Nama Saptaha Utsav 2010 at Houston Namadwaar

Seven glorious days filled with the Lord’s names and glories! A small Golokam took shape in this Bhoolokam. The US Namadwaar was transformed into that heavenly abode and every single day of the saptaham was drenched with Lord Krishna and our Guru Maharaj’s grace.
The altar with pictures of Madhuri Sakhi sametha Sri Premika Varadan, HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu were adorned with beautiful floral garlands. The prayer hall was beautifully decorated with floral thoranams. The bright jyothi from the lamps and the fragrance from the incense added to the divine atmosphere. The festive ambience was reflected in everything present in Namadwaar. There was our Lord Sri Hari and our Guru Maharaj eagerly waiting in Namadwaar for all the bhaktas not just from Houston but from all around United States. Several devotees came, with their families, from different parts of the US including Atlanta, Boston, California Bay Area, Dallas, Orlando and Redding CA.

The Daily Events:
The Namadwaar was completely filled with the blissful chanting of the Mahamantra and the stories of the Lord throughout the seven days. The days’ schedules were filled with numerous events. Every morning dawned with prabodhanam at 7:30 am. Beautiful kirtans of Sri Swamiji were sung as the Lord was gently woken up from His slumber.

This was followed by Srimad Bhagavata parayanam between 8:30 am and 9:30 am. Important stutis and charitrams from Srimad Bhagavatam were recited every day. These included Bhagavata Mahatmyam, Narada Charitram, Kunti Stuti, Bhishma stuti, Dhruva charitram, Suka stuti, Prahlada stuti, Gajendra stuti, Sri Krishna Jananam, Pancha Gitam and Rukmini Sandesham and Kalyanam.

The highlight of the Nama saptaham was Akhanda Nama sankirtan which was done everyday from 10 am to 4 pm. Satsang devotees took turns to lead the Nama sankirtan. The final couple of hours of Nama sankirtan were allotted to various other organizations thereby promoting and reiterating one of the valuable mottos of GOD USA – universal love and harmony! People and organizations who led the Nama sankirtan during those times included ISKCON, Sri Gaudiya Matha, Houston Ayyappa group, Sri Mahesh Iyer and family, and Smt. Rajarajeshwary Bhat and family. Throughout the seven days of Nama Sankirtan there was never a dull moment as all devotees were very enthusiastic in their singing. Men (and children) frequently danced around the beautiful picture of the Lord placed in the center of Namadwaar. The women of the satsang also often danced with kolattam around the beautiful Krishna who is “mahila mandala manohara”. Many prayer requests were received during the Utsav, and we are certain that every one of them will be fulfilled as has always been the case.

Gopa Kuteeram sessions were also held for all the young gopas and gopis for two hours everyday between 10:30 am and 12:30 pm. The children learned kirtans (which they were to perform later in front of an audience during the New Year’s eve cultural program), listened to stories, practiced a skit on the charitram of Sant Namdev (again for later performance on stage), played games and even worked on some interesting craftwork.

Lunch prasad was diligently prepared with utmost care, love and devotion by all the women devotees everyday, each of them volunteering to do a chore which naturally resulted in the most delicious prasad. Doing the work quietly, all the womenfolk (with help from some men!) ensured that there was never any dearth of food, snacks and tea at any time of the day, ensuring that everyone had the strength to chant Nama and participate in all the activities all day long.

Every evening, after the Akhanda Nama kirtan, there was parayanam of the Pancha Gitam followed by concerts by various local artists all through the week. On Dec 27, Sri Mahesh Iyer gave an outstanding solo violin concert consisting of compositions of several famous composers. Especially his rendering of ‘Krishna nee begane baaro’ moved everyone present. On Dec 28, it was the turn of young Shanti Mahabir, a high school senior from Maryland. She sang beautifully as she rendered several Thyagaraja krithis and a few songs of other composers. She was accompanied on the mridangam wonderfully by 13-year-old Karun Salvady. Dec 29 was special, because on this day, the Swathi star, the janma nakshatra of our Sadguru Maharaj, was on the assent.  On this day, the Guru Padukas were decorated with beautiful flower thorans and the day was celebrated with a special “Madhura Geetham”  – a compilation of some rare kirtans of Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji.  Led by Smt. Sujatha Sankar and Smt. Ramya Srinivasan, and accompanied by Karun Salvady on the mridangam, the group which included Smt. Nithya Sriram, Smt. Hema Kalyan, Smt. Booma Varadarajan, and Smt. Laxmi Mahesh rendered the kirtans. It was a most enjoyable time for all the devotees of our Guru Maharaj who were blessed to listen to the kirtans that day. On Thursday Dec 30, Smt. Neela Iyengar beautifully sang the kirtans of Sri Purandaradasar and Sri Annamacharya. She was also lucid in her explanations of the meanings of some of the krithis which added to the enjoyment of the audience.

Every day, after the concerts, it was time for Tava Kathamrutham, talks by different devotees as well as youngsters from the satsang. Those who gave talks during this segment included Smt. Ramya Srinivasan (Bhagavatam for Today’s World), Sri Aravind Thathachari (Purusharthas in Srimad Bhagavatam), 16-year-old Suwetha Kalyan (Sri Krishna Leela), 10-year-old Sanjev Kalyan (Gajendra Moksham), 7-year-old Purushothaman Sriram (Narakasura vadham) and 10-year-old Arvind Meyyappan (Prahlada charitram). The youngsters in the group truly did their Guru and their parents proud with their wonderful, lucid and often humorous talks.
A notable mention was young Sanjev who spoke on Gajendra Moksham. Words just flowed out of him like a waterfall as he spoke often humorously; and he recited the entire Gajendra Stuthi without once referring to the books. Another highlight performance on Thursday evening was the Hari katha on Bhakta Meera by 12-year-old Muktha Nair. Everyone present that day knew how bhakti devi descended down to the very hall of Namadwaar and drenched every heart there through Muktha’s pravachan. Smt. Geetha, Smt. Ramya and Smt. Zenitha sang beautiful Meera bhajans to accompany her and young Maya Iyer accompanied them on the violin and Karun Salvady, once again on the mridangam.

Every day’s program concluded on a sweet note with Srimad Bhagavata pravachan by Sri Narayananji from Boston. Extolling wonderfully on the great Purana, Sri Narayanan gave everyone a taste of the nectar that is Srimad Bhagavatam, listening to which is enough for us to instantly develop bhakti towards the Lord. The discourse was well blended with incidents from Sri Sri Swamiji’s divya charitra, showing how the experience of the Mahatmas is no different from the scriptures.  On the last two days, Sri Sriram Ramanujam and Sri Ramaswamy continued the Bhagavatam pravachan and saw it to a seven-day conclusion with Krishna Jananam and Rukmini Kalyanam respectively.

The final event of every blissful day was dolotsav, as the Lord was lulled to sleep with the kirtans of Sri Swamiji.

Special Events
Apart from the daily programs, there were also several other special programs conducted on different days during the week. On Wednesay, a Family Feud/Quiz session had all the devotees enthusiastically vying for the prize, even as families really feuded (!!) as they tried to get at the correct answers.  The quiz was an eye-opener to many as it was a lot to do with our Satsang, the establishments being run under the guidance of Sri Swamiji back in India and worldwide.

Wednesday was special also for another reason; it was the night that saw Divyanama Sankirtan performed at the Namadwaar. This divya Nama Sankirtan was indeed special because it was done with Sri Sri Swamiji’s Kirtans alone.  All the men danced around Lord Sri Krishna while they, as well as the women, sang kirtans, a wonderful experience indeed for the participants as well as the audience.

On Thursday, Dec 30, after Bhagavatam parayanam and Nama sankirtan in the morning, the entire group set out for Vana Bhojanam, in other words, a picnic in Hermann park, one of Houston’s best parks. It was an exciting day! The gopas and gopis, including little toddlers, had lots of fun playing in the natural park filled with trees, fountains and ponds. The ambience made us think how much more beautiful Brindavan would have been for the vrajavasis in the presence of Lord Krishna. We spent some time doing “madhura smaranam”, speaking of our Guru Maharaj’s greatness, something that was an underlying theme throughout the utsav!
Young Suwetha Kalyan had prepared an interesting Jeopardy-type quiz that involved questions about Lord Krishna, His Avatars, Bhagavata charitras, devotees, etc. After the quiz, everyone went for the fun train ride around the park. Life is a beautiful journey in itself but this one on the train with all of Sri Swamiji’s devotees chanting Nama was definitely a wonderful experience. The vana bhojanam time was over all too soon, but no one was really disappointed at the end because we had more to look forward to back at Namadwaar.

New Year’s Eve Cultural Program
Friday, Dec 31, evening was the special cultural program which started off with an out-of-the-world concert by teenaged sisters, Keerthana and Kruthi Bhat, daughters of renowned singer Smt. Rajarajeshwary Bhat. They rendered several Krishna kirtans composed by great devotees, including many Meera bhajans, and their soul stirring divine voices echoed in the hearts of all present. Smt. Rajarajeshwary Bhat concluded the concert with a beautiful Krishna bhajan which was joined in on by all the devotees.

Following this, the Gopa Kuteeram kids performed their skit on the great bhagavata Sant Namdev. They depicted significant scenes from his charitram. It was more than just entertainment; it was a display of dedication, discipline but most of all devotion.

Kaun Banega Bhagavata, a quiz set in the format of Who Wants to be Millionaire, captured everyone’s attention next. Organized by Sri Sriram Ramanujam and the young Mukund Nair, it was a huge hit among the audience. It was a very carefully prepared quiz with varied levels of complicated questions from our Itihasas and Puranas. A group of 2 participants (one adult and one youngster) was chosen to participate. They had to clear all the rounds to win the title of Bhagavata! It was fun and very informative.

Following a dinner break, it was finally time for the official Madhura smaranam. 4 devotees namely Sri Kalyan Hariharan, Sri Radhakrishnan Nair, Smt. Zenitha and Sri Ramaswamy offered their heart warming experiences with Sri. Swamiji. Their sincere efforts to share those memorable moments of their lives melted the hearts of all the devotees present but strengthened their devotion towards Sri Swamiji upon the realization of His immense grace that is being showered upon each and everyone with no limits.

This was followed by the Sri Narayananji’s Bhagavatam pravachan which was also a beautiful Madhurasmaranam as he spoke a lot about Sri Swamiji.

2010 was slowly coming to an end and the New year was entering our lives. Everyone was chanting Nama while Dr. Bhagyanathan, the Personal Secretary to HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji was tele-conferenced in from India.  He gave us the New year message reiterating the significance of Nama sankirtan and how by chanting Nama we can win the grace of Sri Swamiji and the Lord Sri Hari. He concluded the message with a beautiful Sri Swamiji Kirtan praying to the Lord to give us all the mental strength and serenity to accept and understand the ways of the Lord.

The New Year was born with the enthusiastic Mahamantra chanting by all the devotees, who sensed the grace of the Sadguru  dawn upon all present in the Namadwaar. We could not have asked for a better way to celebrate and welcome the New Year!

The Final Two Days
Early in the morning of the 6th day, Saturday January 1st, we were all blessed to watch the webcast of Sri Swamiji’s message for the mass prayer held at Thanjavur, India. But it was time for many of the visiting devotees to return home. We missed them as all these days we had been together as one big family of Guruji’s children enjoying the blissful Nama and katha shravanam. But the rest of us continued to celebrate the Nama utsav as per schedule. In the evening, Sri Sriramji of Houston spoke beautifully on Krishna Jananam and some Krishna Leelas.

On Sunday, January 2nd, the final day’s Akhanda Nama sankirtan ended vibrantly and with vigor and energy. 10-year-old Aravind from Dallas then gave a wonderful talk on Prahlada charitram. Despite the short notice his preparation was excellent and the talk commendable.
Sri Ramaswamyji then gave a wonderful pravachan on Rukmini kalyanam that brought in a complete ambience of a wedding into Namadwaar. His humorous yet devoted pravachan immersed us all in happiness, excitement, joy and devotion.
Shilpa Sadagopan, a very young, talented singer, rendered a few kalyanam songs along with her mother, Smt. Nalini Sadagopan, and also some pasurams from Tiruppavvai. We also had another very important guest arrive on the very last day of the Nama Utsav. It was none other than our majestic Kanyakumari Sri Jaya Hanuman. With all the Nama Sankirtan, finally Hanumanji could not help but come to Namadwaar. Nama utsav thus progressed to the concluding Anjaneya Utsav. Floral garlands, vada mala, butter and curd rice were offered to Lord Anjaneya. Nama Ramayanam and Hanuman Chalisa were recited followed by Guruji’s kirtans “Gagane sancharam” and “Anjaneya Anjaneya Anjaneya Rama”.

The Nama Utsav ended gracefully with dolotsav. Our Thakurji and Sri.Swamiji were immensely pleased with the devotion rendered by every single devotee and showered their choicest blessings and grace upon all.

Srimad Bhagavatam and Nama sankirtan had revived Jnana and Vairagya, sons of Bhakti Devi thousands of years ago in India; here in Houston it revived every soul that entered Namadwaar.

2011 is sure to be a blessing in all ways and we pray all of us are blessed with lots and lots of satsangs and many more such Nama Saptahams!

– Zenitha Ram, Houston

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