Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mahashivrathri 2011 - Unforgettable

When I was growing up, the Mahashivrathri Bhajans were conducted in our house, or in the homes of family friends. In those days, bhajans were conducted at homes. For the same reason, I know the intensity of hard work that goes into demonstrating it successfully. After a break of eight years, I took part in the Mahashivrathri bhajans till 6 am in the morning.

The bhajans always start at 6pm and continues till 6 am in the morning. For those hosting it, every little detail has to be anticipated - 

will there be enough space for hundreds of people to sit, 
will there be batches of singers to fit into the timeslots per one and a half hours, 
will the refreshments be given every two hours, 
will flower garlands wilt and need to be replaced in five hours, 
will oil need to be refilled in lamps at x frequency, 
will prasad if prepared early get spoilt by morning, 
will devotees need soft cushions and temporary arrangements to lie down, in case there are older devotees, 
should water be served more frequently during bhajans so that singers dont find their throats turning dry, 
will there be generator back up for mike system in case of power cuts etc.

There are countless little details that hosts have to address throughout the Mahashivratri Bhajans. For once, it felt good to go and sit as a devotee and not as a host. The International Sai Center did everything to perfection and the credit goes to the hard work and 24x7 commitment of the Seva Dals (volunteers who are blessed and chosen to serve Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's mission to love and serve all through service based initiatives). 

The singers - male and female - were fantastic. Even at 2 am and 4 am, they sang with gusto and passion. They made people like me forget about sleeping. The singers were young and old, displaying the strengths of age in a balancing act. The young singers have good, clear voices but they have the 'i know what I am singing' cool attitude and that sometimes leads to a few scrapes and jerks because they have to develop control of their voice gradually, if you know what I mean. 


For the old singers, the strengths were more. Their voices were so well modulated that they could have given professional singers a run for their money. Also, they don't take risks. They know how to curve and bend the ragas beautifully. There is attention to detail and to perfection. Most importantly, the older singers are more conscious about singing in a way that blends with the musical instruments and the rhythm of the song. 

I would hate to make a choice but if I had to, I'd say the male singers outdid the other group. It's funny, come to think of it. I too have been a bhajan singer in the Sri Sathya Organization in Malawi, Zambia and Kerala and I know the kind of rigorous practice that we constantly do to excel in singing bhajans. However, the male singers outdo us everytime and I can't understand how or why because they (men) don't practice as often and as rigorously as we tend to do. 




This Mahashivratri, I prayed for myself, my family and for others with all sincerity. People, especially logical and goals-oriented people, scoff at the significance of such auspicious events. You ask them to a cocktail party, it makes sense to them even though by the end of those parties, not a shred of common sense is usually left. You ask people to pray for their own welfare for a change, they ask, "What can God possibly do that I can't?" 


Let me put it this way. If you close all the windows in your home and ask the sun, "If you are so damned powerful, try and enter my house now!" Obviously, the sun, an important source of life and sustenance, is not going to lose its powers. Those who open their windows will usher in sunlight into their homes, and those who challenge that energy giving source turn out to be the actual losers....it is their own growth and vitality they compromise on in the long run.
Without prayer, you will drown out the voice of God that guides you gently and gives you a sense of direction in your thoughts, words and actions.  

In the Bhagawad Gita, for instance, Krishna dons the humblest role though he was  a prince in his own right - he becomes a charioteer. Why? The symbolism is that God takes on any role possible in your life - provided you are open to God -  to control your five senses and guide you to take the right decisions when you are at crossroads in life.

Wise men called man's quest for god as the path to self realization. Smart men are calling it mind mapping and discovery of new consciousness and knowing yourself, what not. There's nothing new about it.  In the context of Lord Shiva, the Vedas call it 'pure consciousness.' Whether a leaf, a beast or a human being,  the spark of pure consciousness is latent. That infinite consciousness is called Shivattwa (pure consciouness) and the symbolism of Lord Shiva reflects this all pervading principle - the ashes that He wears on his forehead- tells us that whoever we are, however great we are, all that is left of our relentless pursuit of life and death is the final result -the legacy of liberation from this vicious cycle itself. 

To become nothing but a glorified particle that adorns God as pure consciousness and be regulated by the Will of God, overcoming the vagaries of the waning mind, symbolized by the crescent shaped moon adorning Lord Shiva.

The spiritual energy during the bhajans was like sheer electricity. There was so much of love, faith and peace vibrating in the hall, comprising of hundreds of devotees from all walks of life and diverse age groups - it was just incredible to be a part of it and to be right there, praying for others and their welfare.


For me, it was a spiritual recharging experience because it has been so long since I could take part in something so intense and deeply overwhelming. Later, the next day, many people, most of whom I dont know and have never met, send me messages of affection, love and blessing to show that they are so happy that I prayed for them. I am happy too that they gave me an opportunity to prolong my tryst with God.


Thank you, Twitter - for the amazing blessings and love that came pouring for me and my family from all parts of India and other places. It's incredible and I am humbled by such unconditional, overwhelming support.


To God, I remain forever indebted.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Swapna, I wish I could have attended one too....but I remembered the almighty, more today than normal...I hope that counts for something!

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

@Anonymous - It definitely counts a lot in God's gaze. I am sure of it.

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