What is Maha Kumbabhishekam?
It is a purification ceremony performed every 12 years or after construction/renovation to nullify any unintended transgressions and/or deficiencies in the daily religious services or recitations of the mantras. It is believed to synergize the divine powers of the deities. The Kumbha which denotes the kalaSa, Shikara or Crown of the Temple Gopuram, is bathed with the holy waters charged and sanctified with mantra chanting from all the four Vedas and performance of yajna.
What is Ati Rudram?
Sri Rudram is an ancient hymn or Vedic Stotra found in the Yajur Veda. Millions of devotees for a thousand years have been chanting this stotra, which is an invocation to the Lord Rudra who is also Lord Shiva. These stotras were not written by a human but were heard by the rishis in their meditations.
Sri Rudram consists of 2 parts: Namakam and chamakam. The first part is praising the lord and bowing to him and the second part is requesting him to grant all material desires for a comfortable living and earthly and spiritual progress. The recitation of these mantras create a powerful atmosphere with high vibrations and grants the chanter and the listener both peace and prosperity. Lord Shiva is immensely pleased with this chanting.
So what constitutes an Ati Rudram?
If 11 devotees chant Ekadasa Rudram simultaneously that would result in completing a Laghu Rudram. If 121 Ritviks chant Ekadasa Rudram simultaneously that would result in completing a MahaRudram. Typically, a MahaRudram is completed in 1 day resulting in the chanting of the Rudram 1331 (121×11) times. If a MahaRudram is repeated for 11 days then we would have completed an Ati Rudram during which the Sri Rudram would have been chanted a total of 14,641 (121×121) times.
Shivaya Vishnu Rupaya, Shiva Rupaya Vishnave
The above line is from a shloka in the Yajur Veda, which means that Shiva is the same as Vishnu and Vishnu is the same as Shiva! How can that be? Although they have been depicted in different forms and worshipped thus, the essence of Truth is that Shiva as Consciousness is all pervading and all knowing, equally present in every being without any distinction of high and low. Vishnu stands for Vis (all pervading) + Anu (atom). So the same Supreme Being is all pervading and is present in the biggest of the biggest and the smallest of the smallest atoms in the whole universe. So there can be only one ‘all-pervading’, ‘all-knowing’ Being, even though we worship that one in different forms. The Rudram talks about this all pervading auspicious Consciousness that is all knowing and present in every existing thing in the world. The whole of Namakam in the Rudram praises that Supreme Consciousness and Intelligence present in everything from the trees to mountains and in individuals and the collective species of all kinds, in both sentient and insentient, moving and unmoving beings and salutes that divine power we call Rudra. He is called the best doctor for our sufferings and we pray to him for our welfare and peace.
Going on a temple tour with Amma is really a joyous and elevating occasion. On December 20th thru 25th of 2015, we had the good fortune of attending the divine and beautiful Ati Rudram and Maha kumbhabhishekam performed after 70 years in Drakshaarama, Andhra Pradesh, which is one of the famous Panchaaramas, also known as Dakshina Kashi. The land between Sri Sailam, Kala Hasti and Draksharama is called Deva bhumi. The temple itself is said to have been built over night by Devas and so it was only appropriate that our Amma, who is divine, was asked to preside over the occasion. There were many programs such as the yajna, Chandi Homa, Shiva Abhisheka and preparations for the Maha Kumbabhisheka being conducted at the same time and Amma somehow managed to be everywhere making sure every event was going well and also giving her attention to all the devotees who came to see her from far and near. It was truly a blessing to be able to chant powerful mantras of the Rudram and perform yajna at the banks of the sacred river Godavari and that too in the presence of our dear Amma, an embodiment of Lalitaambika. It is said that at the time of Maha Pushkaras, so called because of the auspicious planetary alignment, planet Jupiter influences the Godavari River to bestow spiritual elevation, wealth, wisdom and good health and overall well being to those blessed to be in her presence. This is a powerful astrological occurrence that happens once every 144 years. The next Maha Pushkaras for Godavari River will occur in 2159.
Amma herself took us to the river later and as we all immersed our feet in the river, Amma asked us to remember our deceased ancestors and pray for their liberation. She said the departed souls wait anxiously for any of their descendants to visit River Godavari so they can be liberated.
During the event Amma repeatedly said that we were all invited there for the occasion by Lord Bhimeshwara Swamy himself. Bhima means huge. This is the largest self born Crystal Shiva Lingam in the world, with 14.5 ft of the lingam being visible above ground, and who knows the depth of the lingam under the Mother Earth? Just the intent to go there with love, faith and devotion, destroys all bondages and karma load in one’s life which is the cause for the cycle of birth and death, and liberates one in this life time itself. True devotion, absolute faith and love in God and oneness of the Supreme Truth definitely redeems one of all sins and liberates one. The power of the pilgrimage to drakshaarama is stated in the 8th chapter of Skanda Purana. Drakshaarama is called the ‘bhogamokshodbhava puram’ – the city that grants all enjoyments as well as liberation while still alive.
In the above picture, the photographer captured the divine radiance emanating from or falling on the Shiva Lingam to which Amma was doing Abhishekam. There was no possibility of sunshine falling in the room and yet the divine radiance was seen as shown in the photo.
Amma asked the crowd, “Who has seen Shiva? You have all been chanting the Rudram for so many years. Have you seen Shiva?” And then she said, “Shiva is nothing but self effulgent divine radiance!”
This Bhimeshwara Swamy lingam is also called the ardhanareeshwara lingam and is made of crystal.
Millions of people in the world who chant the Rudram, simply love it, and it is their very breath for they don’t eat, drink or sleep without first chanting it. It takes a lot of sadhana of about 41 years of chanting Rudram before they can participate in an Ati Rurdram. Amma’s sankalpa and intent for doing the Ati Rudram is to attract positive energy and peace on Earth. Rudram chanting is very powerful and purifies every cell in the body. It removes all negativity and impurities of bondage thus leading to liberation of the soul. The Rudram divinizes the life of one who chants the Rudram and blesses that one with ‘ksheera neera viveka nyaayam,’ which is the ability to discriminate between truth and untruth, reality and unreality, what to do and what not to do. It gives them the ability to sort out the reality from unreality just like a swan separates water from the milk. People who chant the Rudram are like walking Gods on this Mother Earth.
Amma clearly loves the Vedas and is promoting the vedic culture which will otherwise be lost in the name of modernity.