Durban - Just under 400 South African pilgrims crossed the South African border recently bound for the Thirupathi Balaji Temple of Botswana to observe Purattasi.
The temple, which resembles a scaled down version of the original Thirupathi Temple in India, is believed to be the only Balaji temple in the southern hemisphere.
This third annual Purattasi pilgrimage was facilitated by the North West Tamil Federation.
Its president, Pregy Pillay, said: “We had 386 pilgrims register online.
Four buses and over 30 cars transported the pilgrims across the border where we occupied four hotels and around 200 rooms.”
He said the pilgrimage included pujai (prayer) to Lord Balaji and culminated with a vagana (chariot) procession around the temple.
There were also early morning Bhajans (devotional songs) and discourse at the Hare Krishna Temple, followed by a visit to the holy Gurudwara Sahib (Sikh Temple) and a tour to the Satya Sai Baba Centre and Clinic.
“Lastly, we visited the Swami Narayan Mandhir for final discourse and aarti. All in all, it was an absolutely bhakti filled (spiritually enlightening) weekend to start off the auspicious month of Purattasi.”
“This just goes to show the extent to which the concept of the annual Purattasi pilgrimage has attracted people.”
“My first visit was in 2011 when I lived in Zeerust. My late grandmother, who was 85 at the time, somehow heard of this temple and asked me to take her there.
“She felt she was too old to travel to the Thirupathi in India and was so excited to enter this beautiful temple and touch the feet of Lord Balaji in Botswana.
What granny and I appreciated, was that there was no rush. We could sit peacefully and pray.
“In 2015, I thought of doing this for a few more people who could not afford to go on pilgrimage to India. But similar to the Thirupathi Temple in India, which attracts millions of pilgrims during Purattasi, this Balaji Temple in Botswana also draws people like a strong magnet. Initially, I booked a 20 seater vehicle, but within days we filled four buses.”
Pillay said that with the North West Province being the first province neighbouring Botswana, they decided the provincial federation facilitate this pilgrimage annually on the first Saturday of every Purattasi.
“What’s nice about the Balaji Temple of Botswana, is that it is accessible and affordable by road and can be done over a weekend. We, as the North West Tamil Federation, encourage more people to embark on this Purattasi pilgrimage. We notice that far too many people consider fasting as a burden. Our objective is to promote the understanding and importance of the Purattasi fast.”
“It’s an opportunity to associate with people of the same spiritual interest. If you have the opportunity, embark on the 2018 Purattasi Pilgrimage.”
For enquiries, visit the website www.purtassipilgrimage.org.za and register your interest online or WhatsApp Pillay on 0836267512.