This is, indeed, a report straight from heaven, as I just finished watching the Nava Durga havan conducted by Om Swami ji. It was the closest to heaven that I could reach, from my vantage point on earth.
The live program became a magical journey for me. The hypnotic voice of Om Swami ji transported me to another level of existence that took me right back to my happiest childhood memories.
My grandfather passed away when I was very small, maybe just six or seven years old. I have only the faintest memory of him, in normal times. However, when I saw the havan by Om Swamiji, on his website, I had a distinct vision of sitting on my grandfather’s lap while he participated in a havan with our family. I was too young to the understand the words but do remember becoming animated each time the word ‘Swaha’ was uttered. Also, it was so much fun to sit on his lap, just enjoying the warmth of his grandfatherly love.
As a child, I was fascinated by havans. My grandmother was a very pious lady and we had lot of havans at our house, with all the family getting together and sitting in silence. I didn’t understand the words, but the constant chanting had a mesmerizing effect. The whole house would be filled with the pleasant smell coming from the havan kund, and the Prasad served at the end of the havan was like a taste of heaven. I can still savor the taste of the freshly made halwa and the sattvic lunch that followed.
The Nava Durga havan this year also brought back memories of a magical ceremony organized by my brother-in-law, in Ottawa, Canada. He had a very nice house by the lake, and we gathered on the beach for a havan at sunrise. There were about half a dozen of us, only close family members. The priest who performed the havan had spent 16 years in Swami Rama’s ashram in Rishikesh. He was well-versed in the Himalayan traditions, and performed the prescribed rituals exactly as required. He made sure the audience was silent, he did not tolerate anyone speaking during the havan. When the havan was completed, there was a mound of ash in the havan kund. When we looked at it closely, it had assumed the shape of a reclining lion. This is a true story; we even have pictures to prove it. By following the rituals correctly, the Pandit ji had invoked the presence of Ma Durga.
Om Swami ji’s havan re-created this magic for me once again. Every detail was perfect, right down to the act of lighting the flame that started the process. The wooden logs were perfectly aligned to spread the fire inside the havan kund, with adequate spacing to provide the air flow. Nothing was out of place. I am sure Ma Durga was present during the ceremony.
While the havan was going on, I re-discovered the beauty of the Sanskrit language. The words from Om Swami ji’s tongue flowed gracefully, with their own rhythm. Om Swami ji created perfect music for us, without the use of any musical instruments.
With Om Swami ji as the teacher, I understood the significance of the beej mantras, and, why they are so powerful. These mantras are the seeds we plant in our minds, and they keep on bearing fruit. I must have planted quite a few seeds in my mind during Nava Durga, because I still feel them sprouting within me in the form of this urge to write a blog.
The Lalita Sahasranama havan by Om Swamiji was beautiful, well beyond anything that we normally see on earth. It was on a heavenly plane of its own. There was incredible beauty in each word, and in each description of the attributes of the divine mother. I may have understood only some of it, but it was still an experience beyond compare.
I had a moment of insight about the Sanskrit language during the havan. The words in Sanskrit flow smoothly because of the extensive use of Sandhi, the technique of combining of vowel sounds at the end and the beginning of words. With Sandhi, the words just blend into each other and flow smoothly. The word Sandhi also means friendship, or alliance. The kings we read about in our history books often did Sandhi with each other, forming bonds of friendship. There is a deep spiritual lesson here, arising from the structure of the Sanskrit language. If we really love our scriptures, we must practice Sandhi and form bonds of friendship with other religions, and with other communities. If we all did this, most of our conflicts would disappear.
Beautiful words and phrases were spread like gems throughout the havan. One phrase caught my attention, as being very relevant to our times: “Duur Darshai Swaha”. This was repeated several times during the havan. “Duur darshan” means, literally, seeing from a distance. Thanks This is exactly what my wife and I did as we watched the havan remotely, from the comfort of our own home in Canada.
Even the timing was perfect. Living in Canada, we could watch the programs at 9 a.m. in the morning, after a relaxed cup of coffee.
In one famous shloka, the Bhagavat Gita says that nighttime for the sages is daytime for others, and vice versa. I think the authors of this holy text could see the future – perhaps they were talking about time zones.
When the sages do programs in the evening in India, we get to watch them at a very convenient time in the morning in Canada.
What could be more heavenly than this?