The week-long annual world famous International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan came to a close today with the over 600 participants from 50 countries departing with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts for yoga, for Ganga and for the sacred land of Uttarakhand. As a symbol of their love they celebrated the special occasion of International Women’s Day by honouring Mother Ganga for the inspiration and rejuvenation she had provided them with during the course of their stay.
The morning began at sunrise, as the sun came up over the sacred Himalayas, with Ganga Sadhana where participants offered their prayers to the Divine Mother and performed Ganga Yoga, developed by American yogacharya, Laura Plumb, with the inspiration, blessings and teachings of Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan, Founder of Ganga Action Parivar and Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance. As Pujya Swamiji explains, “Mother Ganga gives and gives with no hesitation, no discrimination, no vacation and no expectation. We must not only bathe in Her waters and perform Her puja but we must also take Her messages into our heart and emulate that in our own lives.”
The day’s activities included yoga, prayer, meditation and learning the rich stories of Mother Ganga’s arrival onto Earth to bring water to the arid valley, liberation to the sons of King Sagar and inspiration to all of our hearts, minds and spirits. Explained Sadhvi Bhagawatiji, President of Divine Shakti Foundation, “Indian spiritual tradition teaches us to worship the Divine Feminine-Shakti- in all Her forms, whether the form of the Mother Goddess Parvati or Durga or the form of the Mother River Ganga, or the form of Mother Earth and Mother Nature. Thus, on the occasion of International Women’s Day we cannot think of a better way to honour the divine feminine but by pledging to serve and preserve Mother Ganga, Mother Nature, Mother Earth and Mother Cow.”
Sadhvi Abhaji, the head of Parmarth’s Yoga and Meditation Centre, shared the significance of Ganga’s descent onto Earth: “The Mother Goddess came here, descended upon the Earth, by Her grace, to bring life and liberation. She is not merely a river, but truly the Goddess in the form of a life-giving river.”
The participants of the International Yoga Festival were so inspired by the sacred traditions and teachings. Upon hearing about the recent floods in Uttarakhand they all joined hands together to plant trees and pledged to continue to serve the vital cause of protecting and preserving Mother Nature and Mother Earth wherever they go. The yogacharyas of the International Yoga Festival also offered the tree saplings they had received as their farewell present to be planted back in the flood affected schools of Uttarakhand as part of Parmarth Niketan’s and Ganga Action Parivar’s collective mission, alongside many other NGOs, institutions and stakeholders to work together for the project of Hope and Healing and bringing green rehabilitation to the Himalayan land and people.
In this spirit, the participants also offered green grass and jaggery to the cows in the Parmarth Gaushala and honoured them as the source and foundation of organic farming, the very backbone of the traditional, healthy Himalayan life.
Said yogacharya, Laura Plumb of the United States, “Mother Ganga gives and gives like the most perfect of mothers, never expecting anything back in return. Yet, She is in great trouble, as are so many water sources world-wide, due to the poor choices of mankind. I have personally pledged to help not only Mother Ganga, but to try to ensure the rivers in my home area are also improved. This for me has become part of my spiritual practice, as important as my morning asanas, japa and meditation.”
The participants expressed their love for Ganga, their commitment to Ganga and their devastation at seeing what is happening to Her waters. They pledged to protect it and all forms of divine feminine as part and parcel of their yogic and spiritual practice.
With the river of love, devotion, peace and union flowing in their hearts, and committed to bringing their yoga “off the mat” the participants of International Yoga Festival departed back to their respective 51 countries.