Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare . . . Jaya Radhe Radhe Radhe . .. the joyful sounds of the Jhoolan kirtans are still buzzing in our heads and they will remain there for some time, while the memories of this cheerful festival will stay to colour our hearts forever. To participate in Jhoolan 2004, from 26th-30th August, was a unique experience for the whole Greek group. In fact it was an international Greek group, for among us were people from Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, England and Germany. We arrived in Rikhia on the eve of Jhoolan to a warm welcome from Swami Niranjan, who wondered, "You left the Olympics to come to Rikhia?"
For five days we were the guests of the kanyas and the batuks of Rikhia, for three hours each evening in the yajnashala, or should we say Brindavan? Who could tell the difference? The place was transformed into the divine abode of Sri Krishna and Radha. Each day the stage was decorated with different flowers and colours to represent aspects of Sri Krishna's life and environment. Sri Krishna and Radha were seated on two cradles from which two ribbons made their way to the centre of the yajnashala. And every day after arati we were all invited to play for a second like a gopi, and give Sri Krishna a swing.
The program included akhanda (unbroken) kirtan for three hours. Who would believe that these young girls, the kanyas who were leading the kirtan, could go on and on for three hours singing the name of Sri Krishna with so much energy? Their enthusiasm pulled us all out of little selves, out of our troubled minds and into an exhilarating festival of love! There are no words to describe the joy, the energy and the emotion that was continuously rising along with the temperature. I heard people say the temperature in the yajnashala probably reached 60 degrees Celsius. Although practically bathed in sweat, we just couldn't stop singing and clapping and dancing. It seemed as if we were bathing not in our sweat but in a stream of ecstasy, and we just didn't want to step out of it. Hundreds of hearts were vibrating love and joy in adoration of Sri Krishna.
It is said that whenever Krishna put the flute to his lips, the gopis were unable to control themselves and would leave their homes, run to Krishna and begin to dance as if the flute had cast a spell on them. In this Jhoolan program we were all somehow transformed and transported into the streets of Brindavan on a voyage of experiencing the cheerful living and letting go of the gopis in their pure love for Krishna. Such was the effect of the energy and vibrations emitted from the innocent and pure hearts of the kanyas. I will never forget the two kanyas on the last day who danced in total ecstasy and devotion, completely lost in front of the stage, in front of Krishna!
In the mornings there was Satsang with Swamiji. He spoke about love and dharma; about the innocence and purity of heart as seen in the kanyas. Swami Satsangi talked about the work being done with the children in Rikhia; how they are not being 'reformed' but are given the support and environment to grow naturally. How lucky and blessed these children are!
On Sunday the silent wish of all came true and we had the darshan of Paramahamsaji. He spoke to us about the 'Krishna culture' and the need for it in the West. The West needs the playfulness of Krishna, needs the 'Radha business' and it needs Krishna's teachings on the art of living. Paramahamsaji also spoke of the similarities between Krishna and Christ.
On the last day Swamiji offered prasad to all and his good wishes: "Take this diksha of Jhoolan with you. The highest mystic experience is fusion with the higher Self, fusion with God." The end of the program was another unforgettable experience. We were called to participate in the distribution of prasad to the kanyas and batuks, while everyone was singing, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna ..." Even the buckets filled with prasad Were dancing as they moved from hand to hand. "A lesson in love," Swamiji said.
While we wore celebrating Jhoolan, another act of bhakti was being performed outside Rikhia. Hundreds and thousands of pilgrims were walking towards Deoghar from different parts of India to do their pilgrimage at Baidyanath Dham, the famous Shiva temple. On the way to Munger all the streets, pathways, bridges, river banks and valleys were coloured by lines and lines of these pilgrims. India is certainly the land of bhakti, the land of spirit!
Indeed, we left the greatest event in Greece this summer, the Olympics, to come to Rikhia, and not even for a moment did the Olympics cross our minds. We left the blue waters of the Aegean to dive into the ocean of divine love and joy on Sri Krishna's birthday. "The best spa," someone commented. Definitely a different spa - total rejuvenation of body, mind, heart and spirit. A bath in transcendental love!