As the New Year dawned, hundreds of guests, residents and devotees had their new year wish fulfilled and were graced by the darshan of Swami Satyananda. This most auspicious beginning to the New Year filled all with hope, joy and optimism for the year ahead. During the darshan the kanyas invoked the grace and blessings of Devi for 2009, by performing a beautiful traditional Bharatnatyam dance which was an offering to Tripura Sundari, the benevolent form of the Cosmic Mother.
A havan dedicated to Vishnu, the sustainer of the universe was also conducted by the kanyas by chanting Sri Vishnu Sahasra Namavalih, the 1,000 names of Vishnu.
The innocence and sincerity of the kanyas’ New Year message touched the hearts of all: “In 2009, may the seasons be favourable. May the rains arrive on time. May there be a bumper harvest. May your children be happy and successful. May your family be healthy strong and prosperous. May Goddess Lakshmi favour you with wealth, Goddess Saraswati bestow you with wisdom and Goddess Durga grant you power. May you get good jobs and good earning so that your children can be better educated.”
After the morning darshan, a grand-scale bhoj was conducted for the kanyas and batuks, gramins, senior citizens, ashram guests and residents. This bhoj, the first for 2009, was particularly significant as it renewed the momentum for the mammoth undertaking to construct the Annapoorna Kshetram Kanya Kitchen which had been going on relentlessly throughout 2008. This grand venture is the latest project of Sivananda Math and is due to be completed soon. Annapoorna Kshetram Kanya Kitchen is being developed in a disused factory; this huge structure is being completely transformed into a modern and spacious dining area, with cooking and storage facilities, which will enable the fulfillment of Swami Satyananda’s sankalpa to feed the kanyas and batuks of Rikhia Panchayat, who number over two thousand, daily in rain, hail or storm.
On New Year’s day, everyone was asked to make a sankalpa for the year ahead and to reflect upon the sankalpa of Swami Satyananda in which he said: “I have always prayed for the wealth, long life, good health, success and prosperity of everyone. Let everyone be happy, let everyone be healthy, let everyone look upon everyone else with equanimity and may no one ever feel any pain or sorrow. May all be happy, may all be free from disease. May all receive the auspicious blessings of God. May no one experience suffering and if there is suffering then feel happy because God’s grace, Mother’s grace, the grace of the divine is within us all.”
With this profound sankalpa as the driving force behind the activities of Sivananda Math, all present were ready to face the year ahead with renewed enthusiasm and dedication.
The distributions that began on the first day of Sat Chandi Mahayajna, 28th November 2008, continued daily for over two months until 7th February 2009! Due to the generous contribution received from devotees, Sivananda Math was able to distribute Prasad to more families than ever before. In 2009, bhet was offered to over eighty villages of six panchayats.
Items distributed included blankets, warm clothes, buckets, rajais, new clothes, grains and cooking utensils. Throughout January, villagers from surrounding panchayats were called for distribution, many families walked up to fifty kilometres to receive the blessings of Devi and Guru in the form of much-needed basic necessities. Thousands of local school children from Rikhia Middle School, Tarabad Primary School and the local high school also received stationery, blankets and new clothes.
A very special celebration in honour of Poornananda, Swami Satyananda’s much-loved Alsatian, was conducted in Rikhiapeeth to celebrate his birth which occurred on the 10th of January, 2002. Guests and residents were invited to a special picnic dinner which featured all of Poorna’s favourite items, including chocolate cake!
Poornananda has lived his entire life with Swami Satyananda. Each day and every day, he was privileged to be in the presence of his beloved master. From the moment he first opened his eyes, he was blessed with the darshan of Sri Swamiji, who was first his friend, then his guru. His only home has been Rikhiapeeth where he performs many duties selflessly, with devotion and awareness.
Poornananda was initiated into mantra by Swami Niranjanananda in 2004. For many lifetimes Poornananda has been a close disciple of Swami Satyananda. He was born previously as Bholenath and loyally served Sri Swamiji during the long and difficult sadhana of Panchagni.
Swami Satyananda had given Poornananda the sadhana to attend all the chanting, evening satsangs and anushthanas that are conducted by the kanyas at Rikhiapeeth. As many of you have seen, he regularly attends Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita chanting, and havans and kirtans. He especially loves the Gita and even observes Ekadashi Vrat.
Poorna has many fans too who send him lots of toys, coats, food and fancy items! What a destiny he has!
Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the sun into the tropic of Capricorn and the first day of Uttarayana. To aspirants all over the world this day has a special significance. Swami Sivananda had said: “The message of the sun is the message of light, the message of unity, of impartiality, of true selflessness, of the perfection of the elements of karma yoga. If you imbibe these virtues of the sun, what doubt is there that you will shine with equal divine lustre!”
Makar Sankranti was celebrated in Rikhiapeeth on 14th January and just like the sun, Swami Satyananda radiated warmth and light, and blessed all present with satsang and darshan. Darshan was followed by the distribution of Prasad to hundreds of villagers in Tapowan. This was followed by bhoj for the kanyas and batuks and the senior citizens of Rikhia Panchayat who receive a monthly stipend from Sivananda Math. The old-age pensioners departed with their arms full of practical household items and assorted seasonal vegetables.
On 31st January, Basant Panchami was celebrated in Rikhiapeeth. This day is very special for the kanyas and batuks of Rikhia as it is a day dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and learning. The kanyas and batuks come every day to the ashram for English and computer classes, to learn the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana and chanting of sacred mantras and kirtans, so on this day they pray to always receive the blessings and love of Ma Saraswati.
During the morning, Saraswati pooja was conducted in Tapowan and sixty-eight newly enrolled kanyas and batuks received Prasad of their new school uniform, three sets of new clothes and stationery. They also received a gold Saraswati yantra from Swami Satyasangananda, so that the grace of Devi may help them with their studies. The widows of Rikhia Panchayat received generous kits of new clothes, warm blankets and food rations that were packed in an aluminium trunk. In addition, 500 villagers of surrounding panchayats received Prasad. During the pooja, the kanyas chanted Sri Saraswati Ashtottara Shata Namavalih, the 108 names of Saraswati.
Evening satsang of havan, kirtans and prayers, dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, was conducted in Yajnashala and the kanyas led all the chanting including Saraswati Gayatri Mantra and Sri Saraswati Stotram. The kanyas also performed a modern dance which displayed the wide variety of talents that these children are developing in the ashram.