It was now time for the naivedya ceremony, the sacred offering of food.
I’ve always been touched by the beauty and significance of this Vedic ritual. Naivedya blesses the food, those who offer the food, and those who are nourished by the food. And our naivedya offering to Gurumayi would be—most fittingly—a birthday cake!
O Mother Annapurna, O Great Goddess,
who always bestows happiness,
grants gifts, and dispels fear,
O ocean of beauty
who bestows purity on your devotees,
washing away all their sins,
You are truly the great goddess who purifies the Himalayas
(by having been born as the daughter of the King Himavan);
presiding deity of Kashi, be gracious to me and grant me alms.1
As we sang the mantras, I felt I was tapping into a reservoir of stillness and peace deep within my being. And it seemed that the whole hall was permeated with stillness as well. There was a profound silence within the sound, and I could imagine the blessings of the Devi radiating out to uplift the world.
When the stotram concluded, everyone sat quietly for a few moments, assimilating the power of the mantras as the ensemble played a musical interlude.
Aditya Mavallipalli, a visiting sevite originally from Chennai, India, stood to read the English translation of the naivedya mantras, which we would be singing next. He read them so movingly that the words went straight into our hearts.
The second verse in particular resonated with me:
O Lord, with this offering of food
we pray that you make our devotion to you unwavering.
Please accept this naivedya,
and grant us that which we truly long for,
in both the outer world and the inner world.
May the fulfillment of our longing lead us to liberation.2
Just then, we heard from the children again. Their excitement was bursting forth, and they started calling out cake flavors: “Strawberry!” “Chocolate!” “Vanilla!” “Raspberry!” Gurumayi smiled and invited them to take a closer look at the cake. The children hurried to gather around the cake, gazing at it in wonder.
Move with steadfastness
in Supreme Joy
The island on top of the cake depicts the ethereal abode of the goddess Sarasvati, an aspect of the Devi who represents creativity, inspiration, music, and artistry. Her instrument, the veena, rests underneath a tree on this island.
The swan, hamsa
, is Sarasvati’s vehicle. There are two swans on the cake, and they are gliding majestically across the water of Consciousness.
In the Yajur Veda
, an ancient scripture of India, the swan is described as swimming across the ocean of existence without getting its feathers wet, thus representing the power of spiritual discernment.
When we’ve been here ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ll have no less days
To sing God’s praise
Than when we'd first begun.
Click here to read the Annapurna Stotram
Click here to read Part VIII