Thursday, November 25, 2010
Chapter Four: A new curtain for Bala Peetam at Navarathri.
A NEW CURTAIN FOR BALA PEETAM AT NAVARATHRI.
Navarathri is usually celebrated with great pomp and style at Sri Bala Peetam. This year was no exception. The small, yet divine house in Nemili reverberated with music and special events were planned each day to honour famous artistes. Every morning, puja and abhishekam for the deities took place followed by music concerts. The daily festivities concluded with Mahaa Deeparadhanai just before lunch. This was a grand spectacle, during which Sri Bala was honoured by an array of glittering lamps.
I felt blessed to visit Sri Bala’s house on most of the days during this auspicious period, including the final day of the Chandi Homam. On this day, the great Goddess finally triumphs in her attempt to slay the wicked demon Mahishasura( negative qualities). Bala’s little house was packed with devotees that night and at the appointed time when the furious Goddess kills the demon, the entire crowd was chanting Sri Bala’s songs!
This was an awesome moment and one that I shall cherish forever.
Some interesting events took place in the week preceding Navarathri and to narrate this more clearly, I have to provide some background information going further back in time.
On one of my visits to Nemili in the week before Navarathri, I sat before this lovable child just enjoying the moment. As I took leave that day, my attention was drawn to the curtain (Thirai) in front of the main dais where Sri Bala’s Mandapam is located. It had been a long time desire on my part to gift a brand new screen for the Peetam with a huge picture of her printed in the centre of it.
On my previous visit to India last year, I thought I would ask Sri Baba.G’s permission to print an image of Bala on a huge curtain . Since the official photograph published by Bala Peetam on all CD covers, pamphlets and books is a reproduction of a Tanjore painting gifted by a devotee, I thought I would use this image instead of putting in my own art work.
However, during that visit, my objective was not fulfilled. It seemed to me that Bala had not approved my request. Yet, this year certain events took place that seemed to trigger a series of happenings.
Earlier this year, on May 22nd, 2010, I published a drawing of Bala on my blog site. Sri Bala directed me to finish this painting in exactly two days and asked me to represent her in the manner of a small child reaching out to devotees both arms outstretched.
I had already completed a similar portrait a year earlier. However, without really understanding the reason, I completed this task. Soon, the picture as well as the accompanying story was put up on my website.
On the day I was to depart from New York bound for India, while I was just about to pack my suitcase, Sri Bala gave me a sudden command. This was “ Place that painting of me in the suitcase and bring it to India”. I was puzzled since I knew the dimension of the painting was larger than that of the suitcase and there wasn’t a chance it would fit inside the box. I thought perhaps I could make a separate package and carry it in hand. However, time was running out and I didn’t have suitable packing materials. My husband suggested I take the painting on the next trip. I was also inclined to agree. However, the mental suggestions from Bala continued to urge me to put the painting in first before I packed anything else.
So, I prayed to Bala “ If you really want me to bring this home, you have to help me with a miracle.”
And, she did!!
I found to my great amazement that the painting fitted “exactly” into the box!!
I was totally astonished by this almost magical event.
Anyway, in this painting, Bala is wearing a bright pink skirt and a green blouse, and stands arms outstretched on a pale white lotus tinged with light rose color. A glowing golden halo surrounds her head, while the orange and red tinged rays of early dawn begin at her feet and light up the bright blue sky. Her feet rest on a colourful pedestal decorated in hues of orange, purple and maroon.
Nine different colors have been used in this painting. However, while hastening to finish this work in May, I was being continuously directed by Bala and did not really pay much attention to the choice of colors.
So, a week before Navarathri, armed with this painting, I came to Nemili. My intention was to get Bala’s blessings for the portrait. However, she had other plans!
Sri Baba.G selected this painting as the central image for the screen I volunteered to offer to the Peetam. He went on to provide the reason for his choice. “ It has been ordained by Sri Bala that on the very first day of Navarathri, Mohan should commence puja and wear a green dhothi. Now, this green color on Bala’s blouse in the painting seems to echo her wishes. Also, on each of the nine days, we intend to decorate the peetam in different colours. All these particular colors are in your painting”.
He proceeded to count the various hues!!
I was stunned!! First of all, I wasn’t aware of the real reason for doing this painting 4 months ago. Secondly, I didn’t understand the necessity of bringing the actual painting into Bala Peetam when a photograph of it would have been good enough!
As it turned out, the screen printing process required the original art work. With Bala’s grace, the screen was finished and delivered to the Peetam on the day before commencement of Navarathri.
So, it turned out that Bala had certain specific “reasons” for my painting.
On the very first day of Navarathri, after the completion of abhishekam, this brand new curtain for Bala was swiftly inaugurated.
During the short interval when Sri Bala was being decorated in her Mandapam inside, her devotees could feast their eyes on an almost life like image of this child on the colourful screen!
My eyes brimming with tears, I witnessed the “Viswaroopa” Sri Bala seeming to “step” right out of the curtain ready to grant all the wishes of her loving devotees!!