How did Bhairagini Maa Haneen, a Christian from Lebanon, become a priestess in India?

Draped in a bright red saree, welcoming devotees with a warm smile and worshiping the Goddess with utmost devotion – she is Bhairagini Maa Hanine at the Linga Bhairavi Temple in Coimbatore. His appearance gives a foreign glimpse, although his dress is familiar to every Indian.

She arouses as much curiosity as the Goddess herself, and why not when she has been ordained as a priestess to reflect the qualities of the Goddess. She is a woman, she is Christian and she is a foreigner but most of all, she is a priestess serving the Goddess in this unique temple in Tamil Nadu.

Bhairagini Maa Haneen shares her journey from a creative art director in Lebanon to a priest at a temple in India. She was just 25 years old when she decided to leave her luxurious life and follow the path of spirituality and seek inner satisfaction.

What inspired a young Christian woman to leave her high-paying job and family to adopt a different religion and dedicate her entire life to spirituality?

“I’m originally from Lebanon and I studied graphic designing. I was a creative art director in an advertising agency. I came here as a full-time volunteer in 2009 and it seems like just yesterday, even though “I’ve been here for 14 years.” Introduced myself.

“Where I come from, there is no such thing as spirituality and yoga. Even though I had everything I was never fulfilled and I was longing for something I didn’t know what it was and As Sadhguru says, many people turn to spirituality only when life hits them. Unfortunately life hit me very hard with the death of my closest friend and that’s when questions started rising in my mind. And I started looking for answers.

During my search, I came to know about Sadhguru and I did ‘Inner Engineering’ (a program offered by Isha Yoga Centre) in 2005. I went back, resigned from my job, packed my bags and came here. I started volunteering in every aspect and it gave me satisfaction that I had never felt before. She said, two years ago Sadhguru had given me the initiation of Bhairagini Maa.

Who is Bhairagini Maa?

Bhairagini Maa Linga Bhairavi Devi is a term for the priestesses of the temple and ‘Bhairagini’ means one who has become the color of the goddess. Bhairagini Maa Hanine explains that the word “Bhairagini” means the color of the goddess and Bhairagini Maa is considered a reflection of the goddess and her qualities.

“That’s why we wear red,” she said, smiling, “Red is about life, enthusiasm and intensity and that’s what the Goddess symbolizes.”

Bhairagini Maa Linga Bhairavi is the caretaker of the abode and she performs all the rituals from puja to aarti. It is a surprise for many devotees to see a woman from a foreign land performing all these rituals with such perfection and devotion. Bhairagini Maa Hanine says, she too is surprised!

“If you had told me a few years ago that this is what I would do, I would have laughed at you because I come from a different culture, different religion. I’m a Christian and in Christianity, we don’t have all these rituals. Logical Physically, I will never understand what all these things are, but it is only experiential and because I have experienced it, I can openly say that I am willing to devote my life to it,” He said.

What is the reaction of the devotees?

When I saw Bhairagini Maa Hanine for the first time, I was curious to know about her journey. She tells us that almost everyone is. She also says, “Indians are more receptive and have more acceptance.”

“When people come to the temple and they see me, of course I see curiosity in their eyes, but when we start praying and the puja starts, they all bow down to us. And look beyond my identity and where I come from and provide respect. That way, Indians are very receptive and they have a very high level of acceptance.”

Is She ‘Still a Christian’?

She said, “I am a Christian and I have not converted. Nobody has ever asked me to convert.”

Speaking about her family, Bhairagini Maa Haneen said that they have been her biggest support and have not abandoned her.

“I am where I am because of my family and their support. Initially, it was difficult for them to understand why I was doing what I was doing, but when they saw the change in me and my behavior, they became curious.