Bridgewater Balaji Temple







Welcome to Balaji Temple, Bridgewater NJ

With this booklet, you may take a leisurely walk

Among gods, goddesses, people, priests, volunteers….

You may gawk at the gods and goddesses; you may point your fingers;

You can Ah and OO; you may admire their fake jewelry and the hairdos;

You may even dance in front of the Lord of Dance. No offence is taken by gods.

They are glad you are here.

The Floor Plan is the centerfold. Please make any comments or corrections.

I hope you like the tour guide and make all the stops, stoops, and peeks.

The custom forbids you to enter into the Sanctum Sanctorum.

If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to write me.

The email is in the pamphlet.

Veeraswamy Krishnaraj, M.D; F.R.C.P (Canada) 

Retired pediatrician.




 


Jan 1, 2018: It was a cold day. The temperature was in the single digits. There were about 60 people standing in the cold and about 40 people standing inside the tent at the humongous parking lot of Sanofi US at 1041 US Highway 202/206 Bridgewater NJ 08807. I sighted about five school buses on the site discharging the devotees or boarding them on the way to the temple, which is about a five-minute drive by the bus.

This time I saw more children than in my previous New Year day visits. Even babes in arms were there, braving the cold. The bus took us straight to the temple at 1 Balaji Temple Drive, Bridgewater, NJ-08807. The school bus drivers greeted us with ‘Happy New Year’ wishes. We got off the bus at the Cultural Center to the right of the Temple, from where we took the connecting corridor to the temple.

We joined the Darśan Queue 30 people deep and stepped into the Sanctum Sanctorum, where the volunteers gently suggested to the devotees to leave the premises and not to linger at the sanctum. I spent about five seconds at the sanctum, not enough in my book and could not take in Balaji in that short period.

Since I am an octogenarian, I was looking for compatriots of my age. None seen.  One gentleman aged about sixty with grey hair looked at me intently. We were in a sea of young people.  Before we took Darsan of Balaji, we went in a clockwise fashion beginning with homage to Lord Ganesa, Ambika, Siva Lingam, Skanda, Satyanarayana, Sridevi, Bhudevi, Durga, the triad of Navaratri (Durga, Sarasvati and Lakshmi), Lakshmi Narayama, Radhakrishna, Ram Parivar, Anjaneya, and the Navagrahas and joined the queue to pay homage to the Lord of the Hills.

After taking Darśan of Balaji in his glory, my wife and I joined the Queue for Sadāri, Tīrtham and Prasadam. Prasadam of Laddu, about an ounce in amount in a plastic cup was delectable.

We made a beeline for the cafeteria, temporarily housed on the second floor of the Cultural Center. They served readymade tiffin, such as Yogurt rice, Tamarind rice… There were about 200 people in the cafeteria.  We exited the building, caught a bus in the freezing cold and landed back in the Sanofi Parking lot.

 

 

 

 

January 1, 2017  Happy New Year to all.

Actual Images of Deities at the temple

November 17, 2017

My wife and I visited the Balaji Temple. A few days ago they had a formal and ceremonial opening of the humongous Auditorium. That was a very cold day. We could not make it. On November 18th at 6 P.M. there is a fund raising dinner at the dining hall with stage performance with musical instruments.

We saw a busload of boys and girls obviously from the local school visiting the temple. There were school counselors instructing and guiding them around the shrines. I saw them enjoying delectable Prasadam.

 

 

The temperature hovered above 40° F. The wind chill factor was minimal or absent. It was a good day to be out, esp. when it was a New Year Day. The sun was shining. My wife and I arrived in the Sanofi-Aventis parking lot on 202/206 in the mid-afternoon. There were about 300 people waiting on a long queue. There was no trace of snow left behind from the recent snowstorm. The grass was green, the trees were barren of leaves, the birds were chirping. The children were romping on the grass with mothers chasing after them so they did not get too close to the moving buses. Six buses left chock-full of devotees. We waited only for about 15-20 minutes, before we boarded the yellow school bus. The woman driver wished us Happy New Year. We entered the temple premises at 1 Balaji Temple DriveBridgewaterNJ 08807 on route 202/206. One bus driver had a personal Hundi ( = உண்டி = Hundi) on the dashboard as seen in the picture . As the nose of the bus faced the temple premises and other rising structures behind and in front of the gopuram, we could see the panoramic view of the temple buildings and the trees spread before us. The driver swerved to the left and took us on a winding road adjoining the rising structures and came to a stop behind the temple and the five-tent makeshift. To the left of us close to the highway, we saw priests’ quarters. (The temple has a dedicated cadre of priests, whose presence contributed to the spiritual atmosphere, apart from that of devotees.) Yes, inside the tents, there were wall to wall people, rather pole to pole people. People were jostling each other to get to where they wanted to go. There were only three places to go: To the temple for Dharsan, Cafeteria, and the exit towards the bus.

A state of the Art Theater

600 Fixed seats capacity

Acoustically designed

40' X 60' Stage

Green Rooms

Sound and Lighting equipment

a 300 seat capacity multipurpose hall for small functions

Modern kitchen facilities

http://www.venkateswara.org/Construction/ConstructionMain.htm 


This Auditorium was officially opened in November 2017. 


Inside the tent, there were racks for hanging outer garments, and event flooring for walking and shoes, most pairs stayed inseparable and loyal to each other. That was amazing. I thought it would be a chaos. The right shoe stayed married to the left. That was loyalty even in the kingdom of shoes. A few singleton shoes lost their companions. They must have felt lonesome.

 

The five-tent enclosure was heated with portable gas cylinders. There was really no need for heating. The temple authorities were prepared for vagaries of weather. We sauntered towards the north entrance to the temple. The north entrance was an open space before and recently, it has been enclosed with walls and glass doors. Going through the north door, we saw the gift shop to the left and the elevator straight ahead. My wife and I were greeted by a volunteer-attendant with eyes peeled for senior citizens and the handicapped. The elevator volunteer immediately took one look at us and seeing the grey-haired pair immediately sent us into the elevator with two teenage volunteers. The two young women smiled at us earnestly, took us up the elevator and helped us join the queue with about 30 people ahead of us for Dharsan and about 300 people behind. With creaking joints, aching back, incoordinate muscles and waddling gait, I needed that break.

My guestimate was there were about three hundred people behind us in the main hall of shrines (circumnavigating souls around the perimeter of all shrines), the antehall, the staircase and the approach to the stair case. That was service, pure and simple. We were in the sanctum in less than five minutes. We entered the sanctum on our right side and exited on our left side.

There were two people in the Sanctum Sanctorum urging the hovering devotees to move and make room for others waiting in line. I had a brief look at the Lord of the Hills, mainly at the benign smiling countenance. I took a quick up and down look taking in as much as possible. Sooner than I entered I exited being careful to go down the steps from the sanctum. At my age, my feet don’t go where I want them to go. Quickly, I was near the station that offered sacred water (தீர்த்தம்), caṭāri (சடாரி), and prasāda of delectable Laddu in a plastic cup. This is where the devotees picked up the fruit bags given for Archana.

My wife and I took a dash to the sanctum and had the second fill at Dharsan. This time we took the circumambulation receiving at the respective shrines Dharsan of Ganesa, Ambal, Lingam, Skanda, Satya Narayana, Sri, Bhudevi, Durga, Lakshmi, Durga and Sarasvati, Radhakrishna, Ram Parivar, Anjaneya, and Navagrahas. Sri or Mahalakshmi was glowing in gold from the Kavaćas (= கவசம்).

Exited the building to join the devotees in the tent. The aroma of snacks was inviting and we bought some samosas, Murukku… and took the bus back to the parking lot. I sat at the wheel and my wife at the passenger seat, eating what we bought at the cafeteria.

It was a nice day. Balaji cast his smile on us. We ate the prasāda. Our visit to the temple was a welcome relief and a break from the daily routines.

 

 

 

January 1, 2016

Hindu Temple & Cultural Society of USA, Inc. 
Sri Venkateswara Temple (Balaji Mandir) & Community Center
 
(Non-Profit Tax-Exempt Organization.) 
1 Balaji Temple Drive, Bridgewater, NJ-08807 
Ph: (908) 725-4477 

My wife and I arrived at the Sanofi Campus in the early afternoon. After exiting the highway, we were greeted by a caravan of cars ahead of us, 50 deep before we could go into the parking lot. It moved and soon we were greeted by the security guard directing the cars to empty parking spots. We took a few minutes to find a parking in the lot and soon joined the tail of the queue four people wide and 60 people deep. There was a white tent for those seeking refuge from the biting cold registering in the mid-thirties. We did not wait too long before we boarded the school bus. About five buses received devotees.

The short ride to the temple took us to the back of the temple besides the five tent receiving station. We entered the receiving tent, shed the shoes and the jackets and quickly proceeded to the basement and the left side of the temple where the gift shop was located. The queue took a serpentine route up on the staircase in the left section of the building. When we climbed up the steps, we were greeted by a volunteer, who directed all the devotees into a large anteroom, where the queue folded upon itself several times. The winding queue then came back to where the volunteer stood. We proceeded into the Hall of Shrines, wherefrom at the entrance we could see the Lord of the Hills. The queue circumnavigated the shrines from left to right. On the way, we offered prayers to Lord Ganesa; Goddess Ambika; Lingam; Skanda, Valli and Devayānī; Satya Narayana; Sridevi, Bhudevi, and Goddess Durgā behind the main shrine; Goddesses Lakshmi, Durgā, and Sarasvati; Lakshmi Narayana; and Rādhā-Krishna shrine on the left side of the main shrine. More to the left of the hall is the large shrine of Ram Parivar; to the front and the right the Anjaneya; and then the Navagrahas.  We took about twenty minutes from Lord Ganesa to the Navagrahas.  The last, the best and the largest shrine in the center is that of Balaji in his inimitable form. We were allowed to go into the shrine to obtain a good Darśana of the Lord of the Hills. There was an attendant inside the Garbhagṛiham, who gently persuaded the lingering devotee to move so others obtain Darśana. The Lord looked his greatest with garlands, Kavaćas, sword... The priest was in the innermost shrine and an eight-inch tall granite barrier wall on the floor separated the innermost shrine from the inner shrine from where the devotees can view Balaji.  Some scraped a little dust left over by the devotees from the steps leading to Inner Sanctum and applied it to the forehead. That devotees' dust from under their feet is sacred, purifying, curative and liberating. The men fell like sticks on the floor while doing the eight-limbed prostration (Ashtanga namaskaram). The ladies did the truncated form. Most of the familiar faces of volunteers I knew by appearance are not there anymore.

After the Darśana, we joined the queue to obtain sacred water, Sadāri, flower (for the ladies) and a container of sweet Laḍḍu.

In the parking lot, I saw a car with a Christian cross hanging from the rearview mirror. There were some Christian devotees of the Lord of the Hills. It is common knowledge that other religions have devotees of Lord Venakatesvara. Such is his greatness, generosity and grace.

Only about 10 percent of women were wearing the saris. The rest were wearing women's pants to ward of cold, Punjabi style women's dress... I saw handicapped devotees riding on the wheel chair pushed by the near and dear. This year despite the cold weather in the mid to upper 30s, there were more devotees than the prior years. We exited the temple via the closed cafeteria to the tent, where prepackaged snacks and beverages were available for a nominal price. We bought rice preparations and other snacks, which were of good quality.

A humongous building to the right of the House of Shrines is rising up with steel girders and cement blocks.  I understand from the  Temple Web site that a Cultural Center is under construction, which includes:

 

 

 

Hyagriva is endowed with four lotus hands, one giving knowledge, one holding a book and the other two holding a conch and a discus. Vishnu is associated with the sun and so is Hyagriva. Krishna says in BG 8.9, He is sun-colored (ādityavarṇaṁ). This Horse-God pulls the sun across the Orbit, helps dissipate darkness (ignorance) and brings light (knowledge).
Hyagriva comes to the aid of gods defeated by the Danavas (Asuras or anti-gods, the cousins of Suras). Hyagriva comes riding in his chariot drawn by a thousand steeds mercilessly crushing the Danavas or Daityas.
He is a composite God. Siva is in the middle of his head. Brahma occupies his heart. His mane is the rays of the sun (Marichi). His eyes are the sun and the moon. His legs are Vasus and Sandhyas. The gods reside in his bones. His knees are Varuna and Maruts. His tongue is fire. His speech is Satya. Hyagriva, the deified aggregate of all gods and a Super Sacred Chimera retrieved the Vedas, and is the knower of Vedas, a protector, and a repository of knowledge. He is sun and light and thus a remover and dispeller of darkness and ignorance. One day in the future, Vishnu is going to ride high on the white horse as Kalkin.
Asva in Sanskrit is the everyday horse, but Hya is a racing (fast) horse.

Poseidon, Athena, and Aphrodite had association with horses. Poseidon was the god of horses. Athena is also known as Athena Hippia (horse) and celebrated as the inventor of the chariot. Horses were sacred to Aphrodite.
Yoga-Hyagriva presents himself in a Yoga pose in Tiruvantipuram. Lakshmi Hyagriva joins ranks with Lakshmi Narasimha to indicate Vishnu's incarnations.

If you were to become an animal, what animal would you like to be? A Horse, a Tortoise, a Boar, a Fish, a Lion...


A horse is a horse, of course, of course,

And no one can talk to a horse of course

...

Go right to the source and ask the horse

He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse.

He's always on a steady course.

...

People yakkity-yak the street and waste your time of day

But Mr. Ed (Hyagriva) will never speak unless he has something to say.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,

And this one'll talk 'til his voice is hoarse.

You never heard of a talking horse?

Well listen to this: "I'm Mister Ed".

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,

...

Go right to the source and ask the horse

He'll give you the answer that youíll endorse...

Divine Hyagriva kills Demon-Hyagriva.

The Saktas (Mother Goddess worshippers) have a different story about demon Hyagriva, the son of Kasyapa, who obtained a boon from Durga that only a (Divine) Hyagriva could kill him (the demon). The Demon-Hyagriva attacked and defeated the gods left, right, back, front and center. The timorous gods went to Vishnu, who after a long engagement declared his inability to kill demon-Hyagriva, went to Vaikuntam and did meditation with his head supported by the bow. The diffident Devas went to him again but found him in deep Yoga-Nidra. Would you wake up a God from his sleep? The priests do it all the time. Unable to awaken him, they engaged the services of termites to cut the bow supporting Vishnu in Yoga. Should they not be pulled up for asking lowly termites to cut the string without thinking of the consequences? The cut bowstring flailed uncontrollably to relieve the built-in tension, whiplashed and cut the head of Vishnu. Obviously, the gods did not have a forethought. Or may be, they intended to administer a rude awakening, with disastrous results as in this case. How can you awaken a headless god? Somebody has to pay for this grievous error. No one really paid anything.  It was meant to be so.
With their wits shocked and sundered, the desperate gods went to Durga seeking help. Durga advised the gods to attach a horse's head to the headless body of Vishnu, who upon resurrection with head of a horse, would kill the Demon-Hyagriva. The cross-species head transplantation (Xenograft or Xenotransplant) was performed by Brahma, the God of Creation and a Vedic Scholar.  Now, I see the course and inevitability of events. The decapitation of Vishnu had to happen so he could get a horse's head, so he could kill the Demon-Hyagriva. Vishnu-Hyagriva killed the Demon-Hyagriva. This fulfills the demon's wish that only a Hyagriva could kill him.  The demon never expected the creation of another Hyagriva: a fatal mistake the demon made while asking for the boon of immortality. Vishnu always finds a way to take down his opponents or his devotee's enemies. Take the case of Prahalada and his tormenting father Hiranyakasippu, whose brother was killed by Lord Boar.
Demons Madhu and Kaitabha stole the Vedas from Brahma. Vishnu took the form of Hyagriva and killed the demons and recovered the Vedas.

You heard the expression, ''Heard from the horse's mouth.''   More on that later.

The Golden Eye, the Golden Hair, Prahalada and Vishnu

Hiranyakasha (the Golden Eye), a daredevil demon took the Earth to the bottom of the Cosmic Ocean. Vishnu took the Avatar of Lord Boar (Varaha) to bring the earth back to its place. The Golden Eye blocked Vishnu and thus sustained death by Vishnu after a thousand years of battle between Vishnu and the Golden Eye (who hid the Earth in the bottom of the Ocean).
The Golden Eye had a brother by name Golden Hair (Hiranyakasipu), who never forgave Vishnu for causing death of his younger brother with the golden eye.
By doing severe penance, the Golden Hair obtained a boon from Brahma, that said he will not die neither during the day nor during the night, nor on the ground, nor in the sky, nor by any creation of Brahma, nor by any weapon, nor by a human being and nor by an animal, any entity, demigod, demon, snake... You may ask why Brahma keeps giving boons to the demons, when he fully knows that they are up to mischief. This is the way it goes. When a person, god or demon performs severe penance, fulfills all the requirements for a boon, Brahma is obligated to offer boons, however inimical they are. It is like a test. If a person scores high, he deserves an award. It is like an entitlement. When severe and demanding conditions are fulfilled, the boons are the natural fruits of the effort.
He had no rival and obtained suzerainty over all living beings, gods...
Hiranyakasipu had a son by name Prahalada, who became a devotee of all-pervading Vishnu. He refused to recognize his father as the Supreme Lord of the universe. He was put through many abuses, tortures and punishments to change his mind, but none worked. The Golden Hair asked his son, whether Vishnu exists in the pillar.  The Golden Hair, as he lacked a Golden Tongue, spoke the most blasphemous words to his son.

"O my foolish son Prahalada, Misfortune awaits you.  You were always gloating about the Supreme Being other than me. You say He is a transcendent all-pervasive controller of everyone. All-pervasive: I don't see him anywhere. I don't see him around here. Is he (hiding) in the pillar? "

 

Prahalada said, "He was, He is, and He will be." Such profound statements come from the devotees of Vishnu.


The Golden Hair turned red in his eyes, seethed with anger and broke the pillar with his mace. Vishnu in the form of Narasimha (Man-Lion) appears out of the broken pillar to defend and protect his devotee from the rushing unruly Golden Hair. Vishnu chose the appearance of Man-Lion in the spirit of conformity with the boon by Brahma. Man-Lion is neither human, nor an animal but a Chimera. He appeared from the pillar at the twilight hour (neither day nor night) and not from the ground. The Man-Lion appeared at the door's threshold, neither inside nor outside, takes the Golden Hair on his lap, which is neither Earth nor sky, used his nails as weapons, rips his abdomen open, disembowels the dreaded demon and kills him. The Man-Lion's fury did not abate with supplication coming from gods and his consort Lakshmi. Finally, it abates with prayers from his devotee Prahalada.

 

Srirangam has a shrine for Hyagriva.
What has horse anything to do with knowledge? Then why do they say, ' Heard from the horse's mouth?'
The eighteenth incarnation or Avatara of Solar Vishnu is Hyagriva or Horse-necked or Horse-headed (Hyasiras). Remember this horse was not bullheaded.
Sage Agastya asked Vishnu, "O Lord, If you are pleased with me, it is incumbent upon you to tell me how the ignorant people and vulgar creatures can get liberation?" (Sage Agastya meant people like me.)

 

 

 

Vishnu answered him as follows:
This question was posed to me before by Siva, Brahma and Durvasa. My answer will be my boon to you. I am the creator, preserver, and destroyer of everything. (You better believe it.) I am Trimurti, beyond all gunas, and the soul of all living beings. My nature is of Purusa (the Supreme Being) and Pradhana (prakrti, matter, 2nd logos). My cosmic form split into Purusa and Pradhana; the former is the Great One beyond all Gunas, greater than the Greatest; the latter is made of gunas and worlds.
When the Karma is resolved through Yama (DONT's, restraints, forbidden acts), Niyama (DOs, permitted acts, observances) and Tyaga (renunciation), salvation is obtained. I am Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva (Yes, all rolled into One.) . I am above all gunas (modes), the soul of the universe and living beings. Sattvic actions, generosity, and renunciation guarantee liberation. One should observe Yama and Niyama as follows.
(1) Yama: sexual abstinence (celibacy), ahimsa (noninjury), no lies, no theft, no greed.
(2) Niyama: meditation on Brahman or Isvara; silence (mauna); study of Vedas (svādyāya), Upanishads, and moksa-promoting books; repeating of mantra OM; Tapas (ascetic practice); Sauca (clean body and mind) ; Santosha (contentment); Isvara Pranidhāna (submission to God, God-Pleasing actions).
Liberation depends on Sat and Asat (good and evil karmans or acts). Jnana, spiritual knowledge bestows all Siddhis (perfection). By meditating on the eternal form, man obtains liberation, though he may be a sinner. The worshippers of Sakti are the liberated souls and never suffer in life on earth. Lord Siva became the leader of all Siddhas by worshiping Parasakti (Supreme Sakti). He became Ardhanarisvara with his Sakti form as part of his body. Abrahma as the leader of Devas became a Siddha by worshiping her. Goddess Tripura guarantees worldly enjoyment and liberation to her devotees. You will attain liberation by reposing your desires, breath, mind worship, rites and soul in Her. This is what I have to say to you and all for the welfare of all.
 

Agastya bowed and asked the Lord, "Please tell me the nature of your form, its power and your sports." The Lord answered, This divine sage Hyagriva is a partial incarnation of Mine (Vishnu). He will tell you whatever you want to know." Thus saying the Lord disappeared from in front of pot-born Agastya.
Once Hyagriva Hari, the Lord of the universe took leave and disappeared, sage Hyagriva and Agastya went back to their hermitage. Agastya offered a high seat for Sage Hyagriva and spoke, "O Siddha of Siddhantas, please tell me the manifestation of the Great Goddess, her forms, sportive activities and pastimes."
Sage Hyagriva answered:
The Goddess has no beginning and is the support of everything in the universe; Sat and Asat karmans are her forms; meditation is the only way she is perceived; meditation and Vidyas make her limbs with her heart as her base; she manifests to the ones who attained oneness with her by performing sacred rites. She manifests herself as Sakti and Prakrti to those who perform meditation of god Brahma.

More on the Divine horse.

There is a Personified divine horse by name DadhikrA, which is associated with Vishnu, morning sun, light and knowledge and mentioned in Rgveda. He was created by heaven and Earth or Mitra and Varuna, the latter being the tutelary deity of horses. Horse is symbolic of fragrant mouth (Knowledge) and cures halitosis of Avidya (ignorance) upon invocation of DadhikrA (Dadhyan). This is known as MadhuVidya, the honey-sweet doctrine. The following concept is challenged by this doctrine. There are two entities (Duality) in the world, the knower and the known; in other words consciousness and object; Consciousness and object are demarcated and circumscribed entities in the sense one cannot take the place of another and serve the alternate function.

Now hear from the horse's mouth. Honey-sweet doctrine continued.
Sage Dadhayan Atharvana says these (two spheres consciousness and object) are linked by a third entity. The First Entity, the consciousness is Adhyatma (the individual soul, the perceiver, we the people); the object is Adhibhuta (the world of objects). The linkage between this two spheres is provided by Adhidaiva (Brahman, God), which is the divine force like gravity that keeps these two entities linked together in an undemarcated unity. Consciousness is phenomenal subject (we the people) and Adhyatma; object refers to the phenomenal world of objects and Adhibhuta. The Adhidaiva (God) is the facilitator of experience between the perceiver and the perceived object. Thus there is a continuous dynamic flow between myriad perceivers and myriad perceived objects, like the ocean waves flow into each other. This experience, this knowledge is explicated by Sage Dadhyan. This knowledge is the essence as the honey is the condensed essence of the nectar from all flowers. Thus, it is called Honey Knowledge (Madhu-vidya). Honey is essence of the sap of countless flowers. The knowledge is thus the Honey Knowledge of the perceiver. This experience, this knowledge, this honey abrogates the demarcation between the perceiver and the perceived revealing the inner essence, which will not come into being without the participation of transcendent Adhidaiva and thus this confluence is a triune entity made of the soul, the world of objects and Brahman.
Fifth Brahmana, Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad talks about this Honey-Knowledge.

The earth and all living beings are mutually dependent, even as bees and honey (flowers and bees for pollination) are. Brahman is the Self in each, in the earth and in the individual. The water, the fire, the air, the sun, the moon, the quarters, the lightning, the cloud, the space, the law, the truth, the mankind, and the self are like honey for all beings, and all beings are like honey for all the above entities. Shining immortal person Brahman exists in all these. This Lord is the hub which holds the spokes and the rim together. The chief of lesser gods (Brahman is the God of all gods.) Indra threatened Sage Dadhyan with decapitation, if he revealed the honey-knowledge (Madhu-Vidya) to Asvins, who themselves went ahead and cut the head off (of Sage Dadhyan) in a hurry to get knowledge, transplanted the head with that of the horse, received knowledge from the fragrant mouth of the horse and put his own human head back in its the place of horse's head after receiving the Madhu-Vidya. Thus, the Asvins heard the Madhu-Vidya from the horse's mouth. Now you know what it means to hear from horse's mouth. 'From the horse's mouth', 'on good authority; from the original or a trustworthy source: I have it straight from the horse's mouth that the boss is retiring.'
The future Avatara of Vishnu is Kalkin, a Brahmana or Ksatriya riding a white horse.
BG Verse. Krishna Bhagavan says: 10.27: Know Me, among horses to be Ucchaisravas born along with the nectar. Of the elephants, I am Airavata. Of men, I am king.
Ucchaisravas is the long-eared horse, which came out of the churned ocean. Lord Vishnu claimed ownership of Ucchaisravas, a white horse with a black tail. You see it abundantly made clear that horse is a symbol of Vishnu who is omniscient.
Horse worship was prevalent in Iron and Bronze age in Pagan Europe. 

 

January 1, 2012:

 

 

Happy New Year to all. Let the Grace of Balaji descend on you, your family, friends and acquaintances. As usual, I was drawn to the Balaji Temple by the inexorable magnetism of Lord of the Hills. The sky was cast in clouds, which was appropriate in the sense that Krishna is of the color of dark blue clouds as described by the Alvars of Tamil Nadu. I wish I saw the images of Alvars in the temple who wrote 4000 songs (Divyaprabhandam) in praise of Vishnu in His Avatars.  These Alvars were realized Souls coming from all castes in Tamil Nadu. Of the Alvars, the leading one was Nammalvar, who described Vaikuntam (வைகுந்தம் = Vishnu's heaven) in a vivid account. The temple has carvings of some verses in English of Bhagavadgita on the Granite face.

The devotees, young and old and in-between, came to the humongous Sanofi-Aventis parking lot adjacent to the Temple. It was a great convenience that draws devotees from far and wide, apart from the obvious Lord of the Hills. Nowadays parking is at a premium in big cities. The elders of the temple were wise to have chosen such a convenient place for the temple with the adjacent parking on holidays. Their genius is showing and obvious in every step of the way outside and inside of the temple.

 

July 25 2009: 10th ANNUAL INDIAN-AMERICAN FESTIVAL as held on July 25th & 26th 2009 at Garden State Exhibit Center Somerset NJ 08873 USA and organized by The Hindu Temple and Cultural Society of USA, Inc. 780 Old Farm Road, Bridgewater NJ 08807.  The admission to the events was free.  The temple staff brought out a snazzy All Color Festival Souvenir given away free to the attendees.              

The Festival Logo, the temple staff declared, is 'United We Stand' with Indian and American flags.

This was a real big event for the organizers, the temple and the community. It was held in a humongous hall with a ton of vendors participating in the festival.  There were stalls for arts and crafts, jewelry, clothes, dress, insurance....  There was one stall selling freshly pressed and filtered sugarcane juice.  Behind the entertainment area was the food court. The performance stage was huge with lighting and sound systems.  

The stage performance kickoff started with National Anthems (US and Indian).  At one point there was a presentation of local elected officials, office holders and aspirants on the stage. Henal Shaw and Matthew Young from Bridgewater High School received HTCS Bridgewater Educational Scholarship 2009 awards.  The entertainment was by far the best geared up for the occasion. Tots just out of diapers staged their dance performance to the glee and glow of parents and audience.  It was all dance, dance and dance by tots, teens and in-betweens. In the past years, the dancers bravely and patiently danced on the stage in the temple grounds with the sun beating down on them and beads of perspiration mixed with mascara running down their tender faces. The members of the audience tried to dodge the sun by shifting from one chair to the next under the tent. Now it is all changed. It was AC through and through. The sun decided to stay out.

Balaji temple Logos.

The stage and the performers were adroitly managed by the emcees. The judges were assiduous in watching and scoring the performance. There was a good mix of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Bhangra, Rajasthani, Hindi and Garba performed by individuals and groups.  The get-up-and-go of the participants was palpable. The quality of performances was extraordinary and the credit goes to the organizers, the Dance Schools and choreographers.  Bharatanatyam dominated and claimed its preeminent place on the stage. The stories from timeless Indian mythology were a delight to watch as they unfolded before your eyes.  The dance schools, teachers and the performers seem to have a fascination in portraying Lord Krishna in their presentations.  His presence is easily recognized by His perennial youth, hairdo and flute.   

The audience seemed to have enjoyed the presentations, remaining very disciplined and appreciative. Their appreciation remained muted sometimes when it came to hand clapping and encouragement of tots, teens and in-betweens. There were very little Ahs and Oohs and yet the small fry deserved them.  We ( me included) are to a certain extent dour and sour dough not willing to rise to utter exclamations. My eyeball estimate was that there were about a thousand or more in the audience and the shopping stalls. As the day went by, the crowd was waxing. The ladies clustered around jewelry and clothing stalls. I saw a few clusters of whites in the front and right watching the performance. There was of course a constant influx and efflux of patrons. The parking was free. There were acres of cars parked all over the grounds in the parking lots.

There was a play area for the children. I didn't see any clowns walking on stilts. It was a welcome pleasant evening at the festival.                     

The Temple has received approval for construction of The Cultural Center which will sit on 20,500 sq.ft and have state of the art Theater/Auditorium with 470 to 643 seats, a mechanical platform, green rooms, sound systems, lighting, class rooms, library, kitchen, dining room and the whole nine yards.

The main feature is the Temple expansion towards the flagpole, besides the priest housing, and direct entrance from and exit to Route 202/206.

Jan 1, 2007: The New Year Celebration started with the invocation of all deities including the principal and central Deity Lord Venkatesvara for the welfare of the people of the world. The devotees of South Asian Origin, some non-Asian spouses, and other celebrants came by the busloads. The administration of the Temple arranged a 5-minute short bus trip for the devotees from the Sanofi-Aventis parking lot adjacent to the Temple. The magnetic Lord Venkatesvara, the adjacent main Highway, the convenient humongous rented Sanofi-Aventis parking lots, convenient bus trips, the genial nature of the priests, volunteers, administration, and the in-house eatery contributed to the mega-turnout of swelling throngs of devotees. The constant drizzle seemed to have had no effect on the turnout, which was actually greater than previous years. The wait in line was sweet and short (10-20 minutes). The highlight of the day was the privilege of receiving Dharsan of Lord Venkatesvara in the Sanctum Sanctorum. This was no ordinary Dharsan. Lord Venkatesvara was an exhilarating, spine-tingling, awe-inspiring, benignant and supremely satisfied divine Being dispensing grace to His devotees. The accouterments, the floral arrangements, the wonderful Maalas, the weapons, the discus, the conch and the rest vied with each other to look their best; they all sparkled only because He was wearing them. The Lord made the priests look good at what they do. That Face, that Supreme Face shone like a million suns with self-assured radiance and a distinct irrepressible gracious smile because of ever-present Sri abiding on His chest. There were many Archana Sponsors for Lord Venkatesvara and other deities. The line snaked from the basement of the temple to the first floor like coils of Adisesha and ended up at the Sanctum Sanctorum. It looked like the Empyreal Highway to Heaven (Vaikuntham, Paramapatham-- வைகுந்தம்). The young, the old, the infirm, men and women on crutches and wheelchairs, and moms with babes in arms came into the sanctum with devotion etched on their faces. Many, young and old, scraped the dust off the sill of the doorway to the Sanctum and applied it to the forehead as a mark of humility, respect and devotion. The dust of the devotees' feet is sacred in Vaishnava tradition.  Of course the devotees performed stick-like eight-limb prostration (Ashta-Anga-namaskaram) that made them look that much taller from the toes to fingertips. Humility expressed by prostration makes the devotees look taller than while standing. Taller did they look before the Divine EGO (AHAM), when their ego was down on the floor in eight-limb prostration. The children even without prompting from parents performed Sashtanga Namaskaram before the Lord. After Dharsan, the never-ending 70-people long Sesha-serpentine queue slithered to the tables of priests and volunteers who dispensed Tirtham, Sadari, and Prasadam of raisins. That is where the devotees picked up the Archana coconuts and apples.  As far as I know, there were no untoward incidents, all because of grace of the Presiding Deity, Lord Venkatesvara. End of  report.

Note: Tanjore Aiyampettai Chakravakesvarar Temple: The legend says that Tirumal worshipped Amman (Sakti) and received his discus.

Nammalvar, the Srivaishnavas believe, was the incarnation of Visvaksena,  the Commander in chief of Vishnu. At various times he was regarded the incarnation of Kaustabha jewel of Vishnu or Vishnu Himself. Srivaishnava devotees receive the feet of Vishnu in the form of Sadari. Nammalvar is  the premier Srivaishnava saint-poet who had visions of Sriman Narayana and in whom Sriman Narayana revealed Himself as the devoted poet-singer. Sadari is the corpus of  his devotional work (Tiruvaymoli) and Nammalvar holding the feet of Narayana on his head. Receiving Sadari with bowed head and humility is getting the essence of His devotional poetry, attaining and holding onto the feet of Sriman Narayana for the express purpose of Mukti (liberation). 

The lay out of the floor plan is at the end of the article. Print this article and take it with you to the temple for your use. Your suggestions are welcome.

Here is an article giving you some basic information about Balaji Temple, Bridgewater, NJ. This material is intended for the use of all visitors, both Hindus and Non-Hindus. The pictures except for the Temple Tower are not photos of temple sculptures.

This material is neither official nor unofficial  but my own presentation of the Temple. Welcome to the Bridgewater, NJ Balaji Temple, whose presiding deity is Venkatesvara, the Lord of the Hills, one of the many names of Vishnu. The temple celebrated Kumbhabishekam in 1998 (installation, purification, consecration ceremony). The flagpole (Dhvajastambham) near the entrance to the temple is in line with the main deity. The Hindu Holy Trinity consists of Brahma, the Lord of creation, Vishnu, the Lord of preservation and Siva, the Lord of destruction; these correspond to birth, life and death in an individual or the cosmos. Inside the temple there are shrines housing many deities clustered around the Central Deity. The Bridgewater Balaji Temple is truly a multi-denominational temple within Pan-Hinduism celebrating most deities: Ganesa, Mother Goddess, Siva, Vishnu besides syncretic Ayyappa, regional Murugan and His consorts, Satyanarayana, a personification of Tapas and austerity, the giver of prosperity to individual, family, friends, relatives, and community, and one of many manifestations of Vishnu. Satyanarayana Viratam (religious vow, fasting...) observance invites and invokes Ganesa for removal of obstacles, Lakshmi for prosperity, Vishnu, Siva and Parvati, the Sun god, grantor of good health, Indra, the nine planets and Ashtadikpalas, the eight guardian angels of directions. If you want to observe Satyanarayana Viratam, make enquiries within the temple. Lord Venkatesvara is worshipped in his youthful form and splendor; thus He is Balaji (Bala + Ji = youth, child, infant + honorific way of addressing god or an elder). The original Venkatesvara Temple is in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India and serves as the prototype of the deity in the Central Shrine. The eponym Venkata means many things. Vem + Kata = Dire sins + redeeming power = destroyer of sins of those who worship Him. Vem + Kata = Ambrosia + plenitude = Giver of wealth. Ven + Kadan = Burn + debts = Paying off debts. The temple is built according to traditional South Indian style. The tower is a pyramid facing the rising sun (East) and housing at its base is the entrance door. You may notice a tall flag-staff (Dhvaja-stambha) in front of the main entrance and the central shrine. This is where the devotees relinquish and abandon their ego and the negative thoughts.  There is only one EGO in the universe and that is HIS.

The temple entrance is guarded by Dikpalas, the guardians of the four quarters. The tower, its many stories, and the inner shrines are an example of recursive pattern of self-same fractals. The Chola-style tower is decorated with semi-divine beings, sometimes holding weapons. You may notice an elevated broad walkway (Prakaram) around the temple complex; this is meant for circumambulation of the temple starting on your left. Don't be overwhelmed by the thronging gods, goddesses, priests, volunteers, and devotees in the temple. Even the children appear very disciplined inside the temple. I never saw children running around and playing hide-and-seek inside the temple. They seem to sense the holiness and sacral ambience of the temple. It is a festive day everyday here when family and friends come to worship. You may not find a holier and nicer place than this on this day. Here you will find even nicer priests. You will see obeisant devotees bend their heads receiving the Sadari on their heads.  Don't be afraid to take the holy water from the dispensing priest, drink it and apply the remains on your head, and be suffused with divine grace. Don't forget to relish the Prasada (rice, butter and brown raw sugar cooked and served to the Lord). You will invariably notice the devotees apply their flat palms to the flame in the tall standing oil lamps and apply the palms to their eyes. The Deity is the Light of lights. Light is knowledge. You certainly want that light in your eyes, so you can see the truth with your eyes. The Lord is the Light in the sun, the fire, the moon, the stars, the heart and the eye.

Don't be confused when you look at the different sectarian marks on the forehead and other parts of the body of the priests and visiting votaries. Just an important note: The Catholic Rituals are imports from India. Watch what the priests do and you will know what I mean. Go to  TILAKAM http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/tilakam.htm for more information on the sectarian marks. These are the external marks of their affiliation to a particular sect. There is one God, Brahman who is Pure Consciousness and manifests as gods and goddesses or Ishta Devata, deity of your liking. He is One and many are His manifestations. Take a Broadway play; you may see one actor playing many roles; you know in your mind that he is one person playing many roles. The same is true of Brahman and the subsidiary gods. Would you be satisfied with a nameless, formless generic god (Brahman)? Would you buy a generic car with no name and with only wheels, roof, steering wheel and an engine? Certainly not. You want a brand name car loaded with options. The same is true of gods: a brand name god with great benevolence. You may choose one god from among many gods for worship. This where Henotheism comes in: believing in one god without disbelieving in the existence of others. You may even worship all deities who emerged from that nameless and formless Brahman.  Lord Venkatesvara is the Central Deity. This is not the picture of the deity in the temple. See the Floor plan.

As you enter the temple, you see the largest shrine wherein abides Balaji. The Presiding central deity is carved out of black granite or red igneous rock standing on a lotus pedestal. The first thing that strikes is the white sectarian mark on His forehead. It is called Namam or Tiruman. He sees intently at His devotee; His physiognomy is one of joy, comely smile, inner tranquility and outer happiness.

He has wavy curly hair. He has four arms, two posterior and two anterior. The posterior upper arms are held up, the right one holding the Discus and the left one holding the Conch. The right anterior lower hand is bent at the elbow and held in a supine position with the open palm pointing to His feet; the hand position is known as Varada Mudra Hasta pose (Boon-giving hand). The left anterior lower hand is straight down, prone, bent at the wrist and resting lightly just below the left hip in Katya Vilambita Hasta which signifies that the Lord protects and blesses His devotees. (Katya = panegyric; Vilambita = hanging; Hasta = related to hand) = Hand that protects the devotees who sing His panegyric or pay homage. Note that the left thumb is parallel to His hip. His divine consort Lakshmi rests on His right anterior chest, indicating Her special status. You heard the expression, "I hold you in my (spiritual) heart." Now you know His consort's place. Holding of the weapons is not for His protection but for the protection and reassurance of the votaries. He is God ; He does not need any protection. WYSIWYG principle (What You See Is What You Get) applies here. When the devotees see the weapons, they are reassured that He does the fighting for them to kill the demons in us. He is the armed SuperCop keeping peace in this unruly world. Then you may ask with justification, "Why all this suffering, wars, unrest....?" Suffering results from Karma. He dons the Yagnopavitra (sacred thread), necklaces, waist girdle, snake-shaped armlets and anklets. The Surya Katari (golden sun-sword) stands in front of His legs in the middle, hanging from His belt. He sports Kavachas (Cuirass or armor; gold or silver plates) on various parts of His body. He loves to wear Vanamala, garland of wild flowers and Tulasi seed Mala (Sacred Basil garland). The devotees express their Bhakti (devotion) to Vishnu in many ways. They chant His many names, fall prostrate at His feet, sit and meditate, do small services around and inside the temples. The priests do the ablutions, and put the robes, decorations, garlands on Him; after waving the lights before Him, the priest brings out the light on a plate. People cup their hands on the flame and apply the Light to their eyes and head, invoking the Spiritual Light of Wisdom to descend on them. This is followed by Thirtham / Tirtha / nIr (தீர்த்தம் = நீர் = sacred water used in worship) which is dispensed from the silver spoon for sipping and application over the head. Then comes SadAri, which is made of silver, looks like a crown and has the emblematic footwear of Vishnu at the top. The priest applies the Sadari on the head of the devotee who takes it with bent head and humility. Receiving the dust of His feet on the head is a mark of submission to the will of Vishnu and a sign of devotion and Prapatti (taking refuge in God). Would you be afraid to receive and consume the consecrated Host from the Catholic priest? In like manner don't be afraid to consume Prasadam given by the priest. The Prasadam comes in two forms: 1) cooked rice, butter and unrefined raw sugar, 2) raisins, nuts…. Let me explain the meaning of Prasadam. It is like Host and yet is different. Prasadam is Divine Grace or favor. Prasadam is the remnants of food served to deity and later distributed to the devotees. By eating Prasadam, one is infused with His Grace and favor, which is receiving divine wisdom and spiritual consciousness, weakening the materialistic existence, expunging the sins, going to His kingdom, heaven, Vaikuntham or Paramapadam (Vaishnava heaven) and attaining eternal life in close proximity to Bhagavan.

OM NAMO NARAYANAYA. OM NAMO BHAGAVATE VASUDEVAYA. HARI OM. OM SRI RAMAYA NAMA.

#2 Ganesa in the Floor Plan.  Lord Ganesa: As you go past the second door into the main hall of shrines, you see on your immediate left, a shrine housing Lord Ganesa, who is the god of wisdom and has an elephant face, a pot belly, a broken tusk…. He is the Lord of beginnings and Siddhidatta, the Giver of success. Ganesa means the Lord of Ganas, the heavenly hosts. He appeared like any other anthropomorphic baby at birth. Things happened; the elephant head took the place of the human head by transplantation, performed by Vishnu under extenuating circumstances to bring him to the present form. Please go to  Ganesa http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/GANESA.htm  to learn why He has an elephant face. OM SRI MAHAGANAPATAYE NAMAH

Mother Goddess Ambika: Ambika = Mother. Right behind Lord Ganesa you will see another shrine housing Ambika (#3), who is the Mother of Ganesa. She is the divine consort of Siva. She goes by many names: Parvati, Gauri, Uma, Sati, Kali, Durga…. Ambika's birth is out of this world. Find out how and why. There once was a buffalo-demon who was more powerful than gods and so was always attacking them. He is appropriately called a buffalo-demon. Have you seen an angry, testosterone-charged buffalo bull-dozing its way in a rough-and-tumble ram-through? (Recently on TV, I saw a few buffalos in the African plains running helter-skelter from charging ambush of tigers on the hunt. (Ambush or streak of tigers and pride of lions) One calf accidentally fell in to the near-by river, chock-full of crocodiles. One tiger was pulling the calf by its front foot and a croc was pulling the calf into the river by a hind foot. As this tug of death was going on for the calf, buffalos by the hundreds appeared from out of nowhere and hedged the tigers between them and the river of crocs. The calf was pulled out of the water by the tiger from the deathly mouth of the croc. In the mean time in a show of strength by numbers, a testosterone-charged angry buffalo charged one tiger with its horns and threw him in the air. Landing hard, the humiliated tiger and the rest of the ambush of tigers with their tails tucked in humiliation between the hind legs simply streaked away like pussycats. The rescued calf joined the herd) The demon had a boon that conferred guarantee against death from god or man. The gods had to come up with a solution. They assembled, put their heads together and created a Force from their Tejas (power, splendor, male energy). (What a sight to see when all these gods, some having four heads, doing the head bunt to come up with a solution.) The splendor emanating from the gods coalesced, congealed and created a divine woman who had amassed all the power of all the gods. The demon and the boon stipulated that the demon was immune from death in the hands of god or man (and NOT a woman); now you know his attitude towards woman. Ambika was her name, who could vanquish any man, god or demon. Eventually, She did defeat and kill the demon and the enemies of gods. The Jains (an offshoot from Hindu religion, just like Christianity is an offshoot from Judaism) adopted Ambika as their own deity. One should remember that these demons (Passion, Anger, Greed…) afflict us and the goddess helps us vanquish these demons.

Siva in the Form of Lingam (#5): As you go past Ambika, you will see a bigger shrine housing Lingam (an Obelisk) and a miniature sitting bull statue (#4) in front of the shrine facing the Lingam and having its ears cocked up. Nandi (happy one, bull) is His Vahana (transport); Coomaraswamy suggests that Nandi is the theriomorphic form of Siva. Linga means sign, symbol. Lingam = Li + gam = to dissolve + to go out. He is the ultimate Reality into whom the living beings dissolve and out of whom they emerge again. It is the recycling of the soul with a body.  

The question comes up why Lingam is the way it looks. Let me explain. If there is smoke, there is fire. The smoke is the sign that fire is present. When you see Washington Monument, you think of Washington, though the monument does not look anything like Washington. The monument, everyone decided, should be stupendous and elegant to honor the First President of the young nation. Just like Washington Monument is an abstract form of President Washington, Linga is an abstract form of Siva and a generative principle. Siva, according to Saivites, is the First God; He is the Father of all beings; He is the First One to say, "Aham" meaning I, the First I in the Universe. There was no one else in the universe except His Sakti (Power by His side). Thus, 'Siva and Sakti' is a unitary force from which the First I  (through Sakti) became He, She, and It, which cover everything in the Universe; I or One became many.  Lingam is an obelisk well grounded in a labial vestibular pedestal and the aniconic form (Niskala) of Siva. The three white stripes, sandalwood, red dots, and the serpent at the base of the lingam have significance. Go to http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/lord of dance.htm         LORD OF DANCE

#5a depicts Lord Nataraja, the Lord of Dance.  #5b depicts Siva and Parvati in anthropomorphic form mounted on a silver bull. Take a look at the table. Sivalingam is present in all the elements; there is one temple for each element celebrating Lingam in its elemental form.

 

Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva form the Holy Triad. In most of the temples, Siva is portrayed as Lingam, His abstract Form. Only in pictures, he has anthropomorphic features.  www.bhagavadgitausa.com/primer_in_Saiva_siddhanta.htm

Here is a pictorial depiction of Lord of Dance with its symbolic meanings of various features of dance frozen in metal. Enlarge image to read the fine print.

 

 

      Just behind the Linga Shrine in the corner, you will see syncretic Ayyappan, divine being born of Hara and Hari also called Hariharan or Harihara Putra (Hari-Hara son). He has all the spiritual qualities of both Vishnu and Siva. He was divine by birth, royal by upbringing and spiritual in pursuit. He was found by king Rajasekhara during a hunt; since the king had no son, he took him and raised him as his own. The king belonged to Pandalam Dynasty which ruled parts of South India between 1200-1500 CE. He was known for his bravery, asceticism and spiritual enlightenment. He disappeared near Sabarimala and a temple exists now in His name. Ayyappan #6 in the floor plan; #7 another Lingam behind the main shrine of Lingam; #8 Lord Murugan and His Consorts (Powers). #9 Murugan and consorts mounted on Silver Peacock.

    

The image next to Lord Ayyappan is that of Lord Murugan with His consorts Valli and Devayanai, who are in the shrine behind the Lingam Shrine. Murugan or Skanda is the brother of Ganesa with the elephant face. In North India He is known as Skanda, Kanthan in Tamil. He carries a spear, thus Vel Murugan. Vel = spear; Murugan = youth. He has six faces; there are many legends associated with the six faces. In Palani Temple, He is portrayed as shaven with a staff and bears the name, Dandayuthapani, the bearer of the staff. The spear is the piercing spear of spiritual wisdom. The spear destroys the demons in our mind and gives liberation to the virtuous and the devoted. Murugan's mount is a peacock and He is seen here sitting on it  with His consorts. Shanmuga's (Murugan) six heads are symbolic of divine power, wealth, fame, strength, detachment from passion, and knowledge. 

 

(Next to the shrine, you will see huge silver bull on which are mounted Siva and Parvati, on your way out of the corridor behind Linga Shrine. This is #5b in the floor plan. Here you see elephant-headed Ganesa, Siva, Parvati and Murugan from your left to right. The ever-present bull is sitting below them. Aru padai Veedu: There are six holy temples in six places in Tamil Nadu for Murugan. The most famous composition on Murugan (Kanthan) is Kantha Puranam by Sivachariyar.

 

Lord Satyanarayana  (#10) is another form of Lord Vishnu who is commonly worshiped by Hindus in their homes along with family and friends. The worship is performed usually on a full moon (purnima) day of the month. People worship by reciting the gracious story of the Lord which was once told by Lord Vishnu himself to sage Narada for the benefit of mankind. The Lord's grace is described in a Hindu book called Skanda Purana. He has four hands like Lord Vishnu; however, his fourth hand does not hold a lotus rather it is extended upward to bless people. By Hindunet.org

#11 and #12 are Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, the consorts of Sri Venkatesvara of Balaji Temple.

Take a stroll past all deities until you go behind the Central Shrine in the hall. When you face the smaller shrines, they are behind the back wall of the Central Shrine. On your left is the shrine of Lakshmi, also known as Sri Devi; on your right is the shrine of Bhudevi. Both are the consorts of Lord Vishnu residing behind the Central shrine. Sri Devi is the goddess of wealth (Goddess of El Dorado) and prosperity and Bhudevi is the goddess of earth. Look at the elaborate hairdo of Bhudevi.

#13. Durga: Go past Sri Devi and Bhudevi, you will see a white statue of Durga (warrior goddess) sitting on a lion and holding many weapons in Her many hands. She and Kali are the other manifestations of Ambika, the consort of Siva.  Mantra: Om Sri Durgayai Namah http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/durga.htm. for more details. http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/Kali.htm. Next to the Coconut breaking station, you will see three metallic statues in a small shrine. The central one in the higher pedestal is Durga, the warrior goddess with Lakshmi to her right and Sarasvati to her left. Sarasvati is the goddess of learning, arts and sciences and holds Veena, a stringed instrument.  

 
 

 

These three goddesses form a configuration which helps the human soul get rid of the Malas (impurities), gain spiritual knowledge and attain liberation or Moksa. Durga is a demon killer (Kriya Sakti). Demons are the Tamasic (Dark) demons in our mind: Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, Matsarya (desire, anger, greed, delusion, pride, and envy). Once Durga kills these demons, Lakshmi (Ichcha Sakti) takes over the mind and helps us get rid of Rajasic Vikshepa (False perception; distraction; to and fro oscillations of the mind; gales of desire blowing in the mind) which are hard to remove from the mind. Lakshmi helps man acquire the Will Power (Ichcha Sakti) and get rid of remnants of desire and false perception by Upasana (worship). What is left is ignorance meaning spiritual ignorance. Spiritual enlightenment is infused by Sarasvati (Jnana Sakti). The eradication of impurities, desires and ignorance with the help of these three deities is celebrated for nine days and nine nights, 3 days and 3 nights for each deity (Navaratri = nine nights). It takes nine days and nine nights to defeat these demons. Nine manifestation of Mother Goddess (Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba, Annapurna, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika, Lalita, and Bhavani) are celebrated over nine nights. The tenth day is Vijayadasami, meaning victory (over the demons of the mind; realization and emancipation) on the 10th day. It is celebrated in the beginning of summer and winter. In Puranas, the demons are described as living beings. Mantras: Om Sri MahaLakshmyai Namah. Om Sri Durgayai Namah. Om Aim Sarasvatyai Namah. 

Read more on the desires of the mind and spiritual ignorance and their personification as the buffalo demon morphing into an elephant or vice versa etc; desire is compared to an animal.  DEVI MAHATMYAM www.bhagavadgitausa.com/devi_mahatmyam 

 

 

3.38: As the smoke envelops the fire, as the dust covers the mirror, as the womb covers the fetus, so passion (desire) obscures the wisdom.  Bhagavad Gita C3V38.

Removal of Avarana and Vikshepa. Avarana = Veiling caused by spiritual ignorance. Vikshepa = oscillating mind of desires, scattering, tossing, throwing, discharging. Spiritual Ajnana, Avarana and Vikshepa are linear elements. Ignorance and Avarana are like a cataract in the eye preventing Light (of Wisdom) reaching the eye and brain (soul).  This veil or cataract prevents the Light of Sat and Cit of Brahman from reaching the soul. They are impediments to spiritual progress. In the absence of spiritual wisdom (Saktinipatam = descent of Wisdom as in Saiva Siddhanta) coming into the soul, the mind jumps from one desire to the next illustrated by the morphing of the desire-demon from an elephant to a buffalo. When one desire is killed, another desire pops up in its place in an endless fashion. It is the whipping gale of desire, its many variants, permutations and effects.  On a philosophical note, Vikshepa Sakti is driven by Ajnana (ignorance) and desire. Mind is the stage wherein the Vikshepa demon jumps from one desire to the next in an endless fashion. One desire morphs into another one when you kill the preceding desire. It is removed by Nishkama karma, action without expectation of rewards or desireless action. As in cataract extraction, you remove this ignorance by Avarana Bhanga (removal of the veil [cataract] by Upasana, worship).  To illustrate this concept of eradication of  the clonal colony of desires, Mahalakshmi sucks the marrow dry and drinks the last drop of blood of the demon (of desires) so he does not shed any more blood and make more clones of himself (desires) arising from the dripping blood.  Mahalakshmi presides over this stage and overcomes Rajasic Avarana and Vikshepa. The end result is enlightenment. Note: Ancient Indian seers had an idea of cloning. Whenever the demon shed a drop of blood, that drop of blood became another demon (desire).

Sharada Navaratri -- Newsletter from Siva Vishnu Temple Lanham Maryland  October 2012

Monday Oct. 15 - Tuesday Oct. 23, 2012

Sharada Navaratri, as it is called since it occurs during the fall season (Sarad Ritu) is one of the most popular Hindu festivals spanning a period of nine nights. The Goddess in the form of the Universal Mother is commonly worshipped during the nine nights and ten days and hence it is also known by the name of Devi Navaratri. Three aspects of the Divine Mother, namely Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped during the nine nights, the tenth day being celebrated as Vijaya Dashami. It is considered auspicious to start new ventures, especially in the field of education, on Vijaya Dahsami. Reading the Durga Sapta Sati (also known as Devi Mahatmyam) and Ramayanam is also common during the Navaratri. Special Pujas are scheduled in the temple during the ten days. Devotees are encouraged to participate personally in the Sahasranama Archana daily.

 

 

 

The next shrine shows Lakshmi-Narayana, the manifestation of the Central deity Vishnu and the goddess of fortune. This conjoined form of Lakshmi and Narayana (Vishnu) depicts that in the Supreme State, Vishnu is one with His Sakti (power) Lakshmi. They are one Supreme Being without distinction. Narayana means He in whom abide the waters (of creation). Remember the amniotic fluid surrounding the unborn fetus. Similarly, His waters of Creation are called the Causal Ocean. Universes emerge from His sweat pores. Narayana is no other than Vishnu, the Presiding Deity of the Temple. Just a note: Vishnu has at least 1008 names. The priests chant His 1008 names (Sahasranama). I bet your parents, friends and family have special endearing names for you; thus you have many names. Because He is the Supreme God, the devotees chant His Mantra to invoke Him: "Om Namo Narayanaya." It means, Om, Prostrations to Lord Vishnu or Narayana. See Lakshmi-Narayana #16: the couple with crowns.

The next shrine is that of Radha-Krishna (#17). Here Krishna is the Supreme Soul of the universe and Radha is the individual soul. The love that the individual soul has for the World Soul and their interrelationship is portrayed here as that between Krishna and Radha. All individual souls (Monads) emerged from the World Soul; we are related to him every which way you can think of. The individual soul pines for the Greater Soul and wants to merge with Him-liberation from the world of misery. In its highest form, it is called Krishna Prema--Love of Krishna.  #17 a is the Sesa the humongous cosmic serpent in silver, described in the beginning.

We are in one way pulled by the forces of material world and in another way pulled by the spiritual force of the Great Soul. This is like love. The magnetism between man and god is compared to love between man and woman; in this instance it is called Krishna Prema (love of Krishna). Gitagovindam glorifies this relationship in songs which can be compared to the Hebrew Song of Songs. The Christian Church says the sensual imagery of the Biblical "Song of Songs" symbolizes Christ's love for His Bride, the Church. Ref: Woodroffe, Garland of Letters, page 182- 183. Krishna is one of the Avatars of Vishnu. Go to  http://www.bhagavadgitausa.com/Gitagovindam

Rama is the central persona of the Great Epic, Ramayana. Rama (#18) is an incarnation of Vishnu and this scene shows from left to right Hanuman on his knee with both hands held together in homage and reverence, Lakshmana the brother of Rama and his constant companion, Rama in the middle and Sita, Ramah's wife. Ramachandra = Rama beautiful like the moon. Rama was a prince ready to ascend the throne; palace intrigue by his step-mother deprived him of his kingdom, and He was banished to the forest. During his stay in the forest in South India his wife Sita was abducted and taken to Ceylon, the modern Sri Lanka. Hanumat, the leader of ape-like beings joined Rama with his troops and helped Rama locate and recover Sita from the demon-king Ravana. If you have seen the movie, Planet of the Apes, you will have an idea of who Hanumat looked like. In the battle, Ravana died; Rama rejoins His wife. Hanumat or metronymic Anjaneya (named after his mother) became the most revered devotee of Rama. The foursome are called Ram Parivaar (Rama's family). The meditation Maha Mantra of Rama and Krishna is as follows: Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare; Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare.  #18a = The Silver elephant, the mount of Rama. 

 

The next shrine that you see is the Shrine of Hanumat or Anjaneya (#19) right across from the Rama's Shrine to the right. You can recognize Him by His physiognomy as described earlier. He is heavy-jawed and so named Hanumat. You see him carrying a mountain peak in His hand and is poised on a flight to see Rama in the battle field. Ramah during the battle was exhausted and so needed a tonic to fight battle fatigue. Anjaneya flew to Himalayas and not knowing the herb needed for recuperation, broke the mountain top where it grew and brought it to Rama, who recovered from eating the herbal medicine. There is no devotee as sincere as Hanumat is. He is the epitome of devotion to Rama and thus, has a place in the House of Worship and in our hearts. His Mantra is Om Sri Hanumate Namah.

 Swami Vishnu Devananda says: Hanumat is the perfection of devotion. He is the greatest and the most selfless devotee of Lord Rama. In the Hindu tradition, he is considered to be a semi-deity (Demi-god), for he is the son of the wind-god (actually Siva) and an Apsara, Anjana. He possess strength and courage.

 

You will see a raised platform with a cluster of figurines in the north-east corner of the temple premises. These are the Navagrahas-nine planets, which are under the purview of the Mother Goddess and other deities. It is the Hindu belief that the planets have an impact on an individual's life, the community and the nation. They are clustered around the Sun and all of them are facing in the four directions, not seeing each other. Here in the picture the configuration appears different.

Their configuration and relative positions are according to Agamas. The Sun is in the Center. #20 to the right

 

The following figures are not in the temple. This is the famous dance of Siva. His right ear ring fell on the floor while He was dancing. In a fluid movement, he picked up His earring with His right toe from the dance floor and put it on his right ear. See the ring on the right big toe. See the grace, fluidity, the dynamic pose and the still head in all his movements. The dwarf under His foot is Apasmara Purusha, an embodiment of spiritual ignorance. He is the Yogi of all Yogis. He has a third eye of wisdom in the middle of the forehead. Sometimes, fire emits from his third eye. His eyes are the Sun, the Moon and the Fire. Saiva Siddhanta philosophy is one of the most celebrated one in the world of religions.  Primer in Saiva Siddhanta

 He is white as snow and His wife is black like eye-lash liner (Mother Goddess Kali). Mahakali is the one who swallows Time, and the Mother of all beings and gods. Daksina means "south, gift, right." Yama is the Lord of death and lives in the south. He is afraid of taking Kali's devotees to Yama Loka, the abode of death, so She is called Daksina Kali. The other explanation says that She offers the gift that guarantees liberation. The third explanation says that She is Daksina Kali because she plants her benign right foot on Siva over his chest where the heart is. She places her dangerous left foot on the demons and the wicked who succumb to Her wrath. Kali in the cremation grounds (Smasana Kali) has Her left foot forward in the company of ghosts, ghouls, jackals, and fearsome companion Mothers. (Mothers: Think of Charlie's Angels with skills like deathly Martial Arts.) Another plausible explanation suggests that south-facing Daksina-Siva or -Bhairava adulates and worships Kali. The town where there is Kali temple is called Daksinesvar. When you ask devotees which Kali they prefer, the informed ones prefer Kali with left foot forward (Vama Kali), because a devotee rises above the good and the bad, renounces the world and achieves liberation quickly. Her third eye strikes terror in the demons and the wicked. The three eyes represent triads: the sun, moon and fire; the past, present, and future. Third eye stands also for eternal wisdom. The demons are the demons of the mind as said before. By this time, you would have noticed that there is a lot of symbolism in Hindu imagery.

Balimaharaja usurped the kingdoms of Heaven and earth., thus angering gods. No one could vanquish him. Gods complained to Lord Vishnu that Bali vanquished them, took and ruled the heavens. Vishnu is the God of gods. He listened and devised a plan to conquer him without blood-shed, because Bali was His devotee. He took birth (incarnation) in a Brahmana family; He was a dwarf and his name was Vamana, who most likely suffered from Growth Hormone Deficiency. In this case, Vishnu willed that He became a dwarf to dupe, whoop and scoop. His size fooled the king. Lord Vishnu knew that Bali was a generous King. He asked the king for a piece of land equal to three strides of His feet. Little did Bali know the trick up the sleeve of Vishnu. Bali's Chief priest Sukra warned the king not to accede to His request. Bali being a generous and magnanimous king, agreed to donate land equal to three strides to the dwarf. Immediately, Lord Vishnu expanded to High Heavens and beyond, measured the earth in one stride, the heavens in the 2nd stride and had no land for the third stride. He demanded Bali for the third stride of land. He had no land and pointed to his head as the land. Immediately Vamana put his foot on Bali's head and pushed him down to the Nether world. (See the inset: Vishnu measured the earth and heavens and Bali ready to offer his head as the third piece of land.) Bali was not killed and the Lord made him the king of the nether world and restored the Heavens to the gods. This is one of the most celebrated Avatars (Incarnation) of Vishnu, because there was no violence. When you go around the main shrine, you will see little statues depicting the Avatars of Vishnu. By the way, Vishnu is a strict Lacto-Vegetarian. He does not accept animal sacrifice. He is a thoroughly benign God of Vaishnavites and all humanity.