In a nostalgia laden flashback to the events of over 3 decades ago, Suresh Mallāpur maam paints a  vivid picture how of how the Shrī Datta Jayantī Utsava began, and went on to become an annual feature at Talmakiwadi, Mumbai.
Don’t miss the accompanying gallery of rare photographs of the Utsava from it's earlier days: Through the years: Shri Dattajayanti at Talmakiwadi

गुरुरेव जगत्सर्वं, ब्रह्मविष्णुशिवात्मकम्‌।
गुरो: परतरं नास्ति, तस्मात् संपूजयेद्गुरुम्‌॥


This is the 36th year of Shrī Datta Jayantī Utsava in Tālmakīwāḍī that started in 1986 with the Blessings of H.H. Swāmī Parijñānāshram III – a Shivasaṅkalpa in itself. Earlier that same year, Swāmījī's Āshram at Kārlā was inaugurated. I along with my friend Nitin Kaikiṇī had arranged for two buses from Tālmakīwāḍī to Kārlā for the inaugural ceremony. 

During our next visit to Kārlā, we offered two envelopes at the Lotus Feet of the Guru. Swāmījī gently asked us, as to what these two covers were. We replied saying, the first one was an offering as Guru Pāda-kāṇika with collection amongst our group in Wāḍī, and the second was the amount from the left-over fare collected for the bus journey to Kārlā during the Āshram inauguration.  Swāmījī asked us to keep the second cover, saying, "Māks̲h̲i Wāḍīntu Sādhanā Saptāha, Rāma Navamī, Hanumān Jayantī velarī bhajana, kīrtana zattāli, gomṭe kāryakrama zāttale….māks̲h̲i CYMA (Chitrāpur Young Men's Association) ashili... ātta ti mhāntari zālyā...tumhi yuvā pīd̲h̲ī ātta mukhāri yetasati, tumhi meῙnu kalle karāti." (Earlier various religious programs used to take place in Wāḍī, Sādhanā Saptāha, Rām Navamī, Hanumān Jayantī ...there was CYMA…she's now become old, you youngsters are now coming forward, you'll organize something)

To this we replied and asked, “Swāmījī, atta TV idhur dhornu loka taggu deunati,...tumhichi sāṅgāti āmmi kalle karyekrama koryeda?" (Nowadays not many come down for such events, with everyone glued to their Television sets… you only guide us on what program we can organize.)

To which Swāmījī replied, "atta December-āntu Shrī Datta Jayantī  yettā... Āmmi Yettāti...tumhi karāti" (Now in December, Shrī  Datta Jayantī  is coming, we shall come, you'll organize) Listening to this, we were all extremely delighted and overjoyed, and accepted the second envelope back as Prasāda from Guru Swāmī. Returning to Wāḍī we informed everyone about this joyous news and started preparations. 

That year, a one-day program was planned for Swāmījī's visit to Wāḍī for Datta Jayantī Utsav, and we ought their approval. Guru Swāmī replied to our invitation saying, we will be in Khār Mat̲h̲ at that time and will come to Wāḍī from thereon. There was an atmosphere of joy and excitement in the air as preparations sped with the day’s closing in to the Utsava. People supported us in every possible way, giving their time and monetary contributions. Entire awas decked up and ready with lights, patākā-s (paper flags/festoons), toraṇa (flower garlands) to welcome their beloved Guru Swāmī. 

In the morning, on the auspicious Datta Jayantī day, Swāmījī was welcomed with showers of flower petals on their car and Jaijaikāra-s from the entrance to the hall. Swāmījī too was overwhelmed and happy on seeing people's enthusiasm--Utsāha and love towards their Guru, through the grand reception received. The welcome was followed by Pāda-pūjā, Dattābhis̲h̲eka, Satya Datta Vrata, Avdumbara pūjana, Tīrtha Vitaraṇa and Prasāda Bhojana during the day. In the evening, we offered Mānapatra to H.H. Swāmījī, followed by their Āshīrvachana, Dīpanamaskāra, Pālakhī Utsava and Pus̲h̲pāṅjalī pūjana to Lord Shrī  Dattātreya. 

Being the first year of organizing such an event, we were unclear about the estimate on the number of people that would turn up or participate, as well as be there for Prasāda Bhojana. So, to get a sense of the count, we charged a nominal coupon of Rs 10/- per head for Prasāda Bhojana. On getting to know about this, the Karuṇāmūrty Guru called us and said, if there is any shortfall, we shall help but from next time onwards do not charge for Prasāda Bhojana, or else it is called a contributory lunch/dinner. Swāmījī further said, "Dattātreyā-gale upāsanentu pāncha ghārā vochunu Bhiks̲h̲ā māgunu hāḍtāti, tākkā 'Mādhukarī Bhiks̲h̲ā mhaṇtāti, anni tājje sevana kornu, urlele prasāda rupeṇa vāṇtāti. Tyāmiti, tumhi tashi karāti…anni tumkā kenne kammi padashnā." (In Dattātreya upāsanā, they practice 'Mādhukarī Bhiks̲h̲ā', asking for Bhiks̲h̲ā by visiting five homes. It is then offered to the Lord and rest is distributed in the form of Prasāda. Therefore, you'll follow that and you won't face any shortage going ahead.) These were their words and Blessings which we graciously accepted, following which, from that year there was a surplus even after the one-day program. We then decided to offer the same at the Lotus Feet. To which, Swāmījī asked us to open an account in the name of Tālmakīwāḍī Youths and to use it for Datta Jayantī  every year going forward, saying he will Grace (come for) the Utsava every year, hereon. 

It was then decided that, from the following year, the Utsava will be for seven days. We then started visiting door-to-door for collection and booking of special pujas and sevas from Colābā to Virār in Mumbai, as well as inviting people from our Samāja to participate in the Utsava and seek Gurumaulī's Blessings. We received a positive response and 'protsāhana'--encouragement from the laity, both in terms of financial support and in kind--with individuals coming forward and donating groceries in large quantities. Likewise, I would also like to mention the generous service offered by Shrī Vivek Gokarṇ (for sound system) and Shrī  Gopāl Prabhu, fondly known as Āppa mām (for providing catering service), almost free of cost, accepting a mere token of thanks for the seva performed, as Blessings from the Divine hands of H.H. Swāmījī. It was because of people like them and many others who came forward and extended their generous support, which made the Utsava a grand success. 

Thereon, the program scaled to new heights every year with special pujas and Havana-s (like Mahārudra, Chaṇḍikā Homa, Durgā Homa, Datta Yāga) being organized, with people participating from all over Mumbai–then Bombay. In the evening, various cultural programs would follow, with professional artists--like Anup Jaloṭā, Arun Dāte, Upendra Bhaṭa and others--performing their Bhajan sevā-s as well as performances by our own yuvā-s and children in presence of Swāmījī. Looking at this overwhelming response from the Samāja across the city, Swāmījī suggested that we change the name to Bombay Chitrāpur Sāraswat Youths. In the year 1990, this was then changed to All Chitrāpur Sāraswat Youths Trust (A.C.S.Y.T) on Swāmījī's recommendation, owing to the large participation of the laity from various Sabhā-s across the country. 

With Swāmījī’s Blessing, we never fell short of any monetary requirements going ahead, and in fact there would always be excess funds left. In 1988, from the additional surplus generated, we donated a diesel generator under the Trust for the Āshram at Kārlā, as there used to be frequent power fluctuations with intermittent supply. 

I would also like to share a fond memory here with regards to the Utsava. One year, we requested Swāmījī to suggest a sweet of their choice for Prasāda Bhojana. Initially, Swāmījī seemed reluctant to give any suggestions owing to the large number (over 1,000) of laity expected. However, on our persistent request, Swāmījī agreed and asked "Tumka jattal ve?" (Will it be possible for you?) to which we replied in a yes, accepting it as an opportunity and a Blessing to serve the Guru in every possible way. Swāmījī suggested that we make 'PuraṇpoῙī-s' for all. And we marched on to meet our target of making over 1,000 PuraṇpoῙī-s in a day. What seemed like an arduous expedition of a sort at that moment, became possible only because of Swāmījī's Love and Anugraha, as well as the efforts put in by the volunteer–pachī-s from Wāḍī at that time. 

After Swāmījī's Mahāsamādhi in 1991, the Utsava continued until 1997, with youngsters walking from Kārlā to Wāḍī, performing Padayātrā, carrying Guru Swāmī's Pādukā with them. 

In the year 1998, H.H. Swāmī Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram lovingly accepted our invitation for Shrī  Datta Jayantī  Utsava, and since then Swāmījī has been Gracing the Utsava with his presence every year, revitalizing the celebrations once again with his Blessings, that was started by his Guru over a decade ago for the welfare and spiritual uplift of the Samāja. 

The Datta Jayantī Utsava of 1998 is still an indelible and momentous event for all, with Swāmījī camping in Wāḍī for 15 days. All the programs that year were spectacular and memorable in true sense, especially Swāmījī's reception from Tārdeo Circle to Tālmakīwāḍī entrance and further down to the hall. It was a grand event in itself, with a massive crowd eagerly waiting on both sides of the street and the colony to welcome their beloved Guru – on his first ever visit to Mumbai after adorning the Pīt̲h̲a. The Pūrṇakumbha Swāgat amidst Jaijaikāra-s and the showering of flower petals from the baskets atop–as Swāmījī’s Lotus Feet graced Tālmakīwāḍī–was a sight to remember and cherish forever.

The Samāja is truly fortunate to have been Blessed by such an illustrious and hallowed lineage of Guru-s, Sāks̲h̲āt Shrī Gurudeva Datta! – and for getting the opportunity to offer our seva through such Utsava-s. I offer my Sās̲h̲ṭāṅga Praṇāma-s at the Lotus Feet of H.H Swāmī Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram and our Revered Guru Paramparā on this auspicious occasion of Shrī  Datta Jayantī .