This year marks the millennium, 1,000th birth anniversary (Sahasrabdi) of the legendary Sri Ramanuja Acharya. Hindus around the globe celebrated this memorable event by paying tribute to the great Acharya who worked tirelessly, and selflessly for the betterment of humanity. Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) temple of greater Chicago conducts Religious functions in an authentic style with a team of dedicated and well trained priests from Tirupati. The Temple management with profound dedication celebrated this auspicious occasion in a grand manner on April 29, and April 30. The Celebrations included Religious and Cultural activities with enthusiastic participation from youths as well as adults from the community. An estimated 1,000+ devotees from Chicagoland area and neighboring states as well as territories that are far like California participated in the two-day celebration to pay tribute to the spiritual master.
Sri Ramanuja Acharya was born in 1017 AD in a small town called Sri Perembudur, near Chennai, and lived for 120 years. He was a spiritual leader with strong intellect who mastered the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures at a very young age. He was a visionary who systematically expounded philosophical truths and synthesized Jnana (knowledge) and Bhakti (devotion) into a philosophy called Visishtadvaita. He was a leader and a social reformer who broke barriers and worked for the betterment of everyone without regard to gender, creed or caste. He perceived God as the Super Divine that is all-pervasive, all-inclusive, all-potent, and all merciful. He had the vision that everyone should be able to reach God and attain moksha (salvation), through utmost love for God through Saranagati (self-surrender), and Bhakti (devotion). Sri Ramanuja Acharya enlightened this path through his teachings and practices recorded in his nine-spiritual works in Sanskrit. He introduced several religious practices to complement the established Agama worship procedures in temples. These practices are followed even today at all Vaishnava temples including major temples like Tirupati.
The Religious programs for the Millennium celebrations at Sri Venkateswara Swami (Balaji) temple was conducted by the team of Vaishnava priests with overflowing devotion and enthusiasm. The religious program highlights included abhishekam for Sri Balaji (Utsava Murthy) and Sri Ramanuja Acharya; Homam (Havan) for the Acharya; Utsavam (ceremonial procession) for Sri Balaji and Sri Ramanuja Acharya; Vedic Chants, Prabandha and Stothra Parayanams rendered by Parayana Gosti lead by the temple priests; Bhajans by a team of devoted Ladies. To commensurate the special Millennium celebrations, several devotees joined hands and made an offering of “Kireetam” (crown) for the great Acharya.
The cultural programs featured youths and adults from the temple devotee community. The program highlights included a drama in English by youths depicting key events of the life of Sri Ramanuja; Music concert capturing devotional hymns; Bhajans and Quiz contest by temple youths; Villu Patu(bow song) and Kolattam (Musical play and dance with sticks) presented by youths.
The celebrations concluded with the grand finale Drama in Tamil “Ettram Thantha Ethirajar” featuring selected milestones of the life of Sri Ramanuja Acharya. The two-hour play was showcased by a cast of 44 people. The play was directed by Sri Sekar Chandrasekar and produced by Sri Narayan Thirumalai. This was followed by a dance program by Natya Dance Theater called “Ramanujar Kanda Pokkisham” choregraphed by Sri Hema Rajagopalan. The musical dance program captured the works and Bhakti of Alwars, the saints, as seen through the eyes of Sri Ramanuja Acharya. The program concluded with Dr. Prabhakar Gupta Garla, Chairman of the temple thanking all the Devotees, Temple staff, Priests and the Volunteers that poured their hearts to make the function a grand success.
The Millennium celebrations of Sri Ramanuja Acharya at the temple was blissful with our Devotees immersed in devotion and excitement. The event was complemented with Annadanam, servings of scrumptious lunch and dinner for everyone for both days. The feelings of the participants can only be captured like this …” This is a remarkable event that we will remember forever”
Let us cherish Sri Ramanuja Acharya’s teachings every day as his legacy lives on. Let us pay tribute to this Legend on this auspicious millennium 1,000th year birth celebrations and remember him for all the sacrifices he made for the enlightenment of humanity.