My Experiences as a Rikhia Kanya

Sinu Kumari

In January 1998, at the age of six years, I started going to the ashram for the first time. From then onwards, until January 13, 2007, I remained in close contact with the ashram as a ‘Rikhia kanya’.

During the initial years I used to go to the ashram only for English classes. I was taught to read, write and talk in English. I was also taught some mantras and kirtan. In my English class I learnt to chant the Saraswati Vandana, which, along with some other kanyas, I once sang for Sri Swamiji. I was very happy that day.

I liked going to the English classes very much. The environment of the class was very good and friendly. We were taught English in a play-way method. As well as English we learnt dancing, singing and drawing. I enjoyed all these subjects very much so I always used to go to the ashram a few minutes before my class started because I never liked to miss the class. All the equipment for learning English was available in the classroom itself. Books, copies, pencils and even uniforms were supplied to us by the ashram. Also dictionaries, instrument boxes, storybooks, toys, umbrellas, etc. were given to us in the form of gifts occasionally. These things were very useful to us in our schools.

There were some good books related to science and general knowledge in the class library, which helped me to broaden my knowledge in many fields. Although I have done my primary and secondary education in Hindi medium schools, my English is comparatively good due to the contribution of the ashram. This has helped me to adopt the English medium in higher education.

I sang kirtan with other ‘chanting’ kanyas for the first time on the occasion of Basant Panchami, where we sang ‘Saraswati Maha Saraswati’. Gradually we started singing during other ashram events and the daily evening programs. Later we were also taught stotras. On the occasion of Chaitra and Ashwin Navaratras, recitation of slokas from Ramacharitamanas was started in the ashram. After some time recitations of the entire Bhagavad Gita and Sundarkand of Ramacharitamanas were also started every Ekadashi and Poornima respectively. In the initial phase we used to listen to the recitations. Gradually we were taught to chant the ‘path’. Ultimately, the team of kanyas started doing the recitations. Thus, we substituted for the sannyasins in the work of reciting the mantras and stotras and in the singing of kirtans.

I am happy that Sri Swamiji gave us the chance to conduct these programs. We felt very satisfied to see the audiences spellbound during our recitations. Sometimes it also happened that when we sang kirtans, so many people, including Swami Niranjan and Swami Satsangi, could not stop themselves from dancing.

From 2003 to 2007 we conducted all the recitations in the ashram except the ‘path’ of Durga Saptashati and some others which where done by the pandits. This became possible for us only due to the able and efficient guidance provided by our respected Swami Satsangiji. We learnt all the kirtans, stotras, mantra path and Gita path from Swami Satsangi. The recitation of Ramacharitamanas was taught to us by Sannyasi Mantranidhi. Some other sannyasins also helped us in these works. On behalf of all the kanyas and batuks of Rikhia, I would like to thank them all and offer my humble pranams.

In the beginning only kanyas were admitted for classes at the ashram and the total number was only twelve or thirteen students. Now the number is over five hundred kanyas. After several years boys were also admitted and now they also number over five hundred. Now some of the kanyas and batuks also go to the ashram for computer classes. I received computer education there for the first time.

In the last few years the kanyas and batuks have received at least ten sets of beautiful dresses each year from the ashram, which are donated by different people from India and abroad. Like all the other kanyas I was very happy when I received them. Some of the outfits were traditional and others were modern. I felt very happy whenever I wore them.

We felt quite relaxed and comfortable inside the ashram premises due to the love and affection we received from Sri Swamiji, Swami Niranjanji, Swami Satsangiji and the other sannyasins. I would like to share one example with you. Once, a few days before Sita Kalyanam, I was playing with some of the other kanyas in the Tapowan area, the place where yajna is conducted. Swami Niranjan came to supervise the preparations for the yajna. He took the skipping rope from one of us and started skipping! We all became very happy to see him playing with us and started laughing.

I have met many new people in the ashram from all corners of the world, from different castes, religions and nationalities. I talked to them and learnt many things about their cultures and societies. I made friends with children from different parts of India and the world who came to visit the ashram. I really enjoyed playing and talking to them.

All the festivals related to the different religions of the world are celebrated in the Rikhia ashram. I celebrated Christmas there for the first time. Once some women from Iran came to the ashram for a yoga course. During the course, one day was called ‘Tajia Muharram’. We sang the Sufi mantra ‘Anal Haq’, and they also sang some Sufi songs.

As a kanya of Rikhia, each year in the ashram I have had the rare opportunity and experience to chant the complete Ramacharitamanas twice, Sundarkand twelve times and Bhagavad Gita twenty-four times. All the kanyas and batuks are fed in the ashram during every festival and event. I ate so many types of dishes for the first time in the ashram.

The above described experiences as a kanya are just a small part of my total experiences. My many sweet memories of the ashram are indescribable for me. In conclusion, I can honestly say that I am very proud to be a ‘Rikhia Kanya’.

Namo Narayan