Establishing a deity in your household creates auspiciousness all around. By keeping the altar clean, taking care of and worshiping the deity, you automatically reap the benefit of establishing a deep relationship with God. And when God comes, magic happens. There is an Austrian proverb: “Where birds are, more birds flock!” meaning where there is wealth, more wealth accumulates.
In our case, Kali Mandir may not be wealthy from a worldly perspective, but what we have is priceless. It all started with the arrival of Sri Ma Dakshineswari Kali in June 1993. Little did we know then that Ma would surprise us and bring Her whole family of gods and goddesses to Kali Mandir.
Soon after Ma was installed, a devotee named Shunmugan brought a beautiful wooden altar he had made himself containing three Kali murtis – a main large one and two smaller ones embodying the sun and the moon. The next deity to appear was Lakshmi in the form of a giant ancient conch that came out of the earth in Ma’s garden. Next to arrive were a beautiful shalagram and a black Shiva lingam from Benares.
One day, when Usha was feeling bad, Ma surprised her. The mailman rang the bell and delivered five heavy parcels without a return address. Since Usha wasn’t expecting any deliveries, she thought that someone may be playing a prank and opened the parcels outside the temple. Wow, what joy! As Usha unpacked seven beautiful black Kali murtis, she thought, “Ma is here, who cares if things go wrong!” We never found out who sent the murtis. Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati once received a call from a man named Ramakrishna. “Come and get Ma Kali!” How can you refuse when Ramakrishna is calling? Swami went and brought back the beautiful Kali murti which resides in our library.
Soon after, a brass Durga murti arrived, a Narmada Shiva lingam and a large shalagram. When forty-five shalagrams arrived, we distributed most of them to other temples and devotees. The Shiva lingam under the holy tree did not entirely come by surprise. Fulfilling a cherished dream, our beloved devotee Giri carved this Shiva lingam which was installed on the 4th of July in 2005 – a year before Giri left his body.
One really big surprise came in June 2007 when we received a call from an unknown person, asking us if we wanted a 300-pound Hanuman statue. “Yes, yes, yes!!!” Hanumanji arrived in a truck the day before Guru Purnima. We
commented on how much we liked the beautifully carved sandstone image. “It took me six months to get the ‘guck’ off when I first got it,” said the person who had kept this murti for 30 years. We understood that the ‘guck’ he referred to was sindhur and that this murti must have been worshiped before. The moment the truck left, we started to apply sindhur. There was no need to perform a special installation ceremony. He was already alive.
Early in the year of 2009, a Sai Baba devotee offered to give us ashes of Neem Karoli Baba she had buried under a rose bush in her house in Valencia. We arrived with shovels, dug up the soil, and brought the holy presence of Baba to Laguna Beach. Baba is now established under the holy tree at Kali Mandir.
The same year during Spring navaratri, a devotee we hardly knew asked Prakash to help her unload a heavy crate containing a Narmada Shiva lingam that had been sitting unopened in her garage since its arrival from India. Just as Prakash rolled the heavy crate on a dolly through Ma’s front gate, Kirit Patel arrived with two Swami Narayan sannyasis who had not been to Kali Mandir before. Swami Bhajanananda and Prakash carefully pried open the crate and unpacked a giant black Narmada Shiva lingam while the two visiting Swamis chanted mantras. After we performed abhishekham in the courtyard, the Swamis and devotees carried the heavy lingam – anywhere between 200 to 300 pounds – in a blanket inside Ma’s temple. For the longest time, Shiva was lying on his side because we were afraid he would fall over. We tried to procure a gauri peetam but were not successful. When Pandit Venugopal Devdhar, head of the Sringeri Math of North America, visited Kali Mandir the following year, he asked us to put the lingam upright. We took that as Shiva’s command, and Prakash quickly built a wooden box to support the lingam
standing upright. We’re still anticipating the arrival of a granite gauri peetam to install Shiva properly.
It’s hard to tell this story in this small space – so many gods and goddesses have come to Kali Mandir over the years. Lord Ganesha arrived hand-crafted by the artist Jan Stewart. Commissioned by a South Indian devotee, she made this murti thirty years ago when there were no Hindu temples in San Diego. After this devotee passed away, Ganeshji came back to Jan, and she requested us to keep and worship him at Kali Mandir.
One navaratri, a beautiful marble Durga with eighteen arms came to us, brought by a devotee from Cerritos. Our gardener came one morning with a magnificent bronze murti of Mahishasura Mardini Durga. “I found this among scrap metal in Santa Ana,” said Emilio. “I think you like this statue.” Just recently, Girish brought ten beautiful Narmada Shiva lingams, and we’re in the process of finding a place of honor for them in an already crowded temple.
We worship God in the form of murtis, and we worship God in the form of the devotees. May God be pleased with our worship, and by the grace of our Divine Mother Kali, may we continue to love and serve well.