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My Stay in Bihar School of Yoga

I am Manan Lalit, a second year Mechanical Engineering Student of IIT Kanpur. Under the
SPICMACAY scholarship scheme, I got the chance to go to the Yoga Ashram in Rikhia. Rikhia is 20
kilometres away from the religiously historic town of Deogarh. It is said, that the heart of Sati,
Shiva’s wife fell on his place. Therefore, it is one of the most important “peeths” in India and a great
attraction for devotees.

I had never been to Bihar before. Moreover, yoga and the tales of Yogis sitting in poses of great
meditation aroused my curiosity. I remember, for a very long time, when I was young and an avid
watcher of serials like Mahabharata and Ramayana, I would sit and wonder... Is it really possible to
gain so much strength and divine powers by doing tapasya? So, it was not with an indifferent mind
that I stepped into this place.

The first glimpse into this place was rather interesting. I was received at the gate by a Danish (this I
came to know later) “swami” who although spoke Hindi haltingly, but looked very much Indian,
nonetheless. As the day passed, I got used to greeting people not with a Hello or Namaste, but with
“namonarayan”. The sight of foreign men and women, dressed in “gheru” robes, goggles and stylish
Orange Croc Slippers was thrilling. This ashram was so much different (for good ) from the archaic
place, I had visualised it as!!

Meanwhile, in the evening of the first day, I was besieged by a group of young children. They were
from Raipur, and had arrived about 2 weeks ago. I fell into talks with them, and made my first
friends, only hours after landing in this place. I also acquainted myself with Nupur, Parul (the two
other recipients of this scholarship, from Nagpur) and their parents. Nupur and Parul had arrived
here two days ago, and seemed much at ease in this “new” place. I was glad to meet them, but a tad
disappointed that nobody else had come to the Ashram, under the scheme.

The night held the first surprise. Hardly, had I gone off to bed, that I was woken up by a knock at my
door in Sivananda Ashram, and lo! Who would it be, but my Roomie and the 4th person under this
scholarship, Rakesh from Chittorgarh. Rakesh was badly tired in body and soul, after being on the
train and bus for the last two days, so we didn’t talk much that night. It was later I came to know,
that Rakesh had booked a train to Munger (where the main center of Bihar School of Yoga is located)
and realised his mistake only after arriving in Munger, so he had to take another bus to Rikhiya.

Thanks to my watch and cell alarms, I woke up at 4:30 dot in the morning. It was tough in the start,
but within a day or two, I got used to waking up even without an alarm. Besides, I felt, after a week
or so, that waking up so early kept me energized throughout the day, which felt good.

Now the daily routine... we reached the Yagyashala, (a 5 minute walk from Sivanada Ashram, where
we stayed) at 5:30 for the morning “Asanas” class. The Asana Class was conducted by a Swami
named Atmamantra. He was English and our guide for the next few days of our stay in the Ashram.
As time went by, we became great friends, and I would sometimes raise some questions about one’s
life, which he would answer very willingly. Parul was very fond of him, and became sad, when later
another swami, named Kailash took over our classes....

Uh...so back to the Asana class, here we did Asanas or poses such as Surya Namaskar, Hal-Asana, Ek-
pad-pranamasana, and a few others, for an hour. Then there was breakfast from 6:30 to 7:00 am.
Breakfast was usual stuff....they had a different meal for each day. So you could be getting either
poha, daliya, chevra, roti, bread on any one morning. From 7:00 to 8:30, us boys would be involved
with cleaning the Yagyashala. We did everything, whether it was jhadoo or poccha, cleaning the
windows or the ceiling, everything was done in a coordinated fashion. From 8:30 till 10 am, we
would be busy in the Clinic. Now, this was one of the interesting highlights of the day. Patients from
nearby villages would come, and I would explain medicines prescribed to them. Sometimes, it got
boring, when after a round of explanation, they remembered nothing, but it was because they were
not used to our accent. So, in the process I learned a few of their words: “vihane” for morning,
“saanjhe” for evening. It was also really funny to see aged ladies hide their faces behind their chunni,
when we asked them their ages for record.

At around 9:50 am, we would run for our next class, which was: pranayam and chanting class.
Personally, I found it very hard to sit erect during pranayam and despite exhortations from
Atmamantra ji, and later Kailash ji, my spine would sag down, eventually. But chanting was a
breather, and I loved to sing aloud with the little girls (kanyas) who sang verses in their loud, clear
voices.

Then we would have lunch, and head back to Sivananda Asram for some rest. The Ashram caretaker,
Yogashikshanand ji was a very interesting man. Rakesh just loved to mimic him, while Nupur and
Parul (both experts at Bharatnatyam) taught him some mudras at night; but we were all fond of him,
and called him “kaka”.

From 2:30 to 3 pm there would be a yoga nidra class. As the name suggests, we would lie down in
the shavasana, while Atmamantraji continued to speak to us urging us to stay awake. I couldn’t
decide what I wanted more: whether to sleep during the class (it had an unbelievable calming effect)
or not to make a fool of myself by being the only person still sleeping after the class was over. 

The next few hours were spent in the English School, where we tried to teach the village boys
(Batuks) and girls (Kanyas). This was my best part of the day. It was tough and demanding to get
their attention, but once they are with you, they are with you!! I befriended a couple of such boys
and loved telling them stories from illustrated comic books and hearing them speak.

Once the dinner was over at 6:30 p.m., we had the Kirtan programme. For many people in the
Ashram, tourists and Swamis alike, this was the time, they looked forward to the most. It was fun
swaying with the beat of the Kirtans and watching the kanyas dance.

We had some fun moments too... like when we used to have a “late” dinner on the terrace, us
watching some movies in the yagyashala, and...and ...when we toured the Deogarh town and
returned all full, much after the scheduled time (and were met with disapproving glances all the
way).
The Spic Macay group had lots of fun, and I guess we even became “popular”, especially after
Rakesh did an enthralling ghoomar performance, and we boys joined in. The sight was worth seeing;
the whole yagyashala were on their toes trying to get a look at us. A week after our arrival, another
boy from Bhagalpur, Nitindra, joined our group making us a trio of boys. Together, we three spent
the rest three weeks joking about everyone and everything and had great fun lying on the terrace,
eating litchis like nawabs, tasting the fresh cold air of the night and digesting the magnificently lit
starry sky above our eyes.

It was a fun experience throughout, but an educative one too. Not only do I now, know more verses
and mantras, but I enjoy reading them and saying them. There were some aspects about work, that
seemed to intimidate me, but my stay only affirmed a theory that if you can work out the logic
behind things, they will automatically become simple. Besides, their way of explaining things,
historical events in the modern light is so unique, that I now believe that all that is mentioned in our
scriptures was perhaps true and happened.

I had lately also stopped reading Hindi, so I am glad my Hindi has come back on track (after chanting
innumerable verses). In all, I would suggest each and every individual to make this trip to BSY, and
get a taste himself of this magical culture, in which this place is steeped in. I myself, look forward to
my next visit to the Munger Ashram in December, 2008.

Indeed, SPICMACAY is doing a great service by opening us to, portals which would have remained
closed and unexplored otherwise.

June 30, 2008