Celebrating India

In Honor of Indian Republic Day
January 26, 2020

Introduction by Garima Borwankar

About Garima Borwankar

author photo Copyright SYDA Foundation

Garima began practicing the Siddha Yoga teachings in 1971 in Lucknow, India. Since 1985, she has served as a visiting and home sevite and as a staff member in Gurudev Siddha Peeth and Shree Muktananda Ashram. She currently serves as a staff member in the SYDA Foundation.

Garima holds a BA degree from Isabella Thoburn College in Lucknow, India, where she studied psychology and English literature. She has worked as a journalist for an English daily newspaper in Lucknow. An avid writer and poet, she has composed many poems in Hindi and Urdu. Garima and her husband live in El Sobrante, California; their daughter works for Disney Animation Studios in Los Angeles.

Why are we celebrating India on this day, January 26, 2020?

Truly speaking, every day, there is a multitude of celebrations taking place in India. There is a variety of reasons to celebrate because India itself has so much variety—in religions, customs, philosophies, and political views; in arts, music, food, attire, and in so much more.

Going from one state to another in India is like going from one country to another. Even within a given state, from ghar to ghar, gulī to gulī, from block to block, there is so much diversity. There are so many languages being spoken, so many dialects of the same language, and so many hybrids of various languages—such as “Hinglish,” a delightful mix of Hindi, Urdu, and English. There is a saying in India: कोस-कोस पर पानी बदले, चार कोस पर बानी, kos kos par pānī badle, chār kos par bānī. “The taste of water changes every two miles, and language changes every eight miles.” And that’s not all: in India, one will find people from almost every country. India is home to the world.

In all respects, India is a fascinating country. Everyone, whether they feel they understand India or not, whether they like India or not, is intrigued by it. Over the course of centuries, many explorers have made their way to India’s shores, lured by its reputation as सोने की चिड़िया, sone kī chiṛiyā—the “golden bird,” the land of legendary wealth, of gold and jewels, minerals and spices. These explorers thought they left no stone unturned—yet even they did not discover all of India’s mysteries and mysticism. India is like the ocean: no matter how much people explore and study of India, there is always something more to discover. There is something about it that can never be fully known.

So often, when India—Bhārat—is mentioned to someone who is from India, who has lived there, who has visited or who has simply read about the country and feels for it a certain unnamable affinity, their expression goes soft. A dreamy, faraway look comes into their eyes. Perhaps they are reminiscing about मिट्टी की सोंधी-सोंधी महक, miṭṭī kī sõdhī sõdhī mehek, the smell of the soil after the first monsoon rains, or the captivating മനം കവരുന്ന, manam kavarunna, fragrance of mogrā flowers. They may be hearing the chiming of temple bells in the early morning, mixed with the sounds of azān, the call to prayer to allāh. Or they may be remembering with relish the taste of homemade chapati—hot off the tavā, the griddle, and dripping with ghee.

They may also be recalling some of the many paradoxes that define India—the seeming contradictions that are at once baffling and alluring, confusing yet completely heartwarming. In India, poverty is in plain sight; the struggle for survival is real for so many people. Yet there is also an unmistakable spirit of जुगाड़, jugād, resourcefulness, a resolve to not be defeated by one’s conditions in life, a readiness to use one’s wits to make ends meet and not let the moments of happiness be marred by one’s circumstances. There is the apparent chaos on the outside—the unruly traffic, the euphony and the ઘોંઘાટ, ghõghāt, the cacophony of sounds in the air. There are the crowds of people everywhere, jostling and bumping into each other. But then there is the essence, the heart of India. There is the love-filledஅன்புடை, anbuḍāi—hospitality and the warmth of people; the devotion and longing for God; the living wisdom of the scriptures that influences the rhythms of daily life, the spiritual teachings of saints and sages who have walked and still walk this soil. All of these things that make up the character of India soothe the soul; they make one feel at home.

This much is for sure, and it is a sentiment that runs through all descriptions of India, whether it’s someone’s personal experience or an entire volume that has been written in an attempt to capture the country’s mystique: India is an enigma. The country can hardly be described in words, yet without fail, it leaves an indelible mark on your heart.

Indian Republic Day commemorates the date—January 26, 1950—on which India's constitution went into effect, making it an independent republic. It is in many ways a heralding of the country’s resiliency, its endurance through centuries of invasion and plundering. It is also a celebration of India’s adaptability, of the way this land and its people have fashioned from so many diverse influences an amalgamated culture that is distinctly Indian—and is definitely inimitable. India has brought to the world the message of sahishnutā, tolerance; shānti, peace; and dharma.

India has given rise to many great thinkers and achievers who have made prodigious contributions to humanity and the betterment of this planet. These include renowned mathematician and astronomer Āryabhata, who discovered that the Earth rotates on its axis daily, as well as the mathematician Rāmānujan, who decoded problems previously thought to be unsolvable in areas such as number theory. They include leaders and visionaries such as Mahatma Gandhi, who taught the world the value, morality, and effectiveness of non-violence; writers such as the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore; and musicians such as Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and the great Zākir Hussain.

In India one finds exquisite art, textiles, perfumes, and architecture. There are, for example, the temples of Meenākshī, Tirupati Bālājī, Badrīnāth, and the Konārk Sun Temple; the grand palaces of the Mughal kings; and of course, the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, which was built by the Mughal king Shahjahan. India has also brought to the world Āyurveda, the ancient science of medicine, and Hatha Yoga, the art and science of postures that bring about balance in the body and mind.

India’s contribution also extends to the enhancement of the English language. There is a vast array of words from various languages in India that have made their way into English—and with them came concepts that had never before existed in Western culture. Consider, for example, “mantra,” “karma,” “kismet,” “dharma,” “nirvana,” and “pundit.” Some other words of Indian origin that are now in regular use in English are: “cummerbund,” “chutney,” “ghee,” “jungle,” “chai,” “raj,” “curry,” “loot,” “bungalow,” “jodhpurs,” ”juggernaut,” and “shampoo.”

These are among the ಭಾರತದ ಹಲವಾರು ಉಡುಗೊರೆಗಳು, bhāratada halavāru uḍugoregaḷu, numerous gifts of India.

O India, আমরা তোমাকে খুব ভালবাসি, āmarā tōmāke khūb bhālōbāshī, how we love you!
O India, आहेस तू जीव की प्राण आमचा, āhes tū jeev kī prāṇ āmchā, You are our life, you are our breath! You are our heart, you are our soul!

India is called Bhārat Mātā, Mother India. And like a mother, this desh—this country—has come to epitomize generosity and compassion. Though many groups of people have sought to conquer her fertile lands and riches, India has continued to give endlessly to the world. With confidence, kindness, and a fierce sense of honor, India’s people have continued to look forward, determined to thrive.

One of the great spiritual paths India has given to the world is the path of Siddha Yoga. Those of us on the Siddha Yoga path will be forever grateful to India, and we take great pride in celebrating India for who she is.

As the writer Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya proclaims in the national song of India: सुखदां वरदां, मातरम्! वन्दे मातरम्! sukhadāṁ varadāṁ mātaram, vande mātaram, O mother, the giver of the boon of sukh—ease, happiness and joy, I bow to thee!

Angana Jhaveri, a longtime Siddha Yogi who has offered seva in the Multimedia Department in the SYDA Foundation and now lives in India, selected the images you see below. She had quite a daunting task before her, for how to capture all that India is? Fortunately for us, Angana brought her keen and artistic eye to this endeavor and has given us a beautiful glimpse of India. These images provide a window into this marvelous land and its people. They are an homage to India’s diversity, a salute to her vibrancy, a tribute to her tenacity, and an acknowledgement of her vivacity.

Click here for a full list of the phrases in Indian languages referenced in this introduction, along with their transliteration and meaning.

While viewing the images of India, you can listen to instrumental music in the Bahar raga.

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These photos bring back one of the favorite chapters of my life. From the moment I stepped off the plane, arriving in India felt like a homecoming. My stay in Gurudev Siddha Peeth was magical and transforming. When I close my eyes at night, I still remember how close all the stars seemed. I felt that the earth was cloaked in a cape of stars, and that I could reach up and touch them.
 
The best part for me was being with Gurumayi and spending time in the samadhi shrines of Bhagavan Nityananda and Baba Muktananda, where I experienced the supreme silence of their presence.
 

Florida, United States

As I wandered through the halls of this exquisite gallery, I felt I could smell the fragrant perfumes of India, experience the awe of being in the presence of the Ganges, remember the reverence of darshan in holy temples, churches, and mosques, and relish the beauty of the land and people.
 
I particularly loved the photos of the sacred buildings and rituals from the great religions and philosophical traditions of India. They reminded me of the ways in which India is a country of faith, tolerance, and peace.
 

Sydney, Australia

Seeing these colorful images, I feel proud of my heritage from India. I especially love seeing the temple of Bhagavan Nityananda and photos of Gurudev Siddha Peeth, the home of our beloved Gurus. I am ever so grateful to India as the physical source of the traditions that have brought me the greatest gift one can receive—the inner awakening that has transformed my life.
 

Florida, United States

As soon as the music and slideshow began, my body began to relax and the chatter in my mind dissipated. I felt Gurumayi's peaceful, loving protection envelop me as the music and images of India merged with my heart.
 
After spending time with these images, I realized how much I have grown since I found my Guru almost twenty years ago. She showed me that God resides within my heart and within everything everywhere. How much more colorful and vibrant my life has become!
 
What a glorious celebration of India's Republic Day. I’m so grateful to India for keeping the ancient teachings and traditions alive.
 

New Jersey, United States

The exquisite words and images here express so perfectly for me the compelling beauty and paradoxes of India! I felt as if I had been transported there as I remembered the feeling of coming home when I arrived there and the awe at the deep spirituality that permeates this sacred land.
 
This tribute entered my heart and awakened even deeper gratitude for India and our path of Siddha Yoga.
 

NewYork, United States

This is awesome! As I watched the vividly colorful images, I was filled with energy, enthusiasm, and deep gratitude for all the great beings who shaped the India we see today.
 

Georgia, United States

It is so delightful to read and see the beautiful and inspiring words and images about India!

I am so grateful for all I've received from this sacred and ancient land. I could not understand my present life without the knowledge that India and the Indian people have given to me.
 

Oaxaca, Mexico

Ah, India. Having visited this divine country and the sacred Gurudev Siddha Peeth so many times over the years, I feel they have become a part of me. As I looked at all the shining photos of this exquisite land and all that abides there, I could feel my heart melt anew with love, with warmth, with reverence, with joy. There is so much in India to enjoy, to love, to make one's own.

What a blessing Baba and Gurumayi have given to me, that I have become a part of this exquisite land, its culture, and its people. I am so grateful for India’s gift of Gurumayi and for the knowledge and experience of my own true Self.
 

New York, United States

It is beautiful to see the photos of all the lovely and deeply spiritual places in India. I am of Indian ancestry and was born in Kenya, lived in a village in India as a child, and have spent much of my life in the United Kingdom.

I am thankful to Gurumayi and the Siddha Yoga path, which connects me to India’s spiritual heritage. I am proud to be an Indian living in the West and participating in the deeply rooted Siddha Yoga practices.
 

Eastbourne, United Kingdom

Breathtaking and awe-inspiring, colorful and full of grandeur, these photographs offer me a glimpse into an ancient land of immense diversity, a culture deeply rooted in seeking the truth, with a history of rare spiritual masters.  
 
As an Indian living in London, there are many cold winter nights when I miss the warmth of India and the infinite dance of color all around me. Then I remember the precious mantra, my spiritual home of Ganeshpuri, and my beloved Guru.
 
Gurumayi’s peerless example inspires me to embody the wisdom and beauty of India, and spread it in all directions everywhere I go.
 

London, United Kingdom

These photos are so beautiful: magnificent rivers, mountains, and birds. I can sense the opalescent sky. How wonderful to celebrate India in this way! My heart becomes full and soft in the knowledge that this is where the Siddha Yoga path began, and where Gurudev Siddha Peeth is located. This connection will live inside me forever.
 

Brighton, Australia

I am grateful for these beautiful images and inspiring words honoring India. Viewing them leads me to experience humility and gratitude for the vast treasure house and blessing that India is for the world and for us on the Siddha Yoga path.
 

Colorado, United States

An unspoken longing arose in my heart as I viewed these images. Though I am a Westerner by birth, I feel a deep connection to India. The powerful spiritual legacy and the rich, colorful customs of this glorious nation resonate within my being. I will keep India in my awareness on this Republic Day—and beyond.

Washington, United States

These beautiful images and the words of great souls revive my gratitude for the precious gifts I have received from India.
 
Many years ago, I read a book about Mahatma Gandhi and felt immense love for him. Later, I had the good fortune to receive the inner awakening from Baba Muktananda. Now, while exploring the wisdom of India through the Siddha Yoga path website, I am happy to continue my inner journey with Gurumayi's teachings.

Rodez, France

What a wonder! Exactly thirty-six years ago on this very day—January 26, 1984—my grandfather, father, and uncle had their first darshan of Shri Gurumayi ji. I was just four years old then, and we lived in Udaipur, Rajasthan. On that day in 1984 the golden sun in the form of Sadguru Gurumayi emerged in our family's life and the darkness of ignorance vanished.
 
When I saw this gallery and particularly the images of Udaipur, I was drawn back to my childhood memories of that city of lakes, which my beloved Gurumayi visited in 1987. And I will be visiting that place in just a few days!
 
Thank you, Gurumayi, for always being there and thank you for celebrating India in this way.

Bhilwara, India

As I “entered” each picture, I found a serene and profound quiet, pervading my senses. Contemplating the mountains, temples, rivers, animals, and people brought about an expansion of my soul in every direction. My mind settled and discarded its worries. Gratitude arose. Thank you, India, for being the home of such deep spirituality and appreciation of the divine in all. Thank you for being on this earth, sharing your bounty with us. I pray that India may always be blessed.

Connecticut, United States

India! Our planet is so blessed to have this bastion of deep spirituality and beauty. From the moment my feet touched the soil of India in 1978, I have felt it is my home. These images evoked India’s vibrant energy and the ancient truths that have been revealed over centuries to sincere seekers.
 
India! I love your people, the warmth of your welcome, the diversity of cultures, and the feeling that you are steeped in worship and remembrance of God.

New York, United States

This feast of celebration evokes for me the experience of yatra, or pilgrimage—a yatra that travels not just through space but through time, too, embracing the sacred in traditions and in holy places and in nature’s creative bounty. As Rabindrinath Tagore writes, I feel my head is resting at Mother India’s feet—and I feel India embracing me back.

New York, United States

I am grateful for these beautiful photos that reflect the vibrancy, beauty, and aliveness of India. They brought back the memory of my last visit to Gurudev Siddha Peeth and my last night in the Ashram, gazing at a crescent moon. My heart was so full of love and lightness. I had the thought that India is the most romantic country in the world because its romance is with the divine.

New Mexico, United States

The beauty of India is revealed as each photo awakens my senses. It is a celebration of smell, sound, sight, and touch evoked by the images of delicate birds, fragrant flowers, and the bright colors of nature.
 
This experience stays with me long after I close my computer. Feeling connected to the birthplace of Gurumayi, the land of the Siddhas, is so sweet.
 

Montreal, Canada

These beautiful photos remind me of the feeling of comfort that filled my heart the first time I landed in India. Even though it was my first visit, I felt as if I was coming home at last. Viewing the photos evokes in me precious memories and longing.
 

Barcelona, Spain

As I contemplated each image of nature, I realized I was entering a meditative state; my mind calmed down, and my heart blossomed with love and gratitude.
 
Thank you, Gurumayi, for reminding me, yet again, of the power that nature has to reunite us with our soul.
 

Mexico City, Mexico

Tears of joy flowed as I beheld the beauty of nature lovingly displayed here. Its colors reveal the Creator's divine touch. How blessed I feel to be able to see this!
 

North Carolina, USA

My heart leapt with joy as I moved through this gallery. I love India because it is the home of Gurudev Siddha Peeth. And I’m aware that on January 26th each year the people of India celebrate and remember the glory, beauty, and history of their nation with Indian Republic Day.

I am so appreciative that the Siddha Yoga path website, through this gallery, has revealed the natural splendor and magnificence of this great country. 
 

Sydney, Australia

These exquisite views of nature, intermingled with the gems of the quotes, have stirred my mind and brought me to my heart.

Viewing this gallery, I have the mysterious and joyful experience of how truly marvelous is God's creation on this beautiful Earth. My heart is tingling and I have new eyes for the nature that is all around me. 

This gallery is such a delight! Thank you for this feast for my eyes and for my heart. 
 

New York, USA

As I view these photos, I experience my feet planted solidly on the earth. The ancientness of India fills me with a profound sense of belonging. I feel the morning mist brushing against my skin, inviting me to be alert to awe and wonder. The boldness of colors delights my imagination. The poetry is music to my heart.
 
I am so grateful to my Guru for showing me the myriad ways in which God’s beauty surrounds me. I am so grateful to my Guru for connecting me to all that is sacred.
 
Thank you, Gurumayi. 
 

California, USA