January 29, 2013
By Sandra Anderson
We were fortunate to be invited to the compound of the Juna Akhara, one of the biggest and most important akharas (monastic orders). Swami Avadeshananda, the head of the Juna Akhara and a friend of the Institute honored us with a visit to our campus last week, and then invited us all (that’s nearly 200 people!) to his camp upriver from the sangam. We felt a bit like royalty, as we were invited into his “living room” where he personally gave each of us a rudraksha mala, and then to the “café” where he proudly served us coffee and a snack which turned out to be nearly a full meal by the standards of most of us.
Then we stopped in to view a traditional dance performance enacting a scene from the Ramayana. The music and the dancing were dazzling, as were the stage and the enormous hall. And we were seated on—wait for it—red velvet couches, dozens of them. It was hard to imagine that an enormous and beautiful structure with such a professional lighting and sound system was all temporary, and soon would be pulled down along with the rest of the camp. Once again our noses are pressed up against the impermanence of life and this world; and yet the importance of skillfully contributing our gifts to the drama.
Overheard on the way out, “I’m reminded of how much I need the fine arts in my life.” I’m reminded of how all the arts traditionally express spiritual longing, experience, or wisdom.
Our studies in tantra tell us the creative force is the manifestation of the Divine, particularly the Divine Mother, and that She has many forms of expression. We’ll hear more about this in the beautiful temples of Khajuraho, home to the 64 Yoginis which delineate the realm human creativity.
All and all, another perfect day at Kumbha Mela 2013.