On 1st January many devotees gathered at Rikhiadham – described by the kanyas as the right place at the right time – to celebrate the New Year in the august presence of Sri Swamiji. Amidst the enthralling kirtan ‘Gam ganapataye namo namah’ by the kanyas everyone sang and danced with joy to be amidst Sri Swamiji. This was followed by an illuminating and inspiring discourse by Sri Swamiji who said, “Feast for the mind is not roti or bread; food for the mind is thought. Just as unhealthy food causes food poisoning in the body, unhealthy and negative thoughts breed all sorts of illnesses in the mind, which then cannot carry the burden of life. Your mind is the most important substance in your life. A car, howsoever trendy and sophisticated, depends primarily on the driver. Similarly, the chariot of your life (the body) pulled forth by five horses (the senses), driven by the charioteer or the driver (the mind) and directed by the traveller using the chariot (the atman), depends primarily on the mind for a safe and smooth journey. Hence, build up your mind with good thoughts. Anything that you do for others, not yourself, can safely be considered to be a good thought and action. It is such actions which will help purify your thoughts, which in turn strengthen the mind, enabling it to take the traveller in the chariot (the atman) to its destination safely.”
In continuation of the Sat Chandi Mahayajna, yajna prasad, consisting of blankets, quilts, clothing and other household items, continued to be distributed until Makar Sankranti to over 50,000 people from the neighbouring villages of Rikhia panchayat. Over 2,000 students and their teachers from the schools in Rikhia and neighbouring panchayats received school bags, stationery, woollens, toys and toiletries.
On Makar Sankranti 500 new kanyas and batuks between the age of 7 to 12 were selected to join the English classes at the ashram. Eager and excited children thronged the ashram gates on this auspicious day to join in the chanting of the Sundar Kand from the Ramacharitamanas. As a token of their entry into the ashram they were given designer class World Yoga T-shirts, contributed by Kamal and Shaku Nainani of Spain. The senior citizens of Rikhia panchayat also received their monthly pension and prasad consisting of grains, utensils and clothes on this day and over 1,000 mothers of Rikhia panchayat received jewellery and saris.
The computer classes also restarted from 16th January. More kanyas and batuks who have acquired proficiency in English were admitted to the computer classes. The requirement of additional computers for the increase in students was met by devotees from Bangalore who donated six computers to the ashram for this purpose.
This year, under the inspiration of Sri Swamiji, many new activities were introduced to the kanyas and batuks. Surya namaskara with mantras, chanting of the entire Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana, as well as havan is a part of their daily program in the ashram. In addition, audio-visual films, animated movies and documentaries are shown to them each Sunday. With the kind contribution of a DVD player by Mrs Kavita Chandorkar from Mumbai, Sivananda Math has finally opened a whole new world in front of these children. Films ranging from ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Baby’s Day Out’, ‘Home Alone’, and animated films ‘Ramayana’, ‘Hanuman’, ‘Krishna Sudama’ as well as informative films from National Geographic on planets, oceans, seas, flora and fauna are being shown to these children. The response has been unimaginable.
From 19th to 29th, a ten day course on kriya yoga was conducted for an international group, led by Swami Anandananda from Italy at Sivananda Ashram, Rikhia. Satsangs were held by Swami Satyasangananda who gave deep and practical insights on this topic.
Sivananda Datavya Chikitsalaya, the clinic catering to the primary health needs of the poor and needy villagers also reopened from 17th January. Over 400 patients attended the clinic during January and several new patients with tuberculosis (TB), from faraway places, came to the clinic for treatment.
A Yoga Sadhana Parichay Shivir attended by devotees from all parts of the world was conducted at Rikhia from 22nd to 26th February. The Shivir culminated in a havan on Maha Shivaratri under the guidance of Swami Niranjanananda and Swami Satyasangananda. A series of inspiring kirtans sung by the kanyas were a befitting finale to the event. Devotees were initiated into mantra, jignasu and karma sannyasa by Swami Niranjanananda.
Sivananda Datavya Chikitshala offered medical aid to over 650 patients, and new TB patients were also admitted.
Farmers in the Rikhia panchayat received agricultural aid in the form of seeds.
During the nine days of Chaitra Navaratri, navan parayan of Ramacharitamanas was conducted by the kanyas to mark the beginning of the traditional new year. 1008 kanyas and batuks were fed at the ashram during these nine days. On the ninth day, Ram Navmi, the birth of Sri Rama was celebrated with a special havan performed by the kanyas in the presence of Swami Niranjanananda and Swami Satyasangananda. On this occasion dhotis and kurtas were presented to the old age pensioners by Sri Arun Singh from New Delhi, and all the kanyas and batuks received new garments and toys.
A special feature of the Navaratri anushthana enjoyed by one and all was the narration of Rama katha each day by manas kokila Smt Krishna Devi of Bhagalpur.
The Sivananda Datavya Chikitsalaya was attended by over 800 patients and several TB patients were enrolled for their TB treatment.
The auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya, when the doors of Lord Narayan’s temple in Badrinath re-open to the public after being closed for the winter months, was celebrated at Sivananda Ashram, Rikhia, with the chanting of the entire Srimad Bhagavad Gita followed by a havan dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The kanyas and batuks received another set of clothes along with school stationery. The senior citizens of this panchayat also received their monthly pension and a set of clothing.
All the regular ashram activities such as the English, computer and surya namaskara classes for the kanyas and batuks, regular chanting of Shiva Mahimna Stotra every Monday, Mahamrityunjaya havan for universal health and well-being every Saturday, the entire Srimad Bhagavad Gita every Ekadashi and so on also continued.
Continuing the Sunday movie club, animated films such as ‘The King and I’, ‘Krishna and Kalia’ and ‘Hanuman’s Feats in Lanka’ were shown to the kanyas and batuks every Sunday.
The Sivananda Datavya Chikitsalaya treated over 1,000 patients and also admitted over 20 new TB patients. Dr Shiv Chaitanya, an eminent gastroenterologist and endoscopist from Nepal, offered his expert services in the Sivananda Datavya Chikitsalaya during this month.