlessly for the baggage to arrive. I intended to take a few hours rest at home and then proceed directly to Nemili. My thoughts were constantly focused on Bala and I was impatient that morning.
I reached my house in Chennai within half an hour and went inside. Since I travel frequently between London and Chennai, I usually keep all important keys pertaining to my Chennai house in a small room which is locked. I generally take only the key for this room when I travel. So, I hurried to the locked door of this room which contained the keys to all other rooms and wardrobes in my house. I turned the key in the lock, still thinking happily ahead about my impending visit to see Bala when disaster struck! The key refused to turn inside the lock and simply would not budge!
By now it was just coming up to 4.45 a.m and the driver who had dropped me off at home had disappeared to take some rest and return in a few hours’ time. I tried gently fiddling about with the lock but since the key had not been used for over 6 months, it simply could not rotate inside the lock to make it spring open.
Finally at 5 a.m. I summoned my driver and requested him to find a locksmith to open the door. This was a Sunday and I knew the chances of finding an expert locksmith at this early hour was close to impossible. I was still dressed in my travel clothes and could not possibly visit Nemili clad in casual trousers!
Nevertheless, I realised there was no point in getting upset. I sat down and calmly started reciting Sri Bala Kavacham. Within a few minutes the door bell rang and I opened the door to find my driver accompanied by a sleepy lad!
To this day, I’m not really sure if this young boy was a locksmith. But I wasn’t going to ask any questions that day. Armed with a small wire and knife, this chap worked for an hour trying to “pick” the lock and open the door. Finally, we decided that the only option was to destroy the lock completely. This process took another 45 minutes. Finally, the lock was completely bashed in and I was able to access those all important keys for my wardrobe and other bedrooms.
I had no sleep on the long flight, endured a two hour ordeal to get my keys back, but I was exhilarated I would still be in time to make it for the monthly puja at Sri Bala Peetam!! This was all that really mattered to me .
Thus began my trip to Chennai in April, 2009. I had no idea why Sri Bala had summoned me this time nor did I know clearly how long I would remain in India . While the minor irritations that cropped up on March 31st demanding my presence in Chennai were dealt with expediently, and probably could have been carried out without my being physically present , I was absolutely certain that this was not the main reason for my visit this time.
However, I did get a clue when I attended the Tamil New Year’s day Puja at Nemili.
I came in rather early to Sri Bala Peetam on April 14th because I wanted to witness the Abhishekam. However, by the time I arrived, at 9 a.m. this ritual had already concluded. Nevertheless, since I had arrived relatively early, I was able to sit right in front of Sri Bala and for the next few hours got totally immersed in her songs. At the end of the parayanam that day, there was a “Thaer utsavam”. Little Bala was taken out for a ride in her tiny chariot drawn by elephants. For the very first time in my life, I saw Bala real close as she came by in front of where I was seated. She was standing majestically on a golden lotus, dressed in her shining diamond Kavacham ( stiff armour-like skirt).
I thought of the thirteen auspicious images Bala made me draw. One of them is the chariot with tiny Bala sitting inside and another portrait is the one where she is wearing her “kavacham”, standing on a golden lotus!! The latter is my personal favourite because Bala “winked” at me when this painting was done and said “I love you”.
It seemed to me that my drawing had somehow come to life, or perhaps it was life imitating art?
All I know was I sat there totally mesmerised by this stupendous darshan Sri Bala was giving me!!
Over the course of the next few days it was slowly beginning to dawn on me that the main purpose of this entire trip had to do with cultivating total faith in Sri Bala. All of us can be totally devoted to Sri Bala. Yet how many can honestly claim that they have placed their entire, whole hearted belief in her? It is but natural to visit soothsayers, consult astrologers or Naadi Josiers because there is always a constant temptation to take a quick peek into the future. Despite the fact that many of us go to Bala Peetam regularly, I feel that a lot of devotees , myself included , have to travel a long path interspersed with many distractions before coming to finally surrender at Sri Bala’s feet.
Right from the start, this April sojourn in Chennai seemed to be filled with a lot of little “tests” Bala was casting in my direction.
First of all I got pre occupied with a couple of Naadi Josiers who proclaimed they could forecast my future based on reading a few palm leaves. However, after spending two whole days sitting inside an airless room while the Naadi asked me endless questions, I came away with the distinct impression that he was merely gathering relevant information from me by asking a series of leading questions and feeding me back with the answers. In addition, although a few palm leaves were produced and declared to be ones that had the names of my parents and husband written on them, the tamil characters appeared too vague for me to draw a definitive conclusion.
I had to conclude this entire palaver was a money making scam.
All the while, I could feel that Bala was setting me little traps and although I was able to foresee them, I could not prevent myself from falling into them. It was as though I “had” to try out various paths, find them unsatisfactory and then come to Bala.
I thought to myself I’ve been on this road before. I have visited many temples because of Bala’s grace, yet returned to her every time. Why is she still intent on testing me and more importantly, why am I allowing myself to get sidetracked ?”
It was only a few days ago I realised even though I had allowed myself to become totally engrossed with Bala, there still remained certain deeply embedded personality traits and fears that she had to remove from the roots so I could accept her completely, totally and without a shred of doubt.
The experiences I underwent over the last month has underlined extremely clearly in my mind the following fact:
(These are Bala’s very own words she is asking me to write at this momentJ
“ It is very difficult to know Me, understand Me or experience Me. Just because you keep my photo in your Puja room you don’t automatically become my devotee. This is a house where I have come to take rest. It IS NOT a temple. It is a normal house filled with laughter at times, quarrels, bickering and fighting at times, sorrow on certain occasions and immense joy on certain days. The life of the inmates in this household mirrors the lives in various households across this village, nation and the world. Yet, the BIGGEST difference is that I am present here in two forms .
One form is that of a small child. In this manner, I am able to teach a lot of things to a lot of people regardless of age, because everyone loves a child. The second, most important form I take inside this house is in my Viswaroopam ( omnipotent) form. In this appearance, I come to reside in the hearts of all those who love me totally. Only these people can hope to “experience” Me and witness the games I play in their lives.
If you come to me with complete belief in your heart, I am there to hold your hand, guide you and help you cross difficult situations. You will have to accept only whatever I allow to happen in your life. You think something in your life is a “problem”. I don’t see it that way. I look at your entire future and know that certain outcomes are not good for you even though you have your heart set on it. You remain in ignorance. I know everything. Don’t come to see me if you think I’m just another “alternative” cure or palliative for your troubles. For this, go to astrologers or soothsayers. If you come to me with true love, I will never let you go out of my sight”.
The above message has been inserted in my narrative at the express wish of Sri Bala.
I continue with the reasons for my distractions.
Second, there was an occasion where a website contact requested me to find out if a Kali Upasakar I was acquainted with could cure her autistic child. Although I had written several prayer letters on behalf of this child to Sri Bala and Sri Baba.G, I could nevertheless not overcome the temptation to try and obtain results through an alternative route.
I called up Kali Mama and requested him to see a photo of this child so he might be able to suggest a remedy. To my surprise he said he wasn’t too sure about his abilities just then as he hadn’t increased his powers through tapas ( concentrated , tantric meditation). Instead he told me “ I’m sure you are more than capable of helping this child through your own prayers. Ask the mother to pray as well. Just keep focused on your Ishta (favourite) deity at all times”.
I could have laughed! Favourite deity indeed. I had left Bala somewhere along the way and strayed completely off the path!
During the period April 17th until April 23rd, I took a short trip covering Trichy, Kodaikanal, Madurai, Ooty, Mysore and Bangalore.
On the first day of my trip, I visited a few temples in the vicinity of Trichy. Since I had started this little pilgrimage after obtaining blessings from Ezhilmani and his wife, I was fortunate to obtain splendid darshans in the temples of Samayapuram, Tiruvaanaikaaval, Sri Rangam and Vayalur.
While I had visited most of these temples on previous occasions, I’d never been to Vayalur before. This ancient Murugan temple is extremely sacred as it’s here that the poet Arunagirinathar was blessed by the Lord and initiated to compose the Tirupugazh hymns. The word “Vayal” means “field” in Tamil and the village where this temple is located is surrounded by lush, green paddy fields.
After an overnight stay in Trichy, I proceeded to the hill station of Kodaikanal, largely motivated by the fact that all the family members from Nemili had planned to take a break at this place for a day. I caught up with them in the evening in a little park by the lake. The little children , all embodiments of precious Bala, were playing on the swings, slides and the see saws. The entire family was relaxed and cheerful and I was able to spend some unforgettable moments with this unique family!
Carrying on my journey, I stopped over in the temple town of Madurai. Of course, the first stop was at the famous Meenakshi Amman koil. The Mahaa Kumbabhishekam ( sanctification) had taken place barely ten days ago and the temple was heaving with people jostling with each other to get a glimpse of this powerful Queen of all Goddesses! I took one look at the long queues and placed a mental application to Bala.
To my utter surprise, one of the security guards managing the crowd proved quite amenable and allowed me to jump the long line , so I was able to stand right in front of the main sanctum for an uninterrupted five minutes. Thanking Bala most sincerely, I stood in front of this lovely goddess with beautiful eyes and beseeched her mercy and grace.
The famous Murugan temple at Tirupuramkundram was my next stop and here too, there was a massive crowd straining to catch a glimpse of Lord Muruga as he stands next to his divine bride, Deivayanai. However, help was at hand in the form of a friendly priest who secured a wonderful and peaceful darshan for me.
I was fortunate to visit three further temples in the surrounding area. The first visit that afternoon was to PillayarPatti to obtain the blessings of this most powerful Lord who removes all our obstacles. In the quiet and stillness of this huge temple, I was able to sit at the doorstep of this great Elephant-God seated in massive golden splendour!
I revisited the nearby temple of Vairavanpatti to pay respects to Lord Shiva in the form of Kala Bhairavar and admired once again the most marvellous sculptures adorning the sanctum, before heading off to Sivaganga district and the famous Shiva temple at Kaalaiyar.
Numerous legends abound about this temple that boasts three distinct shrines for Lord Shiva. This is a temple built and defended by kings of the Sangam period who died heroically in a battle with the invading British troops. Restored and later maintained by the rulers of Sivaganga district this Shivastalam is famous as a pariharastalam, or temple where prayers and rituals are carried out for atonement of sins from a previous birth. In particular, it is widely believed that those who have not been fortunate to get married or have marital problems should visit this temple to reverse their destiny!
My pilgrimage culminated with a trip to the cool hills of Ooty where, for a couple of days, I enjoyed the stunning scenery and the pleasant weather.
On my return journey which took in the Mudumalai forest reserve, Mysore and Bangalore, I toyed with the idea of making a detour to Puttaparthi to pay respects to his Holiness Satya Sai Baba. However, upon enquiry at the hotel in Bangalore, I understood that he “might” have departed to Kodaikanal. However, the hotel staff were not extremely sure about this information. I decided to return to Chennai directly from Bangalore as I did not wish to take a chance and drive all the way to Puttaparthi and then get disappointed if I did not receive darshan of Baba.
After all, I reasoned to myself, Bala’s songs say that there is no difference between Baba and her. So, I decided instead to stop by Nemili on the way back from Bangalore to Chennai.
It was around 11.30 a.m. when I reached Bala Peetam that day on my return journey to Chennai. There weren’t too many people about and I was able to have a relaxed and peaceful darshan of little Bala. As I was about to take leave, Baba.G came up to me and said “ You are doing Padha Puja ( worship of the feet) for my parents on May 3rd”.
Just like that! I was totally taken aback. While doing the painting of the “divine couple” sitting in my tiny flat in London, I had fervently wished that one day I should pay my most sincere respects to Sri Ezhilmani and Baby Amma. Here was the opportunity Bala had provided! Overjoyed, I left Nemili that day convinced that regardless of however many temples I might visit on pilgrimage, the feeling of contentment is never as complete as it is when I’m seated in front of Bala!