The World Yoga Convention registration process for Indian nationals took place at the newly-built Munger Museum, located approximately 500 metres from the ashram's main gate. The museum was completed a few months prior to the Convention and served as the perfect place to receive the thousands of national delegates registered for the event. The reception area became the registration desk to welcome guests and issue their WYC badge and 'Welcome pack' prasad.
The registration process was carried out with state-of-the-art technology in the form of small electronic tablets, about 20cm x 15cm in size. The registration interface displayed the registration details of each individual. In addition to the tablet was a barcode swiper. The combination made the registration process extremely fast and efficient.
Upon arrival guests were asked to quote their WYC registration number. Once the relevant badge was located, the barcode at the bottom of the delegates' badge was swiped. In no more than a few seconds the required information was viewed on the tablet. After ensuring the details were correct, one click and the guests were ticked as 'arrived'. The whole process was not only efficient, but environmentally-friendly as no paper-generated lists were required.
Ten sevaks were employed for the task of registering approximately four thousand national delegates from all over the country, as well as managing the crowds and trouble-shooting any glitches. Prior to the 21st October there had been a slow trickle of arrivals, which gave the registration team a chance to learn how to operate the technology and to become familiar with the registration process. The tablet and swiper were definitely user-friendly, however the sheer number of arrivals expected each day from the 21st onwards was not something that could be trailed and tested.
More than six hundred people were anticipated to arrive on the 21st, and despite a few teething problems (or challenges) the day went remarkably well. On the 22nd, the day before the Convention, the queue at the museum was thick with people and excitement filled the air. That day was simply non-stop, with many sevaks not having a break for lunch or dinner. Registrations continued from 6 am until late at night, peaking at approximately 1,500 delegates. The following day continued in the same vein, with the crowds gathering as early as 5 am. At this point in time, the registration team and process was running like a well-oiled machine, and another eight hundred people were registered for this historical event.
The hustle and bustle that filled the museum lobby over those three days resembled a busy Howrah Station at peak hour; however, as a participant, it was truly an extraordinary experience filled with shakti and divine grace.
The whole town of Munger was preparing to accommodate the national delegates who had come from every corner of India to participate in the World Yoga Convention. Many citizens and devotees in town were building new houses or painting their old houses to be able to offer beautiful rooms and additional space for beds to the guests. Many schools in Munger closed for seven days and the children enjoyed a novel holiday. The teachers offered their seva to provide accommodation in their schools.
The joint effort, dedication and goodwill of the entire city made it possible that over 3,000 national delegates were looked after with care and consideration in:
I will remember the World Yoga Convention 2013 as full of surprises. One of them was our accommodation, our home stay. As there was a delay in our arrival, we were informed not to report to the ashram but to go straight to our host. I called from Jamalpur station and felt as if our own family members were waiting for us. We received a very warm welcome.
We were a group of ten, six Sivananda Balak Ashram boys, Sannyasi Premmani, my two sons and myself. The transport facility to and from the ashram was always a fun ride for the children. We felt we were in an ashram away from the ashram, indeed, we are part of a worldwide Satyananda Yoga family. Due to large numbers we were prepared for tough situations, but everything was smooth and comfortable.
Our host family was an example of ideal grihasthas, living in the spirit of sahayoga, the yoga of helping. They took care of every one of our little needs. Our home stay was our initiation into warmth, love, culture, devotion of a whole family, and of course, guru's grace. We received so much more than we expected.
Akhand kirtan was amongst the many activities of the World Yoga Convention held at Ganga Darshan. Every day of the Convention, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Satyam Vatika Amphitheatre, groups of guests lead kirtan for up to two hours each. The kirtan was open for all to come and enjoy as they pleased.
I was told that my seva, being one of the organizers of this event, was 'VIP seva', but before the Convention I was not convinced. Organizing guests that were arriving only days before to sing kirtan continuously for 12 hours a day sounded like a logistical nightmare! But of course, I didn't count on the fact that this is no ordinary program, this is World Yoga Convention, envisaged and directed by Swamiji, with the blessings of Sri Swamiji.
Two days before program the massive banners of Sri Swamji with his hand held in blessings were up, on Main Building and the main gate, giving the direct perception that the event was in divine hands. We had met many of the kirtan group leaders, they knew their times, the basic expectations and they seemed ready to go.
On the first day, as the organizers, we were vigilant, on alert and trying to comprehend how it would all fit together. After the first day was a success we realized that actually the event had a flow of its own and we only had to facilitate what naturally arose from the commitment and dedication of the sevaks, YUVAs (Yuva Yoga Mitra Mandal) kirtanists and audience members. The venue sevaks had relaxed also, they began to enjoy the kirtan and welcome guests with big smiles, clapping hands and occasionally dancing feet. The YUVAs on duty would brightly give a big Hari Om to all as they entered. The structure of the kirtan schedule flowed, with a few adjustments. We met with all groups before their scheduled time, issues were resolved quickly and gaps in the timetable were filled by enthusiastic participants.
All the kirtan groups arrived at the appointed time. Eagerly, and often nervously, they waited for their time to start. Once on stage they would immerse themselves in kirtan and support each other to give the kirtan energy regardless of the number in the audience. They would finish with smiles, a look of appreciation that they had this opportunity and shine with guru's grace.
Every day was opened and closed by the Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal (BYMM) group. The young children were always eager to sing; they had put in hours of practice and couldn't wait to be on stage. When called, they would crowd around the stage with anticipation while the previous group finished the last bars of their kirtan and jump on stage before the others had a chance to leave. On one occasion, the current group was half way through their last kirtan. It was 5.02 p.m., the BYMM scheduled start time was 5 p.m.. I was suddenly crowded by children, two of them pointing at their watches, "Panch bhaje, panch bhaje" (five o'clock, five o'clock).
From the very first group the kirtans were strong, energetic and full of bhakti. Day by day the energy lifted, this was clearly reflected in the participation from the audience, clapping, cheering and dancing were definitely on the increase. In the last hour of the last day the amphitheatre was packed. With the arrival of Swami Niranjan and Swami Satsangi the children of BYMM launched into the last kirtan "Dance, dance wherever you may be . . ." The amphitheatre was alive with pure joy.
The akhand kirtan was the perfect medium for guests to offer their hearts to celebrate the achievements of Sri Swamiji's vision and mission. The strength of Satyananda Yoga-Bihar Yoga Tradition was evident as all thirty-one groups from across India and the world effortlessly conducted sessions of kirtan from our parampara. It was amazing to witness this living example of the depth and breadth of Sri Swamiji's influence and inspiration.
For four evenings, the Polo Ground offered its stage to Swami Girishanand, of Saket Dham, Jabalpur. He has become a most welcome guest and speaker at Ganga Darshan over the past few years and this time enchanted a much wider audience with his beautiful and inspiring Nava Yogeshwara Katha, the tales of the nine yogeshwaras, based on the eleventh canto of the Srimad Bhagavat Purana.
The teachings of the nine yogeshwaras, the great yogis, who had gathered at the court of King Nimi, came alive with humour and lightness. Swami Girishanand shared his understanding and knowledge of the topic and made the audience familiar with the intricacies of philosophy and concepts such as vairagya, maya and karma.
Kavi, Hari, Antarakisha, Prabuddha, Pippalayana, Aavirhotra, Drumila, Chamasa and Karabhajana are no longer empty names but yogis of olden times whose teaching is still relevant to society in the 21st century.
We have come from Kazakhstan to participate in the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the Bihar School of Yoga, and to express our solidarity with the mission of Sri Swami Sivananda, Sri Swami Satyananda and Sri Swami Niranjanananda, and the yogic vision that they have propagated through the Bihar School of Yoga.
Until the 1990s, people in Kazakhstan, then part of the USSR, only knew of yoga as a special type of physical training. When the Kazakhstan Yoga Academy was founded in 1992, this idea was slowly dispelled. With the disintegration of the USSR, our country became independent and life began to change all around. During these critical times, Satyananda Yoga inspired people to find their purpose in life, to practise the precepts of yoga ecology and improve the environment, to become aware of the body at subtle levels and attain optimum health, to bring children into the world in a healthy way, to eat in a balanced way, to learn the vedic wisdom and explore one's inherent creativity. The luminosity of Satyananda Yoga is making us glow too.
The second part of the drama and dance depicting Sri Swami Satyananda's life by the Chennai based group, 'Yoga Chaitanya', was presented in the evening of the second day. Guests eagerly gathered to see the continuation of the colourful and energetic display highlighting major events in the life of Sri Swamiji.
Part two focused on Sri Swamiji's life after he left his guru's ashram, including his sankalpa to invoke Swami Niranjanananda and his sadhanas of Ramayana and panchagni conducted at Rikhiapeeth. The array of characters, music and dance were an amazing sight enjoyed by all.