On a full Moon winter evening, I had the pleasure and privilege to witness ‘Srivari Kalyanam’ or the divine wedding of the Lord Venkateswara and his consorts. The rare ceremony was organized with adequate care and devotion by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) at Sri Venkateswara College, New Delhi. I cursed myself for arriving slightly late. When I entered the neat and clean premises, I could see a riot of white and orange colours. The gathering appeared disciplined, focused and orderly. Thousands of devotees were already seated on the chairs and carpets. There were men, women , children from the diverse age groups, waiting anxiously to have a ‘darshan’ of the Lord Venkateswara , brought specially all the way from Tirupati by the dedicated and well qualified priests.
2. The huge stage in the centre of the sprawling ground was looking gorgeous with layers of marigold flowers, attractive muslin designs and elaborate lighting arrangements. A huge eye-catching curtain was hung in the middle, so as to ensure privacy to the Lord and his consorts prior to the ceremony. For the convenience of the devotees, sound boxes and hundis were placed at important locations. Soon after announcements were made for bringing a semblance of order, the whole atmosphere began to be blessed with singing of soothing bhajans by two remarkably talented Telugu women, dressed immaculately in bright Kanjeevarams. They were superbly supported by simply dressed men playing well decorated South Indian musical instruments. Their flawless rendition not only touched our hearts but provided necessary solace as well. They had a truly golden, melodious and convincing voice. The volunteers sporting bright orange coloured scarves and the tall security guards were quick, firm, yet ,courteous. The flow of people at all the enclosures including the ‘advance Prasad’ and literature distribution counters, was well regulated.
3. As it may happen anywhere, several of the devotees turned out to be mere onlookers. Relentless efforts of some of them to get closer to the deity were politely prevented by the vigilant volunteers. Cash donation of a few enthusiastic young women was also timely declined. They were promptly guided to put the same into a near by Hundi. Use of mobile phones off and on, was irritating, nevertheless. Noise generated by the cries of tiny tots had to be ignored, if not to be tolerated .Afterall, they were offshoots of the same prominent Hindu samaskara of marriage, which was going to be the central theme of the ceremony.
4. Sharp at 18.15 hours, lights were switched on. Instant applause followed from the captive audience. The programme of bhajans immediately made the way for dedicated chanting of ‘Govinda…Govinda…. Govinda’. The main ceremony began with offering of Sankalp by the Joint Executive Officer of the TTD. He was seen leading a galaxy of VIPs with their spouses in toe, all distinctly seated on a high pedestal to the left of the dais. It was followed by the Havan ceremony. While the high priests initiated the rituals with a noticeable command over the chanting of the slokas, their simultaneous translation into English enabled many of us to get a feel of the essence of the ceremony.
5. When the curtains were finally drawn open, everyone stood up in reverence to catch a glimpse of the almighty. One by one , different ceremonies, such as, Bhaktsankalpam, offering of saris to the Goddesses Bhudevi and Sridevi, recitation of the lines of the ancestors of the Lord and the Goddesses and finally, bestowing of the sacred cloth to the deities took place with care and precision. Towards the end, when the Chief Priest came to the forefront of the dais, the devotees bowed and acknowledged. When the Mahasankalpam was being performed at 19.06 hours, the Lord Moon rose majestically from the West direction. Cool breeze followed suit. What a memorable sight it was! Under full glow of moonlit night, Kanyadaan ceremony was performed with purity and sincerity. It was an unforgettable climax. Alas! On account of a prior mundane commitment, I could not possibly wait till the distribution of Prasad and refreshment. I had to be contented with the Maha Laddoo, I had managed to buy, ahead of the ceremony.
6. The wedding celestial of the Lord Venkateswara and His consorts blessed everyone present. Truly it was an unique opportunity on a Poornima day. It enabled the devotees to take part in the solemn ritual without any distinction of caste, creed or the region. The whole experience was not only satisfying. It was thrilling and mesmerising as well. It was expected to ensure a certain degree of mental peace, prosperity and happiness, apart from re-building self-confidence.
7. In addition to the soaring standards displayed by the priests and the organizers alike, the overall discipline and decorum was something to be learnt and cherished. Their credentials could not possibly be doubted. Will this divine wedding bring in better sense, trust, mutual affection and regard to the numerous couples , who thronged the place? Will they share and care with renewed vigour by duly maintaining the sanctity of the age old institution of marriage? I asked myself these routine yet pertinent questions while retreating in a measured way towards my obscure dwelling unit.
8. Before calling it a day, I felt an unusual calm. I was devoid of any stress. I suppose, I was satisfied. It was a question of faith. It may not, therefore, call for any plausible explanation.