A Vibrant Week of Kara Sevā Shibir - 2023
Report By Vinaya Nadkarni & Atul Prasad
Some things in life are irreplaceable and immeasurable – like the fruits of being in the Divine presence of our Gurushakti at our Guruks͟hetra - Shrī Chitrāpur Mat͟h. The experience was even more palpable and rewarding when after a four-year pause owing to the pandemic, the 7- day Kara Sevā Shibir took place in Shirālī from 7th to 14th May 2023.
A shibir where new friendships were forged and existing ones cemented, new memories were etched into the minds of the shibirārthī-s while participating in the sessions and interacting with our Beloved Guru H.H. Shrīmat Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī. On the day of arrival, the shibirārthī-s were gently initiated into the program with the registration, a briefing and an icebreaker session which got all the participants excited for the week to follow. The shibirārthī-s were split into 5 groups which by the end of the shibir served to build unity and friendship among them. Dīpa-prajwālana was performed to indicate the initiation of the Shibir and Pratijñā was taken by all shibirārthī-s to signify their commitment in the Divine presence of H.H. Swāmījī. After this, our senior sañchālaka-s briefed the yuvā-s about the Shrines and the Mahāsamādhi Sannidhi-s within the temple. They were also shown other vital structures of our Mat͟h, like the Dhwaja Stambha, Shivagaṅgā Sarovara, Goshālā and so on. This was day 1 and it left the yuvā-s and upasañchālaka-s wanting more. The following days were packed with activities and sessions and the shibirārthī-s found themselves following a busy schedule over the next 7 days. Wake up time was at 5.00a.m. and the shibirārthī-s would freshen up and assemble by 6.00a.m. for warm up sessions post tea.
Shrī Bālakris͟hṇa Sheṭṭy’s session:
The first exercise session of the shibir was conducted by Shrī Bālakris͟hṇa Sheṭṭy - known to us as Bālā mām, as he has been closely associated with the Mat͟h and shibir-s for many years. He is an 8-times national Muay Thai champion and a Jujitsu and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter. He runs the Total Combat Fitness centre in Mumbaī which advocates mixed workouts and MMA classes. He spoke about ancient schools of martial arts in India and had a wealth of knowledge to share about martial arts and fighting techniques. He displayed a few such self-defence techniques followed by a warm up session that invigorated the shibirārthī-s for the kara sevā activities that were to follow.
Kara sevā sessions:
The most awaited activity would take place in the morning. The shibirārthī-s would eagerly get onto the bus at 6:30a.m. which took them to Kembre farms, accompanied by sañchālaka-s. One of the field activities required the shibirārthī-s to shovel dried leaves into baskets and spread them evenly onto the fields which would then serve as manure. Another activity included cleaning a pond which was clogged with silt, mud and leaves. This is required to be done before every monsoon so that the pond has sufficient depth to collect rain water through the season. This activity continued over the next 3-4 mornings and by the end of the fourth day the youngsters had enjoyed this activity so much that some happily talked about how they had shed their inhibitions of getting into the water and some were hesitant to come out of the water when it was time to get back! It‘s not everyday that one gets to do farm activities like these. After a good wash, the shibirārthī-s were treated to freshly peeled jackfruit that tasted like no other produce elsewhere, along with local mangoes, bananas and other snacks.
Shibirārthī-s in group-wise rotation participated wholeheartedly in a 2-hour session of carpentry with Harin Haṭṭaṅgaḍi mām and a few sañchālaka-s who volunteered to help. The carpentry lab of Srīvalī High School is an elaborately stocked workplace with all possible hand-held tools and machines that makes carpentry an extremely fruitful and rewarding experience. Shibirārthī-s would come back from the session with a product entirely made by them – labelled with their names of course. From key holders to clothes hangers, the shibirārthī-s had a choice of products to make under supervision and using safety gear.
Prāṇāyāma and Nināda sessions:
These sessions were conducted by Sharayū Hal̄dipur pāchī who emphasised that these Prāṇāyāma and Nināda techniques are a ‘Prasāda’ from our Beloved Guru H.H. Shrīmat Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī. Devised by H.H. Swāmījī Himself, these extremely effective breathing exercises are simple to follow. Techniques like Kapālabhāti, Bhastrikā with Kumbhaka and Nināda were taught at a calm and relaxing pace by Sharayū pāchī. The shibirārthī-s said that these techniques were one of the key take-aways from the shibir.
Sanskrit Sambhās͟haṇa (Spoken Sanskrit):
Sanskrit is one of the oldest living languages and learning it brings an array of benefits. Sanskrit can be taught and learnt in a fun and simple way, was what Shilpā Mudūr pāchī and Saṅgītā Pawār pāchī brought forth with their session on Sanskrit Sambhās͟haṇa. Shibirārthī-s felt it was a much simpler and exciting way to learn than how it is usually taught in school. With this session being an eye-opener, a few of them felt eager enough to enroll for the Sanskrit Sambhās͟haṇa class. (Gīrvāṇapratis͟ht͟hā - Gīrvāṇavaikharī course)
Our Guruparamparā is rich and vast as elucidated in the book ‘Shri ̄Chitrāpur Guruparamparā Charitra’. These 1-hour sessions were spread over 3 days and the speakers of the session(Shivāni ̄Kalliāṇpur pac̄hī and Vinayā Nāḍkarṇi pac̄hī) shared excerpts from the revered text. With the help of stories that enrich our history, they made a presentation filled with pictures, which the shibirārthī-s appreciated and answered the quiz at the end of every session enthusiastically. By the end of the shibir, the participants felt truly blessed to be connected to such a glorious Guruparamparā, blessed with the Anugraha of 11 Guru-s.
Careers in Defence:
With most of the shibirārthī-s just graduating from school and college and eager to meet the world outside, it was essential to enlighten the yuvā-s on career opportunities and life in service of our country. Captain Chinmay Kalliāṇpur, conducted a session on opportunities in the Defence Services, highlighting the scope of work in the Indian Navy. The presentations included videos showcasing advanced engineering, various job profiles, and eligibility options. The session did more than just pique the interest of the shibirārthī-s, who watched the presentation with rapt attention.
Importance of Cyber Security:
A much-needed session on cyber security by Tanmay Mudūr mām was an eye opener for all. The various categories of cyber crime and a detailed list of solutions on how to avoid becoming a victim of cyber crime was brought out in these sessions. Our young audience could relate easily to what was being discussed, given the usage of social media and online payments. Tanmay Mudūr mām is associated with the cyber security team of SVC Bank.
The convenor for the Chāturmāsa 2023 – Satīsh Tonse mām, addressed the yuvā-s and discussed briefly his plans for this Chāturmāsa and urged the yuvā-s to provide their inputs and to participate wholeheartedly.
Pādapraks͟hālana to Phalamantrāks͟hata:
An information - packed session by Chaitanya Gulvāḍy mām, the Dharmaprachāraka of Shrī Chitrāpur Mat͟h kept the youngsters alert and enthusiastic through an entirely interactive session.
A Vimarsha session was conducted by senior yuvatī and upasañchālikā, Aṅkitā Kārnāḍ pāchī who ensured that all the shibirārthī-s took turns in contributing their understanding of the beautiful verse given to them. The verse was aptly chosen keeping in mind the young group that was participating in the Vimarsha.
Importance of sevā:
The word ‘sevā’ is often misinterpreted and it often takes a true devotee to explain its importance, and it was Maithilī Paḍukoṇe pāchī who presented a crisp and interactive session on the opportunities and importance of sevā to the shibirārthī-s. Having attended many Kara Sevā Shibir-s as a shibirārthī as well as a sañchālikā herself, she caught the pulse of the audience by sharing what one can expect out of attending shibir-s and being in sevā. Through her own experiences and wit, she highlighted that sevā does lead to the transformation of the sādhaka or yuvā into very capable mature individuals under the grace of our Guru’s Anugraha.
Climate Change and Forests:
The world today is progressing at breakneck speed and one of the worst affected in this process are the forests and greenery that play a key role in helping the earth breathe. The growth and development of each city sadly leads to the depletion of forests and wildlife that help maintain the balance of nature. Praveeṇ Basrūr mām, known for his role and contribution in the Forest Department of Karnāṭaka, made a presentation that spoke about the growing concerns over the loss of tree cover and increasing temperatures in the metropolitan cities of India.
Shrī Devī Anus͟ht͟hāna:
Although Kara Sevā largely involves field work, visits and informative presentations, important forms of sādhanā are also taught to the yuvā-s during the shibir. This session was meticulously conducted by Saṅgītā Pawār pāchī. She provided important information on how the Shrī Devī Anus͟ht͟hāna serves as a powerful form of sādhanā to propitiate the Devī and also shared details on how to perform it correctly.
This session was conducted by Chaitanya Gulvāḍy mām for the boys. He emphasised the importance of doing Sandhyāvandanam daily and presented a method which would help to complete the Sandhyāvandanam in just 7 minutes.
Shrī Guru Pūjana and Shrī Pādukā Pūjana:
On Thursday, 11th May, the shibirārthī-s performed Shrī Guru Pūjana in the Divine Presence of H.H. Swāmījī. Each of them was provided with a pal̄eru for Shrī Pādukā Pūjana. Some of them eagerly took turns to offer bhajana sevā during Shrī Pādukā Pūjana and Tīrtha vitaraṇa.
Srīvalī High School Visit:
A number of institutional and site visits kept the shibirārthī-s busy. One morning they were taken to Srīvalī High School. Smt. Mamatā Bhaṭkal̄, the Principal of Srīvalī High School explained how the students of the school are young achievers and excel in every field be it academics, sports, art or culture. A brief mention of their achievements had the shibirārthī-s sitting up and taking note. An icebreaker game was conducted by one of our senior sañchālikā-s, Prīti Pāṇemaṅglor pāchī, which got the school children and our shibirārthī-s interacting and executing the game plan in no time. A quick round of icecream was followed by an escorted walk-through of the school. The varied talents of the students displayed in the art gallery, and on the notice and display boards of the school left our youngsters spellbound.
Visit to the museum:
A visit to the Shrīmat Parijñānāshram Vastu Saṅgrahālaya was a unique experience with the beautiful Ratha taking centre stage. The shibirārthī-s admired the intricate wood work of the Ratha, and they also spent time reading about the various rare artifacts and idols displayed here.
Visits to HMPP unit, Kembre Goshālā and Saṁvit Sudhā:
Over the past 26 years our Guru has put in consistent efforts to make this world a more sustainable and environment friendly place.
As per our hallowed traditions, the cow represents purity and motherhood. The yuvā-s were excited to visit the goshālā, where they got to interact with calves as young as 14 days old, to the oldest of the cows and bulls. During this visit, the backbone of all our goshālā-s, Dr. Gourīsh Paḍukoṇe, educated the yuvā-s on the different breeds of cows and bulls present there and what goes into the upkeep of the cattle and the goshālā. He also showed the yuvā-s how our Mat͟h is taking steps towards self sustainability with biogas and the use of manure for the farms at Kembre.
Parijñān Foundation, an affiliate Trust of Shrī Chitrāpur Mat͟h has nurtured a Hand Made Paper unit run entirely by women, that provides materials to its main vertical - Saṁvit Sudhā. Here yuvā-s saw how handmade paper and fabric are made into finished products before being shipped to the store located beside the beautiful Shrī Datteshwar Mandira in Shirālī. Añjanī Kārṇāḍ pāchī and Beenā Savkūr pāchī briefed the youngsters on the meticulous process by which the fabric and paper products are made. Screen printing and embossing of paper was being done which captivated the attention of the shibirārthī-s. The Saṁvit Sudhā sales store saw good sales when the visiting yuvā-s picked beautiful and neatly crafted products for themselves, their friends and family.
Interactions with our Beloved Guru H.H. Shrīmat Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī:
The first interactionn that the shibirārthī-s had with H.H. Swāmījī was on the 9th of May. The Kuṭīra lawns served as a perfect evening setting under the lush trees and enticing fragrance of lemongrass. As the leaves rustled in the breeze and the gentle evening sunlight filtered through the branches, the shibirārthī-s gave an account of the sessions that they had attended so far. It was no surprise that the youngsters found the carpentry and pond-cleaning sessions to be the most exciting and Prāṇāyāma-Nināda sessions to be utmost essential. With a few good laughs and an icecream in hand, the shibirārthī-s enjoyed their discussion with H.H. Swāmījī. His Holiness ensured that each of the shibirārthī-s took turns to speak and those who were shy or hesitant were not missed out. The second interaction took place in the peaceful setting of Pañchavaṭī with the soothing sounds of birds chirping in the evening sun. Some even spotted a family of peacocks. H.H. Swāmījī and everyone else were seated in front of the Dhyāna Mandira. Delicious snacks were served along with kokum sharbat and icecream. The shibirārthī -s had some questions for His Holiness and Pūjya Swāmījī spent over an hour with the youngsters. The shibirārthī -s had some spiritual, as well as general questions. H.H. Swāmījī also stressed upon the importance of doing Japa, Prāṇāyāma-Nināda and physical exercise daily. This cherished interaction took place on Friday 12th of May. The yuvā-s then got back to the Mat͟h premises and after freshening up, got ready in their traditional attire to attend the Shrī Devī Pūjana performed by H.H. Swāmījī after Dīpanamaskāra which was a divine experience for all. On Saturday morning, Swāmījī conducted a session where He emphasised on japa and meditation, correct posture and form, basic back stretches and relaxation of the neck, shoulder and back muscles, visualisation and breathing techniques along with some preliminary steps that help to make the japa or meditation process more intense and meaningful. A short round of meditation was also conducted by Swāmījī which concluded with a beautiful bhajana.
Juggling and Slack lining:
Oṁkār Dhāreshwar, a senior yuvā had come to the shibir to teach the shibirārthī-s a thing or two about rope walking, juggling and ‘flow chakra’. This session took place at Pañchavaṭī. Oṁkār is a master juggler who also effortlessly balances himself on the ‘slack line’- a flat rope that is tied across two trees- while juggling as well! The youngsters were awestruck and were eager to try their hand at juggling, flow chakra and walking the tight rope. Oṁkār emphasised on how these skills are almost meditative, require balance, whole body coordination and focus. He pointed out how the principles of these skills can be applied to our daily lives. This session took place a second time at Pañchavaṭī, where each shibirārthī attempted rope walking at least once and tried their hand at juggling and flow chakra again. However, this time it was even more special and memorable as H.H. Swāmījī drove up to Pañchavaṭī to grace the session! The yuvā-s demonstrated to H.H. Swāmījī what they had learnt.
A session with Shrī Sañjay Sheṭṭy:
Very rarely do we come across a person who has trained defence personnel in Germany, Austria, Hongkong, The UK’s MI5, and also holds the distinction of being the only non-Jewish trainer to the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service. On the last day of the shibir, shibirārthī-s attended a much awaited session by Sañjay Sheṭṭy mām who has been associated with H.H. Swāmījī and Shrī Chitrāpur Mat͟h over many years. He works with the Indian Army and trains the Prime Minister’s body guard and military intelligence. With this jaw-dropping introduction it was no surprise that the shibirārthī-s watched Sañjay mām’s display of self-defence tactics with rapt attention. The youngsters threw many ‘what if’ questions at him and he had all the answers on how to tackle and bring down an attacker. How to disarm an attacker who could be wielding a knife, a gun or a rod was demonstrated and techniques to safeguard oneself in case of assault too. A couple of yuvā-s volunteered for the demonstration with a degree of nervousness much to the amusement of others. It was an extremely rewarding and eye-opening session with innumerable insights.
As the days progressed, there was an overwhelming emotion building up as the end of the first Kara Sevā Shibir of 2023 was coming to an end. To mark the finalé of this shibir, the shibirārthī-s planned a memorable cultural program and a valedictory function. The yuvā-s were split into groups according to their skill set - music, dance and drama. Upasañchālaka-s Shivānī Kalliāṇpur and Atul Prasād were instrumental in putting together a musical performance with a medley of old and new songs rendered by a group of shibirārthī-s. The program concluded with the vote of thanks by one of the senior sañchālikā-s, Sabitā Hariṭe pāchī, and Ks͟hamāyāchanā by upasañchālaka Sameer Māsurkar. A few shibirārthī-s gave an abhivyakti - a personal account of experience at the Shibir. After H.H. Swāmījī’s Ᾱshirvachana, participants came up to receive their Pramāṇa Patra (certificate of participation), Phalamantrāks͟hata, and blessings from H.H Swāmījī.
Until Next time:
This brought within all of us - sañchālaka-s, upasañchālaka-s, shibirārthī-s, an overwhelming emotion and with a heavy heart one said goodbye to a memorable week of Kara Sevā at Shrī Chitrāpur Mat͟h, Shirālī. A place that was resonating with the sounds of all who had come, suddenly fell silent. A place we all had embraced as home. Our Guruks͟hetra with the presence of our Beloved Guru, H.H. Shrīmat Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī, has sent us back to our lives with a sense of responsibility, discipline and faith. We are extremely thankful and grateful to our Gurushakti for being the pivotal driving force through thick and thin and showing us the way to a graceful life.
the Kara Seva Shibir 2023
by Bala Shetty Maam
(1 Aug 2023)