Category: Bhakthi~Bhukthi

Dasara in Houston

Navaratri Alakarana

Devi Avatar Decorations for Dasara
Devi Avatar Alakarana for Navaratri ~ at Sri Meenakshi Temple, Houston

Bommala Koluvu, Gollu at Meenakshi Temple, Houston
Bommala Koluvu for Navaratri ~ at Sri Meenakshi Temple, Houston

Maa Durge, Maa Ambe, Maa Jagdambe, Maa Bhawani, Maa Sheetla, Maa Vaishnao,
Maa Chandi, Mata Devi. Jai Mata Di.
Shubha Dasara, dear family and friends.


Vinayaka Chaviti Celebrations

Vinayaka Chavithi 2010 Celebrations at My Home
Bala Ganapathi on Vinayaka Chaviti

Vinayaka Chavithi 2010 Celebrations at My Home
Purnam Kudumulu and Undrallu ~
A Virtual Vinayaka Chavithi Pandaga Bhojanam to All Our Family and Friends
Vinayaka Chavithi Subhakankshalu!


Homemade Ganapati Bappa

Homemade Ganesh for Ganesh Chaturdi
Homemade Ganesh with Clay

I made bala Ganapati with clay today for Vinayaka Chaviti festival tomorrow. The decorations are with kumkum, turmeric and rice powder. Eyes are whole urad dal (minapa pappu) and the laddu is dotted with skinless, split mustard seeds. It’s a simple vigraham, still looks divine to my eyes.

Vinayaka Chavithi shubhakamnaye! May Bhagavan Ganesha bless us all with peace, happiness and health!

Homemade Ganesh
Bala Ganesha with Kumkum and Pasupu Decorations

********* *********** *********
Mahanandi Readers’ Ganesha

Sachin Ganesha
Sachin and Family’s Clay Ganesha

Vaijayanthi Ganesha
Vaijayanthi & Arvind Family’s Play-doh Ganesha

Rashmi Ganesha
Rashmi and Family’s Clay Ganesha

Rashmi Ganesha
Vinayaka Chaviti Celebrations at Rashmi’s Home From UAE

Narayan Swamy Ganesha
Narayan Swamy and Family’s Clay Ganesha

Sireesha Ganesha
Sireesha and Family’s Play-doh Ganesha

Chaitanya Ganesha
Chaitanya and Family’s Rice Flour and Sugar Ganesha

Thank you Sachin, Vaijayanthi, Rashmi, Narayan Swamy, Sireesha and Chaitanya for sharing your Ganesha with us.


The Pleasures of Festivals ~ Nagula Chavithi

I grew up in a household where every festival was and still is religiously celebrated with great bhakthi and bhukthi. I’ve been trying to recreate those traditions here at my home. Each festival has its own set of pooja procedures. I am writing what I remember here at Mahanandi. This pleasure of festival series is for me and for those of you who would like a reference point. The pooja traditions I follow are from my birthplace, Nandyala in India. You are most welcome to contribute what you know and follow.

The Pleasures of Festivals ~ Nagula Chavithi

Nagula Chavithi is a festival where serpents are worshipped with great devotion. Nagula Chavithi is celebrated during the months of “Sravanam”(August) and/or in “Karthikam” (November). “Nagu” means the snake and “Chavithi” is the fourth day after every newmoon day. On this day, devotees observe fast and worship Nagamayya, the supreme snake- the Seven hooded cobra. Fresh flowers, milk, vadapappu, chalimidi, nuvvula-mudda and fresh coconut are offered as neivedyam. Thoranam is also placed infront of Nagamayya. Devotees offer milk to Naga Vigraham beneath the bodhi tree in temples and some complete the pooja at home placing an idol of a snake just for that day.

The Legend:
Legend behind Nagula Chavithi is that during the churning of the ocean by gods and demons in search of “Amrutham” (the nectar of immortality), a snake was used as rope and in the process, a terrible poison (“garalam”) emerged. The poison would have engulfed the whole world, but for Bhagavan Shiva, who swallowed it and retained it in His throat. His throat turned blue – hence, Bhagavan Shiva is called “Neelakantha”. However, a few drops spilled and to ward off the evil effects, people worship the Cobra, the king of snakes, to pacify the brood and protect themselves from any ill effects.

Pooja Preparation:
The day before:
Clean the home. Clean the bhagavan mandir.
Shopping list: Yellow moong dal, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, jaggery, cardamom, ghee, fresh milk, dry coconut and fresh coconut for pooja, cotton thread for thoranam. Fresh flowers and fruits.
Ingredients preparation: Crush or grate the jaggery to fine. Grate the dry coconut. Crush the cardamom seeds and prepare cardamom powder. Store them in clean jars.

On Nagula Chavithi Day:
Purify with a head bath. Decorate the mandir with fresh flowers.
Prepare neivedyam: Vadapappu, chalimidi, sesame laddu.

Vadapappu: Soak half cup of yellow moong dal in two cups of water for about an hour. At pooja time, drain the water and add the rehydrated moong dal to neivedyam platter. For detailed vadapappu recipe and photo –click here.

Chalimidi: soak 3/4 cup of rice grains in water for about half an hour. Drain the water and spread the rice on a clean cloth to air-dry for about 15 minutes under the sun or fan. Take the semi-dried rice in a food processor or mortar. Grind or pound to fine powder. It comes about one cup of rice powder. You could also use readymade rice powder for chalimidi for convenience. The taste won’t be the same though.
To this rice powder, add quarter cup of dry coconut powder, one cup of finely crushed jaggery, a tablespoon of white poppy seeds and a teaspoon of cardamom powder. Blend the ingredients without adding any water until well combined. Take this sweet rice mix in a bowl. Take about three tablespoons of this mixture into your hand. Press gently into round shape and some into cylindrical shape. Usually the moisture from rice and jaggery is enough to shape the mixture into rounds. If necessary, sprinkle few drops of water or melted ghee for easy shaping. This is chalimidi. Place few chalimidi on neivedyam platter.

Nuvvula Mudda (Sesame Laddu): Crush or grate jaggery to superfine mix. Take a cup of sesame seeds in a food processor or stone mortar. Add a cup of jaggery, quarter cup of rice powder, quarter cup of dry coconut powder and a teaspoon of cardamom powder. Grind or pound the ingredients well without adding any water. Sesame seeds have to reach from powder to oily mix stage. When you see the oil from sesame seeds starts separating, remove the mix to a bowl. Mix in a tablespoon of poppy seeds. Take two to three tablespoons of mixture into your hand. Press gently into round shape and some into cylindrical shape. These are nuvvula mudda. Place few nuvvula mudda on neivedyam platter.

Now the neivedyam is ready. On to the pooja.

For Nagula Chavithi Pooja:

Prepare Nagamayya: I do not have Nagamayya statue at home, so I make Nagamayya with wheat flour. Take quarter cup of wheat flour in a bowl. Sprinkle few tablespoons of water, knead and make tight dough. Roll the dough into a long, round coil. Shape the coil into a snake form and press the coil end into snake head(padaga/ hood) form. Cover the snake in turmeric and kumkum mixture. This is Nagamayya and the deity of the day is ready now. Place the Nagamayya in bhagavan mandir. Decorate with fresh oleanders and other flowers. Place a small glass of fresh milk and a spoon on the side.

Prepare the thoranam: Take a cotton thread in three rows. Apply turmeric to the thread. This is thoranam. Place it in front of Nagamayya.

Pooja Vidhanam:
Place the neivedyam platter with Vadapappu, chalimidi and nuvvula mudda in front of Nagamayya. Place fresh fruits (bananas).
Light the deepam and agarbatti.
Offer milk to Nagamayya. Take a teaspoon of milk and gently pour onto Nagamayya head.
Recite Sri Subramanya Swamy Astothharam for Nagamayya. Meditate.
Break the coconut. Offer coconut water and then mangala arathi to Nagamayya.
Take the thoranam and tie it to your right wrist. Do the same for your family members. While tying the knot, make a wish.

The pooja is finished. Leave the home and spend few minutes in front or back door. This is a tradition so that the Nagamayya can have some privacy to enjoy the neivedyam.

After few minutes outside, come inside and have neivedyam prasadam with family and friends. Usually we fast on Nagula Chavithi and have only neivedyam, milk and fruits. The next day on Naga Panchami, we prepare the feast with payasam, pulihora and vada or bajji, along with rice, dal, curry and dahi. After offering the neivedyam to bhagavan on banana leaf, the festival feast is shared with family and friends.

Mothers gift their married daughters new clothes, bangles, sesame laddus and dry whole coconuts. Elder sisters also share the gifts with younger sisters.

After evening mangala arathi, sendoff Nagamayya into woods. Place the deity on a plant or tree and leave it there for the nature.

This completes the Nagula Chavithi celebrations.

I had the pleasure of celebrating the Nagula Chavithi and Panchami last Friday and on Saturday (August 13th and 14th). I wish I had taken some photos of neivedyam for this article. Even without photos, I hope the pooja procedure is clear and easy to follow. May Nagamayya bless us all.


Sri Rama Navami Naivedyam

Sri Rama Navami Naivedyam
Phuspam, Phalam, Panakam and Vadapappu ~ Naivedyam on Sri Ramanavami

Panakam Prasadam
(for a chembu or two glasses of Panakam)

2 tablespoons of Jaggery pieces
2 glasses of cold water
Pinch of sonti powder

Add jaggery and sonti to water. Mix until jaggery disssolves completely in water. Offer to Bhagavan and then enjoy the refreshing taste of Panakam Prasadam with family and friends.


Rama Bhajana On Sri Rama Navami

Sweet and Peaceful Rama Bhajana on Sri Rama Navami


Ugadi Naivedyam

Ugadi Naivedyam 2010
Ugadi Naivedyam

We have invited couple of our friends for lunch to celebrate the Ugadi festival today. And for the Bhakthi ending with the bhukthi, I have prepared the traditional Ugadi naivedyam:

భక్షాలు (Bobbatlu, Puran Poli)
మామిడికాయ పులిహొర (Mango Pulihora)
ఉల్లిపాయ మరియు ఆలు బజ్జిలు (Bajji)
అన్నము (Sona Masuri Rice)
మామిడి-బీరకాయ పప్పు (Mango-Turai Dal)
బీరకాయ పొడి కుర (Turai with no onion)
ఆలుగడ్డ పొడి కూర (Festival Day Alu Preparation)
భక్షాల చారు (Bhakshala Rasam)
పెరుగు (Yogurt)
అరటి మరియు పియర్ పoడ్లు (Banana and Pear Fruits)

Hope you too had a wonderful day. You know how food tastes so good when shared with others. Would you like to share what you have made for meal today?


Ugadi Shubhakankshalu

Green Mango (Maamidi Kaaya)
Dear family, friends and the readers – Ugadi Shubhakankshalu and Happy Gudi Padwa!

New Year during spring always gives a fresh refreshing start. Best wishes for a wonderful and successful year to you all.


Weekend Houston ~ Annakut at Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Houston
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Houston

Being closer to God has several privileges and advantages. We live at about ten minute driving distance from Swami Narayan Mandir – Houston. The temple is one of the great structures in the USA. The structure and sculpture bring the divinity and belongingness with God. The temple is also one of the deciding factors for us while buying our new home last year. During our parents’ six-month stay here, we visited the temple every Sunday to attend the evening arathi.

It is never a better time to visit the temple than during the celebrations of Deepavali and Annakut. This is the time when bhakthi and bhukthi come together and reach to its best during the year. Families celebrate one of the most sacred and important festivals, Deepavali. Traditionally this time of the year also coincides with the completion of the harvest. As an offering of gratitude to God for his bountiful blessings, the new harvest is first used to cook exquisite foods for the Bhagavan.

In BAPS Swaminarayan Mandirs ‘Annakut‘, literally a mountain of food is offered to God on this day. A vast array of vegetarian foods is traditionally arranged in tiers or steps, in front of the Bhagavan. The sweets are placed nearest to the Bhagavan. As the tiers descend, other foods such as fruits, grains, dals, vegetables, and various fried savory foods are arranged. A mound of cooked rice, symbolic of Mt. Govardhan, is placed in the center.

In all Swaminarayan mandirs, sadhus and devotees then sing ‘Thaal’ – kirtans composed by the poet paramhansas of Shri Swaminarayan. These kirtans list and glorify the food items in an aesthetic, rhyming and pleasant manner, praying to the Bhagavan to accept them.

Annakut arrangement starts early in the morning until 11AM. From 11 to 1 PM, melodious Thaal kirthan singing, followed by a grand arati goes on. Bhagavan and Annakut darshan are open till evening. Around 4 PM, the now sanctified Annakut prasad – sweets, fruits and nuts are distributed to the visitors and devotees, followed again by evening arati.

We went and had Annakut darshan for the first time today at Swami Narayan Mandir. It was really an impressive, pleasing display of food art. A dedicated devotee or food connoisseur for a feast, we can’t help but praise “Jai Swami Narayan Bhagavan” for blessing us with such wide variety of fetching food. I recommend Annakut darshan ~ A celebration of food.

Swami Narayan Bhagavan ki Jai.

Deepavali Celebrations at Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Houston
Deepavali Celebrations at Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Houston

Annakut Neivedyam at Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Houston
Annakut Neivedyam at Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Houston

Swami Narayan Mandir website: BAPS, Houston
Photos 2 & 3, and Annakut description: courtesy of BAPS, Houston


Bhakthi ~ Bhukthi on Ugadi

Jayasri Srinivasan is a long time reader and a friend of Mahanandi. I thank Jayasri for this special contribution to Bhakthi~Bhukthi series to celebrate the new year festival Ugadi tomorrow.

“In Whatever Form” – A Tribute to Annamacharya
By Jayasri Srinivasan

Every so often, I like to remember, dust-off and re-touch a distant memory, much as one would open an antique chest of precious old sarees, feel their softness, air them out and put them safely back in.

I am seven years old, it’s another typical Bangalore morning-fresh and crisp, and I am suspended in that delicious, mysterious state between sleep and wakefulness. Sounds and smells slowly seep into my consciousness: the sharp sizzle of boiling water percolating through the stainless steel coffee filter, the tantalizing aroma of my grandmother’s rasam, the gentle clinking of pots and ladles as she works her culinary magic to feed and nourish us, and the pure, resonant voice of M.S Subbulakshmi pouring out of the tape recorder, drifting in the air and lingering long after the tape stops playing….

A particularly beautiful krithi I remember from the vast repertoire of M.S Subbulakshmi songs that were such a staple in our house is a composition by Annamacharya, the great poet-saint of the 15th century. The krithi beginning “Enthamathramuna” roughly transliterated “Whatsoever be your form” is a paen to Lord Vishnu and in typical Hindu fashion goes on to emphasize his universality by extolling him as the embodiment of multiple divine forms.

Whether as a serious student of Karnatic music or as an enthusiastic rasika, the krithis of Annamacharya are part of one’s singing or listening repertoire alongside other compositions by luminaries like Tyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Purandaradasa, to name only a few.

Tallapaka Annamacharya

Born in Tallapaka village (about 500 km from Hyderabad and 75 km from Cuddapah town) near Tirupati , the boy who would grow up to become of the greatest Telugu hymnographers was named “Annamayya” after Lord Vishnu. “Annam”, a Sanskrit word commonly denoting rice but more broadly used to denote food itself, appears in the iconic Vishnu-sahasranama-stotram- (Literally, “Hymn of a 1000 names of Vishnu”). As Adi Sankaracharya explains in his commentary on the hymn, Lord Vishnu is “Annam”. In a dual sense-he is both the “eater” (he devours the universe during pralaya-the great deluge) and the “eaten” (for the enlightened seeker, he provides spiritual nourishment).

Annamacharya belonged to the sect of Vaishnavas, specifically the Vishishtadvaita sect who believe that Lord Vishnu is the all-pervading divine being of the Universe. To the already existing theological framework of Vaishnavism, Annamacharya brought his own special humanistic interpretation. His gospel of Universal brotherhood was expressed in lyrics of transcendent beauty. Annamacharya’s Vishnu is not the exclusive deity of a defined sect or religion, he is untouched by trappings of caste and creed. Instead, his Lord Vishnu is the glorious “Supreme Spirit”, the “Divine father of all beings” and we are all his children. At this time, now more than ever, the truth of this concept becomes all the more poignant. There is no place in this world then, for anger and hatred, violence and war. It is time now for love and peace, understanding and harmony. This message of universal love and tolerance was Annamacharya’s greatest legacy, his medium was his music, and it is by embracing the spirit of this message in our daily lives that we can best pay tribute to one of the greatest poet-saints of all time.

In the first stanza of the krithi “Enthamathramuna”, Annamacharya extols Lord Vishnu thus “O Lord, you become whatever one thinks of you, you are the same Lord in whatever form one worships you.” Particularly notable is the fact that Annamacharya, being a householder himself, drew upon simple, everyday examples to illustrate esoteric truths that might otherwise be difficult to grasp. In this song, he uses a pithy and practical metaphor by drawing on the versatility of a humble kitchen staple-the ubiquitous and sustaining flour. “One can make it whatever one chooses”, sings Annamacharya, referring to flour. “The size of the pancake depends on the quantity of flour used.” An interpretation of this could be that our perception of the divine is limited only by the extent of our spiritual stamina and seeking. Whether we hedge our bets and place our faith in a beloved personal God or a universal life force, every route is unique. Each path to self-realization is valid.

Stanzas 2 and 3 contain a spiritual checklist of sorts. Annamacharya lists the various names of Lord Vishnu attributed to him by his interestingly diverse cohort of worshippers. “The Vaishnavas adoringly call you Vishnu”-sings the saint. “Those who profess a knowledge of Vedanta call you Parabrahman. Devout Saivites think of you as Shiva. The Kapalikas sing your praises as Adibhairava. The Sakteyas worship you as Goddess Sakthi. Thus, different devotees visualize you differently”. And now, gently, unobtrusively and lyrically, Annamacharya slips in two lines of such depth and meaning that one has to stop and ponder their significance. “To those that show you little regard”, says the poet-saint, “you look small. To those that are enlightened / think nobly of you, you appear lofty.” Isn’t this a stunning and sophisticated illustration of spiritual relativism?

In the concluding stanza, he continues the earlier theme. “The weakness does not lie with you. You are like a lotus in the pond that rises and falls with the level of the water. The waters of the river Ganga alone are to be found in all the wells by the riverside.” And then comes the beautiful last line of the composition. In its eloquence, simplicity and truth, it needs no further elaboration. “You hold us under your sway, O Lord of Venkatadri. I surrender myself to you and this to me, is the Ultimate reality.”

Here is the video link to the rendition by Smt. MS Subbulakshmi.

As you listen to this enchanting song composed by a saint and sung by a goddess, may you find peace and new meaning in the coming year. Happy Ugadi and Gudi Padwa!


Note: In writing this piece, I want to acknowledge the two excellent scholarly sources that I drew upon for a translation and interpretation of this song from the original Telugu. The references are listed below.
1) Annamacharya (1989) Adapa Ramakrishna Rao. Published by Sahitya Akademi.
2) Annamacharya-Lyrics of Humanism (1999) An anthology of some Annamacharya Keertanas rendered into English. Edited by Acharya I.V. Chalapati Rao, Translated by A.S. Murthy. Published by Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Hyderabad.
1. In the rendition by MS. Subbulakshmi, a Tamil shloka precedes the krithi “Enthamathramuna”.
2. There is a slight asynchronicity between the sound and image in the rendition of the song.


About the author: Jayasri Srinivasan has been a connoiseur of music, food and everything associated with her grandparents from birth. When not doing postdoctoral research in neuropharmacology, she enjoys reading Agatha Christie mystery novels and chasing after her bouncy two year old.


Staypressed theme by Themocracy