Fascinating Festival

Marble Image of Sri Ramakrishna installed in HQ Temple

The first Children’s Cultural Festival (CCF) that I saw in Durban was in 2007, three months after I was posted to South Africa. I had attended earlier many such functions in India and had come to the conclusion that too long hours was too much to be my treat. Imagine the severity of the sting of sitting for seven hours! But here the situation was smartly different. I didn’t know how the time went by and it appeared only a few moments had just passed and I was jolted to understand that the function had come to an end!

The all-pervading spirit of Sri Ramakrishna could palpably be felt in all the children who were participating in various items. There were scintillating sketches, trend-setting talks, soulful singing and delightful dances. The quick succession of multi-items moving from one scene to the other on the beautifully decorated stage was indeed mesmerizing. Suffice it to say that I was captivated by the love and devotion the children displayed towards our Holy Trio.

In this connection I saw the tireless efforts of the teacher-devotees who started preparing the children during the vacation. They are verily like the unseen and unsung dew drops which in the small hours of the day fall silently on the buds and make them bloom so that the fragrance can be spread. And of course I cannot forget the devotee-officials who worked hard in arranging the logistics without which the completion of the Festival would not be in order.

From brother Swami Saradaprabhanandaji and also some of the senior devotees what I hear about the Cultural Festival sounds wonderful. How in those days this Festival would be called ‘Rally’! All the children of the ‘Ramakrishna Children’s Club’ would meet at an Annual Mass Rally. This term ‘Rally’ even today, is used when referred to in elders’ conversations. In years gone by the children with their youth siblings along with elders would assemble in a pre-selected spot and would make a procession through the streets of Durban in the early morning. You can see a few photos of old days by clicking the below links:

Children’s Rally 1

Children’s Rally 2

Who knows you may be marching in one of the photos as a little boy or girl ?!

In their march past, the children would give a ‘wake-up call’ to every Hindu who was ‘asleep’ to his pristine culture (pun intended) with band parties that wielded drum majorettes, bugles, whistles. I further understand that the now ubiquitous vuvuzelas were conspicuous by their absence!

The ingenuity of late Revered Swami Nischalanandaji in organizing ‘Rally’ to awaken the Hindu population to its great glorious past through the medium of children was indeed very productive in that the sustenance of Hindu culture in this country amidst entirely a different variety of culture was made possible.

Here are some more old photos of 4th Annual ‘Mass Rally’:

The old theme of ‘procession’ oriented Festival has in a few years metamorphosed into a stable program, taking from the diverse aspects of the preserved culture to play a role of ‘nation-building, character-making’ among the rising level of modern participation.

Today I am attending the Southern Natal CCF. (Northern Natal branches have their own Cultural Festival day. Earlier once I did write about the 2009 Northern Natal CCF.) The following branches are scheduled to perform: Chatsworth, Durban Central, Etete, Phoenix, Pietermaritzburg, Redhill, Richards Bay, Sydenham, Tongaat, Verulam and Sri Sarada Devi Ashram. I shall try to post the photos later which you may enjoy watching as a slide show.

I take this opportunity of wishing all participating branches every success in their various items. My following Message finds a place in a printed program published on the eve of the CCF, to be handed over to more than a thousand people who have started to throng the venue :

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My dear children, parents and well-wishers,

Om Namo Narayanaya!

This Children’s Cultural Festival now held in its 56th year is undoubtedly one of the great contributions of late Swami Nischalanandaji Maharaj, the Founder of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa. My humble prostrations to him. Propagation and preservation of Hinduism suitable to the Hindu masses and more importantly spreading the non-sectarian and broad-based teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda among the people living in South Africa was the goal he set before himself and he worked tirelessly to that end.

On this joyful occasion, Swami Saradaprabhanandaji  joins me in conveying our heartiest congratulations to all our children for their brilliant performance seen year by year. Notwithstanding the severe school homework and stressful projects, they have put in strenuous rehearsals of their allotted items. This is indeed a commendable achievement. Our  hearty appreciation is due to the unseen hands – especially the voluntary teachers and the the respective branch Committee members – that worked unselfishly “behind the scenes”.

What actually do we aim to achieve by holding the Children’s Cultural Festival?

– an awareness to increase the quality of life

– cultivation of spiritual values

– inculcating faith in God, the One Supreme Power

– developing mutual love and respect

– service to mankind

Though the number of children participating in our Sunday Schools have to our delight, seen a rise in recent years, yet we are painfully aware that vast majority is still remaining untouched. In this respect, the role of parents in coming forward to enrol their children cannot be over emphasized. Neglect by the parents, being the First Teachers of their children, will portend to the perils of the future family system. A happy family is the core unit of peaceful society. Home is definitely the first school.

I, therefore, earnestly urge parents to encourage their children to enlist them in the classes so that these innocent children do not become prey to modern ills. A wholesome, nourishing spiritual food given when they are young will be the source of strength in future when they will be able to face the newer challenges.

May the blessings of the Holy Trio be on all is our  prayer!

Swami Vimokshananda

President

Ramakrishna Centre of S.A.

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6 comments

  1. ||Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
    My salutations to Master, Holy Mother, Swamiji and Revered Maharaj
    Aum Namo Narayanaya
    Dearest Maharaj
    I am confident that the the presence of Holy Trio was there and they enjoyed
    the festival. I am still drunk with the joy and energy of yesterday.
    The grace of Swamiji is flowing through the youth as one could clealy see the display of confidence in their performances. Maharaj you also very correctly pointed out that if parents can play a more integral part in making them understand their true nature, youth would sail through all the obstacles of life.
    My prayer is that every youth should read and experience Swamiji in this life. I eagerly await next year’s CCF.
    With love always
    Yogan
    Tongaat, SA

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    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Yogen
      Where the name of the Lord is recited He is sure to be present! The Gita mahaatmyam says that
      yatra gitaa vichaarashca pathanam paathanam shrutam |
      tatraaham nischitam prithvi nivasaami sadaiva hi ||

      Where the Gita is enquired into, chanted, taught or listened to,
      O Earth! there undoubtedly and unfailingly do I Myself reside.
      Yes! it was so wonderful to note that all the performances by the children were of a very high standard.
      The beautiful bhajans, chants and acting skills of our children are still humming in our ears.
      We cannot exhaust the importance of attending our Sunday classes to all our children. It is so imperative that children cultivate and imbibe moral values from a young age. What a wonderful opportunity to both parents and children to take advantage and attend our Scriptural classes and Sunday classes thus broadening their knowledge to the extent of becoming matured noble citizens!
      But Yogan, if you are free on Tuesday evenings why don’t you collect 5 like-minded devotees and bring them for the Gita class in one car?
      May Master our Universal Guru guide you!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  2. Om Namo Narayanaya
    Revered Maharaj,
    Indeed, ‘back in the days’, rising early in the morning, clad in our branch colours and singing the sweet name of Ram, Ram in the streets of Durban was absolutely divine and inspiring.
    Today, we see the children and youth-spiritual souls, performing with all their energy and enthusiasm and they ‘become their characters’, thus making the performance even more delightful to watch.
    Well done to all our rising stars in the Ramakrishna Centre and I am certain that they will continue to enjoy their experience with strength and faith in the Holy Trinity.
    My Humble Prostrations
    Anusha
    Durban, SA

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    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Anusha
      I could well imagine the enthusiasm of all the participants at the Festival before it began. And during the course there was a suspense and anxiety which turned out to be a roaring applause at the end of every item!
      The love and devotion the children displayed to our Holy Trio is remarkable. Watching a little girl of about 4 or 5 years reciting the Shanti Mantra, a child who cannot even read, is truly amazing!…. I cannot help but, reiterate the imorptance of Sunday classes. It does wonders to children, which makes them assets to humanity!
      My request to all ex-participants who have become by now ‘elders’ is please encourage all children in whatever way that they deem fit and assist the children in reaching the different Centres on Sunday mornings.
      Thanks for your sweet words!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  3. Revered Swamijee
    Om Namo Narayanaya!
    Please accept humble pranam!
    Reading this post brings back a certain degree of nostalgia. Being part of the Brigade in the eighties was an experience I will never forget. Marching to the chants of the Lord with a full scale brigade band and hundreds of devotees with so much vim, vigour and vitality and unitedly singing in one voice “Ram Ram” on the streets of Durban was wonderfully inspiring, uplifting and refreshing. When we look at our children participating at the “Rally”, somehow we see ourselves in all of them.
    Grateful thanks for all the posts!
    Pranam!
    Avitha
    Pietermaritzburg, SA

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    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Avitha
      Thanks for sharing your nostalgia!
      Yes, in the present day circumstances it is simply impossible to take out the children to the streets. As per the need of the Time, that setup has obviously been now transformed into beautiful, worthwhile Cultural Festivals which is more stable, steady and synchronised. When you “see yourselves in the children”, you only unconsciously confirm the psychological truth that the previous generation lives in the present one and it continues with the accumulated ‘sanskar’. Thats what we intentionally want to achieve in organising these Festivals.
      May your devotion to Holy Trio ever continue!
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

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