Continuing the extracts from pre-blog newsletters from Sandeepany Sadhanalaya.
From ANL9 - Feb.2012 - 36 HOURS...
the ashram accepts 'passers by' as paying guests (around $20/day) as long as they are prepared in return to accept ashram etiquette and join in some of the activities. Three young(er than me) ladies have been here recently who actually are having spiritual training from a fellow over at Hiranandani who recommends them to CM.
They have all been delightful, M from USA who lives in a wee cottage in the forests north of Boston, E from Spain who lives in a caravan in the woods on a hill in Ibiza and D, who lives in - - - Dalgety Bay (near Edinburgh for those who don't know)! All these beaut gals from around the globe all with common interests, favouring a particular living style, congregating by spiritual pull.... Close Encounters, anyone …??
E confounded me by having a Scottish accent; she spent 9 years in Edinburgh and calls it 2nd home! Lived in Marchmont/Meadows area. Then to meet D also from Auld Reekie.... hhhmmmm. Spookier and spookier.
Anyhoo. Had a surprise visit also from 'M and M', a couple from the Sydney CM who had made a 3-day dash here family reasons; they chose to spend 24 hours on the ashram to restore their balance. A delight for me, albeit difficult circumstances for them. This pic was taken at Sunday Brekky with the sun acting like a halo.
Now, you don't think you're getting a letter without any reference to a festival do you??! Feb 20th was Maha Sivratri, b'day of Lord Siva. For four days prior we were preparing prasadams, (making, dividing, packing sweetmeats), the mandir of course had to be spruced to the nines and there was even a lick of paint put around all the external surfaces. The place is looking pretty swish.
This is an enormous event with some 100,000 folk passing through the doors over a 24hour period. They queue forever outside, down the hill and along Saki Vihar Road, gates open at 4am and they stream steadily up the steps to the main entry, into the mandir and gently around, getting perhaps a 60-80second darsana (vision) of the Lord, then progress around to honour Ganesha and back to the east side, out the side door, back down the steps, along the side of the building to the rear drive and going down there, collect prasadam, visit stalls and at the bottom the Publications Stall is all set up… (are you tired yet?!) Crowd is controlled by paid security and police as well as CM volunteers.
This pic was taken at 5:30am when the place was already buzzing with atmosphere. At 6am, "Om Namaya Sivaya" chant (on loud speakers) is begun and doesn't cease until Midnight when the main aarti is performed. I was impressed with how smooth-running the whole event was. Most of the day for me, however, was spent on the money-counting team and a lot of the impact passed me by. Counting cont'd next morning also, so was pretty darned exhausted – there were about 15 on the team altogether and it was a tedious, dirty task.
One thing particularly impressive was this rangoli picture. One of the Mumbai CHYKs is very skilled with the powder... rangoli is the traditional decoration placed on the ground at the entrance to a home or hall for any special occasion. It is normally made with white powder (cornflour-like) but can be colour also; generally the powder is run through the hand and fingers into knots and geometrics, but this takes the art to a whole new level! Truly stunning.
Hari Om, Dear Reader, hope you are enjoying this little flashback to highlights of my time here at Sandeepany… Just another couple to complete the week then I will be back with you "live"
YAM xx `