Preaching and Bhoga Collection Programmes
Malini Devi Dasi from Malta gains some insight to what goes on behind the scenes leading up to the celebration of Gaura Purnima festival, and shares the experience of travelling through Bengali villages on such preaching and collection programmes.
We drive for a few minutes to Bajumelia, the place where we will hold our evening programme, which is always the major event of the day. Soon, however, the road, which is just a narrow dirt passage between ponds, is not fit for vehicles, so we must load our belongings onto a cycle-cart and walk the mile to the house.
A big internal courtyard is a standard in most village houses, I have observed. The elevated veranda outside the rooms of the house, which is also a typical feature, is set up with an asan for Sripad Acharyya Maharaj and an area where his crew are to sit with him during the programme. On the opposite side of the courtyard, an open kitchen beside the water-pump has three smiling ladies and a child within its low walls, happily preparing chapatis for the sixty or so guests present.
We immediately perform arati on arrival, again having to stand outside the room hosting the deities while the pujari, Amarnath Prabhu, does the puja within. The programme goes on in the same way as the previous evening. Prasadam is honoured late in the night, and again we sleep close to midnight.
It sounds like several neighbours also spend the night, as I am occasionally stirred from my sleep by the sound of voices or snoring drifting from the corridor into the room where Kamala Nayan Didi and I are sleeping, through a window that has only a thin cloth hanging over it to act as a curtain. It is the kind of thing to be expected when so many people are sleeping together in make-shift accommodation – it is all part of the experience, and reminds me of school camp!
In the morning we wake to find hot water ready for an open-air shower, and it is always heart-warming to see how thoughtful some of our hosts can be. Without question, they offer smiles and everything they can in order to ensure our best comfort and satisfaction.
In the daylight, as we walk the mile back to the bus, we can appreciate much better the beauty of the surrounding area. The ponds create a special mirroring effect, and the greenery is varied and seemingly placed in perfect composition in any direction you may look. West Bengal is truly picturesque!
I look ahead of me and regard with affection the figures of my Bengali and international family clad in dhoti or sari walking before me, the saffron robes looking particularly reverential in the light of the early morning sun. I feel blessed and very, very fortunate!
Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip
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