Our Temple History
The forerunner to the Sri Rajarajeshwari Peetam, in the U.S. for over 18 years, actually started in Zambia. It began in a two-bedroom apartment on Chilubi Road in the capital city of Lusaka, where regular Parayanam of Lalitha Sahasranamam and puja with the Ashtotra Sada Namavali for Subramanya began in 1971.
Time progress and in 1974, a Sivakamasundari and Nataraja were obtained in Madras and brought to Lusaka. After the 1976 Sivaratri celebrations, Lalitha Rahasya Sahasranama Stotra Parayanam started in their apartment. Gradually a group of devotees, attracted by the Sahasranama Parayanam, joined in. They were from a cross section of the Indian sub-continent, Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore and Sri Lanka. As the Sahasranama Parayanam continued, the two bedroom apartment became a center of attraction for most of the devotees in Lusaka and pretty soon there was no room in the apartment during the pujas. The shrine slowly began to grow and in 1976 a Sri Chakra was brought from the Madurai Meenakshi Temple, where forty-five days of puja had been done to the Sri Chakra. Soon after it was brought, the Khadgamala Stotra, popularly known as Sahasrakshara Vidya, chanting was begun.
In 1979, our Guruji, Sri Amrithanandanada Saraswathi and his Patni Devi Annapoorna initiated Chaithanyananda and Gnanamba into the Sri Vidya. Everything changed from the time dynamic man came into their lives. The temple that has manifested today, has flowed out of the feet of Amrithananda, who has inspired, directed and executed the temple project through various people, all personification of Guruji‘s love and compassion. Not a second passes in Rochester without remembering the love and teachings of Amrithananda. Though miles may separate the Rajarajeshwari Peetam from Devipuram, Guruji and Amma live on in the hearts of Chaithanyananda and Gnanamba. They are the main deities. The Rajarajeshwari Devi is but a representation of Guruji Amrithananda‘s compassion and Padhukas.
Once Chaithanyananda and Gnanamba moved from Lusaka with their 7 year old daughter Sarumathi, the pujas were regularly performed, first in the residence of Gnanamba‘s sister, Santhi, and her brother-in-law, Dr.Somaskanda, at a naval base in Great Lakes, Illinois, and then in their house at Sodus Point, New York. From there the temple was moved to East Avenue, where it was located over a three-bed roomed apartment, over a garage. From there, the temple actually was constructed and moved to attic of residence at 254 Cedarwood Avenue in Rochester. The temple was built single handedly and finished by Mr.Pathmanathan who happens to be married to Gnanamba‘s first cousin. When Chaithanyananda and Gnanamba moved to the town of Ontario, another temple was built, the attic over a grocery store the couple owned, by Ragavan Chaithanyananda‘s nephew, Dushyanthan, Gnanamba‘s brother and Sivakumar, Gnanamba‘s nephew.
The attraction to the people around actually started at 871 Old Ridge Road in Ontario. This is where Dr.Viswanathan and Saroja Viswanathan started attending the pujas and Devi established herself, not only in their houses, but also in their minds and hearts. In 1987, the Harans moved back to Rochester, to a suburb called Brighton and the Devi was installed at 33 Park Circle where she has been for the last 10 years. In 1991, the now defunct Sri Rajarajeshwari Peetam in Stroudsburg, New York, offered the Devi murthi which is to be consecrated in the new temple along with Ganesh and a beautiful Bana Lingam. These Murthis were offered by the Mahamandaleswari of the Peetam, Devi Parvathi, who also unable to bear the separation from the Mother, moved to Rochester and I am sure she has the satisfaction in the fact that the tradition of worship has continued unbroken. Her residence was close to the temple where she was able to observe the slow growth to this point in time.
The Devi murthi, the Ganesh and the Sivalingam join the already existing deities in the Sri Rajarajeshwari Peetam which was independently established at 33 Park Circle, on the 19th of January 1991, where regular Navavarana pujas on Poornima days have gone on and Navavarana Pujas during the Navaratri, Sarada Navaratri and festivals like Sivaratri, Guru Poornima, Ganesha Chathurthi and Skandashasti have been regularly celebrated. The deities soon began to attract a large number of devotees from many parts of the U.S., Canada, England and other parts of the world. Recognizing the devotees needed their own little shrines, Chaithanyananda began to ask the Devi residing in his heart how these little temple in people‘s home should be consecrated. As a result she directed him that the Peetam, seat, for her should be established at various houses. True to the promise that Chaithanyananda gave to his Guruji, Sri Amrithananda, experience and the teachings that were given, have continued to be shared with everyone that approached the Peetam.
As of today there are 151 Peetams established all over the continent of U.S., Canada, France, England, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. There are Sri Chakras that have been consecrated at the Peetam and handed over to the people to do the Pujas in their homes. Two sets of stapathis have made these Sri Yantra one comes from a 12 generation lineage based in Hanumanthu Road in Madras through Swami T Murugabhusanam who is himself a Sri Vidya upasaka; the second has come from the Meenakshi Sundareshwara Devasthanam in Madurai. There too a 14-generation lineage has made the Sri Chakras.
In the 151 Peetams, there are Murthis, either booprastharas, or Meru prastharas that have come through the lineage. They all perform pujas according to the Sri Amrithananda Samprathayam that was taught to Chaithanyananda by the living embodiment of the Devi, Sri Amrithananda Nada Saraswathy and Devi Annapoornamba.
What is important in this Peetam is to know that unlike many lineages, Sri Amrithananda, has allowed Chaithanyananda and those around him and other Peetams to grow and find their own identities and establish their own padhatis, He did not insist that his disciple should be clones of himself, a tradition that Chaithanyananda, too, is following.
The present location of the Temple at 6980/6070 East River Road, in the town of Rush, was bought in September, 1995 with half the amount being donated by devotees and other half on a mortgage. All 23 acres of this property have been slowly cleared of the bush and brush that grows profusely at the site. Several interesting features of this location should be mentioned here;
· The site the Temple is a location where cows (Gostana), and horses, (Ashwastana) have lived before. This is considered to be an ideal location for the consecration of Sakthi Temple.
· From the location of the temple the land begins to slope towards the Isnaya Moolam or Northeast corner.
· At the termination of the slope is a little creek called Railway Creek. Flowing from North to the South.
· On the Western side of the temple is local river, Genesse River, following from South to North. The location of the Temple is such that there is Varuna Pradhakshanam.
· In addition to these features the property has a profusion of fruit trees, an abundance of wildlife Deer, Racoons, Possums, Groundhogs and other creatures and is absolutely peaceful.
In fact, the people where the horses and the cows lived, the barn, is primarily the building that was converted with permission from the town of Rush Planning Board, through a special users permit, to convert it to the Devi Peetam. Guru Poornima celebrations have been celebrated here and on 2 occasions, Guruji himself, has been present. The location where Devi murthi is seated is where Sri Amrithananda performed Poornabhishehkam to Chaithanyananda and Gnanamba for the second time.
In October 1996, a Chandi Homam was performed by dynamic couple from another lineage in the Bhaskaraya Mandali in Raja Annamalaipuram in Madras. Ragu Yagnaratnam and his wife Akila, full initiates in Sri Vidya. Conducted a full scale Chandi Saptasathi Homam and Navavarana Homam. The Homam took place exactly on the spot where the Devi is sited in the New Temple.
In addition, Mathioli Saraswathi Devi from the Nandalala Trust in Madras visited the temple premises in May of 1997 and blessed the location by performing Bhumi Puja. She is widly held to be an emanation of Sri Akilandeshwari of Jambukeswaram, a primary Shiva sthala in India.
Gradually the devotees from Syracuse primarily, Rochester, Toronto, Philadelphia and other places have been tirelessly working, as they have always done, these 18 years. The present temple is as much a labor of love by these devotees as it is the grace of Guruji. It is unfortunate that he cannot be physically present for this consecration, but it is known that his weekly manifestations during the Friday pujas at the Sri Rajarajeshwari Peetam have continued to a point where his presence is now continuously felt at all times. His presence will always be here so long as the Devi is worshipped because there is no difference between him and the Devi. The Devi‘s feet are his feet and it is from those Padhukas that this temple has manifested.
The temple is to be run in the same manner that the devotees of the Sri Rajarajeshwari Peetam of Rochester are used to. Everyone will have an access to the Devi. The puja schedule will be slightly modified to accommodate the large number of devotees who come to the Peetam from Toronto, Pittsburgh and other places. The main puja will be moved to Saturday and Abhishekam will be performed as they have always been, now on Saturdays. Pujas will be performed three times a day.
The temple is to have a main Sannidhi Devi, in the Nirruthi corner Ganesh and in the Utthara corner Shiva. There will be a separate Sannidhi for SriNataraja and his consort Sri Sivakamasundari, murthis sculpted by Rajan Industries and donated by Sri and Srimadhi Balasubramaniyam of Williamsville, New York. The Navagraha murthis, sculpted by Sri Ramalingam Stapathi of Kumbakonam, the soapstone Dattareya donated by Hema and Bheem Baku of Williamsville, New York, a Panchaloha Dattareya, extremely well sculpted by masillamani stapathi in Madras and an Ardhanariswara sculpted by Rajan Industries and donated by Meenakshi Sundaram Margabandhuswami of New York, will all have separate sannidhis. An unique of this temple will be the Nithyakala Devis surrounding it.
The Sri Rajarajeshwari Peetam invites everyone to come and be part of the temple. Guruji ‘s message indicates that we should not forget to thank our benefactors. To one and all, there are numerous names to be remembered, those who helped the temple, we touch your feet and seek and invoke the blessings of the Mother on you and your families. You are now part of ancient tradition; you have enlivened the area and the community around you and enriched your families and yourselves. You will notice that the guru‘s presence in the temple is dynamic. Annapoornamba lives in the temple and in that tradition. The sustenance and nourishment for both the physical being and well being of the devotees, their minds and their consciousness constantly flows from Her feet.
We dedicate all the ceremonies and this entire temple as particle of dust laying at the lotus feet of our ever, ever-loving Guruji, Sri Amrithanandanada Saraswathi, at the Sahasrakshi Devasthanam and his consort Devi Sri Annapoornambika.
|| Harih: Om||
(Published during Kumbhabhishekam of our temple in 1998)