The week-long celebration over His Holiness Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati’s 70th birth anniversary was inaugurated on Friday (3) at a star-studded event held on the banks of River Ganges. Besides saints and government luminaries, noted personalities from Bollywood, the Indian film industry, assembled on the stage at Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
The seven-day-long celebration, which has been named as Seva Celebration (the celebration of service), will highlight the many ways in which Pujya Swamiji has served the planet – from pioneering the first Encyclopedia of Hinduism in history to building the first ashrams and medical clinic in the sacred land of Lake Manasarovar and Mt. Kailash to starting Ganga Aarti in holy places such as Rishikesh, Varanasi, Prayag Raj, Gangotri, Rudra Prayag and others to encourage people to devote themselves to the Holy Ganges and motivate them to keep her banks clean.
Among the many notable guests who attended the inauguration were Om Birla, speaker of the Lok Sabha or Lower House of the Indian Parliament; Pujya Bhaishri, an eminent Kathakar; Swami Ramdev, yoga guru, Patanjali Yogpeeth; Kailash Kher, an eminent spiritual and Sufi singer, lyricist and music composer; Ravindra Puri, president of Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Prishad, Mansa Devi Mandir Trust, Haridwar, Uttarakhand; Pujya Sadhvi Bhagwati Saraswati, president, Divine Shakti Foundation, Secretary General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance; Uttarakhand state lawmaker Ritu Khanduri Bhushan; Chand Agarwal, speaker of Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly, among several others.
After lighting the ceremonious lamp, the guests praised Pujya Swamiji on the occasion for his actions. They also highlighted his notable work for water, sanitation and hygiene, climate change and environment and emphasis on the gurukul parampara (tradition) through the numerous gurukuls that he has started and inspired. They also applauded him for his unique role in sharing yoga with the world through the ashram’s international yoga festival which is known worldwide and draws people from all corners of the world.
The speakers also appreciated Pujya Swamiji’s tireless efforts towards empowering women, girls and youth. They also wished him a long and healthy life.
Birla said, “Pujya Swamiji dedicated more than seven decades of his life to protecting and preserving Indian culture and in selfless service of humanity. It is a great honour and joy for me to be here to celebrate this auspicious occasion.
The blessed presence of saints deeply rejuvenates and energises me, especially to be here at Parmarth Niketan, in this sacred land of Devbhoomi, in the sacred city of Rishikesh and on the holy banks of Mother Ganga. Through the divine Ganga Aarti and their numerous service initiatives, Parmarth Niketan is working to awaken the divine light in the entire society and it is with Pujya Swamiji’s divine efforts this is making such a positive impact on all.”
Ramdev said, “Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati ji lives and embodies the true essence of spirituality in life. His life is such a beautiful embodiment of the concept of charaiveti – a life that is constant and continuous as an instrument of divine grace.”
The event also witnessed the launch of a new wellness centre at the ashram and Rashmi Saluja, the executive chairperson of Religare Enterprises Limited, which is also contributing towards the centre, speaking on the occasion.
Kher said that he personally has benefited from the blessings of Pujya Swamiji and Pujya Bhaishriji. He felt deeply fortunate to have his roots as a Rishikumar at Parmarth Niketan and said that throughout his journey, Pujya Swamiji has been a guiding light of inspiration and hope.
Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji said, “I feel so deeply blessed that 25 years ago I was given a new life when I came to India and was blessed by the presence and grace of a true Sadguru – Pujya Swamiji. He has taught me how to live by asking ‘What through me?’ rather than ‘What for me?’ He has shown me and millions of people across the globe, through every breath of His life, what it really means to live in sacred service and sacred union with the divine.”
Pujya Swamiji said, “To me, everything is purely and only God’s Grace. All that my life has been and all that has happened through me is only due to the Grace of God. To me life is about serving and giving. Every minute and every moment of our lives should be spent flowing like Mother Ganga, giving and giving to all with no discrimination, no expectation, no hesitation and no vacation! I am so grateful to God for giving me this opportunity of 70 years to worship the Creator through service of the Creation.”
Pujya Swamiji’s Hindi biography ‘Gangaputra’ was also launched at the event, following the success of the English biography named ‘By God’s Grace’ published by a prestigious US publishing house.
The Times of India Group presented the cover of a coffee table book it will be publishing under the title ‘Prayer in Action’ detailing Pujya Swamiji’s divine life.
Kher launched on the occasion ‘Shivoham’ — a song about his dedication to Pujya Swamiji.
A number of dignitaries, besides Birla, Kher, Saluja, including renowned industrialist Dinesh Shahra, Dainik Jagran Group’s Sandeep Gupta and Ravi Bhatnagar were honoured with the prestigious Parmarth Ganga Award for their exemplary services to universal welfare.
The event concluded with the Ram Katha Arti and the offering of sacred Rudraksha saplings in gobar (cow-dung)-made bases as souvenirs.
The remaining days will be celebrated as Seva Saptah – a unique Seva Celebrations, celebrating the many decades of service that Pujya Swamiji has inspired across the world and around India. On June 9, the final day of the celebration, special events will commence on Ganga Dussehra over Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji’s 50th birthday, the anniversary of her sanyas diksha and completion of 25 years in India.