On the auspicious occasion of Kartik Poornima people gathered in the thousands at Rikhiapeeth to watch the renowned kathak dancer, Padma Shri Uma Sharma and all the members of Bhartiya Sangeet Sadan, glorifiy the Ras Lila, the cosmic dance of Lord Krishna. Throughout the performance, which was conducted over two evenings, all present could experience the bliss and joy of Sri Krishna who was one of the greatest figures to appear on earth. In the words of Swami Niranjan: “The presentation of the enchanting Ras Lila has brought glory to Rikhia and the people at large.”
The Ras Lila of Krishna with the gopis and Radha is a very important event in the history of humankind. It took place five thousand years ago on the full moon night of Kartik Poornima in Vrindavan, the town where Krishna spent his famous childhood. On that night, while dancing with the gopis, Krishna used his supreme powers to multiply his form into infinity, so that each gopi felt that Krishna was at her side dancing with her alone.
The Ras Lila was conducted in Rikhiapeeth on 1st and 2nd November and was greatly enjoyed by all present, especially the villagers of Rikhia Panchayat who relished this colourful and skilled performance. The villagers of Rikhia do not have exposure to many live performances, so this re-enactment of their beloved Krishna’s Ras Lila is very special for them and a highlight of the annual events. The Ras Lila was a delight for the senses and the soul. It was rich in colour and full of traditional dance used to depict the gopis dancing with Krishna. Stirring musical accompaniment along with the talented dancers made this a performance to remember.
After the evening arati the kanyas and batuks conducted a very special dance program. The kanyas of Rikhia impressed the audience of thousands as they performed with confidence and style modern dances which they dedicated to Natawar Nagar, the Lord of the Dance. The kanyas and batuks love all types of dance, from modern to traditional and during Ras Lila, the kanyas invoked the divine blessings of Lord Vishnu and Lord Sri Rama, with a beautiful Bharatnatyam dance as well as creating DHOOM! On popular demand the Rikhia Boogie Woogie Dance troupe was invited to perform one of their special dances called ‘Twist’ as well as a unique dance that praises the warrior Omkara.
On the occasion of Kartik Poornima, Sundarkand path was conducted in Tapowan at 9.00 am. This is performed in Rikhiapeeth every Poornima for the health, peace and prosperity of all, as this chapter of Ramacharitamanas brings good luck to all those who hear or chant it.
The dance, the music, the bhakti, and the presence of Lord Krishna make the Ras Lila at Rikhiapeeth a memorable experience for all those who were fortunate to be present.
Many things happen in this earthly life which give us pain and sorrow. This distress can be remedied by the divine grace of Devi, the Cosmic Shakti. That is the purpose of this Sat Chandi Mahayajna.
The fourteenth Sat Chandi Mahayajna was conducted from 17th to 21st November in Rikhiapeeth. Thousands of people gathered to partake in this historic event and to experience the presence of the Cosmic Shakti and to seek Her benevolent grace and blessings.
During the five days of this most sacred yajna, the divine energy of Devi, the root matrix of creation, was invoked through powerful mantras, yantras and mandalas, which are the basic tools utilized in tantric yajna. All present felt the presence of the Supreme Shakti and through mantras, kirtans and prayers invoked her blessings into their lives.
This most sacred Mahayajna, extolled from the ancient vedic era, was an opportunity for all present to experience the presence of a powerful energy as well as partake in Swami Satyananda’s central teaching and mantra for spiritual upliftment, ‘Give, give and give’. From the very first session until the final moments of the Sat Chandi Mahayajna, Prasad was distributed in a continuous flow which represents the ceaseless love and compassion of the Cosmic Mother for her children. Each and every one, king or pauper, old or young, known or unknown received the Prasad of Devi.
All the scriptures sing the glory of guru; guru is God in human form and is divinity incarnate. None of us have seen God, but to see His messenger in the form of guru brings untold blessings into our lives. Sat Chandi Mahayajna 2009 was most special because all present had a chance to have the darshan of Paramahamsa Satyananda on the first and last day of the yajna. His words, his look, his presence, his smile resonated deeply within all who were lucky to be present at that time. More precious than all the gifts that were showered on everyone, was the wisdom, insight and encouragement he gave to all present.
On 21st November, before the sacred Kanya Pooja began, Swami Satyananda gave satsang to the thousands present. He spoke of the responsibility of society to take care of all children up to the age of twelve and also about kanyas, saying: “Kanya is one who becomes the channel of the Divine Mother. Just as the copper wire becomes the channel for electrical energy, in the same way the cosmic energy, the divine energy, the Mother can be apprehended through a medium. And the medium is kanya, the virgin.” His final sentence of this satsang, in hindsight, is full of poignant meaning, “You can call me whenever you like.”
These kanyas, who come from the most deprived and rejected strata of society, once again enthralled audiences with their spellbinding daily Mangal Nritya in the traditional Bharatnatyam and Odissi style. Their stirring bhajans, their precise chanting of difficult vedic stotras and their extensive repertoire of kirtans was beyond belief. The grace, poise and professionalism of these young girls was a perfect example of true expansion of mind and a fitting tribute to the Divine Mother, who was the chief guest of this grand-scale event.
The kanyas and batuks worked very hard, and prepared a great novelty for Sat Chandi Mahayajna 2009, which was an English drama of the most sacred and ancient Kathopanishad. The kanyas and batuks performed with such confidence and poise that the audience was spellbound. These little children spoke clearly in English, brought blessings to one and all by imparting the knowledge of this sacred Upanishad which contains the knowledge of Atman. This Upanishad was most significant as it gave details of the panchagni vidya, which is the arduous sadhana that Swami Satyananda performed at Rikhiapeeth for nine years.
The Kathopanishad speaks of Nachiketa, who represents innocence, wisdom and purity and, above all, vairagya. In fact, Swami Sivananda himself had compared Swami Satyananda to Nachiketa when he said: “Few would have such vairagya at such a young age. Swami Satyananda is full of the Nachiketa element. Yet, any work he takes up he will complete in a perfect manner. He does the work of four people and yet never complains. He is a versatile genius, yet humble and simple.”
The kanyas and batuks were very happy to be able to perform this drama which was a fine tribute to Sri Swamiji’s sankalpa which has manifested in Rikhiapeeth by the grace of Guru and Devi Ma, to shower peace, prosperity and plenty on one and all. The drama also featured a new modern dance performed by the kanyas in which they created ‘Dhoom’!
One week after the conclusion of Sat Chandi Mahayajna, worship of the Cosmic Shakti, Mahamrityunjaya Homa was conducted as a celebration of Yoga Poornima from 28th November to 2nd December. Sat Chandi Mahayajna and Yoga Poornima pay homage to both the Mother and Father of the universe. They combine to create a full circle or totality of experience. On completion of these two grand-scale events, one feels satiated, complete and whole.
Yoga Poornima was introduced at Rikhiapeeth in 2008 as a tribute to the birth of Paramahamsa Satyananda which took place on the Margasheersha Poornima at Almora in 1923. On account of his unparalleled contribution to humankind in the field of yoga, this event is named Yoga Poornima. Thousands of people gathered in Rikhiapeeth for this mammoth event which was an opportunity to reconnect and rededicate to guru, the divine light who dispels the darkness of ignorance in our lives.
The basis of this event was the veneration and worship of the Shivalingam with the ancient vedic Rudri hymns along with Mahamrityunjaya homa which was conducted by learned pandits from Varanasi. The batuks of Rikhia assisted the pandits in the ancient rituals and actively assisted in the yajna which was an invaluable experience in traditional, ritualistic and the purest form of havan, pooja and ritual.
All fortunate to attend were blessed with the darshan of the divya lingam of Rikhiapeeth. This Shivalingam, brought from the river Narmada, was first worshipped and consecrated by Sri Swamiji when he performed the first Rudrabhisheka here at Rikhiapeeth during the inaugural Yoga Poornima event in 2008. The sacred abhisheka pooja which bestows peace, health and prosperity was conducted daily and delegates had the opportunity to perform parikrama of the vedi and have darshan of the Shivalingam.
Sat Chandi Mahayajna and Yoga Poornima were an opportunity for all present to witness and partake in the central teaching of Sri Swamiji, ‘Give, give and give’. Throughout both these five-day events, from morning to evening Prasad was continuously and generously distributed to thousands of families from Rikhia and surrounding panchayats. This Prasad brought the blessings of Devi Ma to the most needy within our society in the form of much-needed basic necessities such as blankets, rajais, new clothes, grains, cooking utensils, oils, rope, shoes and plastic tubs.
The main feature of Yoga Poornima was darshan of Paramahamsa Satyananda on the final day of the yajna, when we were celebrating his 87th birthday on the 2nd of December. What was not known to all present at the time was that this was to be his final public darshan before he took Mahasamadhi. Although Sri Swamiji usually remains in seclusion, tapasya and sadhana, he came and blessed the yajna and made this celebration an event to treasure.
During this darshan, the entire Tapowan area was packed to capacity as people had gathered from all over India and the world, as well as thousands of villagers of Rikhia Panchayat, just to catch a glimpse of their beloved Swami Satyananda. Do you know that even for the kanyas and batuks and villagers who live here in Rikhiapeeeth, the darshan of Sri Swamiji was always a rare and precious moment?
During this darshan he had the undivided attention of all present and a surreal silence descended over the massive crowd as people hung on his every word. He spoke passionately to the kanyas and batuks and their parents, and explained that children are a form of God in their homes. He asked the kanyas who their father is and the kanyas and batuks replied at full volume with hearts full of love: “You, You, You are our father, and you always will be.”
He went on to speak of the importance of this yajna: “You must understand very well that you are participating in a very important event. This event is not only historical, it is not only spiritual; it is also ecological. It has many dimensions . . . This is a very important event called yajna, in which the spiritual powers are invited, are invoked. Spiritual powers which you don’t see, which you can’t touch.”
During Yoga Poornima maybe all of us did not have the eyes to ‘see’ these spiritual powers but definitely each and every person was able to experience the presence of the divine in their own way. Each and every person left a piece of their hearts here in Rikhiapeeth and left with the blessings of Devi Ma, Shiva and Guru.