MAHA RUDRAM: A Sea of Orange, A Sea of Bhakti!

MTS_IN01By M.K.Sriram

PEARLAND: The great Maha Rudram conducted at Sri Meenakshi Temple from June 22 to 24, was a phenomenal experience for all who participated, whether as ritwiks or as devotees.  It is two years in a row that it attained the status of Maha Rudram, when the count of Rudram chants exceeds the magic number 1331. About 60 ritwiks, all clad in orange vastrams blessed by the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, under the leadership of the temple priests, took part in the event spread over 3 days.  It was literally a vedic marathon that took a lot of unparalleled dedication and effort by the participants.  This is the 10th consecutive year that MTS has conducted the Sri Rudra Japam.  The whole temple was flooded with the well synchronized chantings, even days later one can feel the reverberations.

Sri Rudram occurs in Krishna Yajur Veda. There are seven chapters in this Veda and Sri Rudram occurs in the fourth or middle chapter. So, if Krishna Yajur Veda is like a garland, Sri Rudram is like a pendant in the middle. And the most sacred Panchakshara mantra is enshrined like a diamond in the center.  Rudram means Dukham-eliminator, paapam-eliminator. The word ‘Rudram’ is derived from two words – ‘Rud’ and ‘Ra’. ‘Rud’ means dukham (sorrow) or paapam (sin, demerit). ‘Rud’ also means the cause of dukham or paapam. What is the cause of sorrow or sin? It is agnyanam (ignorance). ‘Ra’ means eliminator. Lord Siva gets the name Rudra because he removes sorrow and sin and also the cause of them, which is ignorance.

The event started on Friday, June 22 at 6 PM.  The Rudram chanters known as ritwiks as well as ardent devotees from far and wide assembled in the Main temple for the initial Sankalpam.  The preliminary pujas started with Vigneshwara puja, Punyahavachanam and Kalasa stapanam.  Then the all powerful Mahanyasam chanting was led by the priests to invoke Lord Rudra in every part of their body and mind.  This is how Lord Shiva displays Himself through everyone who prays Him.  
The 60+ ritwiks assembled at 9 AM on Saturday and for the next 3 hours went on the intense chanting of Sri Rudram, eleven times, each time followed by an anuvakam of Chamakam.  Hundreds of devotees were held in a trance while the vedic mantra was chanted in unison. The whole atmosphere was filled with the strength and power of Sri Rudram.  The morning session concluded with Rudra Trishati archana and upacharam.

The afternoon session started at 5 PM, with the continuation of the Sri Rudram chanting.  The priests and ritwiks performed this divine prayer with utter concentration and devotion, and the temple resonated with this vedic mantra.  The evening session concluded with a spectacular arathi and upacharam.

The devotees and ritwiks gathered again on Sunday, June 24 morning to continue with the chanting of Sri Rudram, the greatest Vedic offering to Lord Shiva.  Goddess Meenakshi being the Veda Matha was surely smiling with happiness when she heard all the Veda ghosham in the temple from ritwiks, some of whom came from as far away as Dallas.  The great Rudra Homam was then performed with such meticulous detail with the priests making the offerings to the Fire with the chanting of Sri Rudram.   The final part of the Homam was the Vasordhara which was performed to the chant of the Chamakam.  This was followed by Purnahuthi.  An elaborate Abhishekam was performed for Lord Sundarewara that was witnessed by over 400 devotees.  The curtains were drawn briefly for Alankaram, and when they opened up again, Lord Sundareswara in His most majestic form gave darshan to the devotees.  The devotees were engulfed by the power of the Lord, and this was the greatest reward that the devotees could ever imagine they would receive.   The final Arathi and Upacharam were very remarkable and Lord Sundareswara’s divine presence and blessings were felt.  
It was amazing to see the wide variety of prasadams that were so lovingly prepared by the devotees in their homes and brought for the neivedyam by the grace of the Lord.  More than 400 people had a sumptuous lunch.  All in all, this was a most divine and blissful event that was well organized and conducted by the Temple under the leadership of the Chairman of the Board Mrs Padmini Nathan, the Religious Activity Committee led by Mrs Sheila Sriram, Priests led by Sri Manicka Bhattar, ably supported by the silpis and staff of the temple.  The event co-coordinators Sri Sriram, Sri Muthukumar and other volunteers put in countless hours of work and co-ordination.  Last but not the least were the ritwiks themselves who performed this historical feat with the blessings of Lord Sundareswara, to make this a very divine and fulfilling event.   Many devotees and ritwiks could not help thinking if they were actually in the US, or was this all happening in India. The Rudra mantram “Om Namo Bhagavathe Rudraya ……” still reverberates in their hearts.