By Ravi Ponangi
Atlanta, GA: Shiv Mandir of Atlanta and Atlanta Ayyappa Association came together for the third year in a row and performed the grand celebration of Ayyappa Padi Pooja with devotional fervor on December 8.
Like in previous years, this year’s celebration was performed with 18 steps Aarthi. It stole the hearts of about 500 Ayyappa devotees from various parts of the US that participated in the pooja and bhajan program.
Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity of Sabari Hills (Sabarimala), is worshiped by millions of devotees world over. Padi pooja is worshipping the 18 steps that take the devotees to the proximity of Ayyappa. Ayyappa devotees climb the 18 steps, or Pathinettam Padi, to reach the shrine to have the darshan of Lord Ayyappa. The 18 steps are considered as holy as the shrine itself. Padi Pooja or the pooja of the Pathinettam Padi is performed in the evening on certain days at the temple.
Swami Kiran Mudigonda of Atlanta and Swami Srinivas from Virginia performed the Padi Pooja, assisted by Pandit Gyan Prakash Upadhyay, head priest of Shiv Mandir of Atlanta, and priest Pavan Kumar from Hindu temple of Atlanta, Riverdale. Pandit Gyan Prakashji performed the Ganesh Pooja, followed by Ayyappa Pooja, Bhajans, Padi Aarathi.
The highlight of this year’s celebration was the devotional singing by Swami Jay and his associates. Everyone present was enchanted by the singing skills of a seven-year boy and a five-year girl.
Surinder Dhar of Shiv Mandir thanked all the participants and sponsors. He updated the devotees on the progress of the impending construction at the new temple. He appealed to all for generous donations towards the cause. He later felicitated all the priests with the presentation of shawls, and sponsors with plaques for their contributions.
Earlier, Shiv Mandir board chairman Alok Gupta shared the news about the loan approval and beginning of the construction in the first quarter of 2013.
In 2005 Shiv Mandir of Atlanta acquired 11.4 acres of land, which is located at 890 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Sugar Hill, GA 30518. Alok Gupta encouraged the community to visit the temple.