Religion and spirituality have declined sharply in the modern era. The sentiments and feelings behind our worship of Ma Durga or Kali have been diluted over the years, and today our religious feelings have become confi ned to the shrill sounds heard from the blaring loudspeakers adorning our temples and shrines.
But this year in the ashram I saw the festival of Ramnavami conducted with the purity and fervour that was the hallmark of our culture. About two hundred and fi fty people, the majority being educated ladies from well-to-do families, converged at Bihar School of Yoga on Ramnavami, where they participated in a night-long vigil and then sang Rama kirtans with Sri Swamiji at the conclusion of the chanting. The entire atmosphere was saturated with peace, devotion and serenity.
A young girl came forward to sing a bhajan thereafter. In a soft, melodious voice, she paid glowing tribute to Tulsidasji, the composer of the Ramacharitamanas. Her voice gradually became softer and softer and the bhajan came to a serene ending. Maintaining her quiet, dignifi ed composure, the girl returned to her place. There was no clapping of hands or any other gesture of appreciation. The atmosphere remained sacred and peaceful. This was followed by Sri Swamiji’s satsang, and finally prasad was distributed to everyone.
What was the condition of this place till a few months ago?
People hesitated to come here, but now, as if by the magic of Aladdin’s lamp, this place has been transformed into a bustling, dynamic ashram. The ashram is verily a temple, but with no idols or deities, save for a lamp which will remain lit foreternity. This temple is dedicated to the loving memory of the master yogi, Swami Sivananda, and, following his example, is totally shorn of any pomp or pageantry. No gaudy pictures or
statues, just the faint smile of the saint of Rishikesh that seems to pervade the entire place.
Just as the Shivalaya temple, Dharmashala, Chandikasthan, etc. owe their existence to the Goenka family, this beautiful ashram and this young sannyasin, who has dedicated his life to the regeneration of yoga, are here thanks to Sri Kedarnath Goenka.
The Goenka family has contributed a lot to society. This place, which had been left neglected for so long, has suddenly come alive after the construction of the ashram. The pure and beautiful atmosphere of the adjoining Shivalaya temple has also been magnified with the coming up of this ashram.
Many people come to this ashram with physical ailments and mental anxieties, and through the wondrous effects of its special environment fi nd the peace and solace they were missing all along in life. For every newcomer, the ashram is a window into an entirely different world, a world of peace and purity.
Things of historical value and interest should be preserved so that future generations can appreciate them. It may very well turn out that this modern yoga ashram and the ancient historical ruins opposite it become the centre of attraction for seekers and aspirants from all over the globe. Only then will the ancient glory of this sacred land be revived.