In His Grace-Gananjali

“I do not reside in Vaikuntha, or in the hearts of ascetics.
I dwell in the hearts of the devotees who sing about me.” Padma Purana
Back in March of 2009, I wrote about the music of Sundar Narayana in   Since then, he has had another stroke, but that has not stopped him or his family from continuing to dedicate themselves to make the music devoted to Sree Guruvayurappa available to others.  In addition to more CD’s of the music, a book of his compositions has been published. I was blessed to be able to attend the Sundarana Narayana book release at Bridgewater Temple in New Jersey on July 16, 2011.      

The night before the book release, I had gone to check on some plants for my friend who was in India for two months and had left them out on the patio for her neighbor to water. She had been away now for 6 weeks and I wanted to check on the condition of the plants, since some of them had been kind of straggly before she left. I went prepared to prune them so they would look nice when she returned. There were a few jasmine plants there and they were all in profuse bloom, with the fragrant flowers fallen to the ground around them and into the top of the pots they were in. I decided not to just let them wither there, but took a bunch of the newly fallen blooms intending to make a mala but not knowing what it would adorn.

In thinking of it, I knew that they would not last until Monday for Rudrabishekam so I decided I would use them for Gananjali. Not knowing whether there would be any small murthies, it crossed my mind to make them for my hair, as I seen women do at other concerts in the past. In the car on the way, with our driver driving faster than the speed of light, I discussed options with Bhadra, who was sitting next to me. Marvelling at my own ability to stitch in such speedy conditions, I then made one small mala, using all of the blooms. I put it in my purse, still not knowing what it would adorn.
The program had not yet started when we arrived and I looked around for Sreedeviji and Sundara Narayana. The room was bustling with activity, microphones still being set up and people coming into the room to be seated, chatting to each other as they waited for the signal that the program was about to start.

Up on the stage, there was a small pujya, a framed murthy of Shri Guruvayurappa and a small Ganesha.

I turned to Bhadra and asked her what she thought I should do with the mala I had made and she told me to do what I thought was right. Here we were at the Bridgewater Temple, where I had never been before and so a part of my mind told me that I should offer the mala to a deity in the temple if we went there later for darshan (we never made it); another part, the part that won, told me that I was here for the Gananjali book release and that the mala was for here. 

At the same time this thought ruled the day, I looked up onto the stage and saw the woman who I knew must be Sreedevi auntie standing there with some others near the pujya. I rose from my seat and went up to the front of the stage. Since we only knew each other from the Guruvayur group and had never met, as I looked up and she looked down I asked the silly question…”Do you recognize me?” She laughed and told me that of course she did. I handed her the mala, trusting that it would find its way to where it belonged.

I went back to my seat and began chatting with Bhadra. When I looked up I saw that Sreedeviji had walked across the stage with the mala hanging from her wrist. I wondered what she would do with it!

Moving to the back of the stage she disappeared. When she came down to the front on the other side, Bhadra nudged me and said, “Look, she is wearing it in her hair!” I looked over and there, fitting perfectly around the bun in the back of her head, was the mala. I could not think of a better place for it adorn!!! In fact, I felt as if it were indeed a blessing that the mala I made was adorning her hair on this special day. It seems like it was a day of malas…
During the first of the performances, one of the strings of numerous garlands, that which was directly under the poster which decorated the back of the stage, fell to the ground. It seems the Lord had His own ideas as to where the garlands should be!

Swami Siddhanandaji was kind enough to offer the blessings for the book release and Sundara Narayana received those blessings with bowed head and overflowing heart. What he could not say in words, limited now by the effects of his recent strokes, emanated from his eyes, speaking volumes, alive with all the things he could not say. There is a certain look someone has when Grace is flowing and he had this look.

As he came onstage to perform the blessing for the book, Swamiji picked up the fallen garland and placed it at the pujya around the picture of Sree Guruvayurappan and commented that the Lord had wanted it to decorate His image and so made it fall. He also commented later that the Lord does not always manifest in form but in small symbolic events like this, a blessing upon the event for sure, and a blessing upon the composer…
So many people were there who loved him dearly, so many wonderful musicians giving life to his words and his songs, and Narayanakutty himself, a presence of kindness, devotion, and grace under the fire of the Lord’s prasadam. His humility was endearing. The devotion of Sreedevi to her family and her husband was such a joy to see. It is funny how you get a feel for someone by their online presence and this is true of her. She exudes the same kind and gentle energy in person that you can feel in her posts to the Guruvayur forum.
The speakers ranged from family members to patrons and friends for many years, all united in their love for and admiration of Sundar Narayana and his family, and, of course, their devotion to the Lord.

And then there was Sundara Narayana Uncle, who spoke a few words, quite an achievement in light of his recent stroke.  As Sreedevi Aunty told me:  “These were his own sentences, which Emily, the speech therapist printed out and he read from there.”  He said, ” Hari Om. Welcome to you all. Lots of things have happened in the last few months, some of it good, some of it bad.  All according to God’s will.  All are prasadam to me.  My wife and two wonderful kids, I have are given to me by God. I am blessed with wonderful family and friends. I am also blessed to know my wonderful speech therapist, Emily Sweet and her husband Eric.”

To honor his accomplishment and to support his efforts, Emily and her husband came to the event and, although unfamiliar with the traditions and carnatic music, stayed the entire time, surely experiencing the benefit of this exposure to culture and Grace!

The afternoon was filled with devotional music, all written by Sundara Narayana, krithis rendered by local musicians as well as a concert by performing artist Sankaran Namboothiri. The versatility of carnatic music was evidenct in the spontaneity of the performances, accompanied by accomplished violinist Smitha Krishnan and mridangam player Akshay Ananth.

By the end of the program two more garlands had fallen, the Lord’s blessings upon the offering and an expression of His love.

The book itself is a lovely hardcover with the classic image of Guruvayurappa, containing 200 of the works he has written to date, along with an MP3 containing approximately 82 of the recorded versions of some of the works.
Just like when you spend time with family, you leave with a fullness of heart and a sense of peace of belonging, so, too, when we join together in sangha with our spiritual family, the heart is filled with bhakti and I left feeling blessed and happy that I was able to share in this day of the expression of One becoming many in sweet sangha.  Krishna!!!! Guruvayurappa!!!  OM Namo Narayanaya!!!

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