The Ram Naam Aradhana festival was formally launched by Paramahamsaji at Sri Panchdashnam Paramahamsa Alakh Bara, Rikhia, Deoghar, as a special sadhana program for one and all during the auspicious month of Marga Seersha from 26th November to 24th December 1996. This place had been specially chosen for the event because Lord Shiva, by his very own declaration in the Ramayana, is the param bhakta of Lord Rama. In Paramahamsaji's own words, It is most befitting that Ram Naam is chanted here, as it is one of the abodes of Shiva. The Lord Himself has proclaimed that He is present wherever Rama's name is chanted with devotion. This admiration is mutual, for Sri Rama too has said the same of Lord Shiva. In their respective abodes they remain forever immersed in meditation of each other. For, in fact, they are one and the same.
With this in mind, Paramahamsaji, a Shaivite by tradition, had started worshipping Lord Rama at Rikhia Dham daily. The Ishta of Paramahamsaji is Lord Shiva and His Ishta is Lord Rama. What better way can there be to propitiate Lord Shiva for whom there is nothing more pleasing than the sound of Sri Rama's name, emphasizes Paramahamsaji.
With the sound of Ram Naam reverberating in the air, the marble idol of Maryada Purushottam Sri Ramji was brought by Swami Niranjan on his head and installed in the palanquin by Swami Atmananda, under the guidance of Paramahamsaji. Naam Ramayana, the 108 names of Sri Rama, was chanted with reverence, as well as sankirtans and bhajans, including 'Sumiran kar le mere mana...', which was to become the official bhajan of the one month event.
Paramahamsaji enlightened the gathering of devotees, old disciples and visitors with his inspiring satsang. The troupe from Calcutta, led by Arpita Sen, gave a fine performance of Bharat Natyam, a South Indian classical dance. Thus the opening day began with a dance to please Lord Shiva who Himself is known as Nataraja (the king of dancers). They say it is easy to please Lord Shiva, so Paramahamsaji somehow wanted to hook and rope in Mahadeva during the month long sadhana in order to either have His darshan or hear His voice. How far he succeeded in his mission to achieve ultimate bliss is known only to Paramahamsaji or the Lord Himself! Sri Rama prasad (blessings) of a cycle rickshaw and a thela were offered and handed over to Paramahamsaji's deserving and humble neighbours. The day came to a close with arati offered to Lord Rama, 'Sri Rama Chandra Kripalu Bhaju Man...'
Next morning Paramahamsaji visited the Akhara and Sukhman Marhi complexes, and blessed the fortunate audience with his informal on the spot satsangs. These satsangs were to become so popular and so informative that everyone followed Paramahamsaji wherever he went. After lunch and a short rest near Christ Kutir, people would again start collecting outside Bholenath Prasad Store for Paramahamsaji's satsang at 12 o'clock near Raghunath Kutir. With his wit, simplicity and straightforwardness, Paramahamsaji made these as informal and educative as possible, making issues crystal clear to the audience which hailed from different cultures and strata of society from all over the globe, in a language everyone could understand. The delegates would again be seated at their respective places for the Ram Naam Aradhana session starting at 2p.m.
With Paramahamsaji at the helm and as the guiding spirit, Swami Niranjan as master of ceremonies, coordinating and overseeing all the arrangements, and Swami Satsangi with her team of devoted sannyasins, karma sannyasins, jigyasus and volunteers implementing the instructions from moment to moment in toto, every aspect of the month long sadhana program was flawless.
As the days rolled on people thronged in the hundreds and thousands to listen to Paramahamsaji's early morning, noon and afternoon satsangs, as well as attending the daily Ram Naam Aradhana programs. The atmosphere was really charged from the very first day and it increased as the days progressed. Eminent kathakars (speakers) from M.P., Orissa and Bihar gave their discourses on Ramacharitamanas. Smt. Krishna Devi with her lucid style, narrated the 'Manas Katha' from 4th to 6th December. Prof. Suresh Dube from Music University, Khairaghar (M.P.) entertained the gathering with his fine bhajans and kirtans. World famous Pandvani troupe from M.P. led by Smt. Shanti Devi Chailak kept everyone thoroughly amused from 7th to 9th December with episodes from the Mahabharata.
From 10th to 18th December it was Navanha Parayan (nine days recitation) of Ramacharitamanas from 12 to 2p.m led by Sannyasi Mantranidhi of Munger. Learned Prof. Prema Panduranga from Madras gave her discourses in English on Valmiki Ramayana on 10th and 11th December. From the 12th to 14th Dr. Manas Vishwas from Datia (M.P.) narrated 'Manas Katha', while kirtan Samrat Puroshottam Jalota gave a real feast of famous bhajans and kirtans on the evening of the 14th. Lucky indeed are Paramahamsaji's humble neigh- bours who get all such experiences free of cost at their doorstep. Even the well to do people from big cities are not that fortunate despite their spending capacity.
The 15th December was a very important and significant day for everyone as Paramahamsaji had officially declared that the wedding of Sitaji with Sri Ramji was to take place. Arrangements for the wedding were made in minute detail as per traditional Indian custom and ritual. Ladies' sangeet, using traditional slang and calling out of names in good humour, was a real treat to witness. The wedding took place symbolically in the royal way as if a real marriage was taking place. People came dressed in their best attire and offered wedding gifts generously to Sitaji. Ornaments, sarees, wrist watches, cosmetics, cash and whatnot flowed in as per the capacity of each person. The gifts thus collected would, of course, be further offered to Paramahamsaji's humble neigh- bouring Sitas on their wedding days.
Thus, on 15th December, Lord Rama, who had been all alone on the stage as a brahmachari, became a grihastha after the wedding to His beloved Sitaji. The two were now in the same palanquin adorning the tastefully decorated stage. All the delegates attended the shahibhoj, a feast for the royal wedding. The entire day was devoted to devotional songs and classical dances as per Paramahamsaji's wish. Miss Rila Hota performed Odissi dances to entertain the maximum crowd that had assembled at Alakh Bara. Hereafter the Sri Rama prasad offered to Paramahamsaji's humble neighbours came to be known as Sita Ram prasad. A neighbouring lady giving birth to a girl child on that auspicious day, named the infant Sita and received befitting prasad subsequently at Paramahamsaji's directions.
True to his slogan for the year: 'Hara Rikhia, Bhara Rikhia' (green Rikhia, prosperous Rikhia) Paramahamsaji provided the farmers of Rikhia panchayat with high quality seed for vegetables and grains, agricultural implements, insecticides, sprayguns, etc., as well as expertise from time to time. School children received books, pens, pencils, rubbers, geometry boxes, etc., as well as Ramacharitamanas for senior students. Teachers were given shawls, Ramacharitamanas, etc., as Sita Rama prasad. Sewing machines, cycle rickshaws and thelas were given, as well as cows and calves to those who had received full training at the goshala (cow shelter) on the premises of Sukhman Marhi. These were some of the daily offerings to Paramahamsaji's neighbours, often with an equally handsome amount of bohni (first income) from the purses of those who had presented the items on behalf of Sivananda Math.
Between 16th and 19th December, Swami Poonyananda Giri Maharaj, Mahamandaleshwar and head of the Niranjani Akhara to which our sannyasa tradition belongs, Swami Rajeshwarananda Saraswati and Md. Duad Khan from M.P. enlightened the ever-increasing gathering with their dis- courses on jivatama, Paramatma and Ram kathas. Kirtan mandalis (groups) from Munger, Puri and Satna sang kirtan during the afternoon sessions which was appreciated.
On December 20th was it was Bholenath's birthday and Paramahamsaji attended the shahibhoj (community feast) arranged at the Sukhman Marhi premises. In the afternoon there was a discourse on Manas by Swami Bhagavatananda Saraswati from Haridwar (U.P.)
A unique event on that day was the installation of Guru Granth Sahib on the stage by Sikh priests from Patna Sahib, Delhi and Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. The entire area was pervaded with purity, serenity and positive vibrations. Shabad kirtans by different Ragi jathas kept the peaceful audience spellbound. It was a new experience for most people, especially the foreign delegates who witnessed the entire proceedings with rapt attention, reverence and devotion, whether they could under- stand the language or not. In the charged atmosphere, the very essence of the beautiful verses from the Holy Guru Granth Sahib and the lively kirtans were surely working on the deeper layers of everyone's mind. Paramahamsaji's 'sum and substance' of the teachings and underlying meaning, and Swami Niranjan's explanations in English and Hindi kept the gathering fully informed. Siropas (turbans) were presented to Paramahamsaji and Swami Niranjan by Sikh priests and dignitaries as a mark of respect and a rare honour. The day came to a close with ardas (prayers) and delicious kada prasad. 'Kanthe mala jivha Ram...', was on most people's lips.
For the next two days shabad kirtans by Ragi jathas were undoubtedly the highlight. On the 21st a black robe was offered to Paramahamsaji and a turban was tied around his head. In this attire Paramahamsaji looked like another incarnation of Guru Nanak. What an aura he had around him! It was a unique event, never before witnessed. Latecomers looked in vain for Paramahamsaji in his usual seat and could not spot him very easily sitting just behind the Holy Guru Granth Sahib, slowly waving the sacred chanwar (fan) with his right hand, while the ever shining bright eyes were gently closed in meditation.
Similar attire had also been offered to Swami Niranjan which he wore throughout the concluding day, though the turban had been on right from the time it had been tied around his head. The quantity of kada prasad or traditional deg had to be doubled on the concluding day to cater for the mammoth gathering on Saturday and Sunday. World renowned music maestro Pandit Jasraj sang classical bhajans and kirtans to conclude the auspicious evening.
On 23rd December the highlight was 'Bharat Milap', a play enacted by the children of Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal from Munger. Their slogan 'Swamiji ko lagte achchhe kaun, Munger ke bachche aur kaun...' besides 'Hari Hari Hari Om' were quite befitting as Swamiji knows their potential and loves them too. So the third generation is working towards the propagation and consolidation of yoga activities under the guidance of the second generation and the patronage of the first generation.
Baul king Sri Puran Chandra Das from Calcutta gave his famous Banga Bhakti Sangeet on the afternoon of the 24th, but the grand finale to the month long Ram Naam Aradhana was the famous classical Kuchipudi dances performed by Dr. Sampat and his troupe from Andhra Pradesh. The darling of the overflowing crowd of over 12,000 people was a three and a half year old girl artist named Arpana, giving her maiden performance at Rikhia Dham. Thus it was dance performance at the beginning, the middle and at the conclusion of the massive sadhana campaign and Lord Shiva, the Nataraja, must have been easily and thoroughly pleased.
Ram Naam Aradhana ended with people still humming Naam Ramayana, 'Sumiran kar le mere mana...', 'Kanthe mala jivha Ram...' and 'Sri Chandra Kripalu Bhaju Man...' . This unique program was a fine blend of bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, nada yoga, karma yoga, good humour and entertain- ment all rolled into one by the one and only Paramahamsaji.