Ten Wonderful Days at Rikhia

Sannyasi Sri Mukhananda, (Mr. Virendar Thaper, Retired Commandant from Border Security Force, Jaipur)

It was a rare opportunity to spend ten days at Sri Panch-dashnam Paramahamsa Alakh Bara, Rikhia, Deoghar, during the Sat Chandi Maha Yajna from 23rd to 30th November, 1995. Those who participated in this unique and auspicious event from every nook and corner of India and abroad were blessed human beings.

As students of Bihar Yoga Bharati's pilot 4-month Certificate Course, we were privileged to be the first to arrive and the last to leave the venue of the Maha Yajna every day. Equally rewarding was the fact that we had open and very close darshan of a Maharishi in the form of Paramahamsa Satyanandaji from early morning till late evening.

On arrival at Alakh Bara on 22nd November at three p.m., we saw the final touches being given to the pooja mandapam and the pandal under the direct guidance of Paramahamsa Niranjanji (popularly known as Swamiji). As we entered the main gate, Swamiji's eagle eyes spotted us and we were introduced to Paramahamsaji, who was giving an informal satsang to devotees. He was his usual old self, frank, free and fearless in his expression, very practical in his outlook and approach to life and mixing readily and informally with the gathering. There were no self-created barriers between him and the devotees this time.

Throughout the yajna he could be seen here, there and everywhere, wading through the crowd like a real avadhoot, in his majestic style. This was a sudden departure from his previous public appearances at Alakh Bara since 1989, but a welcome sign, appreciated by one and all. As Paramahamsaji himself says, “We sannyasins happen to be monarchs without crowns”, and sure enough he is one such royal personality. Of course, he is on a different and much higher plane now, a step further in his spiritual attainments in the current incarnation. We could see, feel and experience his closeness to God Almighty. It goes without saying that he always was, is and will ever remain a monarch in our hearts. I wish we could tear open our hearts in the present Kaliyuga to prove the point like Hanuman did during his era.

Swamiji quickly briefed us about our karma yoga duties during this auspicious event. Paramahamsaji had already given us an indication by explaining the significance of looking after footwear, as Lord Krishna had done during the Rajasuye Yajna performed by the Pandavas during the Mahabharata period. Some of our duties were manning the shoe stall, guarding entry/exit points and sensitive strategic spots, and preparing and distributing prasad. Swamiji had asked us to report for duty at six a.m. every day, and with my Forces background I ensured that as a well knit team, we reported five minutes early, never letting down Swamiji's confidence in us. True to teaching, theory was put into practice and the first sutra of Sage Patanjali, 'Atha yoga anushasanam', yoga is discipline, was maintained by all the course students.

On D day, 23rd November 1995, the inaugural day, Swamiji directed us to set things in motion as quickly as possible. Greetings of 'Hari Om' learned at Ganga Darshan were soon transformed into 'Namo Narayana' at Rikhia Dham. Paramahamsaji's darshan gave us a boost for the entire day, and even Bholenath, in whom Paramahamsaji has invoked Bhairava, obliged us with his darshan. One can't take chances with him!

Devotees started pouring in. First the sannyasins from abroad, followed by those from ashrams and centres in India, then karma sannyasins, jigyasus, other devotees and visitors. There were no VIP enclosures in the main pandal. Only Paramahamsaji's neighbours from Rikhia and nearby villages were accorded VIP treatment; there was a separate pandal for ladies and children and another for gents close to Parama-hamsaji's raised platform, so the village folk could have closer darshan of Paramahamsaji, whom they reverently addressed as Babaji. He reminded us time and again that they were his neighbours, his near and dear ones, and as such deserved and were accorded real VIP treatment. We took his command in the right spirit and went a step further, raising their status from VIP to VVIP.

To compensate the foreign devotees in the main pandal, a garden swing was provided for Paramahamsaji. He made a point of satisfying everyone with his darshan, by positioning himself either on the swing or the platform, moving around the mandapam occasionally and even wading through the crowd at times. He gave open darshan to one and all.

All the arrangements were simply flawless, magnificent, considering the magnitude of the Maha Yajna. Swamiji's in-volvement could be felt everywhere, overseeing or conducting each and every ritual/event with perfection, despite being a Yajnaman, chief performer of the yajna. And, of course, Swami Satsangi was hovering around here, there and everywhere. One could see, feel and experience a real Kali or Chandi form in her black robe, as she moved about relentlessly, always on her toes, without any rest or relief. What a capacity for karma yoga she has!

A full complement of eleven learned pandits from Varanasi had been brought specifically to conduct the yajna. They were knowledgeable, eminent, expert in their field, having mastery over the tantric rituals pertaining to the special pooja required for this Sat Chandi Maha Yajna. They sought permission from Paramahamsaji to commence the pooja and started chanting the vedic mantras. Though the rituals were beyond our understanding, yet the mere sound of mantra chanting began working on everyone present. As the day progressed, manifestation of the powerful mantras had invoked and installed Lord Ganesha, the Divine Mother, along with other gods and goddesses. Intermittent chanting of the principal mantras 'Aim, Hreem, Kleem' created ripples in body, mind and soul. The gathering was almost hypnotised.

On the opening day we were also fortunate to see and hear the renowned vocal classical music maestro, Pandit Jas Rajji, who enthralled the audience with his masterpieces in the afternoon. Around five p.m, aarti, waving of lights to the Cosmic Mother, was performed, followed by distribution of prasad and flowers from the sacred pooja mandapam.

From the next day onwards Paramahamsaji gave morning satsang. He put us wise about the significance of organising such a Maha Yajna: transferring his spiritual attainments to Swami Niranjanji, declaring him to be his successor, and Guru to all of us on the global level; bringing gifts of all type for further distribution to his neighbours, and other practical aspects of life. Despite his total surrender to God as His servant and only bhakti pouring from his lips, I wonder if people can afford to look directly into his piercing, sparkling and twinkling eyes. Maybe a very few close disciples dare to do that. Paramahamsaji once again emphasised the need to perform our sacred duty or dharma towards society, especially the sannyasins, for the upliftment and wellbeing of the masses.

After performing parikrama of the pooja mandapam, people had prasad, a flower each and tilak from the vibhooti kalash brought from the sacred mandapam. In the afternoon there were bhajans and kirtans, then Smt. Krishna Deviji entertained the gathering, narrating kathas or leelaas from Ramacharitamanas. The entire crowd was spellbound. Then came the ceremonial aarti, with all sanctity and devotion, followed by distribution of prasad, and dispersal of the huge crowd in an orderly manner.

By now the rhythm was set. Every day would commence with early morning cleaning; setting up for Paramahamsaji's satsang; witnessing the sacred pooja; chanting of the powerful mantras, especially the principal one 'Aim, Hreem, Kleem'; parikrama, prasad and rest for an hour. Afternoon sessions would invariably consist of bhajan and kirtan, followed by katha, aarti, prasad and dispersal of the entire gathering. Paramahamsaji spoke daily on various topics, such as bhakti; Ganesha drinking milk; the role of females in yoga, Tantra and society; householders and spiritual life; God; Guru and disciple relationship, as well as giving lucid explanations of each and every event taking place, relating to practical life in a simple, straightforward, witty yet convincing manner, without mincing any words.

Swami Gyanprakashji arrived from Munger and it was a real treat to witness the past, present and future together. Her stay of just one day at the feet of her Guru was short and sweet, due to her other important commitments as President of BSY. I could see the tears in her eyes as she touched Paramahamsaji's feet while seeking his permission to depart.

Ammaji, Swami Dharmashakti, the proud mother of Swami Niranjanji and the first disciple of Paramahamsaji, arrived the very next day, and he offered her his raised platform. So now behold, to my right is Paramahamsaji in his avadhoot state as a Maharishi , to my left is Ammaji, true to her spiritual name Dharmashakti, and right in front is Pooja Swami Niranjanji, the chief performer of the Sat Chandi Maha Yajna. Do I seek any other boon from the Lord! All our wishes have been fulfilled with the grace of God and blessings of the Guru.

The concluding day, Poornahuti, commenced with dar-shan, but there was something else in store for us today. We were privileged to witness Paramahamsaji perform Tandava Nritya, after having spoken about the dance competition between Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati; why Shiva is known as Nataraj, the king of dancers; and why Parvati could not match her Lord in his typical Nataraj posture and had to finally surrender to the Supreme Consciousness in defeat. Everyone present joined in Paramahamsaji's Tandava and it was a real sight to behold. I wondered if we were in some other loka!

As I stood guard at my allotted place, sweet and vivid memories of the events of the past seven sacred days flashed through my mind. Paramahamsaji's satsangs conveyed his concrete views on faith, shraddha, shakti, devotion, surrender, maitri bhava, not having ill will against others; our attitude towards women as the real form of Mother, Shakti and Guru for the men; concepts of Shiva and Shakti, Purusha and Prakriti, Ardhanarishwara, and many of his other teachings were becoming clearer. I found myself wishing that Parama-hamsaji would receive the mandate from his ishta devata to translate Ramacharitamanas into English as he had hinted.

Paramahamsaji and Swamiji explained the significance of Kanya Pooja (worship of the virgins), Poornahuti and connected events slated for the concluding day. Paramahamsaji again honoured the acharyas from different ashrams and yoga centres, his old disciples, eminent sannyasins and karma sannyasins from different parts of the world. This time he allowed the devotees to touch his feet. All these days we had been dissuading people from doing this. I couldn't help laughing to myself. Do such great saints and sages need our security and guarding! The answer is simply NO. On the contrary we are fortunate enough to be under their security cover. Such moments rarely come in our mundane life.

As for the Kanya or Kumari Pooja, we might hear or read about such things in fairy tales or see them at the movies or on the small screen, but here it was right in front of our naked eyes. Were we also provided with the divya drishti (divine vision) to witness such an event on the divya loka (Parama-hamsaji's tapobhoomi converted into an abode of the Divine Mother and other cosmic powers)! All eyes were glued to the raised stage where nine beautiful girls and a lady, in their best possible attire, were being worshipped as per vedic and tantric traditions by Swamiji himself, with Paramahamsaji explaining the salient features. Swamiji performed the sacred pooja, fed them to their hearts content and finally sought their blessings. We were wonderstruck to see the beautiful bride for Vadhu Poojan along with the nine virgins for Kumari Poojan against the backdrop of the universal symbol AUM. Probably this would be the first time that Vadhu Poojan and Kanya Poojan had been solemnised simultaneously. Hats off to Paramahamsaji's farsightedness.

Paramahamsaji's handing over tantric cum spiritual charge to Swami Niranjanji was another unique event of the day. He wanted this to be an 'open secret' purposely, for he wished all the old and new disciples, the Mahamandaleshwaras, the Acharyas, the sannyasins, karma sannyasins and jigyasus, and all the other devotees and aspirants the world over to know that hereafter Paramahamsa Niranjanananda would be the 'Global Guru' to them all. He made this point crystal clear once again in no uncertain terms, and it was a heart touching event for us to watch Paramahamsaji honour Swamiji by hand-ing over to him two sphatik malas and a shivalingam. If we were all moved, what were the sentiments and feelings of the closest disciple and manas putra towards his Guru and mentor! As mere spectators we could just read the message they had for one another through their moist eyes and the expressions on their well-composed faces. Such are the sannyasa and tantric traditions!

At the end of the final day's proceedings we realised that we had neither eaten nor drunk anything throughout the day, but were all cheerful, full of energy and enthusiasm even after eight days of continuous karma yoga, twelve to fourteen hours a day. We knew for certain that an extraordinary energy was flowing in our systems from the highly charged and positive environment created at Alakh Bara, where the cosmic powers were showering miracle after miracle.

Next morning, 1st December, after completing our karma yoga, we assembled in front of Paramahamsaji for his satsang and blessings. All the Certificate Course students were very happy when he quoted from the Bhagavad Gita that whosoever comes to the yogafold never fails. So, now it was Swami Niranjanji's headache to find a strategy to pass everyone somehow, thereby abiding by the wishes of his Guru. Paramahamsaji had very conveniently and coolly placed the ball in his court.

As I write these memoirs of the Sat Chandi Maha Yajna, my mind goes back to Paramahamsaji's tapobhoomi again and again. Many images come to mind: the humbleness, sobriety and purity of the Goenkajis (senior and junior), the chief sponsors of the yajna; Swami Yogavijay moving everywhere with his video camera; Swami Tyagraj running around making arrangements; Swami Satyabindu inside the yajna mandap, catering for the needs of the pooja. I can see the serenity on the face of Swami Atmanandaji, Paramahamsaji's first sannyasin disciple, sitting either on his left side or at his feet. Though we heard not a word from her, yet her quiet and ever peaceful face conveyed volumes on devotion, dedication and renunciation. I can also see Swami Satsangi almost everywhere, managing the entire show tirelessly.

I can clearly see the towering personality of Swami Niranjanji in or around the yajna mandapam performing the sacred pooja; at the feet of Paramahamsaji, his great Guru; with Bholenath on vigil/guard duty; conducting one event after another; talking to countless numbers of people or groups from far and near; singing his hit kirtan 'Narayana, Narayana, Narayana, Om...'; or overseeing the entire events for the conduct of the Maha Yajna.

I can vividly see Paramahamsaji speaking beautifully in his morning satsangs; chanting the mantras; reciting Ramacharitamanas; introducing and singing 'Raghu Pati Raghava Raja Ram...' with the huge gatherings; singing bhajans and kirtans; dancing merrily during sankirtans; performing Tandava without any inhibition; moving about freely as an accomplished Maharishi; and expressing his frank views explicitly be it on Christianity or virginity. How many such great and highly evolved saints do we have in the present era?