Shri Babaji's 56th Birthday Celebrations
On the auspicious occasion of Shri Babaji's 56th birthday, devotees gathered from around the world to celebrate at the Dehradun Ashram, home of the Master's Tapas sadhana. Leading up to the day, Dehradun and the surrounding areas experienced the heaviest rainfall in forty years. Flooding and landslides meant many devotees had to undertake arduous journeys to get there. Their pilgrimage was accompanied by a sense that this was to be a significant occasion for the Mission.
The functions commenced on the morning of Sunday 19 September with Shri Babaji performing abishekam (ritual bathing) to the idols of His Guru Shri Swamiji, Lord Ganesh and Shivalingam. Babaji's recitation of the ancient mantras infused the atmosphere with Divine power and presence. Bhajans then rang out as talented musicians from Malaysia and India offered an accomplished expression of their devotion to Shri Swamiji and Shri Babaji. After aarati, everyone shared a blessed meal. An evening program was also held comprising bhajans, aarati and satsang with Master.
On the morning of Shri Babaji's birthday, 20 September, devotees congregated on the ground floor of the Ashram for a homa (fire ceremony). After Babaji made the purnahuti (final offering) and performed aarati to His Guru Shri Swamiji, devotees joined in two hours of devotionally charged bhajans, before sharing a blessed meal.
After more than ten consecutive days of heavy rain, the sky cleared before lunch, enabling the main evening function to be held outdoors as planned. Around eight hundred devotees gathered and enjoyed the chanting and bhajans as they eagerly awaited the Master's entrance. Shortly thereafter, Shri Babaji entered, taking the stage, which was spectacularly decorated with flowers and lights, and paid His respects by offering a garland to His Guru Shri Swamiji. Devotees lined up to perform pada puja (washing of feet) to Shri Babaji. Babaji was later joined by His brother disciple General Hanut Singhji who had been invited for the occasion.
In his poignant address on this auspicious occasion, a message that was to assume a special significance this year, Shri Babaji spoke about how a birthday is the time to remind oneself that the body is impermanent and that to achieve a permanent peace and happiness one needs to dedicate oneself to sadhana as a priority. Babaji also said that this is a time to look back upon life's journey, and He thanked all His brother disciples who had worked alongside Him to spread Shri Swamiji's name and message. Some had served before Babaji's Tapas, some during Tapas, and some continue to serve today such as the many devotees who had gathered from India, Malaysia and the UK. Some devotees, unable to make it to Dehradun, continue to serve faithfully in their local missions around the world. While so many people have played a valuable role, Shri Babaji called out a few for a special mention.
Speaking about true renunciation, Shri Babaji formally initiated His disciples, Rekha into sannyas. It was an event of immense pride and joy for all those in attendance. Babaji said that they had long ago come to the Ashram for this purpose only. Rekhaji had given up her life to serve Babaji like a mother during His Tapas and thenceforth in the Ashram and His tours around the world. Babaji recounted how Shri Swamiji had initiated Him into sannyas by dipping His head in the Ganges and explaining that He should not claim anything, but should let others recognize Him as a monk by His actions. Babaji explained that Rekhaji had already adopted sannyas mentally, but that an external indicator had its own significance. If people respect the Master, they should also respect those who are most closely serving Him, Shri Babaji said. Babaji initiated Rekhaji into sannyas in front of the audience in His Guru's simple and informal manner, by blessing a piece of vibhuti, a coconut and cloth for her new dress, and pressing in between the eyebrows. He fixed a date, the auspicious day of Kartik purnima, to officially take up the new dress and external way of life. Babaji also indicated that she would adopt a new name at that time. Babaji went on to say that one can serve wholeheartedly even without taking to monkhood, and then thanked others also for their many years of service to the Ashram.
General Hanut Singhji also congratulated and blessed Rekhaji, stating that a life of sadhana is something to be deeply respected. He explained that it is through the total dedication of sannyins that the teachings and traditions of the Guru parampara have been handed down for millennia in India, and that now it will be this way in Shri Swamiji's Mission too.
Shri Babaji offered shradhanjali (tributes) to His Guru in the form of a song, after which devotees sang their own birthday tribute to Shri Babaji. Following aarati to Shri Swamiji and Shri Babaji, Babaji cut the birthday cake and the crowd went up one by one to convey their pranams and receive blessings from the Yogi. Finally, the entire crowd shared a blessed meal as they absorbed the joy of the occasion.
Below is a selection of the photos taken on that special day. Please click on the icons to view the images in their full size.