Holi is a spring festival of the Hindus. In the spring season all the trees are filled with sweet smelling flowers. They all proclaim the glory and the everlasting beauty of God and inspire you with hope, joy and a new life, and stir you on to find out the Creator and the Indweller, who is hiding Himself in these forms.
A colourful and joyous Holi was celebrated in Rikhiapeeth. The darshan of Swami Satyananda was an unexpected boon for all on a very special day, filled with laughter and joy.
A festive afternoon program was conducted in which the kanyas performed a classical Bharatnatyam dance with Sri Rama Stuti to invoke Lord Rama followed by the chanting of Sundarkand of the Ramacharitamanas. Sundarkand path is performed in Rikhiapeeth every Poornima for the health, peace and prosperity of all, as this chapter of the Ramcharitamanas brings good fortune to those who hear or chant it.
During the path, the senior citizens of Rikhia Panchayat, whom Swami Satyananda fondly referred to as his co-travellers, received their monthly stipend from the ashram. Guests who came from all over India and the world also received Holi Prasad.
As a special treat for Holi, the kanyas’ and batuks’ favourite dance group, the Boogie Woogie Batuks performed a modern dance for all. These graduate batuks spend all their free time practising dance and know all the latest dance moves.
To conclude the Holi celebration, a very special photo essay was shown on the central teachings of our Paramguru Swami Sivananda, ‘Serve, Love, Give’. The showing of this film was apt as Swami Sivananda had said that on Holi, “Forget the outgoing year’s ill-feelings and begin the New Year with love, sympathy, cooperation and equality with all. Try to feel this oneness or unity with the Self also. The call of Holi is to keep always the blaze of God-love shining in your heart. Inner spiritual illumination is real Holi.”
From 10th to 20th March, an advanced Prana Vidya Course was conducted in Spanish by Swami Muktidharma. The aim of such courses is to provide spiritual education and knowledge through the medium of yogic science and culture, as originally inspired by Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, combined with experience of ashram life. The course was conducted in the tranquil setting of Sivananda Ashram which enabled the students to experience these powerful practices in a pure and undisturbed environment. During the course, the group was led on a guided tour of local villages to see some of the original projects of Sivananda Math, including the building of houses and wells. Coming from modern cities it was a unique experience for participants to see village life first-hand.
The main feature of the course was the satsangs with the Peethadhishwari, Swami Satyasangananda, who addressed questions on many aspects of spiritual life and yoga practices. Her profound insight into the practices of prana vidya enabled her to impart practical understanding of these ancient practices of yoga, as well as their application and benefits in today’s modern world.
A very successful Yoga Teacher Training Course was conducted at Rikhiapeeth from 5th to 26th March. Participants from all over India and the world came for this advanced course which was developed for those wanting to teach yoga within their communities.
This comprehensive course included asana, pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra, shatkarmas and instilled participants with the fundamental understanding of seva and yogic lifestyle. During this three-week residential course, prospective teachers gained insight into the practices and philosophy of yoga in the spiritually charged atmosphere of the ashram. This course gave participants the opportunity to apply their teaching skills and they were guided individually by their teacher Swami Yogakanti, who gave feedback and shared her wealth of personal experience as a yoga teacher.
Throughout the course, the students delved deeply into the philosophy of yoga and related topics, they gained personal insight through access to the library facilities and through personal study and experience. Swami Satyasangananda devoted much of her time to give regular satsangs to the students. The students revelled in the wonderful teachings of Swami Satyananda that were imparted to them in the strong spiritual atmosphere of the tapobhoomi, Rikhiapeeth.
To show their appreciation of their valuable stay at Rikhiapeeth, the students of the Yoga Teacher Training Course coordinated a cultural show and a special evening picnic! This presentation was a highlight for the kanyas and batuks of Rikhia as they saw cultural items of dance, song and comedy from around the globe.
A magical Navaratri anushthana was conduct in Rikhiapeeth from 28th March to 3rd April. The daily Ramayana chanting led by the kanyas of Rikhia, was conducted in the Yajnashala. It was a powerful place for this daily sadhana, as the stage was filled with murtis which were invoked for the entire anushthana and made a powerful mandala.
The entire Ramacharitamanas was chanted by all participants and it was led confidently by the kanyas who once again displayed their impeccable pronunciation and rhythm in chanting this ancient text. Sannyasi Mantranidhi and the Ramayana Mandali from Munger were also invited to join the kanyas in the chanting. Over 800 participants fully engaged in all aspects of this event and felt the benefits of such a powerful anushthana being held in the tapobhoomi of Swami Satyananda as it abounds in spiritual vibrations.
Each evening, thousands of guests, residents, kanyas and batuks and local villagers gathered in Tapowan for the evening session of the Navaratri anushthana. This included various chants led by the kanyas to praise and worship the Divine Mother, including the entire Saundarya Lahari which is considered one of the highest sadhanas. After the program of chanting, Krishna Devi from Bhagalpur, who is also fondly known as Manas Kokila, enthralled the audience with Rama Katha. As she told the stories of Ramayana in her unique style, the presence and grace of Lord Rama was felt by all. Under an open sky filled with stars, as the heat of the day subsided and bhajans filled the air, an atmosphere of peace descended and the tales of Ramayana were brought to life. It was a surreal atmosphere and the audience was swept away with devotion and bhakti.
During the evening anushthana the kanyas also worshipped the Cosmic Mother and Lord Rama with exquisite Bharatnatyam dances and a traditional Odissi dance. During these dances the kanyas embodied the shakti of the Divine Mother and their grace and poise was appreciated by all. These innocent kanyas with minimal training, performed with the skill and confidence of those who have years of expert training.
As a special treat for all present, especially the villagers of Rikhiapeeth, Swasti from Bhagalpur also performed a special dance on 2nd April. At just five years of age she is already among the top dancers in India, having won accolades in the Boogie Woogie contest at Mumbai. Swasti easily won the hearts of all as she performed with confidence this challenging modern dance. The kanyas were especially inspired to see someone of their own age perform with such skill and are eagerly awaiting her next performance.
On 2nd April, diksha was given by Swami Niranjanananda and Swami Satyasangananda to hundreds of aspirants into mantra, jignasu and karma sannyasa.
The climax of the anushthana was of course the much anticipated darshan of Swami Satyananda who came on Navami to bless the anushthana and all those fortunate to attend. After the final chanting of Ramayana, a special havan was conducted to praise Sri Rama. Following a wonderful darshan, bhoj was conducted for over two thousand people, including the kanyas and batuks, gramins and senior citizens of Rikhia Panchayat. All the kanyas and batuks received Prasad of a new outfit, which was a stunning modern dress for the girls and a smart suit for the boys.
The kanyas and batuks proudly wore their new outfit for a special evening dance program which was held in Yajnashala as a conclusion to a successful Navaratri anushthana. The favourite dance groups of the kanyas and batuks performed some modern dance hits and displayed all the latest dance moves. This high energy program was a fitting conclusion to a powerful anushthana in unique Rikhiapeeth style!