From The Washington Post
Smoke from 121 fire pits rises and mingles with the chants of hundreds of people gathered under a massive tent at an 11-day Hindu festival in Rush, N.Y. The Atirudram ceremony commemorated the 12th anniversary of the Sri Vidya Temple Society, just south of Rochester. The ritual is held to reenergize and spiritually cleanse the temple, its surroundings and those who participate. Sri Rudram, an ancient purifying hymn dedicated to the deity Shiva, is chanted continuously during the ritual. Over the 11 days of the ceremony, the Rudram is chanted 14,641 times. Hindus believe that the devotee who participates in or views the ritual will be blessed with peace and prosperity. The temple was begun by Aiya Haran, originally from Sri Lanka. He started it in his garage, expanding 12 years ago when he acquired the temple’s 23-acre site. In the Hindu tradition, cows are sacred, so the fact that the temple was once a cow barn is auspicious. For the ceremony, the periphery of the tent is lined with 1,008 kalasams (vessels), each filled with water, a mixture of 27 herbs, flowers and grass. There are also 1,008 conch shells filled with the liquid. A wire leads from the tent to a statue of the main goddess of the temple. To devotees, the statue embodies the goddess Rajarajeshwari Devi. The vibrations of the chanting, according to participants, transform the water in the vessels, with the most powerful chants returning power to the goddess.
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