Devi, Awake! Maha Yajna Behind the Scenes

Swami Vibhooti Saraswati

Rikhia is waking up from its sleep, lifting its face from the shadows in response to the warmth of the 'Sun'. The wind is carrying a new promise to the people of Rikhia from all over the world. The primal energy is stirring in its womb, giving birth to many little devis, the 'bal sundaris'. Prosperity is seeping into the Rikhia earth. Fresh seeds have been sown in its soil, and a rich harvest is guaranteed. For all around young fresh flowers are blossoming forth, straight and strong, and the sound of children's laughter fills the air. Yes, Rikhia is wearing a smile since the coming of the Sage. Yes, the Rikhia Baba is the harbinger of all blessings. Yes, Rikhia is set for the return of the Matriarch!

Converging energies

Now Rikhiadham is bursting into activity as preparations get underway for the Sat Chandi Maha Yajna. Swami Satsangi is powering into action; her commanding voice can be heard in every corner of the ashram, whipping things into a state of heightened awareness and alertness to meet the demands of this momentous occasion. Everywhere and everyone is beginning to buzz with anticipation, like so many worker bees gathering honey for the Queen, the Supreme Shakti, creatress of the universe, who is to be invoked right here in the Tapovan complex of Sri Swamiji's home. The build-up of energy creates a hum like the reverberation of the sound Om. The whipper-snippers are whirring as the smell of freshly cut grass fills the air, the clink-clunk of small stones as they hit the sides of building, the clip-clipping and saw-sawing noises as hedges and trees get properly dressed for the occasion. A constant backing is provided by the soft, bass rumblings of the polishing machines in Sarovar. School is out! But the sweet voices of the kanya choir at kirtanpractice weave their way through the escalating symphony. "Durga tinaashinee, Durgaa jaya jaya. Kaala vinaashinee, Kaali jaya jaya. Ambe Bhavaani, Mata jaya jaya."

Trucks of tiles arrive for the new building in Rishi Kunj now in progress. Trucks of sweaters for the children, toys, school bags, the latest pen and pencil sets, gifts of all kinds are arriving through donation, for distribution to one and all after being blessed by the Divine Mother. People are coming in ones and twos, sixes and sevens, tens and twenties, from all corners of the world - America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, UK, Russia, Kazakhstan, Denmark, South Africa - bingo, full house! Everyone has the same question in mind as the event draws closer. The same desire burns in each heart. All have travelled from his or her country around the globe with just one expectation, one hope. A single question sits posed on everyone's lips: "Will Sri Swamiji give darshan?" Sri Swamiji, the inspirer who has united all the hearts of all the different nationalities converging in Rikhia for this great event. And his singing nightingales, pure tantric mediums, continue to transmit his divine energy through their song, "Durge Devi namo stute, Chandi Devi namo stute, Bhadra Kali namo stute, Naaraayani namo stute."

Fullness

Poorna, the reincarnation of Bholenath (Sri Swamiji's faithful guard, companion and fellow tapasvi during his panchagni sadhana), is his usual joyful self, giving everything and each new arrival his 'sniff of approval' and acceptance into the akhara (and occasional emphatic bark of disapproval). But his main occupation is finding someone to throw a stone, ball or pipe for him to catch and chase. His sweet and playful nature fills everyone with happiness. Phones are ringing, the intercoms (and the heads of some sevaks) are getting hotter and hotter. Swami Niranjanananda, successor to Sri Swamiji and his completion, steps out of his white car into the increasing momentum - cool, relaxed, and full of vairagya behind his dark glasses. Everyone's spirits lift even higher, and the whole atmosphere takes on a new lightness. Poorna is now beside himself, jumping and dancing and barking his own song of joy around him. Things move smoothly and effortlessly into fourth gear, and the real action begins. "Jagadambike jaya jaya jaga janannee Maa. Jaya Maa, Jaya Maa, Jaya Maa, Jaya Maa."

"You are not visitors or guest of the akhara now," Swami Niranjan tells everyone. "Rather, we are all hosts, and Devi is the expected honoured guest." Grains are pouring into the akhara for distribution to rich and poor alike (all neatly packed in plastic bags and stacked in the yajnashala), endless lists are pouring out of computers, a constant supply of food is pouring out of the kitchen. A bevy of cooks is eagerly at work with their enormous pots. A concerto of bubblings and boilings, stirrings and peelings, cuttings and choppings continues day and night. Thousands and thousands of people are to be fed over the coming days. The smells of spices, chutneys, freshly cooked rice and homemade jalebis wafts intermittently throughout the campus, and unites with the incense and samagri of the vedi. Meanwhile the small chatak birds of Rikhia open their throats to the sky, "Bhaja mana Maa, Maa, Maa, Maa."

Out comes the 'Sun'

The soothing notes of Chaurasia's golden flute spread a calm wave through the early morning air, and each morning brings with it the hypnotizing sounds of sitar, tabla and sarod. O, great joy and tidings; the 'Sun' has come out! Sri Swamiji sits in his rocking chair in the sunshine amongst the trees and bird song, silently conducting his 'magnum opus' from behind the scenes. For he is the composer of this whole masterpiece, the maestro of the yajna. Emperor of emperors, clapping contentedly to the kanyas' kirtans, he rocks to and fro to the beat of the mridanga in his rocking chair throne.

Kanyas in motion

And there come the kanyas! Filing past Sri Swamiji en route to the program - small, smaller and smallest, little devi yantras, symbols of the Divine Mother in human form, blueprint for a new society based on the feminine qualities of gentleness, beauty, compassion and an understanding heart. Sri Swamiji calls then the 'bal sundaris', which literally means 'beautiful children'. Back stage, they have changed into their new smart western style uniforms with matching caps and bags, looking like so many shiny red poppies suddenly sprung up from the ground. Walking with confidence, faces showing a pride in the new life Sri Swamiji has given them. A consciousness of their own worth as individuals is starting to dawn, an awareness of their own existence.

One-two, one-two, they march past in single file; no time to stop and look around. Some are so tiny that the bags full of their old clothes half touch the ground. Looks a bit precarious . Oops, one down! But, no worries, no damage done. Quickly up and on to the program. There is never any break in the flow, the elder more experienced girls assisting and guiding the little ones. Crash! O dear, there goes another. A few tears mix with the akhara earth and are quickly wiped away and forgotten. On we go again, smiling. "Keep moving" is the motto of Sri Swamiji. For soon we'll all be singing together again, "Jagatodhaarinee maataa Durgaa, Jagato-dhaarinee Maa, Jaya jaga jananee, Jaya jaga jananee, Jaya jaga jananee Maa, Jaya Gauree Devee, Rana Chandee Devee, Jaya Shiva ramanaa jaago Maa."

Blessings

"Aim, Hreem, Kleem, Aim Hreem Kleem" comes over the loud speakers. The pandits are pounding out the Path in the yajna vedi. The sheer power of the Durga Saptashati mantras can be strongly felt penetrating everything. Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! Even the tiny sparrows living in the straw roof of the vedi appreciate the blessing being showered upon them, and contribute their sweet melody to the grand occasion. Continuous orderly lines of villagers queue outside the Tapovan gates, eagerly awaiting the call for prasad. "Aim, Hreem, Kleem, Aim, Hreem, Kleem." A stream of devotees files past Sri Swamiji for darshan as they go to take prasad in the kitchen. His hand rises and falls, rises and falls, until the long line is through. All the way to the office they strain their necks to look back for another glimpse, missing their footing on the path in the process. Their faces are all full of happiness and fullness at having received the blessings of the Baba who is the mainstay and support of their lives. "Aim, Hreem, Kleem, Aim Hreem Kleem."

Evensong

The honkings of buses and taxis and autos and cars; the crowds hurrying here and there, moving and jostling this way and that as they set off for their hotels and hostels, digs and dharmashalas. People are fed wherever there's space. Word is sent to the kitchen to quicken the pace. There is much locking up and tidying away, preparing the scene for the following day. Bangings and hammerings from the Tapovan decorators echo in the night air as the wheel of change rolls relentlessly on. And the polishing machines continue to rumble in Sarovar, preparing the new premises which will be Sri Swamiji's home in the year 2004.

Stop! Relax, for all have been fed. All have received prasad from the Devi. All have been blessed by a Paramahamsa. The sonata of silence falls over the ashram. Only Chandra Ma remains watchful as she shines down peacefully from above. The Divine Mother looks after the needs of her children with such great love and care (and so does Sri Swamiji!).

Devi awake

Yes, the Devi is awake in Rikhia. Her mantras reverberate throughout the land. She serves the sick in the clinic. She clothes the needy in prasad kutir. She feeds the hungry children from big pots in the ashram kitchen. She distributes grain and cooking utensils to the villagers, seeds and saplings and implements to the farmers. She beats in the hearts of the poor, walks in their streets and works in their fields. Her kirtans ride on the Rikhia wind and she springs forth in abundance. She laughs and sings in the daytime through the kanyas, and at night she dances to the beat of the village drums. Through the Rishi of Rikhia she showers her blessings upon all those who come to take part in the great act of giving and receiving which takes place in Rikhiadham. And those who are best fitted to receive these blessings are those who are able to come to her with an open heart and an innocent mind, like the kanyas of Rikhia. May the Devi awake in all those who come to attend the twelve-year Rajasooya Yajna over the next nine years!