There’s a buzz in the air. Take a walk around and you’ll smell fresh paint, wet mud, joy, laughter and anticipation. The ones who live here are all busy, preparing to welcome the thousands who are on their way. They’re coming home, for a celebration of a different kind. A celebration of life in its fullness, celebration of music, dance, silence, spices, flavors, diversity, people, animals and flowers. A celebration of the undying love of the divine, gods and goddesses in their oneness and splendor, of nature, of the universe. A celebration with the master, of love and a wonder of humanity.

Preparations begin months earlier. Smiling hands making rooms, beds, morning showers, blankets and warmth ready. More than 5000 people have to sleep in the Ashram. It is not an easy job. Done with a smile, gratefulness and a lot of love make it simple though.

With passing years a system got formed, quite dynamic. Few years back, Navaratri in the ashram had around 500 people, then 1000, times four, then double, then it got bigger and bigger until the place overflowed. The system made it simpler. Information and communication were efficiently delivered. People registered months in advance. Sevaks, volunteers and contingency teams would be prepared and ready. And they start to come in, and all the beds in the ashram would fall asleep with lovely people.

There’s a lot of activity in the kitchen. Massive in magnitude with flavors so delightful. Fresh vegetables– ton a day, sometimes two– several kilos of grains, rice, pulses, more than hundred kilos of different spices; all waiting to blend into curries, soups, salads and gravy, enriching thousands of stomachs and hearts. It’s a feast of belongingness. A few hands who cook, hundreds who help, the chaos here smells and it smells delicious. There’s no burden, just a sense of conviction and love. Feeding 40000 people breakfast, lunch and dinner with an eighteen variety food platter (on chandi homa) and desserts in desi ghee has a humour to it, but it’s not funny. Gazing onto the floor to see hundreds of people sitting and eating together, like one big Earth family is touching.

The cafe is warming up with young blood. Creative and enthusiastic fingers baking fresh cakes, cookies, pies, chocolate and donuts don’t get tired, they only get charged up. Lot of additions: some frozen some hot, some spongy some in pots, who said healthy food can’t be delicious!

Logistics and statistics come into play too. Thousands in numbers from more than 55 countries come for the celebration, and where there is numbers there’s fun. Rows, columns, spreadsheets, organized with names, addresses and room numbers. 3500 people participating in special Navaratri courses in Russian, Mongolian, Mandarin, English and Hindi, everything has to be organized. Hard work goes into it, a lot of hard work. What makes it a different kind is the space where it is all happening. There’s undying grace mixed in the air, everything smiles in the Ashram, there’s a purpose, a vision, the master visualizing everything, helping others visualize too. And there’s fun. Lots of it.

Beyond all of this, Navaratri is a period of divine reverence and devotion. The master says, “It is an action which happens in the subtle, the unseen. Something unseen is created. What does that something do? It does a lot of good. Like the roots of a tree are never seen outside, you water the roots and put manure and it absorbs it and what are seen are flowers, fruits and the branches. Our consciousness has got these unseen layers and these Navaratris are seasonal, we sow the seeds seasonally. We enrich that Divine space in the universe and it does good to so many people.”

Ancient spiritual practices are performed within deep meditation. Incense of bliss percolates the atmosphere, cleansing, smiling, beautiful bliss. The pundits are in celestial symphony, the chants cast a spell, a spell of love. There are tears of joy and devotion, senses heightened and open to receive with utmost gratitude. There’s silence, in its glory and special conversations. There’s the master, looking at everything and everyone with his loving, smiling, watchful eyes. And the thousands embracing his warmth with yearning gratefulness. They’re all home!

You think celebration is only in noise, and silence is only mourning. When people are celebrating, they make too much noise and when people are silent, they simply mourn. Somebody died, or someone is in a horrible situation, then they keep silent. Our celebration is totally different, our silence is completely opposite. This is being joyful and yet keeping silence. That is how joy gets its depth, and silence in its true sense becomes a dominating force in our life. So this silence is not that silence of sadness, and the celebration is not just very frivoling and superficial. For celebration to get depth, you need silence. For silence to manifest in its total glory, you need celebration.

~ Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar