Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Sri Sri in Arunachal: The Harmonising Effect

A belated but fresh report on the recent visit of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji to Arunachal Pradesh, which was short in duration but lasting on impact!!!

Not for nothing it was called ‘Harmony in Diversity’. The four-day tour of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji to Arunachal Pradesh from 18th February 2010 celebrated the diversity in the creation in its totality. From the time he landed at the Naharlagun helipad to his departure on the 21st, Gurudev held people from all backgrounds spellbound in Harmony. The people of this sleepy state in the North East of India suddenly forgot the divisive differences that have separated the various tribes for ages and came together to welcome the Guru whose presence they had already experienced even before he set foot in the state.

After a warm welcome at the helipad by local devotees, Gurudev headed for the Art of Living Ashram, whose every corner wore a festive look. Waiting for Him with the bathed breath was over 100 villagers from the four villages around the ashram, along with devotees from all over Arunachal Pradesh. As Gurudev’s car rolled in, the villagers went into an impromptu display of traditional dance as a mark of welcome.

After checking into his newly-built kuteer (cottage), made completely of bamboos, for a while, Gurudev was back to what he likes the most -- being with the people. Soon, the Home Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Tako Dabiji was in the kuteer to welcome him. After a quick chat with the members of the Reception Committee which comprised many prominent citizens of Arunachal Pradesh, Gurudev was at the reception hosted by the Panchayat of the villages where the Ashram is located.

In no time Gurudev was turned into a ‘Nyishi Man’ with the village heads dressing him up in Nyishi, the largest tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, attire. Donned in a Nyshi headgear and a Dao (local sword) in hand, Gurudev was in full form. With troupes from four villages lining up to present their welcome dance like a kid wanting to show his first drawing to the parents, the whole atmosphere was very captivating. Devotees from different parts of Arunachal Pradesh jostled with one another to get glimpse of Gurudev.

Soon Gurudev headed for the Raj Bhavan for a meeting with the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh His Excellency Gen (Retd) J J Singh. During the hour-long meeting, Gurudev shared with the Governor his vision for a peaceful and prosperous Arunachal Pradesh. The Governor briefed Gurudev on areas where Arunachal has a marked advantage and offered his co-operation. Deputy Commissioner of Itanagar Padmini Singla and Secretary Planning of Arunachal Pradesh Ankur Garg also joined in.

Already a large crowd of people were waiting for Him at the ashram when Gurudev came back from the Raj Bhavan. Among them were Director General of Police and Secretary Tourism who sought Gurudev’s advice on promoting holistic tourism potentials of the state.

The second day of the tour started with a breakfast meeting with the Chief Minister Dorjee Khanduji at the Chief Minister’s Official Bungalow. The Chief Minister warmly welcomed Gurudev and offered to extend all possible support to the Art of Living’s initiatives in Arunachal Pradesh.

The next couple of hours of the day will go down as the most significant time in the history of Arunachal Pradesh. It was almost unbelievable to see youth of Arunachal Pradesh who are almost always identified with violence and aggression getting enamoured by a spiritual guru. The occasion was a conference of student leaders organised by the YES+ team. Their excitement and enthusiasm was so palpable that even Gurudev looked moved by the trust they were willing to repose on Him. Nearly 100 youth leaders of all hues shared their visions of Arunachal Pradesh and requested Gurudev to pave the way for them to realise their dreams. Gurudev inspired them to broaden their spheres of responsibility and work for the betterment of the state. It was amazing to see the young leaders, who barely see eye-to-eyes in any other fora, come together on a platform and turn to Gurudev as if a saviour has descended from the Heaven. From lack of education and employment opportunities to raising level of intolerance, to religious conversion, they were ready to be guided by Gurudev.

The audience changed soon as Guruji addressed the Press of Itanagar, but the mood was the same. After a few minutes of the formal Q&A, the Press Conference looked more like a spiritual session with journalists wanting to know more about life than the usual things they seek in a Press Meet. Spirituality in its purest form was pulling heart-strings in unlikely quarters!!

And it didn’t stop with the journalists. More than 8,000 heart-strings were pulled by the dusk. Truly something unusual was happening in Arunachal Pradesh. Over 8,000 people from all walks of life and from all backgrounds gathered at the D N College Grounds in Itanagar to attend the ‘Harmony in Diversity’ event with Gurudev. More than the number, it was the composition of the crowd that set the event apart. From Nishyis to Adis, Galos to Apatanis… (prominent tribes of Arunachal Pradesh) from Hindus to Muslims…, from Christians to followers of indigenous faiths… from young to old, from men to women, truly Harmony in Diversity was obvious in every corner of the huge ground. As Gurudev arrived, the crowd went into rupture with everybody rushing towards the stage to get a closer glimpse of Him. No one, even the hardcore volunteers of the Art of Living who have witnessed even terrorists melt in Gurudev’s presence, imagined that Arunachal will respond so overwhelmingly to Gurudev’s visit.

The fusion of minds reached a crescendo when local artistes presented a scintillating Fusion Dance depicting the harmony in diversity of the Arunachal society. Folk dances of different tribes were seamlessly fused with Bharatnatyam and Kathak to capture the rich and diverse culture of Arunachal Pradesh.

After a high-voltage satsang and a short meditation, Guruji addressed the gathering, touching upon many issues that plague Arunachal Pradesh. He called upon the youth to come and work with the Art of Living and generate opportunities for employment for themselves. He announced the setting up a network for collecting and marketing high-value herbs which are abundantly available in the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh. He also talked about setting schools in different part of the state to provide value education to the masses. He stressed upon preserving the indigenous cultures and traditions of the place while adopting modern practices that enhances value of life. “The heart longs for the old and head for the new. Life is a mixture of both,” he said. “Reform, but don’t abandon the roots” was the message.

The third day of the visit was literally the Devotee’s Day Out. Devotees from different parts of Arunachal Pradesh made a beeline at the ashram to spend a few precious moments with the Master. And the master didn’t let him down. The whole day he was busy meeting people. In between meeting and blessing devotees, Gurudev had serious discussions with many prominent citizens of Arunachal Pradesh on issues ranging from preserving indigenous culture to youth empowerment. Among those who had fruitful meeting with Gurudev were the Home Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Tako Dabi, former Member of Parliament Kiren Rijiju and member of Arunachal Women Commission Mamta Riba.

He also interacted with YLTP graduates from different parts of Arunachal Pradesh who have come to attend a 2-day meet held to coincide with Gurudev’s visit. He exhorted them to work for the betterment of their society while learning stand on their own feet. He discussed with them how to achieve His vision for a stress-free and violence-free society. One of the areas he was really concerned wanted the youth to act was addiction and substance abuse among youth. He urged them to chalk out plan for setting up de-addiction centres.

In just three days, Gurudev set a new agenda for social development for Arunachal Pradesh. More significantly, people from all sections of society showed their enthusiasm to walk the path of development paved by Gurudev. To state the obvious, the visit was short but the impact was lasting!!!

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