By our correspondent
Preparations for the palanquin procession, renamed this year as Ek Yatra, were nearly complete and only finishing touches are to be made on the morning of Saturday, July 28, 2018 when the yatra is launched later in the afternoon.
Shiva Haran, president of the Shri Saibaba Temple in the Flushing section of Queens, New York City, expressed optimism that the yatra – set to be taken out during the Maha Samadhi centenary – would be successful.
“Our volunteers, who are doing a tremendous service, have been treating the entire work as their own,” he said. “It is some Shubh Karya (auspicious event) being taken place at their homes.”
Haran went to churches and other religions’ places of worship, and urged the officials there to participate in the procession.
The temple officials anticipate several hundreds of devotees to take part in this year’s procession – the ninth annual program (also known as palki yatra) of the house of work, which is tastefully decorated for the event.
The volunteers worked to keep the palanquin, in which utava vigraha (idol used for processions) will be placed before the yatra begins.
Narasimha Rao Bonda, the main coordinator of the procession, was equally enthusiastic.
“We have some 20 people wearing the attire of companions of Saibaba at that time – more than 100 years ago when he was in human form – marching past in the procession,” Bonda said on the procession eve, without disclosing who would appear as the Shirdi saint. “Hold your breath. I myself don’t know who that person is going to be. You’ll anyway come to know in the next few hours.”
He also praised the dedication and discipline of the volunteers, and sought the blessings of the saint to the entire humanity. Another important feature of this year’s procession is an interfaith segment in which representatives of all major religions will be seen.
The temple officials held a news conference on July 14.
Haran appealed to the Indian-American news media to give wide coverage for the house of worship and its activities in the centenary year.
“Our temple is located at a convenient place in the Flushing area, easily accessible by public transport. It is also located in the area, where other houses of worship like Ganesh and Swami Narayan temples, as well as a mosque, a gurudwara and churches are also situated,” he said.
The president narrated this year’s temple activities in the run-up to the centenary,
set for the third week of October. “Aside from the regular puja activity and aarti, we have several events lined up,” Haran said. “We have Guru Purnima and the Maha Samadhi festivities, which are the main events on the temple calendar.”
The weeklong Guru Purnima event will culminate in the yatra.
Several segments comprise the yatra, which will proceed in an orderly fashion.
Bonda said that some 400-500 people attend the yatra usually. This year the temple expects a gathering of up to 1,000.
A fundraising program is scheduled for October 27.
Shri Shirdi Saibaba Temple in Flushing is the first place of worship of the saint in North America. The worship of Saibaba was formally launched by a small group of devotees in the basement of a home in 1988 and the puja activity slowly picked up. As devotees started growing in numbers, it became necessary to build a formal temple with larger space. With the blessings of Saibaba, some residential accommodation was purchased. It was demolished later and a large, beautiful temple, which we seenow, was constructed.
The installation (Prana Pratishta) and the opening ceremony were performed on April 25, 2010. Devotees from across the US have been visiting the temple in order to seek the blessings of the presiding deity.
Nearly $2.5 million was spent on the temple construction. It costs around $24,000 a month to maintain the temple, the money for which comes through donations from devotees.
- The temple comprises the main hall on the first floor, a meditation room on the second floor, a full-fledged kitchen and a dining area in the basement. Some 1,000-1,200 devotees visit the temple every week.
- The temple is open from 8am through 9pm daily. Arti (prayer) is performed four times a day (8:30am, 12:30pm, 6:30pm and 8:30pm). Different forms of puja are performed by the temple priests.
- Bhajans by the devotees are held on Thursdays, Sundays and special occasions.
- The main objective is to serve food (prasadam) to the devotees that visit the temple. Food is served after each arti and is available almost throughout the day. Food is available to all with no discrimination of such factors as color, caste and religion
- The main events of the temple are Guru Purnima and Vijay Dashmi.
Baba attained Maha Samadhi on the Vijay Dashmi day in 1918. 2018 marks the centenary year of that event. Programs are being held across the globe, including the US. And the Flushing temple, being the oldest in this part of the world, is no exception. Guru Purnima this year fell on Thursday, July 26.
Please check our new website www.dawarakamaishirdi.org
To spread the message of the Shirdi saint to the younger generation and impart his teachings among the new devotees, a quiz is organized. The contest is based on Sai Satcharitra (by Hemadpant); copies of the book are available for sale at the temple counter. There are three independent rounds and the final one will be held around mid- October. The first was over and the second is slated for Saturday, July 28. The winner will get a free air ticket to Shirdi, courtesy of Air India. There is a second prize and two third prizes. There could be a few consolation prizes.
There is an ongoing program, called Paaraayan (reading of the Satcharitra chapter-wise once), which began on October 15, 2017. So far nearly 40 Paaraayans have been held, and the yearlong devotional exercise is scheduled to complete on October 15, 2018.