By our correspondent
Shree Shirdi Saibaba Temple in Flushing, Queens, NYC, held a news conference last week.
Shiva Haran, president temple, appealed to the Indian-American news media to give wide coverage for the temple and its activities in the centenary year of the Maha Samadhi of the Shirdi saint.
«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, scheduled 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. »
Palki (Pallaki) Yatra (Palanquin Procession), this year renamed as Ek Yatra (Unity March), is the highlight of the Guru Purnima programs. The yatra is set for Saturday, July 28.
The weeklong Guru Purnima celebrations will culminate in the Yatra: July 22—Ganapati puja and other forms of worship; July23—Mantapa Puja and Pancha Sookta Parayana; July 24—Hanuman Chalisa and devotional singing by the Simon Benjamin group; July 25–Swarna Pushpa Archana and bhajan by Harish Chandra and family; July 26—Dattatreya Moolamantra Havan and music program by the Sriranjani Haran group; July 27—Sai Satya Vrata Katha and Veena recital by Saipranati and Saipranavi; July 28—Palanquin Procession and bhajan by Ghulam Mirashi and Tapan Modak. All the programs are all day-long.
Narasimha Rao Bonda, chief coordinator of the Ek Yatra, explained to the news conference – which was convened at the temple on July 14 — about the significance of the event this year.
«The re-enactment by a 20-member troupe of the Chavdi Procession, which began when Saibaba was in his human form more than 100 years ago, is the highlight this year, » he noted. « All these eight years, when the Palki Yatra was launched in 2010, we used to take out in a procession the utsava vigraha (idol used for processions) of Saibaba in surrounding streets. Some musicians will also form part of the procession.»
An interfaith group, whose members represent the major religions, will march in the Ek Yatra. Nine 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.
«This week we will convene a meeting of volunteers group and chalk out the exact procedure of the Yatra and related activities, » he said. «We will announce during the Ek Yatra the details of a major fundraising event marking the centenary celebrations of the Maha Samadhi. »
The fundraising program is scheduled for late October.
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 see now, was constructed. The idol 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—which comes through donations from devotees.
1. The temple consists of 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.
2. 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.
3. Bhajans by devotees are held on Thursdays, Sundays and special occasions.
4. 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
5. 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 our temple, being the oldest in this part of the world, is no exception. Guru Purnima this year falls on Thursday, July 26. Please check our new websitewww.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 whose book are available at the temple. There are three independent rounds and the final one will 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 36 Paaraayans have been held, and the yearlong devotional exercise is scheduled to be completed on October 15, 2018.