This was the fifth year in a row that Paramahamsaji's devotees from all over the world had thronged to Rikhia Dham for Sita Kalyanam. Early comers were only too willing to render selfless service in order to assist with the preparations, under the able guidance of Swami Niranjan, as well as having the good luck to be able to attend Paramahamsaji's enlightening and inspiring morning satsangs in the newly constructed satsang hall near Ganesha Kutir.
Sita Kalyanam officially began on 5th December at 5.30 a.m. at Harla Jori temple with a brief satsang by Paramahamsaji, followed by bhajans and kirtans from devotees. As the days rolled on the starting time for naam samkirtan at this extremely powerful temple gradually became 4.30 a.m.
After a light breakfast in the Sukhman Giri complex, everyone assembled across the road in the Tapovan complex for Rudrabhishek pooja, which was performed on the main stage by Swami Sharadanandaji from Rishikesh. Paramahamsaji, like a true host, received all the devotees personally near the entrance point. As soon as the Rudrabhishek pooja was over, six yoginis from Sri Lalita Mahila Samajam Ashram, Tamil Nadu conducted the first yajna (fire ceremony) of the nine days, which was devoted to Ganesha.
After lunch everyone reassembled at the venue for kirtan, which was followed by Vigrah pooja by the yoginis from 2 to 3 p.m. Then came the much awaited theme song for 1999, 'Govinda Meri Yeh Prarthana Hai', rendered by Swami Niranjan and Tripura Misra. In a day or so the theme song was on everyone's lips. Prasad in the form of thelas, tricycles, bicycles, rickshaws and sewing machines with sewing kits was then distributed to Paramahamsaji's immediate neighbours.
The evening program was devoted to Sikh shabad kirtans (devotional hymns) by ragi jathas, who had been especially invited from Patna Sahib, Harmandir Sahib and Mahrauli, near Chandigarh. For the next three evenings the Tapovan complex was transformed into a gurudwara (Sikh temple). Paramahamsaji chose to wash the feet of everyone entering the pandal and gave strict instructions that heads were to be covered properly as a mark of respect to the Holy Guru Granth Sahib.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the sweetness and melodious tones of the shabad kirtans. Language was no barrier. The evergreen hit shabad kirtan 'Kanthe Mala Jivha Ram' was invariably on everyone's lips and people could be heard humming it wherever they moved. To top it all off, delicious, hot kara prasad (halwa), like that given in any gurudwara, was distributed after ardas (prayers), as well as a hot cup of tea served at the exit gate.
The next eight days, from 6th to 13th December, began at Harla Jori temple, followed, after breakfast, by distribution of prasad to devotees prior to recitation of Ramacharitamanas from 7 to 8 a.m. Each morning the six yoginis, led by Swami Vidyamba Saraswati, performed a different yajna: Ganapati, on the first day, was followed by Navagraha (nine planets), Saraswati, Sudarshan (Vishnu's discus), Maha Vishnu/Lakshmi, the Gita, Rudra/Durga, Saundarya Lahari, and Lalita yajna on the final day. Through these nine different yajnas, invisible beneficial forces in the atmosphere manifested their presence by energizing the area around the yajna.
In the afternoon, kirtan was followed by Vigrah pooja. Prasad was then given to devotees and Paramahamsaji's deserving neighbours, including school children, senior citizens/pensioners, village folk, volunteers, police personnel on duty, other sevaks of the Alakh Bara, BYB students, sannyasins from various ashrams, and BSY sannyasins, just to name a few. In fact from Father John to the common man, no one was overlooked!
From 8th to 10th December, the evening program was spearheaded by Smt. Shanti Devi Chailak from Madhya Pradesh who performed dance cum narration in Pandavani style, depicting various episodes from the Mahabharata. Her wit and energy had the audience splitting their sides with laughter.
The last two evenings prior to the wedding of Sri Rama and Sitaji were devoted to Kuchipudi dance organized and presented by Dr Sampat's troupe from Vizianagaram (Andhra Pradesh). Their program began with a dance of homage to Saraswati and then went on to episodes from Ramayana, Mahabharata and other pertinent aspects of life, which were very much appreciated by the ever growing gathering of people. Kuchipudi dances set the ball rolling for the marriage of Sri Rama and Sitaji.
The final day of the program, the auspicious wedding day, 13th December, began with recitation of Ramacharitamanas and Paramahamsaji giving open darshan to one and all. The audience then shifted to the main pandal to witness the final yajna of the nine day's celebration, Lalita Sahasrara, dedicated to the Divine Mother. The powerful mantras charged the whole atmosphere with positive vibrations.
In the afternoon session people turned out in their best attire for the marriage ceremony. Paramahamsaji and Swami Niranjan were also regally robed, Paramahamsaji resembling a Chakravarti Raja and Swami Niranjan a royal prince. Eighty newly wed brides received their 'good luck kits' from dignitaries on behalf of Sivananda Math, in the benign presence of Paramahamsaji who blessed them from the core of his heart.
Along with the auspicious Ram Sita Vivah, a real life wedding was solemnized according to vedic tradition with all the sanctity and sobriety befitting the occasion. The bridal party arrived with all due pomp and ceremony, dancing to the tune of the band. The solemnization of the marriage was a blend of perfection and a royal treat. The capacity audience must have felt they were in a different world altogether. With the song 'Sita Ram Manchara Jori Dasharatha Nandana Janaki Dulari', prasad distribution at the exit gate commenced around 4.30 p.m.
As all good things must come to an end, so did Sita Kalyanam with Paramahamsaji bidding farewell to everyone with a promise to meet again during the auspicious month of Marga Sheersha in the year 2000. The entire paraphernalia erected for the nine days' sojourn at Paramahamsaji's tapobhoomi at Rikhia Dham was dismantled, packed, stacked and loaded into transport earmarked for Munger the same night in a record time of three hours.
Paramahamsaji was an inspiration for one and all. He was everywhere, welcoming guests at the entrance pavilion, personally handing out prasad, smiling, laughing, joking, ever thoughtful. To call him a person is inappropriate. He is a super person, a gem of a person in reality. Every time we come to Rikhia Dham, we learn a lot from his personal life. He is not a simple preacher or a teacher but a real guru, a dispeller of darkness. He just does not believe in theory. He is a perfect yogi besides being a very practical man on this earth. Long live Paramahamsaji to guide us in the new millennium.