As day breaks, movement towards the land begins, as if thousands of strings in a singular instrument gather from diverse origins, weaving and winding their way along village roads framed by open fields, blanketed by blue sky, until as if pulled to a single point, people poured themselves like water onto the dry land, circling the center of a dry pond covered in Alpona, intricate white painting on smooth earth. Before dawn some had arrived to arrange spaces and instruments for worship, hanging bright orange flowers and preparing lamps, gathering more than one hundred saplings to plant throughout the land. Others prepared food and offerings throughout the night, a simple feast to be shared by over one thousand people, stream upon stream throughout the sun streaked day.
On a full moon day, the 8th of June 2017, people gathered to celebrate Bhumi Puja, an invocation to the earth to bestow blessings on Shri Sanatan Siddhashram, a Baul gurukul inspired by the vision of Guru Shri Sanatan Das Baul and initiated by his shishya Parvathy Baul upon land near Santiniketan, in West Bengal, India. The simple celebration began with music, subtle strokes of the Rudraveena played by Shri Bahauddin Dagar, un-amplified sound resonating with the first morning beams of light in the open fields. Sound was followed by silence and the words of Devaki Ma, disciple of Yogi Ramasurat Kumar of Arunachala, the sacred mountain of Tiruvannamalai. In another corner of the land, Shri Prabhu and Dr. Vinod ayurvedic healer of Kerala used the teachings of tantra in a puja awakening the soil and prepare for the laying of the first bricks of the ashram, placed by Meera Ma, spiritual companion of Shri Sanatan Das Baul, with Devaki Ma, Shri Bahauddin Dagar, Parvathy Ma and Shri Ravi Gopalan Nair; brick by brick, a symbolic foundation was laid by many, friends, students and practitioners. The Puja was followed by sapling plantation by Devaki Ma and Parvathy Ma, with saplings gathered from nurseries, villages and gardens from the homes of many close ones, to be planted by those who were gathered there throughout the land. Bhogarati led by Madan Das Bairagya, son of Guru Shri Shashanko Goshai, and prepared by his companion Shokhi Ma and members of their ashram from Murshidabad, West Bengal, was celebrated together by all the Bauls, singing and dancing in exuberance at the pit of the painted pond, whirling like bright fire in the painted pit of a pond, under a blue sky ablaze with summer sun.
Seva, service of food lovingly prepared throughout the night and morning, was led by Basudev Da, younger son of Guru Shri Sanatan Das Baul, and members of their ashram in Sonamukhi, Bankura, and served by friends, students and neighboring villagers throughout the day, feeding over one thousand people, human beings of all backgrounds, castes, classes and religions seated upon the earth side by side. The gathering was graced by Shri Damdar Goshai, Biswanath das Baul, Anando Das Baul, Mansoor Fakir, Kanai Das Baul, Devdas Baul, and many other practitioners, musicians, artists, farmers, rich and poor, villagers and urban-dwellers, locals and those coming from faraway homes. All gathered to celebrate the land and the birth of Sanatan Siddhashram, a place for Baul practice and the gathering of humanity, a word yearning to encompass all, children, madmen, animals and birds, plants and elements, wind rain fire, the whole universe…. The day blazed on, sun and sky, music, prayer and silence, in the company of strangers and close relations… As saplings were laid for the oncoming of monsoon rains, the bare land began to dream of a forest.
By: Pavitra Mehta