Festival of Swings

Sannyasi Karmadhara

August 4th to 8th was a memorable period for the people of Rikhia panchayat, Deoghar, and other adjoining villages. A Jhoolan Utsav, festival of swings, was organized by the Sri Panchdashnam Paramahamsa Alakh Bara, Rikhia, under the inspiration of Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

Every evening between 5 and 8 p.m. a program of bahamans, kirtans, was held before the bedecked idols of Radha and Krishna, seated on a swing. On another swing was an idol of baby Krishna or Laddu Gopal as he is lovingly called. Sri Swamiji also gave darshan for all daily. Prasad of sweets was distributed to all those who attended and Swami Niranjan complimented all the local kirtan groups by presenting them with gifts.

The most spectacular feature of the event was the decor of the idols. On each of the five days they displayed a different theme, colour scheme and decorations, creating a new experience every day. To have an idea of the magic of the ambience, visualize a beautiful stage on which there are two swings. On one sits a beautifully attired Radha-Krishna, and on the other, Laddu Gopal. Sri Swamiji is sitting at their feet, a short distance away. In his hands are two strings which emerge from the swings. He pulls them gently so that the swing moves to and fro. In the light the jewels of the idols sparkle with a hypnotic effect. The kirtans go on, full of spontaneous, rural simplicity and passion.

Sri Swamiji then passes the strings on to those who are closest to his heart, the villagers of Rikhia, lined up in their thousands for a turn to swing the Lord. Arati is then sung by two village girls, much to the delight of Sri Swamiji, who introduces them as belonging to 'my' village. After arati Sri Swamiji leaves and the kirtans continue.

The villagers looked mesmerized at seeing this royal enactment of a past event which, although being an inseparable part of Indian mythology, tradition and religion, is seldom undertaken with such feeling, fervour and organization. The reaction of the villagers was an affirmation that in their simplicity lies their spiritual strength. Short of lofty words, concepts or even basic means, the bhava of every man, woman, child and even infant before the idols said it all. A range of emotion would flit across their whole being in the few seconds in which they communed with the Lord – from awe to humility to surrender.

One could understand why the crucial ingredient for spiritual evolution, i.e. surrender, was almost a natural expression in their lives; they seemed to have no one else to turn to. Most were in clothes given to them by Sri Swamiji. Others were in tatters. But the light of love for Sri Krishna shone on every face. This event seemed to add strength to their inner satisfaction of feeling the Lord in their hearts, for nothing new was being said or taught. It was simply a celebration of divine love which is the legacy of every heart and which is symbolically celebrated in lore as the love that Radha and Krishna shared.

This event was a reminder that in a past aeon there existed a human being with divine pratibha, talents, who was the Lord incarnate and who braved all odds to spread the message of divine love amongst a troubled humanity. His spirit remains enshrined in every heart, and when the dark monsoon clouds of Shravan dance in the sky, the image of Krishna, in Brindavan, swinging from the branches of a Kadamba tree with Radha, in a celebration of the most sublime love, comes to life in Indian culture. Even today girls and boys put the jhoola, swing, on trees in this season, swinging and singing intensely passionate songs of love to feel that divine presence in their lives.

Sri Swamiji's treat of the Jhoolan Utsav for his villagers was a rekindling of the flame of Divine love among a people who are never far from it.