A Memorable First Kumbhabhisekam for Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya

An outpouring of grateful devotion and inspired seva

By Padmashree Rao

Photos by Bharat Rao, Ashutosh Kak, Manisha Joshi, Rajesh Thatte, Nilesh Shah

Chinmaya Mission Houston (CMH): On the Sunday morning of November 26, 2023, the skies had a sacred overtone. The air was cold and crisp as the brisk winds gathered strength through the day. Sunrays illumined clouds with a warm glow, and a gentle sprinkling of rain before dawn had already refreshed the earth. Indeed, all the great elements of Nature had joined in to bring the touch of Mount Kailash to Chinmaya Prabha, Houston. They evoked the feeling of being in the very abode of Bhagavan Siva as an unforgettable first Kumbhabhisekam of the divinely beautiful Saumyakasi Sivalaya unfolded.

The festivities leading up to the much-awaited Kumbhabhisekam had started on the cheerful Friday evening of Nov.24, the day after Thanksgiving, in the expansive courtyard before Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya. Excitement filled the air as over 400 Bala Vihar children performed the inaugural pujas at the altars of 12 spectacular Jyotirlingas in preparation for the symbolic Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Yatra that was the main feature of that evening. Following that delightful beginning, the 5th grade children invoked Bhagavan Siva’s blessings for the upcoming celebrations by chanting the Siva Panchakshari Stotra. That was a nostalgic moment;16 years ago, on the eve of the Sivalaya’s inauguration on Dec.19, 2007 by Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda, the whole congregation of Bala Vihar children had chanted this same invocation while creating a dazzling outline of the Sivalaya with diyas.

To acquaint the gathered crowd of over 1400 people about the 12 Jyotirlingas that are spread across India, the talented children of the Chinmaya Choir sang the powerful Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Stotra. Then, the audience was invited to a video overview which detailed the far-reaching vision of Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda and the deep commitment of his disciples, Pujya Gaurangbhai and Darshanaben Nanavaty, that led to the birth and growth of Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya. The video also conveyed the importance of the first Kumbhabhisekam and the significance of the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Yatra.

In his address to the attentive audience, Pujya Acarya Gaurang Nanavaty said that one seed that Pujya Gurudev sowed in June 1987 sparked the glory of the iconic Sivalaya inside Chinmaya Prabha Houston to nurture future generations. Conveying his appreciation for that important mission, the chief guest of the evening, Houston’s Honorable Consul General of India, Shri D.C. Manjunath noted that Chinmaya Mission Houston (CMH) has kept the flag of Hindu culture flying high in Houston. He explained that Jyotirlingas proclaim Bhagavan Siva’s Presence across India and expressed great happiness about the opportunity for the Houston community to experience the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Yatra inside the blissful Sivalaya premises. That evening, when the Jyotirlinga Yatra opened for all with Bala Vihar student volunteers explaining the story and significance of each Jyotirlinga, the entire Sivalaya seemed to glow with Bhagavan Siva’s effulgence.

The Saturday of Nov.25 was uplifted by the powerful homas that sanctified the space and energized the Kalashas, the ceremonial pots, in preparation for Sunday’s Kumbhabhisekam. Sri Ganesh Satyanarayana, priest of Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya, and Sri Raghuram Bhatt, priest of Sri Krishna Vrundavana conducted the sacred homas to propitiate Sri Mahaganapati, the Navagrahas and the Vaastu devata in the morning. They, with a team of learned priests from all surrounding temples, surcharged the atmosphere with the Rudra Homa and Sudarshana homa in the evening. That night, just before the purnahuti, the devotees of Chinmaya Mission Houston, especially the Bala Vihar children and teachers, felt overjoyed and doubly blessed when their beloved Pujya Acarya Darshana Nanavaty came to the Sivalaya and did the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Yatra that she had envisioned about four years ago!

With the spiritual aura of Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya reaching its peak on Nov.26, the first Kumbhabhisekam was an indescribable outpouring of grateful devotion. When Pujya Acarya Gaurang Nanavaty, led by Sri Ganeshji and other priests, performed the abhishekam to the majestic Sivalinga atop Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya, the huge gathering of devotees was entranced. To see every one of the hundreds of devotees climb an intricately constructed scaffolding and offer the sanctified abhisheka water to the luminous Sivalinga was a blessing beyond compare. Even the very aged devotees could do abhiseka, thanks to the thoughtful touch of a huge scissor lift platform.

Throughout that divine weekend, the spirit of the CM pledge shone bright.  Devotees were welcomed with cheerful “Hari Om” and kindly directed from the time they parked to the time they were given Maha Prasada after every event. The incredible work put in to create the Jyotirlinga temples and plan the Bala Vihar puja, the beautiful decorations that adorned the entire Chinmaya Prabha and Sivalaya courtyard, and the impressive audiovisual enhancements inside the carefully constructed tents showed the exceptional commitment behind this spectacular ceremony. The sevaks and sevikas of different teams worked together as one family, with love and respect. They offered so much more of their time and energy with such zeal that His Grace and blessings flowed in and through every aspect of this Kumbhabhisekam.

Truly, the first Kumbhabhisekam of Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya became a flawless offering, thanks to Bhagavan Siva’s supreme Grace. It was an inspired offering at the Lotus Feet of Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda heralding His upcoming 108th Janma Jayanti on May 8, 2024. The first Kumbhabhisekam of Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya was a selfless Mahayajna where an entire army of CMH’s enthusiastic sevaks and sevikas gave their all-in surrender to the ever-smiling Bhagavan who is the guiding Presence in their lives. Hari Om!

For more information about Chinmaya Mission Houston, Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya and its activities please visit www.chinmayahouston.org, www.saumyakasi.org or call temple 281 568 1690 or Jay Deshmukh 832 541 0059 or Bharati Sutaria 281-933-0233