Pictures & things

Hari OM!
I uploaded the pictures in picasa, and provided you with slideshows of each date.  Since there are several pictures and slideshow needs loading, it might take a while to load them all.  Here is the link to each date – so you can see them one-at-a-time.

Click on the slideshow and it will open up the picasa page.  You can download/print them as you like.  Have fun!


Well – that was BEFORE picasa went away. Now you just have to see the photos here, not ordered per day as I did originally. Sorry y’all.  Blame it on Google!


Delhi Oct 19th

Chinmaya Dham Yatra with 62 delegates from UK, Australia, Canada, Kuwait, USA, India, Philippines, Hong Kong, St. Martin and Singapore started from Delhi on October 19th 2009.
During the inaugural speech, Guruji explained the purpose of this yatra. The main goal was stated as being to travel together while learning about Gurudev, bonding as a Chinmaya Family in the process.
During this yatra, one of the main priorities was to retrace the steps of Pujya Gurudev, thus deepening our understanding of Gurudev’s vision of Chinmaya Mission.  Know different members, we stand as one family – it will be a bonding experience for centers we visit and among the yatris.
As Guruji put it in the address, “Bharat did a Ram Dham when he visited Lord Rama in the forest; we are doing a Chinmaya Dham.”
Pujya Guruji did an introduction of the Delhi center, and its several branches, including DCST, CMD and CORD.
In 1953, Delhi became the third city, after Pune and Chennai, to host a jnana yagna by Pujya Gurudev.  He spoke on the Mandukya Karika for 91 days.  Since then, Delhi has been a hotbed of Chinmaya Mission Activity.
In 1992, Gurudev performed the Bhoomi Puja (Ground-breaking ceremony) for the Chinmaya Center for World Understanding (CCWU).  When Gurudev attained Mahasamadhi in 1993, his body was kept there overnight as devotees poured in to pay their respects to the Master.  The spot where his body sat during that night is now the site of a beautiful Samadhi Shrine surrounded by a lotus pond.
CCWU also houses Chinmaya Chetna, an interactive multimedia exhibit showing Gurudev’s life and teachings.  Photographs and videos capture Tapovan Kutir, Gurudev’s childhood and other precious moments with the Master.  It also gives us a broad view of what Chinmaya Mission is today.  Chinmaya Chetna shows how one noble ideal transformed an individual life and through it, the society at large.

October 20 Delhi to Uttarkashi via Dehra Doon

As we packed into the ATR Turbo-Prop, overflowing with enthusiasm to get going, we found out that the yatris’ luggage didn’t fit in the aircraft (everybody had packed light, apparently).  Swami Mitranandaji stayed back to get the rest of the luggage over successfully and arrived later that night at Uttarkashi.
All of us were reminded of Guruji’s words “Lord is a teacher and teaser.”
After a warm welcome from CM Dehra Doon, who also provided us with lunch and snacks for the trip, we boarded our next modes of transport, three buses named Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.  Guruji moved between the buses and spent time with all the yatris.
We arrived later that evening at Tapovan Chinmayam, a well kept, aesthetic, serene ashram at 9:20PM.  Swami Dhyananandaji was at the entrance with a garland to welcome Guruji. Nearby, we could hear the mother Ganga roaring. We experienced more teasing from the Lord as we were made to wait till the next morning to see the majestic Himalayas and beautiful Ganges.
A little about Uttarkashi: Situated 165 km from Rishikesh, the town is so high that even the lowest regions are 5,800 ft above sea level. It is bordered on all sides by a mountain range called Varanavata. The tributaries of the river Bhageerathi flow around the mountain tract like two hands hugging the plains. At the central point in the plains, almost like the lap of the mountain tract, is Ujeli. It is here where the Tapovan Kutir, the home of Swami Tapovan Maharaj, is.
Built in 1936 by some of his devotees, its location is truly unique. Built into the side of a hill, with the river Bhageerathi flowing beneath, it is a picture of serene solitude. The kutia was a small, spartan one-room hut where Tapovanji lived; it remains the same, untouched, even today. The mud-walled, dung-floor hut contains his cot and kamandalu (water pot) and little else. But the little verandah outside the hut, where the Mahatma would sit and marvel at nature’s beauty or give Vedantic discourses, has been converted into a shrine. Devotees speak in hushed tones of profound experiences while meditating there. It is here that Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda spent several years studying at the feet of his guru.
Recently the capacity of Tapovan ashram was increased. A 3-storey building, Tapovan Chinmayam, built on land donated by a devotee, was inaugurated on 15 March 2005 by Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda. It has 24 well-equipped rooms with balconies, all with a breathtaking view of the Bhageerathi and surrounding mountain range.
Today the ashram can house around 130 people. The satsang hall on the ground floor of Tapovan Chinmayam can comfortably seat about 300 people. A large, white marble murti of Lord Jagadeeshwara sits in the middle of the stage, with Goddess Saraswati and Lord Ganesha gracing either side. Portraits of Swami Tapovanji Maharaj and Pujya Gurudev look on. The foyer is dedicated to a pictorial life sketch of Swami Tapovanji Maharaj.

October 21 Uttarkashi

Most of the yatris would agree that waking up in the Tapovan ashram was similar to entering a state of meditative contemplation. The presence of Swami Tapovanji Maharaj was easy to feel and difficult to deny.
After everyone had eaten breakfast, Guruji invited everyone to see Gurudev’s kutia.  There, the yatris observed the humble dwelling of a master in the making.  Later that morning, Guruji shared that it was the 26th anniversary of his sanyasa diksha. He described how spending that day in Tapovan Kutir made him feel very blessed.  Guruji then proceeded to describe, very movingly, how he met Gurudev and how Guruji came to Uttarkashi.
We made a pilgrimage to the nearby Soumya Kashi temple, which is over 6000 years old. Individual abhishek (oblations) was done by everyone.  Then we had lunch, rested, drank tea and then had satsang with Guruji.  He described the five most important places for the different stages of spiritual seeking.  Varanashi is ideal for shravana, Haridwar and Rishikesh are considered the best for mananam, and Uttarkashi and Gangotri are optimum for Nididyasanam.  After coming to Uttarkashi, Guruji’s advice was for all the yatris to just abide in their own selves.  Following that, we performed a samashti padukapooja for Guruji’s sanyasa diksha day. The ceremony was most certainly a culmination of that day’s descriptions by Guruji of his initiation into the wonderful world of Chinmaya Mission.
Chinmaya Mission’s foundation is based on two different dynamics given to Gurudev by his two gurus: the intense unwavering tapas of Swami Tapovan Maharaj, and Swami Sivananda’s love and compassion for all. Gurudev’s style of teaching and imparting knowledge can be seen as a combination of both.  Guruji explained that the early members of Chinmaya Mission were the bedrock that provided the foundation upon which the organization is built today.
At 6:30 in the evening, we performed both Tapovan and Ganga aarti.
During satsang with Swami Dhyananandaji, he explained that Chinmaya Mission’s origins are in Uttarkashi. He wonderfully described how the importance of Uttarkashi is described in Skanda Puranam Kedar Kand.

October 22 Uttarkashi

Guruji gave us a discourse on the four verses of Tapovan Stuti composed spontaneously while he was posted in San Jose in 1989.
Tapovan Stuti is a personification of the virtue of renunciation found in Swami Tapovan Maharaj. Sanyas Dharma reached its pinnacle in him.
At 10am we went for a dip in the Ganges at the confluence of two rivers Aasi and Bhageerathi and refreshed our spirits. Guruji was the first one to make a dip followed by everybody else.
Lunch was at the ashram of Mata Brahmajyoti or Babaji as she is fondly called. She has been witness to Chinmaya Mission’s entire Guru Shishya Parampara. She knew Swami Taponvanji Maharaj well; Gurudev considered her his younger sister; and Guruji always pays his respects to her when he visits Uttarkashi. She has deep closeness and a very high regard for Guruji. During her satsang, she likened Gurudev to Veda Vyasa.
Swami Mitranandaji shared his experiences on yatras as a powerful means of self purification in the evening satsang.
Many of the yatris were invited to sing bhajans with Guruji.
The bhajan session ended with prayer song addressed to God and Guru, Prarthana Geetham composed by Guruji.

October 23 Uttarkashi to Haridwar via Rishikesh

We boarded the buses at 8:30AM, today saying bye to Swami Dhyanannadaji and his efficient staff members.  As we followed curvy road, we got to enjoy the majesty of the Himalayan mountains with mother Ganges flowing by our side.  Intermittently, we got glimpses of snowcapped peaks of Gomukhi Mountains where Gangotri and Gomukh reside.
Guruji and Mitrananadaji shifted between the buses, interacting with all of us, as we took a few tea stops and ate our lunch packets packed fondly by Dhyanandaji’ team on our way.
Rishikesh is considered the Yoga capital of the world and is a famous centre of pilgrimage.
It is also known as the gateway to the Himalayas and is located 25 km from another holy city, Haridwar. Rishikesh is the starting point for travelling to the sites that form the Char Dham pilgrimage – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
It was here that Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda began his spiritual journey, when he met the great Swami Sivananda, who initiated him into sanyasa. Sivananda Ashram on the banks of the Ganga is one of Rishikesh’s many famous ashrams.
The nearby Haridwar is famous for its temples. In Haridwar, the Ganga first emerges from the mountains to bless the plains.
The point at which the river is considered to enter the plains is known as Hari-ki-Pairi, or the feet of Sri Hari. Thousands of pilgrims come to the spot every day to take a holy dip in it.
We reached Swami Sivananda’s Ashram in Rishikesh by about 4PM to a warm welcome.
We offered our prostrations to Swami Sivananda’s Samadhi shrine.  Swami Sivananda was Swami Chinmayanda’s Dhikhsa Guru, initiating him into Sanyas, before he moved to Uttarkashi to pursue further instruction under the tutelage of Swami Tapovan. We then visited Swami Sivananda’s kutir where he spent his time while at Rishikesh.  This is maintained immaculately by his devotees.
Every day the Divine Life Society has bhajans at Sivananda Kutir, followed by Ganga Aarti.  This evening Guruji was their honored guest leading bhajans and aarti.  As we performed the Ganga aarti in the sunset, our diyas merging with other diyas from the temples was a remarkable and uplifting sight to see.
Then we proceeded to Siyaram Janaki Vallab Seva Sadan, a wonderful dharmshala run by the family of one of the fellow Yatris, Kamal and Shashi Gupta and is fully equipped with all amenities including internet, a/c etc.
Their heartfelt welcome to Guruji and his Yatris with special garlands from all the way from Vrindavan and rose petals followed by a sumptuous meal personally attended by the owners who looked after each and every needs of us was indeed touching and showed us Indian hospitality in all its grace. “Athiti Devo Bhava”
During Guruji’s satsang there, he gave each of us a pot of Ganga Jal provided by our kind hosts.

October 24th Haridwar to Sidhbari

We were split into two groups for our charter flight from Dehra Doon to Dharmasala airport.  Guruji accompanied the first group and Swami Mitrananadaji accompanied the second group.
The second group had the welcome opportunity to visit the Manasa Devi temple before leaving Haridwar.  We went by Hari-Ki-Pairi on our way to Manasa Devi Temple.  Herculean preparations of cleaning up and site preparations are going on in Haridwar were Maha Kumbh Mela will occur next year in anticipation of more than 1.2 crores of pilgrims.
Manasa Devi is situated at the top of the hill accessible both by feet and by cable car.  We opted for the cable car, it was a wonderful journey and were happy to see how well organized the temple darshan process is.  We did a marathon temple darshan in an hour and returned to get ready for our flight.
After a hearty lunch from our wonderful hosts, we bade goodbye and boarded our charter flight at the Dehra Doon airport. The flight itself was very comfortable while we got to enjoy the regal views of Himalayas as we flew into Dharmasala.
We arrived in Sidhabari, the resting place of our Pujya Gurudev, in the foothills of the Dhauladhar mountains where we were warmly greeted by Swami Subodhananda and the earlier group of yatris.
The valley of the Siddhas, Sidhbari, nestling in the lap of the Himalayas is an awe-inspiring showcase of nature and soul. Swami Chinmayananda chose Sidhbari as a suitable location for a Sandeepany in the Himalayas. Pujya Gurudev must have felt the divine vibrations of the place where Kapila Muni once lived.
Construction began in 1979 but was beset by howling winds which disturbed the construction process. Then, as per Gurudev’s sankalpa, a Veera Hanumanji idol was installed. The imminent arrival of “Vayu-putra” resolved the issues with the wind. The well-known sculptor Sri Kashinath of Shimoga sculpted the cement concrete idol of Hanumanji in Veerasana posture. It is 25 ft tall and rests on a 7 ft granite pedestal. The idol was consecrated on 10th October 1982 by Pujya Gurudev.
Veera Hanumanji is seated at Sidhbari under the milky sky, open to the embrace of his father, Vayu, the Wind God. Hanumanji successfully keeps the damaging winds at bay. By worshipping the deity, one gains strength, courage, fame, alertness, eloquence and wisdom. Once in five years a consecration ceremony (Mahamastakabhishekam) of the idol is performed for which devotees from all parts of the world gather.
This is also the Samadhi Sthala of Gurudev. Devotees from all corners of the globe come to meditate, worship, and bask in the presence of the Master, whose mortal remains are buried under his sculpted image. The Bhu Samadhi of Pujya Gurudev was done on 9th August 1993.
Built in traditional Kerala style, the Samadhi Sthala houses Swamiji’s Ashtadhatu Pratima, or sculpture made of eight metals. Worship and aarti is offered twice daily.
The Samadhi is the most revered and an intense abode of silence and the focal point for ashram residents and visitors.
We celebrated Swami Mitranandaji’s birthday today.
The evening Aarti was at 6 pm at Gurudev’s Samadhi Sthal, followed by Aarti at the Ram Mandir and at the glorious open-air Hanuman. After the evening Aarti , Guruji gave a short satsang. He described the history of our ashram at Sidhbari – although it opened in 1981, the idea had started out a few years earlier envisioning this as a place of retreat. In addition, however, Gurudev also wanted to give back to the surrounding village communities that had served various saints across the Himalayas for countless generations.  What was once a baron windy hillock, with Gurudev’s blessings has now become a verdant and serene ashram visited by many tourists as well as devotees.
It soon evolved to become a perfect Triveni Sangam of Gyan, Bhakti and Karma yogas, with Vedanta courses in Hindi for knowledge, the Hanuman and Ram Mandir for devotion, and various community service projects across over 500 villages, including vocational projects for women. These projects eventually grew in to the Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development (CORD), about which we will hear about in detail.

October 25th Sidhbari

We started our day with a morning satsang at  7:30 am, with Pujya Guruji at Gurudev’s Kutia.  Guruji started off by introducing Shivaramji, fondly called as “Babaji”.  He started serving Gurudev at the age of 22 and continuing on for more than 5 decades.  Babaji tells us that Gurudev has never left us, he is always here, and I felt that when he spoke those words they were indeed true.
Guruji then described the history of the Dhauladhar Mountains and its spiritual relevance. He further elaborated the details of Kapila Muni Gufa(cave) as wells  history of Sidhbari(valley of the Siddhas), wherein our ashram is located.  Kapila Muni is one of the 24 Vishnu Avtars and was a Siddha who said to have given the absolute knowledge to his mother Devhuti near the Kapila Gufa.  Devhuti then merged back into the absolute and a rivulet was formed which is there even today.
Guruji also talked about the history of the Sidhbari Ashram.
At 9:30 am, we went to the CORD office which is a short distance away, where we were given a detailed presentation of all the programs and activities of CORD by Padmashree, Dr. Kshama Metre and her team, followed by a tour.  We were split into 3 groups for the tour of the center’s activities.  Not one person left untouched by the impact the CORD has made to thousands of people around the villages and its contribution to the sustainable local economy that has developed in the villages leading to even reverse migration from the cities.
Reviewing the details, CORD Sidhbari has touched the lives of over 55,000 beneficiaries directly, and over 2,75,000 indirectly, in over 561 villages of 12 Blocks in District of Kangra and a few villages in District Hamirpur.  CORD has recently begun replicating its work at two sites in Orissa (Deuladhia & Lathikatta) and two sites in Tamil Nadu (Tamaraipakkam & Siruvani).  (Please see websites and for more information about CORD).
We returned for the Paduka pooja conducted by Sharadaji.  It was wonderful to see how the students of the Vedanta course welcomed Guruji into the Paduka pooja venue with elaborate chanting.
Many of our Yatris made a short trip McLeod Ganj  where HH Dalai Lama’s monastery is located.
In the evening, Guruji introduced Dr. Dwarakanath, Chinmaya Mission, Boston and Dr. Pillai, Chinmaya Mission, Los Angeles and requested them to talk about their experiences with Gurudev and the Mission. The heartfelt stories and life changing moments they shared with us touched everyone.
After dinner, there was a total change of scene when Dr. Dwarakanath showed his theatrical skills as a comedian by doing a “Manisha roast”, leaving us in stitches.

October 26th Sidhbari

The inspiration and excitement of the CORD visit from the previous day was still very much with us. Dr. Kshama Mhetre and Guruji hosted a Q&A session for all the Yatris on CORD.
Guruji described the attitude with which service should be performed (a hidden satsang!), and then went on to describe how various training programs were being added to the Mission, including a Samaj Sewa training course to train volunteers to go and serve the local population under CORD. Many of the Yatris had several questions about the activities of CORD – their amazement and curiosity could not be contained. We met Nicole, a trainee form Canada, who has come under a CIDA program and Usha Rao, a junior in college, from New Jersey who is volunteering and learning at CORD.
Under Dr. Dwarakanath’s encouragement and enthusiasm, the momentum built, and by the end of the 90 minute session, the Yatris from the different centers from different parts of the world committed to supporting the cause personally and through their centers.  In the span of a few minutes at the end, we secured commitments of $ 500,000 for CORD!!
This is the true Chinmaya spirit of sacrifice and service, giving more than what we take and producing more than what we consume. May Gurudev’s grace and blessings always shine down on us!
After lunch, 24 yatris departed from Sidhbari for New Delhi. Swami Mitranandji was with this group. Guruji stayed behind with the other yatris.
Some of us made a hike to the Kapila Guha and paid respects to Devhuti rivulet.  It is a mystical place with small stone images lining up against the woods.
As the day passed the mountains were ornamented with the first dusting of snow glittering atop the Dhauladhar Mountains leaving a white sheen.  Sharadaji pointed out to me the Shiva and Parvati ranges behind Gurudev’s Samadhi stal.  Shiva looked white and majestic in the background and Parvati followed the same silhouette in the front in dark color.
Following the evening Aarti and Paduka Puja, we had a brief Kirtan and Satsang session with Guruji. Many brahmacharis/brahmacharinis attended too, and they sang bhajans in various languages. In taking a census of the brahmachari students, we realized that many had come from different states (including non-Hindi speaking) to study here.
Guruji asked the entire audience a question for us to reflect upon– “How many of us truly enjoy our work and how many consider it a burden?”. He went on to explain how the secret of enjoying work was to do the work for someone we love, and that should be God. If we dedicate all our work to Him, then all our work becomes a joy.

October 27 Sidhbari to Bangalore

We had a late start for the day, some of us went for a walk and cherished the waning moments of our stay at Sidhbari while others tried to cram all the things they bought at Guru Kripa and Guru Dhara (outlets for the products made by the villagers and differently-abled beneficiaries of CORD) into their overstuffed bags.
We participated in the Guru Paduka Pooja in Gurudev’s Kutia after breakfast and went back to stuffing the bags and for taking another look at the bookstore.
After an early lunch, we went to the airport to board the chartered flight for Delhi. The majestic Himalayas waved us goodbye. We got a warm welcome in the Delhi airport by our Delhi CM devotees and the 24 yatris who came early.
The airlines helped us transfer from the charter to jet airways and we took off to Bangalore.
Right from 1956, when Gurudev held his first yajna in Bangalore, the city has been one of the most active centers on the Chinmaya world map.
We landed in Bangalore with much anticipation and enthusiasm at the end of the day, welcomed by many local members. We stayed at Hotel Ramanashree, owned by a Chinmaya mission trust member, where we received a warm and loving welcome by Swamijis, Brahmacharis and devotees and the owner.