Thaipusam Maha Harinam
Posted by iskconklnews on February 23, 2010
By Bhakta Mayank
harer name harer nama
hare namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha
“In this age of Kali, there is no other religion other than the glorification of the Lord by the utterance of His holy names, and that is the injunction of all the revealed scriptures. There is no other way; there is no other way; there is no other way.”
– Brhan-naradiya Purana
All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates.
Vancha-kalpa tarubhyas cha
Krpa-sindhubhya eva cha,
vaishnavebhyo namo namah
This article is nothing, but an attempt to seek shelter at the feet of all the devotees of the Lord, who are always endeavouring to contribute in substantial ways for the purification of fallen souls like me.
From the deepest core of my heart, I would like to thank the devotees, who gave me this opportunity to purify myself, asking me to write about “Maha-Harinam”, an activity of great spiritual potency. It was only because of all their encouragement and inspiration, that even though being so unqualified and unworthy, I could somehow try to express with a bare minimum, this most insignificant narration of what the devotees of the Lord had actually experienced. With feelings of great respect for the love and care that they have blessed me with; I wish to seek their blessings.
I would like to thank Mahesh Prabhu, who is a constant support. It was he, who introduced me to the ISKCON philosophy. It’s certainly the best gift one can ever present a friend. I will always be highly indebted to him, for bringing me to life.
I would like to offer my respectful obeisances to all the revered devotees of Sri Jagannath Mandir, KL, under whose shelter and guidance such events are being conducted regularly, providing great opportunities for the devotees to experience many blissful moments in coming together and chanting the holy names of the Lord.
I, thus, beg forgiveness for any offence, been unintentionally committed in this endeavour for my purification.
It was a pleasant Saturday evening, which got even better, after we received the call from a devotee asking us to join him for the book distribution and “Maha-Harinam” event at Batu Caves. Filled with enthusiasm and excitement we left for KL Central, which was where, we were to meet the devotees. Later, we left for Batu Caves, which was also the venue for the celebration of the festival of “Thaipusam” for the following two days.
I got to know later, that “Thaipusam” is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of ‘Thai’ (Jan/Feb). The word Thai-pusam is derived from the Tamil month ‘Thai’, and ‘Pusam’, refers to the constellation of the same name which is at its highest point throughout the festival.
As we travelled in the LRT train from Taman Jaya, the nearest station from our dwelling in Petaling Jaya, towards KL Central, I remembered a recent event, where we had joined a group of devotees to distribute pamphlets for the Sri Jagannath Rath Yatra at the streets of Brickfields, KL. I ended up distributing just two! The language barrier and being an introvert were some of the easiest excuses my mind could come up with, to hide the prominent reasons of lack of faith and unwillingness to serve wholeheartedly. I had later resolved to make an effort to improve and to fight my hesitations!
At KL Central, we met the devotees as scheduled, and were shocked to know that one of them had misplaced his wallet, which contained some important documents besides an amount of cash. We helplessly started to look for it. He had visited a restaurant prior to meeting us at the ticket counter, so after searching his belongings a couple of times, he decided to check for the wallet at the restaurant itself.
I was advised by the ticket vendor to disembark at Sentul and board another train to Batu Caves. By the time I joined the devotees, with the tickets, the devotee who had lost his wallet had also arrived. It brought all of us great relief to learn that somehow, by the Lord’s arrangement, his wallet was found and secured by a Mataji, who owned a shop near the same restaurant, where he had bought ‘Prasadam’ parcelled for us.
As we waited for the commuter train to arrive at the platform, I reflected upon how simply yet amazingly devotees carried themselves. I was noticing this devotee as he was searching for his wallet. Nothing but a slight concern had marked his face. He appeared to be convinced that the wallet, even though valuable to him and though it was gone, that there was no use in lamenting over it. Somehow, he had managed to maintain his whole composure to be as calm and tranquil like always. I wondered how detached the soul of a devotee could be, or on second thoughts, how deeply engaged could that soul be, in the service of the Lord, that everything else appears nothing more than a trifle to him.
As we occupied the seats in the commuter from KL Central to Sentul, Gautam Prabhu introduced us to Gokul Prabhu, a very sweet and every joyful Brahmachari devotee. Gokul prabhu joined the Krishna conscious movement at the young age of seventeen years. Prabhu is now actively serving the BBT and travels all around Malaysia distributing the transcendental literatures given to us by Srila Prabhupada. The train crawled, as we glued ourselves to the story of how Gokul Prabhu had come to follow Krishna Consciousness; his travels to the many pilgrimage sites of India and his many realizations. Sporting a constant smile that lit up his face, and with a gleam in his eyes, he spoke with extreme simplicity and humility.
Gambhira Gauranga Prabhu, who was holding a bead bag in his hands, was feeling too shy to share anything. We came to know from Gautam Prabhu that, prabhu is actively involved in the deity department in the temple and nicely takes care of their Lordships and Srila Prabhupada.
It filled us with inspiration to be in the association of such devotees, who were institutions in themselves for the rest of the world to learn from them the values of humility, simplicity and service attitude set by their personal example.
I thought it was the captivating sharing of experiences that had kept us from noticing that more than half an hour had passed and that the train hadn’t even moved an inch. I learnt that another significance of being in the association of devotees is that the time simply flies by, that too after being effectively utilized in sharing and helping each other build and develop the consciousness towards the Supreme Lord!
Another few minutes passed by as Mahesh Prabhu shared important points about the ‘listening capabilities of devotees’ from a lecture he had recently heard. Besides emphasizing on the importance of listening, it also highlighted to us, as aspiring servants of the Lord, the importance of engaging the senses in remembering the Lord as much as possible.
The train had somehow started to move slowly but it was still far enough from Sentul that I couldn’t escape from being asked by Gautam Prabhu to share something, in response to which, I shared a few amazing incidents in the life of His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj, which I had lifted from his beautifully narrated book “The Journey Home; Autobiography of an American Swami”.
I faintly remember a fleeting moment which passed, between the times the train coming to a halt at Sentul and all of us disembarking, when Gautam Prabhu presented his wish for me to write an article about the event we were all going to participate in.
The station at Sentul appeared fresh, being washed by showers of rain, which seemed to have ended just moments before our arrival. After having purchased the tickets for the next train from Sentul to Batu Caves, we waited at the platform, while Gokul Prabhu shared beautiful pastimes of the Lord. Even though, we seemed to be late for the event, the association of devotees and the sharing of different pastimes of the Lord made up for everything else.
Moments later, we were on board the train to Batu Caves. So far we only assumed ourselves to be late for the event, but it now got confirmed when Gautam Prabhu got a call, conveying that the “Maha-Harinam” had already started.
‘What if we miss the Harinam, for which we had travelled so far and so long?’
‘Never mind, we got an opportunity to associate with such wonderful devotees and spend time with them.’ I felt myself the lone audience of this conversation that took place between my mind and me.
“Let’s do the Harinam, here itself.”
A thought crossed me, but the next moment my mind shrugged it off. I even started to imagine everyone else uniting at this absurd thought. I must have thought it loud enough or must have been some divine arrangement, when, to my astonishment, Gautam Prabhu took the ‘kartals’ out of his bag and handed it over to Gokul Prabhu, as both of them smiled. I smiled wryly, still confused and anxious to learn whether what happened around me was real!
Gokul Prabhu, though being a bit reluctant to sing in the beginning, finally curled the threads of the kartals to his fingers, and making my absurd daydreams come true, declared, “For the purification of all the souls, let’s do it!”
With the first few beats of the kartals, a few heads turned towards us, as we chanted-
“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare..
I started to feel uncomfortable, repenting at the thought of the Harinam in a train compartment. I observed Gokul Prabhu, standing in front of me, deeply lost in the melodious sound vibration of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra as the kirtans progressed-
..Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”
Gautam Prabhu, who stood right beside me to my left, also appeared transfixed in some other dimension as he chanted the holy names following the kirtan. Looking at both of them, I felt inspired as all my fears and hesitation started to melt. I closed my eyes, letting go all the thoughts of where I was, completely taking shelter in the holy name and in the auspicious company of the devotees started chanting-
“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”
Being in an otherwise strange situation, amidst the crowd staring at us, I somehow felt the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu flowing through that train compartment through the voice of Gokul Prabhu chanting the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.
By now the hesitation within my heart (that had refrained myself from distributing the pamphlets for the Rath Yatra, a few days ago) had dissipated, as I noticed myself chanting, being comfortable within myself. Minutes passed, as smiles bloomed upon many faces, the feet tapped the floor and the train swayed to the wonderful tune of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. The voice from the heart of a devotee full of faith and surrender, the tinkling sound of the kartals, the rhythmic thuds of the train wheels, and the claps of hands drowned the hearts to the deepest and gravest melodies, magically created in an ironical ambience.
As we crossed another station, Gokul Prabhu handed over the kartals to Mahesh Prabhu, whose mesmerizing voice added more tunes to the kirtan bringing great joy to our hearts. Being totally absorbed in the chanting, we felt light and refreshed as we reached Batu Caves.
At the Batu Caves station, we found ourselves lost in a maze of huge crowd. Thousands had turned up for the festival of Thaipusam to be celebrated the next day. In between the deafening sound of the speakers and the people dressed in all colours, the flood lights illuminated the area like an arena. The towering white rocks of Batu Caves watched over, what looked like an ocean, where people moved like waves coming to the shore, where different stalls were set advertising all sorts of items, while some got left behind at the stalls of their interest, the rest moved on.
We slowly carved our way through the crowd overlooked by a huge statue of Lord Hanuman, tearing his chest to display in his heart, the ever residing Lord Rama and Sita.
A faint sound of the kartals and drums drew us towards the Murugan temple, which stood high on a raised platform. As we climbed the stairs to the temple, our hearts soared in excitement hearing the beats grow louder, amidst the noise of the speakers of various stalls playing vague music, highly unpleasing to the ears. The contrast, even though weak, was unmistakable.
We approached the platform in front of the temple, where the devotees armed with drums and kartals, chanting the Maha Mantra, were absorbed in the “Maha Harinam”. Greetings of loud “Haribol” with arms raised high were exchanged. The tiny drops of perspiration crowning their foreheads, reminded us that we had missed a sufficient portion of the event but at the same time their faces continued to radiate the ever prominent smiles, as if showering upon us the bliss they had experienced. Overwhelmed by the feeling of love and respect, we smiled and hugged each other. We soon joined in the Maha-Harinam, with the same spirit continuing from where we had left the train.
The Harinam team headed by HG Srivas Caitanya Prabhu, Bhakta Prakash and HG Patita Pavan Caitanya Prabhu started to enthusiastically roam around the place, chanting the glories of the Lord, spreading the holy name, purifying all the souls without discrimination.
Very often, we would be motivated to see people amongst the crowd, joining in to chant and clap, as a few just noticed us chanting the glories of the Lord, while others simply ignored. The whole place had by now turned itself into a stage, where we could dance to the tunes of the kirtan and sing and chant the glories of the Lord, blissfully.
More than an hour had passed once again in a flash as “Vande Krishna Nanda Kumara, Nanda Kumara Madan Gopala, Madan Gopal Mohan Rupa, jaya jaya Deva Hare, jaya jaya Deva Hare” mesmerized everyone, and “Gopal Gopal Gopal Nanda Lal, Krishna Govinda Govinda Gopal Nanda Lal” stole their hearts away.
The moon would often sneak a peek, hiding behind the cover of the clouds, as if to catch a glimpse of the devotees drenched with the overflowing love for the Lord manifesting itself through the holy names. Spirits were high, and the energy at its optimum, as the devotees chanted and danced gracefully throughout.
The kirtan finally reached its peak as we all gathered in front of the same temple from where we had earlier started. We continued chanting and dancing looking up to the huge white rocks of Batu Caves, towering over us, reaching to great heights as if demanding respect. The rocks stood tall, dominating the earth beneath and the sky above. Many trees climbed and curled around the roots of the rocks, as if asking shelter. The scene brought into life the existence of a devotee, being similar to the tiny weeds, curling around the huge rocks as if taking support and shelter at the Lotus feet of the Great Lord.
A picture depicting Lord Krishna displaying the “virat rupa” to Arjuna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, caught my attention at one point, as I turned my gaze away from the ‘magnum opus’ of the same Lord, towards one of the temple walls. An enormous presence, like the one depicted in the universal form of the Lord could be easily felt, in the sound that enclosed our existence that very moment. It was the sound of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.
As the ecstatic kirtan approached the point of saturation, with closed eyes, and smiles on the faces, we surrendered ourselves to the final beats, even as the kartals refused to be muted and the mrdangas played louder. The “Nrsimha Pranaam” was then recited, full of energy, squeezing the best out of everyone.
Thus we sat on the temple floor, exhausted, jubilant, hungry, thirsty and above all, deeply contented in our hearts and filled with bliss. After honouring Prasadam, the rest of the devotees made their way back to their respective homes only to congregate once more, the next day for Mangal Aratik at our Sunday “Love” Feast Programme at Sri Jagannath Mandir, Kuala Lumpur.
While walking towards the car park, we got to see a glimpse of what the festival of Thaipusam was all about, the ‘Kavadis’. I learned later that the kavadi- bearers walked in huge numbers to Batu Caves, to offer the ‘kavadis’ to the deity of Lord Murugan, the God of war. While at its simplest, the kavadi (the burden) may simply entail carrying a pot of milk, the ‘mortification of the flesh’ by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with ‘Vel’ skewers is also common. The simplest ‘kavadi’ was a semi circular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple. In addition, some of the bearers have a small spear impaled through their tongues, or cheeks. Other types of ‘kavadi’ involve having hooks dug into the bearer’s backs and being pulled with ropes either by another walking behind or hung from a decorated bullock cart or more recently a tractor.
I was amazed and I must admit, a little disturbed to see the level of austerity the ‘kavadi’ bearers were subjecting their bodies and minds to in order to achieve their desired boons. I began to ponder over the different sacrifices and worships made by various people, and their possible benefits. But soon, my mind was drawn towards this dear devotee’s loud chanting as he walked beside me holding his bead bag in his hand. Watching him engrossed in his chanting gave a soothing caress to my heart, as I remembered the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the sublimely blissful process of God realization that he had made available for everyone in this Kali Yuga.
The thing that struck me in the days to come, was that because of being lost either in the chanting of this devotee or in the contemplation of the ‘kavadis’, I had somehow failed to notice the grand statue of Lord Murugan and the huge staircase to the entrance to the Batu Caves. Nevertheless, as we made our way back, in the car of Selvah prabhu, I was deeply content to have made the most out of the event. In Krishna Consciousness, every day is an event, and once dedicated to the Supreme Lord, it could only bring bliss to the heart and soul.
Through the speakers of the car stereo system, we heard in the voice of Srila Prabhupada, a lecture on the importance of the chanting of the holy names.
“The transcendental vibration established by the chanting of the-
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
is the sublime method of reviving our transcendental consciousness. By chanting this transcendental vibration, we can cleanse away all misgivings within our hearts. This simplest method of meditation is recommended for this age. By practical experience also, one can perceive that by chanting this Maha Mantra, or the Great Chanting for Deliverance, one can at once feel a transcendental ecstasy coming through from the spiritual stratum. The chanting is a spiritual call for the Lord and His energy to give protection to the conditioned soul. “