Pujya Sri Swamiji in Trinidad - Ramanavami, Rudra Yagna, Hanuman Jayanti & Gita Parayana
Pujya Sri Swamiji in Trinidad
28 March - 10 April 2023
When, during his 2018 Guru Punima visit to Trinidad, Parama Pujya Śrī Śrī Śrī Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji said He would return to Trinidad in 2 years’ time to perform a Maha Rudra Yāgam, there were two things which devotees could not have known. One was that the Covid-19 pandemic would derail those plans, resulting in the Maha Rudra Yāgam not taking place until the year 2023. The other thing that was likely unknown to them was the level of bliss, the level of divinity and the level of love which that Yāgam would inspire in the twin island nation of Trinidad & Tobago. Here is a recollection of the events which took place during that historic visit, which also commemorated the 80th birthday year of Pujya Swamiji
Day 1: 29/03/2023
With bated breath, on the afternoon of March 29th 2023, devotees lined Datta Drive. This gives direct access to the Śrī Dattatreya Yoga Centre in Carapichaima, home of the world-famous 85’ Lord Hanuman murti, which was consecrated by Pujya Appaji on June 09th 2003. As the blue, flashing lights of Pujya Appaji’s police escort rounded the corner, devotees craned their necks to catch their first glimpse of Pujya Appaji – for some, the first glimpse in almost 5 years!
Representations of the multi-ethnic, Caribbean isle’s culture group greeted Pujya Appaji. While the local bhajan group, the Datta Kirtan Mandali (DKM), sang Appaji’s bhajan compositions, a “Ramleela” group – with persons dressed as characters from Rāmāyaṇam, danced on the streets. With Trinidad Carnival often being hailed as “the greatest show on earth,” the blue feathers of masqueraders gathered there added extra festivity to the occasion. Securing a certain view of the car in which Pujya Appaji was seated were the Moko-jumbies. Reflecting the Afro-Trinidadian heritage, the Moko-Jumbie is considered to be a protector. The masquerader stands on stilts, which raise him to a height of some 10-15 feet. It is felt that being so high in the air allows the Moko-Jumbie to identify evil forces which may be approaching. However, the Moko-jumbies on 29/03/2023 had no such worries. For approaching them was the epitome of auspiciousness, the epitome of compassion, the epitome of love for all. It had finally happened. Pujya Appaji was back in Trinidad! The sound of the tassa, drums reflective of the country’s Indian heritage, mimicked the excitement and jubilation which existed in the hearts of all present.
Pujya Śri Datta Vijayānanda Teertha Swamiji (who had arrived two days beforehand), pundits, asrama trustees, pundits and devotees (both local and foreign) gathered around Pujya Appaji, as he alighted from the car.
A short while later, a formal welcome ceremony was held in the main asrama hall. There, After the Datta Kirtan Madali offered nāda seva to Pujya Appaji, Appaji instructed them that on the following day, March 30th 2023, Rama Navami day, there should be akhanda (non-stop) bhajans glorifying Lord Rama from 6:20am to 6:20pm.
On that initial evening of His visit to Trinidad, Pujya Appaji brought further delight to, in particular, Trinidadian devotees, when, before retiring to Guru Nilayam for the night, He prompted the bhajan group to start singing “Svami Natha,” a composition of late Śrī Krishan Kumar which has become synonymous with the end of a day’s proceedings in the Trinidad asramas.
Day 2: 30/03/2023: Rama Navami Day
Trinidad has previously been hailed by Pujya Appaji as Rāmāyaṇa land. Most of the people of East Indian descent are the descendants of labourers, who travelled to Trinidad in the 1800’s. During that long and arduous journey, it was the words of Śrī Rama Caritra Manas/the story of Lord Rama, which, not only gave courage to those travellers, but those words also gave strength and created a sense of unity in the people. To this day, in Trinidad & Tobago, one can hear the term “jahaji bhai,” referring to one who is considered to be family through “boat blood.”
With this background, it should come as no surprise how much it meant to local devotees that Parama Pujya Śrī Swamiji saw it fit to not only be in Trinidad for Rama Navami, but to also be here with Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji for this auspicious celebration. To have both of Them here, together, on Rama Navami day was a blessing which is simply indescribable to the people of a land which is situated more than 14,000km away from India!
The day started with Rama Taraka homa and Rama Puja. The former was happening in the yajñaśālā, while the puja was being performed by Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji in the Ram Parivar temple, near the Lord Hanuman temple.
Wherever one positioned himself on the asrama compound, the sound of the glories of Lord Rama filled the ears. Following the previous night’s instruction given by Pujya Appaji, the Datta Kirtan Mandali had erected a stage near Lord Hanuman, from where akhanda Rama bhajan-singing was taking place. Lord Surya seemed to be enjoying the proceedings as much as the devotees gathered, as He shone in full resplendence on that day. After offering the purnahuti in the yajñaśālā, Pujya Appaji came to the Ram Parivar temple, where, in the presence of devotees, He made offerings to Lord Rama, before being whisked away in his personalized golf-caddy.
Sita Rama Kalyāṇam was next on the day’s agenda. It was pore-raising to witness this in the presence of Pujya Appaji and Śrī Bala Swamiji. The presence of Lord Rama and Sita Devi was palpable as the austerities were conducted to the sounds of various pundits chanting mantras. The chanting was led by Vedic scholar, Dr. Vamshi Krishna sGhanapati. Vid.Chandrashekar, Vid.CHakravarti, Vid.Kalyan, Vid.Krishna & Vid.Vishwaksena and DYCTT’s new resident pundit, Pundit Durga Prasad Sharma. Also assisting in the proceedings was Pundit Varun Pogula, the resident pundit at Trinidad’s Penal Asrama, the Śrī Sachchidananda Yoga Asrama.
When the Sita Rama Kalyāṇam was finished, Christian Rohit Samuel offered nṛtya (dance) seva. An original adaptation of part of Rāmāyaṇam followed, as members of the Cedarhill Ramleela Group enacted scenes from Rāmāyaṇam, using words and lessons, taken from SGS Posts, to relay the story. The participants offered, to Pujya Appaji, a crown, bow and arrow. Indeed, when He donned this crown, when He held the bow and the golden arrow, Pujya Appaji made us all feel like we had been transported to Treta Yuga. One could feel the divine presence of Śrī Rama in Pujya Appaji!
The air on that Rama Navami day was definitely a festive one. As the morning’s proceedings drew to a close, local devotee Neval Chatelal led devotees in singing an original composition “Trini style:” Rama Svarupa, Śrī Ganapathy Sachchidananda Guru Jai Jai!
That evening, the celestial musical troupe led devotees in nāma sankirtana – singing the praises of Lord Rama. Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji then blessed devotees with the evening’s discourse. He conveyed Pujya Appaji’s happiness with the akhanda bhajan session conducted by the DKM. It was later announced that Avadhoota Datta Peetham after waiting for two years, had just, on the auspicious Rama Navami Day 2023, received building permits from the Government of India to construct an asrama in Ayodhyā. Devotees were invited to come to the inauguration of that temple when it reaches completion.
Day 3: 31/03/2023: Day 1 of Maha Rudra Yāgam
“Śivāya Rudrāya Namaḥ.” This was the mantra gifted to the world during Pujya Appaji’s 2018 Guru Purnima visit to Trinidad. Devotees were instructed to chant, chant and chant this mantra in preparation for the Maha Rudra Yāgam, which Pujya Appaji vowed to return to Trinidad to perform.
On the morning of 31/03/2023, devotees eagerly gathered at the new yajñaśālā extension at the Śrī Dattatreya Yoga Centre in Trinidad. This extension was purpose-built in anticipation of the Yāgam. Three large homa kundas were strategically positioned and around each, 3 pundits (priests) sat and made offerings into the fire, all to the mesmerizing sounds of Vedic chant of Sri.Rudra Prashna. Pujya Appaji addressed devotees, informing them that instead of using their telephones or talking, they should chant Śivāya Rudrāya Namaḥ or any other Guru-given mantra. Devotees were encouraged to use their Datta Mālas to continuously perform japam while the homa was taking place. Sevakartas were allowed to take turns sitting at a 4th homa kunda, a public homa kunda, where, led by one of the visiting pundits, they were able to perform homa. While all of this was taking place, devotees were invited to perform abhiṣekam to a Siva lingam, while chanting the mantra, “Hara Hara Mahadeva.”
As homa was taking place in the yajñaśālā, Pujya Śrī Swamiji performed Śrī Cakra puja in the main asrama prayer hall.
That devotees were not only able to witness the Maha Rudra Yāgam, but also, actively participate and do so in the presence of Pujya Śrī Swamiji made this day a truly memorable one for all present. The special Sama Veda chanting by visiting scholar from Datta Peetham -Vid.Krishna Sharma formed part of the morning’s austerities was not something to which Trinidadians were accustomed and so, made the occasion even more special.
The day wrapped up with an enthralling, evening bhajan session in the divine presence of Parama Pujya Sri Swamiji.
Day 3: 01/04/2023: Day 2 of Maha Rudra Yāgam
While this day, in most ways, resembled the first day of the Yāgam, there was one notable added treat – Pujya Appaji, while the homa was taking place, performed Śrī Cakra Puja in the yajñaśālā itself. This afforded devotees an opportunity to witness both the homa and Śrī Cakra Puja simultaneously. The sound of tassa rung out as the puja drew to a close. This sound, heard as the Rudra homa was still taking place, really created a feeling of the presence of Lord Śiva. “Śiva is Guru and Guru is Śiva.” The cool breeze which flowed through the yajñaśālā throughout the morning’s proceedings was testament to just how pleased the Devatas were that this Yāgam was taking place in this small country. Pujya Appaji spoke of how blessed Trinidad was that Lord Hanuman took a single step on this land before flying off to Lanka. He also spoke of the holy river, now known as the Aripo Datta Ganga, which is mentioned in the Puranas and which first drew Appaji to this land.
Two books (“Trinidad Hanuman” and “Yes, I am a Hindu”), penned by DYCCTT’s president, Mr. Ramesh Persad-Maharaj, were released by Pujya Appaji before Appaji invited all those who had purchased Datta malas to come forward to have the mala blessed. Those blessed devotees were fortunate to have Pujya Appaji place the mala over their heads, something which He continued to do each day of the visit. Later on in the visit, Appaji spoke of how the funds raised from the sale of the Datta malas will be used to build a school for the tribal children, whose community rescued baby Satyanarayana from the waters of the river Kaveri when He was born.
How soothing it was to listen to Sama Veda chanting on the afternoon of April 01st 2023, as Rudra abhiṣeka, Kramarchana and Ashtavadana seva were performed in the Śrī Saccidanandesvara temple.
During His evening discourse on that day, Pujya Appaji urged devotees to learn Sanskrit or Hindi in order to properly understand bhajans. He also urged them to speak only good words and listen to only good words. Devotees were blessed with, not only a scintillating bhajan session conducted by Pujya Appaji, but also with a question-and-answer session with Him. The administrators of the Bala Datta Pre-School in Trinidad were instructed to restart the pre-school which had been closed since the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions were enforced in Trinidad. Much to the delight of local devotees, Pujya Appaji announced that while He previously thought that perhaps this Maha Rudra Yāgam trip might have been His last trip to Trinidad, since it is only a 6-hour journey from USA, He may come for short visits when He visits USA.
Day 4: 02/04/2023: Final Day of Maha Rudra Yāgam
Like the previous two days, this day saw a cool breeze flow almost constantly through the yajñaśālās where the Maha Rudra Yāgam and the public homa were taking place. Like the previous days, as the homas took place, devotees also performed abhiṣekam to Śiva Lingam. Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji performed Śrī Cakra Puja in the yajñaśālā, affording devotees the blessing of observing both Śrī Cakra puja and Maha Rudra Homam at the same time. Pujya Appaji later ascended the Śrī Cakra dais, from where He performed aarti, to the sound of tassa. The Maha Rudra Yāgam drew to a close after Pujya Appaji offered Maha Purnahuti to the Rudra Homa.
It was a spiritually and emotionally moving moment, as this Yāgam, which Trinidadians had been eagerly anticipating for almost 5 years, drew to a close. As the tassa drums beat a powerful and exhilarating tune, Pujya Appaji kept time with the movement of his toes. The music sparked thoughts of Lord Shiva’s energetic tāṇḍava dance, but in His gentle form of Sadgurudeva, only His toes moved to the beat!
Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji later spoke of the attraction that exists between Pujya Appaji and Trinidad. This visit was the 28th visit of Pujya Appaji to Trinidad & Tobago. Śrī Bala Swamiji also gave the astounding mantra count for the mantra Śivāya Rudrāya Namaḥ - 200 million! Many, He said, continue to chant this powerful mantra. Shiva is both the protector and destroyer. He protects wellness and destroys illness. “This,” said, Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji, “is why Pujya Appaji performed the Maha Rudra Yāgam.”
That evening, Pujya Appaji blessed those families who had made donations to the restoration of the Carapichaima Asrama and the Maha Rudra Yāgam by tying an orange rakṣa on their hand. Then, as if to ensure that no one was left without a gift, Pujya Appaji gave one of the best gifts ever. He blessed devotees with the sound of His divine voice as He led devotees in an enlightening bhajan session.
DAY 5: 03/04/2023
However, devotees were so energized by the Maha Rudra Yāgam which had just finished a day ago that they could not rest. Instead, several devotees travelled to Aripo Datta Ganga, the holy river which first attracted Pujya Appaji to Trinidad. In 1976. There, devotees were blessed with the darśana of Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji and had the good fortune of bathing in his ablutions, as they stood downstream of Him.
Later on that day, Pujya Appaji revealed an aspect of His which often leaves devotees in awe: there is no such thing as rest for Pujya Appaji. He is constantly working to seek to bless and be with devotees and secure their welfare. So, it came as no surprise that Appaji still gave darśan on this evening. 80 devotees received Datta Padukas blessed by Sri Swamiji.
Trinidadian devotee and Datta Kriya Yoga teacher, Shivanti Balkaransingh, presented Appaji with an innovative SGS-Posts word-search book. Pujya Appaji released the book and gave instructions for Dallas devotees to also publish this book. Dallas devotee, Radhika, without hesitation, accepted this seva.
Vidvān Shiva Datta Ramdass presented Pujya Appaji with an official invitation to the first ever Sampūrna Bhagavad Gita Pārāyaṇa which was being performed in Trinidad in the presence of Pujya Śrī Swamiji and Śrī Bala Swamiji. Everyone was encouraged to learn and study Bhagavad Gita.
DAY 6: 04/04/2023
Again, a day which, officially was carded to be a rest day, turned out to be a day when devotees were given a treat which supersedes rest. They were treated to the enchanting musical performance by Vidvān Dr. Ambi Subramaniam. However, this was no ordinary concert, for it was a concert performed in the divine presence of Pujya Śrī Swamiji and Śrī Bala Swamiji. Joining Dr. Subramaniam on stage were Rudrapatnashankar Ramesh (who many would know as the mridangam player of Pujya Appaji’s celestial musical troupe), Vidvān M.R. Manjunath from Mysuru playing Kanjira drum and Trinidad’s own Amarnath Maharaj. This group of four was later joined on stage by several other Trinidadian music artistes, including Neval Chatelal, Kishore Ramdath, Gheiron, Mang, Narendra Maharaj, Akshay Bissoon and Alana White. Nevalji’s rendition of “Om Namaḥ Śivāya” reflected the energy and power which the recently-concluded Maha Rudra Yāgam left in its wake. Each artiste was blessed to have Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji gift them with a vastram.
Following the usual Trinidadian send-off of “Svami Natha” that evening, devotees got ready for Śrī Hanuman Jayanti with powerful chanting of Om Namo Hanumate Namaḥ in the main prayer hall.
DAY 7: 05/04/2023: Śrī Hanuman Jayanti
Trinidadians have an immense love for Lord Hanuman. Each year, on Hanuman Jayanti, all day long, Hindus from around the country flock to the 85’ Lord Hanuman murti with their offerings of fruit, prayers etc. This year, the year when the 20th anniversary of the murti’s consecration will be celebrated, was no different, other than devotees now had an opportunity to be in Lord Hanuman’s presence at the same time as being in Pujya Appaji’s presence and Śrī Bala Swamiji’s presence. From early in the morning, Śrī Bala Swamiji performed Puja and abhiṣekam to Lord Hanuman while Hanuman Cāḷīsa chanting took place continuously.
Devotees were given the rare privilege of having Pujya Appaji touch the coconuts which they were offering as part of their purna phala seva. Homa and betel leaf puja were also performed on this auspicious day.
On the evening of Hanuman Jayanti, devotees gathered at the Śrī Dattatreya Yoga Centre in Carapichaima had the unique blessing of witnessing Pujya Appaji being lifted to stand directly at the feet of the 85’ Lord Hanuman murti, where He offered water, flowers and leaves at those divine feet. With the previous orange tents at the temple being replaced by a transparent canopy, every one, no matter where they stood, had, thanks to Pujya Appaji’s vision for the layout of the temple, a vision of Lord Hanuman.
Devotees were then given an extra special treat of enjoying an open-air bhajan session, conducted by Pujya Appaji at the feet of 85’ Lord Hanuman! There are simply no words to describe that wonderful night. The country was energized by Pujya Appaji’s presence, by Śrī Bala Swamiji’s presence, by Lord Hanuman on Hanuman Jayanti and by the recently concluded Maha Rudra Yāgam. Love and devotion for Lord Hanuman, that incarnation of Lord Śiva, seemed to be at a peak. Even Purna Candra came out in all His glory and stood facing Lord Hanuman, eager to hear Pujya Appaji sing that Lord’s glory. Vayu Devata also seemed to be enjoying the satsangha as a cool breeze flowed in Lord Hanuman’s surrounds. Never have we attended a satsangha where, when it was finished, everyone had the same reaction: speechless! No one could put into words what they had experienced on this Hanuman Jayanti evening. Many tried, with words like “awesome, unbelievable, out-of-this-world, mind-blowing,” but the looks on their faces told the true story, which was that words failed to do justice to describing the beauty of this evening of worship conducted by Pujya Appaji.
Later in the evening, Sri.Rohan Sinanan, Works & transport minister of the Government of Trinidad & Tobago took Darshana of Pujya Sri Swamiji and sought Blessings.
Later in the evening, Sri.Rohan Sinanan, Works & transport minister of the Government of Trinidad & Tobago took Darshana of Pujya Sri Swamiji and sought Blessings.
DAY 8: 06/04/2023
Hanuman Jayanti celebrations continued into the morning of April 06th 2023 at the Śrī Dattatreya Yoga Centre in Carapichaima. On this day, the sound of divya nāma sankirtana filled the air around the asrama as members of the DKM sang 40 of Pujya Appaji’s bhajan compositions (from the Keertana Candrika album) in the morning, as Śrī Cakra Puja and Śrī Dattatreya Homa took place. Making sure that no devotee misses out or is left unrewarded for their service, Pujya Appaji then visited the asrama’s Annapurna Mandiram, where He blessed the Annadana team led by Sri.Kesh, the sevakartas there and also blessed the prasadam which they had prepared.
Later, Pujya Appaji offered Purnahuti to Pavamana Homa and Sri Bala Swamiji blessed devotees at the Satyanarayana Temple, where monthly Satyanarayana Vratam was taking place.
In the evening, the remaining 40 bhajans from the Keertana Cadrika album were sung by the DKM. Violinist, Ambi Subramaniam joined in the offering. Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji reminded all gathered that unlike other prasadam, the prasadam known as Pujya Appaji’s bhajans is prasadam that will last a lifetime and beyond. It is prasadam which will also last for generations to come.
DAY 9: 07/04/2023
Śrī Bala Swamiji started off the day’s proceedings at the Princes Town asrama (Datta Śiva Rama Mandira) with abhiṣekam to Lord Dattatreya. Pujya Appaji arrived a short time later. The sound of the tassa drums which greeted him reflected the joy in the hearts of all those who were eagerly awaiting His arrival. He performed archana and arti to Lord Dattatreya and later, both He and Śrī Bala Swamiji blessed devotees with all-inspiring discourses. Princes Town Asrama’s Bhagavad Gita teacher, Smt. Taramati Ramdath, led her students in offering the chanting of chapter 12 of Bhagavad Gita to Kṛṣṇa Svarūpa, Pujya Śrī Appaji. Dallas devotee, and co-ordinator of the Mahayajna Programme in Trinidad and USA, Srikanth Challa, spoke and encouraged everyone to learn Bhagavad Gita and make use of that gift. Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji expressed the joy He felt when Vishnu Ramdatt, of the Princes Town Asrama, referred to Pujya Appaji as Paramātmā. Prasadanna spoke of how unique Trinidad is, as this country is one of the limited places where Pujya Appaji speaks in English. Indeed, this is a blessing for which local devotees are extremely grateful. That such inspiring words, delivered by an Avadhūta, were delivered in English, a language known to all the citizens of this small Caribbean nation, was just another manifestation of the compassion of Sadgurudeva, Pujya Śrī Swamiji.
As this visit to the Princes Town Asrama was the first to take place since Pujya Appaji celebrated His historic 80th birthday, birthday cakes were offered to Him by devotees.
The afternoon programme of Pujya Śrī Swamiji took place at the Śrī Sachchidananda Yoga Asrama in Penal. Both Princes Town and Penal are located in South Trinidad, and so, it is quite common for Pujya Appaji to visit both asramas on the same day when He is in Trinidad. Do not, however, feel that the experiences at either asrama is in any way inferior to that at the Carapichaima asrama. For wherever Pujya Appaji is, His name says it all… there, ānanda is certainly experienced!
At the Penal Asrama, silence was offered for Sri.Sieudath Saroop & his wife Lakshmi who had passed away recently. They were instrumental in the establishment of the Ashrama in Penal. Pujya Appaji blessed devotees with a combination of bhajans and inspirational words.
The innocent and sweet devotion of young devotee, Sharvani (the daughter of resident priest, Varun Pogula) captivated all those gathered, as she led the congregation in nāma sankirtana.
As this visit to the Penal Asrama was also the first to take place since Pujya Appaji celebrated His 80th birthday, a birthday cake was offered here as well. The artistry of the massive cake was very impressive, with three-dimensional peacocks depicted throughout. Pujya Appaji delighted the crowd by cutting the cake to the sounds of multiple birthday songs being sung.
DAY 10: 08/04/2023
This was a day which devotees had yearned for. It was the day when Candi Homa would be taking place in Trinidad in the presence of Pujya Śrī Swamiji and Śrī Bala Swamiji. When Lord Śiva is worshipped, Mother Goddess must also be worshipped. So, just like the Maha Rudra Yāgam would not be properly completed without this Candi Homa, so too, devotees felt they would be incomplete without being present for this momentous austerity. Perhaps this explains the large crowd which had gathered at the Śrī Dattatreya Yoga Centre on the morning of April 08th 2023. Scholar pandits who had been traditionally & officially initiated with Devi Saptashati Mantras chanted & conducted the Homa.
For those who had come, having had a head bath as per Pujya Appaji’s instructions, there was a special treat in store, as, as had happened during the Maha Rudra Yāgam, while homa was being conducted, Pujya Appaji performed Śrī Cakra Puja in the yajñaśālā. The gifts did not end there, however. After performing purnahuti at Candi homa, Pujya Appaji distributed prasadam to sevakartas, even if the seva for which they had registered was on a previous day. The queue to make offerings into the homa kunda after Candi homa was a queue which was probably the longest which was witnessed during the visit, but it was worth it, for after making one’s offering, one had the darśana of Pujya Appaji… a smiling, loving Pujya Appaji.
The evening of April 08th 2023 was a historic one in Trinidad’s history. For the first time ever, in the presence of Parama Pujya Śrī Swamiji and Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji, local graduates of Pujya Appaji’s Bhagavad Gita Maha Yajña Programme sat to offer Sampūrna Bhagavad Gita and Gita Sāram at the divine feet of Sadgurudeva, Kṛṣṇa Svarupa, Pujya Appaji and Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji. Making this event even more unique was the delivery of the essence of each of the first 9 chapters before the chapter was chanted. This was delivered by regional co-ordinator of the programme, Srikanth Challa. Graduates who had memorized all 700 ślokas of Bhagavad Gita and passed their final exams, but who had not yet received their awards from Pujya Appaji, were awarded gold medals and certificates. Their accomplishment served as an inspiration to all the “fluent readers” of Bhagavad Gita to try to commit to memory, the words of Bhagavad Gita. The words then delivered by Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji were not lost on the local crowd, as nothing that He or Appaji speaks is to be taken lightly. Pujya Bala Swamiji commented on the fact that there were 15 memorizers chanting Bhagavad Gita today. “Next year,” He said, “We need 150 students, or, we do not mind if you make it 1500!” What words of inspiration for Trinbagonian students and potential students of Bhagavad Gita!
DAY 11: 09/04/2023
This day was a bittersweet one for many local and foreign devotees alike. While everyone looked forward to the 80thbirthday celebrations of Pujya Appaji which were carded for this night, this day also was the day when Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji would be leaving Trinidad and the last day of formal programmes for Pujya Appaji’s visit. Ever intent on living in the now, devotees fervently went about getting ready for Pujya Appaji’s 80th birthday celebrations.
Pujya Appaji performed Śrī Cakra puja in the main prayer hall while members of the Mysore and Trinidad bhajan groups led devotees in nāma sankirtana. Pujya Appaji blessed devotees with a very practical discourse on day to day behaviours, including speaking kind, sweet words, waking up early and budgeting time, exercising, chanting the 18 names of Gita and feeding stray animals.
Kitchen volunteers at the asrama honoured Pujya Appaji, who in turn, blessed the pradhana annadhana sevakartas.
That evening, devotees gathered to wish Pujya Appaji a happy 80th birthday. Nṛtya seva and nada seva, both in different styles, were offered to Pujya Appaji. The students of Bhagavad Gita honoured Pujya Appaji with gifts of Guru dakṣiṇā, a mala, a sari, a basuri and a crown. Pujya Appaji then blessed local Bhagavad teacher, Vidvān Shiva Datta Ramdass by garlanding him with a golden tulsi-bead chain offered by the students to their teacher.
As a tribute to Pujya Appaji and the interest and love for Bhagavad Gita which He has sparked worldwide, two Bhagavad Gita ślokas were chanted and their meanings were shared. These two ślokas (Ch 9, S22 and Ch 18, S66) were, earlier in His visit, cited by Pujya Śrī Bala Swamiji as often being considered to contain the essence of Śrīmad Bhagavad Gita.
Males and females of different ages and different races joined together to, in honour of Lord Datta, the symbol of advaita, sing the unity chant. Hindu, Muslim and Christian chants were blended together, symbolizing the unity which is prayed for, not only in this multi-cultural nation, but also worldwide.
Vidvān Ambi Subramaniam gave a riveting violin performance. Highlighting the country’s national instrument, Savitri Rampersad joined others on stage to perform Dattatreya Trimurti Rupa on steel pan.
As Pujya Appaji’s Mother, as His first Guru and as Her aradhana day is approaching, tribute was paid to Mata Jayalakshmi by recalling the story of Pujya Appaji’s birth and through bhajans glorying Amma.
Before Appaji took His seat on the swing at the end of the night, He accepted and cut the birthday cake: a cake shaped like the island of Trinidad and bearing local hallmark symbols associated with Pujya Appaji, including a miniature cake topping of the 85’ Lord Hanuman murti.
Vice-president of DYCTT, Śrī Vishnu Deonarine, honoured Pujya Appaji with a mala at the end of the evening’s proceedings and the proceeds of the past 4 years of the local “Dollar-a-day” seva were presented to Pujya Appaji by DYCTT trustee, Mr. Ramesh Pragg.
DAY 12: 10/04/2023
It is only by the grace of Pujya Appaji that there were dry eyes in the temple on this day. Though everyone was sad to see Him leave on this morning, as He headed to Dallas, the comfort derived from His words on a previous day – a promise to return to Trinidad, and His words on this day itself – to return soon, these gave devotees comfort and an opportunity to, instead of drowning in sorrow at His departure, revel in the bliss of having had His darśana for the duration of His visit.
Śrī Guru Datta.