Darshan Day in Pondy, 1997



By Girish Mantry

I woke up around 3:00 in the morning, quickly had a shower, and proceeded to the ashram for the collective meditation around the samadhi. The moon was greeting us on the West, and though the actual meditation would be between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m., preparations for seating people had already started. Queues formed behind the ashram main building. People were let in to the ashram courtyard one by one and seated on mats on the ground; some were seated upstairs. The organizers did their best to seat everyone.

Around 4:30 a.m., all were seated, and if anyone came after this time, it must have been tough luck for him. Not an inch of space was left in the ashram courtyard in all directions.

We sat there for an hour and a half. I almost slept during this time, as I had not had sufficient sleep. Buzzing and noise continued for a while, until silence dominated the scene.

Just before 6:00 a.m., the lights were turned off and the bell rang to begin the meditation, which lasted until 6.30. After that, we began to disperse.

Many people queued up to go to the samadhi to offer pranams. After seeing the difficulty of getting to the samadhi, I opted to come back later and proceeded towards the dining room for breakfast. There also, huge lines had formed. They extended onto the streets.

A n hour before noon, we had lunch in the dining room, then returned to the ashram. We found lines allotted for different time slots, and got in line for the 12 to 12:30 slot. We stood there for a while facing the hot sun before we advanced far enough to be seated on the ground under the umbrellas. Then we were let in to the main ashram building from the back side and shown upstairs to Mother's room.

After all the trouble we had taken, it was gratifying to have the darshan of Mother's room. I felt a different vibration altogether. Such a nice smell. There was a picture of Mother in the center of the room, and people were passing by her offering quick, standing pranams and prayers and collecting the Darshan Day messages before leaving the room.

The line moved quickly. Everyone got a chance to be near Mother's gracious picture for about half a minute or so. I had my chance too. After all the roaming around and standing in lines, I was very happy to feel her presence there more or less concrete. I felt as if she was accepting each and every one of those who came for the darshan, irrespective of who they were. All were her children. And she was uplifting and transforming each of them, no matter if they understood the philosophy or not. I prayed to her that she be the sole guide and leader in my life, and I believe she heard it.

After the darshan I fell down with fever -- possibly because of the change in weather, a lack of sleep, and excessive physical strain. Both my parents nursed me liberally with their amateur homeopathic expertise and I was out of fever in a day.

B ut I must say a few more words about the Darshan Day. There were nearly 12,000 visitors that day. Most of them were Tamil people from the areas surrounding Pondicherry and other places in Tamil Nadu. It is interesting to see the increasing influence of Sri Aurobindo and Mother on the local people in the state. If you notice, most of the disciples and visitors who came to the ashram in the early years were from North India, from the regions of Bengal, Orissa, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. Not many South Indians were there, and fewer Tamils, despite their geographical proximity to the ashram. Now things have changed. The local Tamils are the majority among the visitors on darshan days.

The influence of Sri Aurobindo and Mother on the rest of India and the world is only going to increase in the coming years -- and the size of the crowds is also going to increase. What are the ashram authorities going to do? Nobody knows. No one knows what is the right thing to do. They are all perplexed. Mother has not given any guidelines regarding this, and it is not fair to stop the visitors coming for the darshan. It will be an interesting puzzle to watch in the years to come.

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Girish Mantry is a software programmer in San Jose, California.

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