Kumbha Mela is observed in India every 3 years at Prayag, Ujjain, Haridwar, and Nashik. "Purna Kumbha Mela" is observed every 12 years, and is always at Prayag, where the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the pre-historic Saraswati meet. Hindus flock in their millions, as a supreme act of faith, for the Darshan of Ganga Mata, being the largest gathering of pilgrims on earth. More than 70 million pilgrims would have gathered at Prayag this year. This gathering is the largest single gathering of pilgrims for any single event on earth. It is perhaps this very faith that has brought us all here today. We in South Africa, are supremely blessed through the Grace of Sri Swami Sivananda and Pujya Swami Sahajananda, to be able to have Darshan of Mother Ganga right here at the Sivananda International Cultural Centre, which is thousands of kilometres from the present Kumbha Mela in Prayag, India.
It is said that Ganga water has a recursive effect in that even one drop of Ganga water when mixed with any other water becomes Ganga water. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: "Among streams, I am the Ganga". The Devi Bhagavatam states that whoever utters "Gange, Gange" even from a distance of hundreds of kilometres, becomes purified from all sins, and attains Vaikunta, the world of Vishnu. Lord Dhanwantari states: "When the body is afflicted by senility and diseases, the Holy water of Mother Ganga is the medicine, and Lord Narayana, from whose Feet Mother Ganga emanates, is the great physician". Ganga water has even been tested scientifically, and found to have no germs or bacteria. This comes as no surprise, as the river Ganges is the physical form of the Goddess Herself.
Once, while performing Ganga Arati at the Sivanandashram in Chatsworth, Durban, one of the Ganga Arati girls actually saw Ganga Mata manifest in the pool in her real form as that of the deity. She wrote the following letter to Pujya Swamiji, on 04 June 2005, "Swamiji, while I was performing Ganga Arati, I suddenly noticed Ganga Mata rise from the Ganga pool. Ganga Mata was dressed in red and gold, and she wore a crown. Ganga Mata was smiling, and raised her right hand with her palm open. I saw a big red dot in the centre of her palm".
The Ganga Havan, Ganga Stotram, Ganga Chalisa and the readings from the books Eternal Ganga and The Greatness of Ganga all created a vibrant and "electrifying" effect on the more than 1500 devotees present at the morning session. By the time Satsang commenced, the total number who attended reached 1785.
The morning session concluded with the floating of lamps and Ganga Arati. Through the Grace of Sri Gurudev and Ganga Mata, we have obtained Ganga water this week from the holy Pilgrimage spot in Prayag, India. This is most auspicious as the water was brought from the actual confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati Rivers where the Ardh Kumba Mela is currently being held in India. Using this water, our Rishikumars consecrated our four Ganga Pools— Bhagirathi, Ganga Rani, Yamuna and Saraswati.. As the lamps floated on the waters of Bhagirathi, the congregation joined in the chanting of "Hare Hare Gange, Jay Ma Gange". It was soothing and spiritual and had a tranquil effect.
As a tribute to Mother Ganga devotees thereafter went on the Yatra to the 4 Ganges Pools. Devotees prayed to Ganga Mata to bless them with strength and peace to cope with the challenges of life. The Holy water of Mother Ganga blesses, purifies and heals. Ganga Jal can also be offered for those who are ill and for the souls of those who have passed on. After offering the sacred water, they sprinkled the water on their heads. Breakfast was served after the Yatra.
The second session commenced at 10am with Satsang in the Prayer Hall. We were honoured to have with us the Honourable Dr C. P. Yogi, Director of the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre in the office Consul General of India-Durban.
The glory of Mother Ganga is aptly captured in the 8th verse of "Prayer to Ganga". The translation is as follows: "The light that emanates from Thee is soft like that of the moon, and Thy waters flow in all its purity. He who surrenders to Thee will attain success in all undertakings (material and spiritual).
The Crest of Divine Life Society of South Africa was instituted by Pujya Swami Sahajananda and it symbolizes the synthesis of the four great paths to God-realization, viz., Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga. This being our 70th anniversary year, we offered a special 70th Anniversary logo at the lotus feet of our Divine Master in gratitude for his ever-guiding hand in nurturing and leading the mission in South Africa. The honour of unveiling the Logo was accorded to our Chief Guest of Honour, Dr C. P. Yogi.
Dr Yogi spoke on the Glory of Mother Ganga. In his short and powerful address, he said that Ganga was constantly in a state of flowing, in a state of changing. "When we are not ready for change, we become worldly. The moment we accept everything without any discrimination and without any preoccupied obsession to that change, then we can become spiritual. The continuous message of change, the continuous knowledge of change, the continuous example of change—Ganga is the example of this change. Ganga is the Holy River. Ganga is Mother. Mother is able to know, and have sense of change. Mother is always changing. She is giving, continuously giving, sharing. If you are empty then love (from the Mother) will come to you; if you are full then love will not come to you. Ganga has become an instrument in the Universe for change and that is why Ganga is such a holy place for spirituality. Krishna was considered as the most handsome person in the Universe because he was always fresh, he was always new, always living in the present. That was the source of the beauty of Krishna. And that is the source of the beauty of Ganga; that sense of newness, sense of holiness, sense of freshness, a sense of purity. When we can get rid of the obsessions that are coming from the outside world, then we are going towards salvation and moksha."
Pujya Swami Sahajananda's audio message was recorded on 8 September 1987. Pujya Swamiji concluded the speech as follows: "We pray for all those throughout the world who are suffering, who are forms of Gurudev. I always like to feel that my vision must expand to that extent that when I see a drunken man on the road, I will fall at his feet, taking him to be a form of Sivananda. That is the vision that we must have—the vision that sees God in every name and form. So, all those forms of God that are suffering in the world—in hospitals, in prisons, in asylums, those who have committed suicide, those who have been murdered, the murderers—we hope and pray that God will shower His Grace upon them, and that our Master's Grace will also be upon them. Also, all our donors throughout South Africa who are nourishing Gurudev's institution for the last 20, 30 or 40 years—we pray for their long life, health, peace and prosperity. For all our devotees of Gurudev who are not present here, and others who are overseas, we pray for Gurudev's Grace upon them."
The following two items also contributed to the success of this event:
1. The Sivananda Dance Academy professionally executed a dance in praise of Lord Siva.
2. The video presentation showed graphically the origin of the Kumbha Mela Festival at Prayag, Ujjain, Haridwar, and Nashik.
It was truly a day well spent. There were many newcomers who enjoyed the tranquil ambience of the precincts of the Centre. Today, we in South Africa, pay gratitude to our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda for his deep and abiding love for Mother Ganga, and to Pujya Swami Sahajananda, who built Ganga Ranis in all our Ashrams, thus enabling devotees and Hindus in S. A to perform Ganga Arati daily.