Margao: In a path-breaking departure from age-old custom, the 'upanayan sanskara', or thread ceremony, was performed on 20 women in an event conducted by the Art of Living (AOL) at Margao recently.
Of the 30 people in all who were initiated into the Gayatri mantra—believed to be the holiest of all mantras—one is a Catholic.
In Hinduism, the ceremony is a rite of passage reserved for boys of certain castes and conducted when they are on the threshold of adolescence. Females are not usually initiated into the 'sanskara'.
So when AOL organized the ceremony and threw it open to all, with no bar on gender, age, faith and caste, the move was nothing short of a trailblazer.
Venkatesh Hegde of AOL, who took the initiative of organizing the ceremony in Margao, told TOI that Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the AOL Foundation, has simplified the otherwise elaborate ritual to make it convenient for all to be initiated into the most powerful and auspicious Gayatri mantra.
Hegde explained, "Indian culture is so rich in techniques of mind management. While yoga is one of the ways by which one can exercise control over the mind, chanting of mantras is another. The Gayatri mantra has the power to liberate the mind from the adverse effect of emotions. Chanting of the Gayatri mantra in a proper manner sharpens one's intellect, enhances alertness levels of the mind, increases one's work efficiency, improves concentration and one becomes emotionally strong. When these are the benefits then, obviously, we need to strengthen everybody—why should the mantra and the sanskara remain the privilege of only males and that too of a particular class?"
Xavier Zuzarte, a businessman from Panaji, who was the sole Catholic initiated into the Gayatri mantra during the first such event in Goa, is ecstatic about the whole experience.
"Though I am a Catholic, I know that our ancestors were Hindus before conversion happened. It was my quest to trace my roots, or rather my search for knowledge of true Indian culture that led me to the Art of Living. I have done 12-13 advanced courses of AOL over the last 12 years. I consider myself blessed for having been initiated into the Gayatri mantra. The mantra helps me to be at peace with myself, and to live in harmony with people and the environment," Zuzarte told TOI.
Swati Buvaji of Curchorem, a small town in South Goa, who also took 'diksha' from the 'guru' who initiated her into the Gayatri mantra along with the others, said the chanting of the mantra has helped her attain a positive outlook towards life.
What actually inspired her to get herself initiated into the upanayan sanskar was the "positive behavioural changes" she observed in her son who took the diksha last year.
"It has brought so much positivity in my life. I do the trikal sandhya (chanting the mantra three times a day with a rosary) which lasts for 20 minutes each. The exercise takes me to an altogether different level of meditative experience. When I emerge from this experience, I feel so empowered internally that I am then ready to accept any challenges that life throws at me. I feel happiness radiating from within me and it can be felt by others as well. Now that guruji has removed restrictions of gender and caste, I feel that all women should come forward and experience the benefits of the Gayatri mantra," said Buvaji.
Milan Ganesh Zantye from North Goa, who also participated in the five-day ritual, said the regular practice of the 'trikal sandhya' has helped her gain emotional stability.
"As per scriptures, one who is initiated into the 'upanayan sanskar' is obliged to take care of one's parents, family and society. Isn't this the obligation of everybody? Then why should it be restricted to only males?" Zantye wonders.
Courtesy: The Times of India