Finding Lord Venkateswara in Mauritius- Hari Hara Devasthanam
Different things stir and move our soul and Travel is one of them. Sometimes we see an image and we feel a need to visit that place and my need was a feeling I experienced over a year ago on seeing the Hari Hara Devasthanam Temple in Mauritius.I knew from our family in Mauritius that this was a new temple dedicated to Lord Venkateswara.Earlier this year when the universe conspired to bring me back to one of my favourite islands Mauritius for Maha Shivarathri I knew that regardless I wanted to visit Hari Hara Temple.
This post should have been written months ago but somehow I did not feel I was ready to share my experience with my readers.Growing up in a Telegu home in South Africa ,my gran instilled in us the love of our culture and faith.Every year we looked forward to our prayer month of Purtassi. As children we never complained about eating vegetables and only attending family prayers every weekend , we actually loved the sense of family and that we got to pray together. Inbetween the weekly Saturday prayer ,we attended Raam Bhajans a prayer that started at 6pm and finished at midnight. All these prayers were dedicated to Lord Venkateswara also know as Perumalsami. As I grew older I started understanding this fast and looked forward to that time of year. Fast foward to 2012 when my Dad passed away ,I was gifted beautiful statue of Lord Venkateswara with not the traditional red and green garlands but instead it was pink and green when I first saw this in the prayer store I was drawn to it and my aunt bought it for me. I consulted a Hindu priest on the rituals that I needed to perform as I had this statue in my home, I was told to only perform the rituals during Purtassi once a year and this is something I make sure I do.
According to the Hindu scriptures, Lord Vishnu, out of love towards his devotees, incarnated as Lord Venkateswara and appeared for the upliftment and liberation of humanity in this Kali Yuga age. Lord Venkateswara is considered to be the supreme form of Lord Vishnu in this age. The Venkateswara Swamy temple is also called Kaliyuga Vaikuntam.
Lord Venkateswara is another form of Lord Vishnu and is also known by various other names: Venkatachalapathi, Venkataramana, Tirumal Devar, Varadaraja, Srinivasa, Balaji, Vithala, each signifying one aspect of His glory. He has a dark complexion and four hands. In his two upper hands he holds a discus (a symbol of power) and a conch shell (a symbol of existence). With his lower hands extended downwards he asks devotees to have faith and surrender to him for protection.
The main temple of Lord Venkateswara is found in Tirupati in South India. This temple is found on the seven hills in the Tirupati region in the state of Andhra Pradesh,and is visited by about 50,000 to 100,000 devotees every single day. Devotees from around the world make the pilgrimage to this temple , wait for hours in long lines to get a glimpse of their Lord. The temple here is said to be one of the richest temples in the world as devotees make offerings of gold, diamonds and precious stones.
Now back to my experience at Hari Hara Devasthanam , my aunt arranged a meeting with the Guru of the temple so I could chat to him about the temple and the story behind it. So that Sunday after a vegetarian lunch , clad in traditional Indian clothing and taking some fruit offerings we made our way to 16eme Mille in Forest side. Driving to towards the temple I could see a glimpse of the most beautiful glistening in gold statue overlooking the village it was as if the Lord himself was protecting the island of Mauritius and making his presence known and felt to everyone. As we drove closer I was in total awe of the size of the Lord Venkateswara and as always I felt emotional knowing I was actually there seeing him with my own eyes and not on a photograph or video and fulfilling my heart’s desire.We entered the temple yard and started our prayer at the other temples before walking to what I had come there for.It was only then did I realise just how massive this property was and yet everything was so beautiful , the upkeep of the grounds and murthis were incredible.My eyes kept darting all over the place trying to take in as much as possible , say as many prayers and take as many pictures as I could.I honestly felt like a kid in a candy store whose dreams were all becoming true.
After we offered our prayers we started walking towards the reason my brought me here. The pathway to my Lord Venkateswara was paved and adorned with statues of the various Hindu Gods.Each statue was painted and moulded with such detail that it was pure artistry.The closer I walked towards the 108 metre Lord Venkateswara the more I felt something stirring within me , I could not believe I was actually here. I kept chanting “Govinda , Govinda, Govinda” and thanking the lord for bringing me here. The realisation of just how small a place we take up on planet Earth was magnified by the massive size of the Lord. As we circled the temple three times in prayer I could not get over the beautiful colours and intricate design details I kept thinking ‘My Lord you truly are beautiful”. As we finished Guru came to do the afternoon prayers. The murthi of Lord Venkasteswara is just as beautifully as massive in size as the 108m high Lord towering over. I was filled with so much gratitude to be able to be there and to offer a prayer.
I then had the opportunity to chat to Guru about this temple and the miracles that happened.The Hari Hara temple took three years to built. It was built on marshy land that is normally not used for construction. The Guru’s family are from South India. He had a dream about bringing Lord Venkatewara to Mauritius and he is certain that the Lord worked through him in this project. Permission to build the temple was granted rather quickly and with donations from devotees and a loan the Hari Hara Devasthanam dream started becoming a reality.55% of the population is Hindu in Mauritius. Skilled craftsmen were brought in from India to build this temple. Special paint was ordered from India to paint the temple, this paint is off a very high quality and the colours do not fade with time or the elements. Highly skilled painters were brought from Pondicherry to complete this temple. A temple this size normally takes about six months to complete in terms of painting but there were constant delays in getting the paint over from India and this resulted in the paint arriving 11 days before the consecration prayers. For the days that followed Guru sat outside day and night while the painters worked in all weather elements and in 9 days the painting was completed. Guru had complete faith in Lord Venkateswara and never the Lord we make sure his work was done. This temple is one of a kind and has already been listed in the Guinness Book of World records. The Kumbha Abishegam was attended by over 15000 devotees from around the globe and the prayers and rituals were done using a helicopter.I watched these proceedings online and had longed to be there.
Guru also explained to me that the Lord will bring you to see him when he wants you and not when you want. Yet again this was a reminder to me that the whole world will conspires to fulfil your heart’s desire. This was just the start of my pilgrimage to Mauritius and already I felt different , I felt more alive than ever and my soul was happy. It was as if I had found what I had been missing in my life.Guru also highlighted to me my duty that Lord Venkateswara has given me and that was to spread his faith through my writings and remind us of the power of prayer. My trip to Mauritius really reaffirmed my faith and belief in Lord Venkateswara.I now know that everything is possible if I put God first in my life and I am grateful for all the lessons and blessing he has showered upon even if at times I could not see why.Guru then walked away into the temple and returned with something in his hand, I assumed it would be a sacred ash or even a small picture of Lord Venkateswara which is normally given to devotees as a talisman.But instead Guru gifted all three of us with the most beautiful Lord Venkateswara pendants , these were given to some devotees during the Kumbha Abishegam. My aunt explained to me that I was indeed very lucky to be gifted this as not too many people had received them. This gesture and gift made me feel so incredibly blessed to be there and have this experience and gift from Lord Venkateswara and it indeed was a priceless experience that no money could ever buy. After my pilgrimage to Mauritius I returned home with a happy and grateful heart. Guru said I would return for Purtassi which is next month, maybe I will if the Lord wills me.The Hari Hara Devasthanam is a very special place for me and I have promised myself that every trip to my beautiful Mauritius I will pay homage here.