Large Crowd Gathers At Chinmaya LA To Celebrate Ayodhya Temple
Photo: Surendra Prakash
India-West Staff Reporter
TUSTIN, CA – January 22, 2024, may thus far be an unparalleled day in modern India. From every corner of the nation, news poured in about lamps being lit, prayers being said, and joyous dancing on the streets. It was the holy day, picked by astrologers to consecrate after almost 500 years, the deity of Lord Rama in Ayodhya, the very place He was born.
“Today our Lord Ram has come. After centuries of waiting, our Ram has arrived. After centuries of unprecedented patience, countless sacrifices, renunciations, and penances, our Lord Ram has arrived,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the Pran Pratishta, which drew stars from industry, film, and sport and saw 7,000 people in attendance.
The virtual audience was dramatically larger. Around the world, the Indian Diaspora, irrespective of the time of day it was in their part of the globe, gathered in vast numbers at temples and public places to view the live stream of something momentous and what most Hindus had believed they would not see in their lifetimes.
“Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda envisioned it, he anticipated it,” said Swami Ishwarananda during the celebrations at Chinmaya Mission’s aptly named ‘Rameshwaram,’ center, where almost 700 people gathered on the evening of January 21 to mark the moment. Gurudev, the founding president of the VHP, which had made the restoration of the Ram Janmabhoomi one of its goals, Swamiji recalled, was once asked by a reporter about the chances of a Ram mandir ever being built and after replying that it was a certainty, had turned to Swamiji, who was traveling with him, to declare with prescience in 1990, “It will happen in your lifetime!”
The evening began at the Mission – decked with lights and flowers for the occasion – with adults and children from the community gathering, dressed as if headed to a wedding. Swamiji seated in the temple, where at the altar the Ram Parivar, decorated lovingly by volunteers, sparkled in their jewels and clothes, led the congregation made up of several hundred who were not members of the Mission, in the recitation of Sant Tulsidas’s famed Hanuman Chalisa. Following this, the place reverberated with the Mahamantra known to all, ‘Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama.’ As the chant continued to ring through the hall, the crowd seemed to go still as individuals slipped into a divine quiet.
In his address that followed, Swami Ishwarananda who leads the LA center, talked about how the human mind has gradually become grosser over time. In the Satya Yuga, he said, a single word, ‘Om,’ was enough to get the attention of the mind and turn it toward God. In the Tretya Yuga two letters were needed – Shiva, Mata, Krishna, Rama, and in the Dwpara Yuga, three letters began to be needed – Ganesha, Lakshmi. Now, in the Kali Yuga, he joked, people were more likely to think of Ram as Random Access Memory and needed longer names like Venkatachalapathy to support the mind. But all that is needed, he said, is contemplation on Ram – Ramo Rajamani Sada Vijayate.
Harking to the opposition from some Hindu quarters to the Pran Pratishta, he pointed out how, unlike today, the need for the dissemination of knowledge was recognized and how a master like Adi Shankara in his short years on earth had traversed India three times, written commentaries and consecrated temples. If Sanatan Dharma had to be established, he averred, it had to be done through temples where large numbers of people come. And nothing was more important than sacred spots like where the Lord was born. He urged Hindus to stay united.
After the Ram arati and mahaprasad, the crowd gathered in the auditorium to view on the large screen the live proceedings from Ayodhya.
Earlier, on January 15, days prior to the Pran Pratishta, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad – America, held a virtual curtain raised which again saw registrants from several hundred temples across North America and the Caribbean. Swami Ishwarananda was invited to be the chief guest.
Fully recognizing his role as being from the lineage of Swami Chinmayananda, in his short address, he spoke of his Guru’s part in VHP as being “crucial” – to awaken Hindus to their place in a harmonious world – and how he had declared at the height of the Babri Masjid issue, ‘What is ours must be taken back.’
On January 21, a clip of Swami Chinmayananda’s blunt and unambiguous message was played for the audience which was gathered, to applause.