Story Title: The Osho Movement

By Alisha D'souza
Word Count: 432

Osho International, Pune

The Osho Ashram, located in Koregaon Park, Pune, is one of the largest centres in the world for meditation and spiritual growth. Founded by Acharya Rajneesh in the 1970s, or 'Osho' as he was known, the Osho movement spread to many Western countries of the World; and visitors to the ashram in India come from all corners of the world.

Chandra Mohan Jain, also known as Acharya Rajneesh (Acharya means teacher, and Rajneesh was a nick-name used in his child-hood) or 'Osho', was born on 11th December, 1931 in Kuchwada in Bhopal. He was also sometimes referred to as Bhagwan Rajneesh by his followers. He was a spiritual teacher and guru with a large following and his international following has continued after his death.

A professor of philosophy, he travelled throughout India during the 1960s as a public speaker. His outspoken criticism of traditional ways of doing things made him controversial. In 1970 Rajneesh settled for a time in Bombay (now Mumbai). Moving to Pune in 1974, he established an ashram which attracted a growing number of Westerners. Soon, the ashram featured an arts-and-crafts centre, which produced clothes, jewellery, earthenware and organic cosmetics and hosted theatre, music performances and so on.

In 1981, Rajneesh moved to the United States, where his followers established an intentional community (later known as Rajneeshpuram). He became famous in the USA for his large collection of Rolls Royce cars – at one point in time he owned 93 Rolls Royces – he was the largest Rolls Royce owner in the world. His followers in America vowed to buy him 365 cars - one Rolls Royce for each day of the year. However, by 1984, they had to move back to India. Rajneesh finally moved back to Pune in 1995, where he died in 1990 at the age of 58.

Even though there have been many people who have criticised Rajneesh and the Osho Ashram, there are a number of good things to see today. Today, the ashram in Pune is known as the Osho International Meditation Resort. The campus is beautifully designed and maintained. People (visitors) at the Ashram, called sanyasins, wear maroon robes.

Osho Teerth is a beautiful 12-acre park that has been created out of a publicly-owned former wasteland, near the Osho Ashram. It is not only a beautiful park but also a reflection of the simple understanding of nature. What was once a barren patch of brown earth with a dirty stream down the middle has been transformed into a delightful garden now enjoyed by thousands of visitors every month. Over the years, the Osho Ashram has become a place for tourists to visit as well.

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Story Title: The Sadhu Vaswani Mission

By Akshay Sharma
Word Count: 513

The Sadhu Vaswani Mission

Pune is home to a number of religious and spiritual organisations. The Sadhu Vaswani Mission is one of these. The mission was founded by Sadhu T.L. Vaswani, originally in Hyderabad, Sindh (in modern day Pakistan.) Since then, the mission has opened a number of centres around India. Pune is the headquarters of the mission. The ashram in Pune Camp is the headquarters of the organization, located in Sadhu Vaswani Peth The mission also runs a number of institutes of learning.

Sadhu Thanwardas Lilaram Vaswani, or Sadhu Vaswani as he is commonly called, was born on in 1879 in Hyderabad, Pakistan. He founded the Sadhu Vaswani Mission in 1929. It was because of the partition of India in into Pakistan and India that the Sadhu Vaswani Mission had to move to Pune. The move to Pune took place in 1949. Sadhu Vaswani died in 1966 at the age of 86.

There is a 'Darshan Museum' in the Pune mission, dedicated to Sadhu Vaswani. In this museum the life of Sadhu Vaswani is depicted through audio-visual shows and artwork. Modern technology is used to make visitors have a real life-like experience. This museum was inaugurated by Bollywood actor Aamir Khan in 2011.

The next spiritual leader of the mission is Dada Jashan Pahlajrai Vaswani (Dada J.P. Vaswani) who is the current leader of the mission.

The Sadhu Vaswani Mission runs many institutes in Pune. St. Mira's College for Girls and The Sadhu Vaswani Institute for Management Studies are located on Koregaon Road. Sadhu Vaswani College of Nursing was established in 2006. This institute is located in Koregaon Park. The organization also has a Medical complex called the Sadhu Vaswani Mission's Medical Complex. This complex is located in Koregaon Park and contains a number of medical centres.

The Inlaks and Budhrani Hospital is one of these centres and is one of Pune's most prominent hospitals. The MN Budhrani Cancer Institute is a Cancer treatment facility. It was inaugurated in 1995. There is also the Fabiani and Budhrani Heart Institute and the KK Eye Institute.

Apart from the Mission, there is the Mira movement started by Sadhu Vaswani. This movement was launched in 1933 with the aim of providing education to everyone. Many of these educational institutions are part of this movement. Other institutions include a kindergarten school called Shanti Vidya Mandir, other schools such as St. Mira's Bal Bhavan, St. Mira's English Medium School (primary and secondary), St. Mira's High School (Sindhi medium) and St. Mira's Primary School (Sindhi medium).

There are many events which are organised by this mission. Dada Bhandara, where poor people are fed, is one of them. Other activities include Satsangs (spiritual meetings). The Sadhu Vaswani mission also promotes vegetarianism and the birthday of Sadhu Vaswani (25 November) is observed as a meatless day by his followers.

In an era where religion is often used to divide people, this mission stands out as an example of how it can bring people together. Sadhu Vaswani mission has a simple message for everyone. Peace, non-violence and compassion are the cornerstones of this mission.

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Story Title: Ganesh Chaturthi

By Sakshi Nadkarni
Word Count: 494

Dagadusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple

Ganesh Chaturthi is a Hindu festival and is celebrated in honour of Ganesha, the elephant God. With the head of an elephant, Ganesh is the remover of obstacles and the God of beginnings. The festival, also known as Vinayak Chaturthi, usually falls between 19 August and 20 September. The Ganesh festival lasts for 10 days, ending with the Visarjan, or the Immersion.

The popular Hindu story of Ganesh is that the Goddess Parvati created Ganesha out of sandalwood paste and breathed life into the figure. She then told him to stand guard at her door. When the God Shiva, who had gone out, returned; Ganesh didn't allow him to enter. Shiva became angry and had his head chopped off. Now, Parvati became enraged. And so Shiva brought Ganesh back to life but couldn't find his head. And so, he put the head of an elephant to back on Ganesh's body. And this is how Ganesh became the Elephant God.

While Ganesh is worshipped by many Hindus, especially in south & West India, Ganesh Chaturthi is essentially a Maharashtrian festival. During the festival, people install clay images of Ganesha in their homes; as well as in public pandals. These images are worshipped for ten days until the day of Anant Chaturdashi, commonly referred to as the Ganesh Visarjan; where the idols are immersed in water.

The public pandals are set up on the roads of the city. Some of the 'Maha Mandals' or more famous mandals are The Dagadu Sheth Ganpati mandal and the Saras Baug Ganpati mandal. The pandals play loud music and poojas take place at these pandals every day, followed by dancing. Also, various cultural and even sports activities are organised during the festival. The largest of these is the Pune Festival, organised by the city of Pune itself.

Ganesh Visarjan is a massive event. All the public pandals move in procession along-with their Ganesh idol towards water, usually the cities rivers. The processions wind their way along, over many hours of drum-beating (called Dhol-Tasha), dancing on the streets and ending with the immersion of the idols in water. On Visarjan day, you are likely to find many of the streets of the city blocked for these processions, and getting stuck behind one of the processions can put your plans back by hours.

Worshipers can be heard chanting "Ganpati bappa morya, pudhchya warshi lavkar ya", which basically translates into “O great Ganpati, do come back early next year”.

Ganesh Chaturthi is not just the largest festival in the city of Pune, it is also one of the largest festivals in the world in term of the number of people who celebrate on the streets. Of late, some eco-friendly steps are being taken during the festival, which include:

  • Eco friendly idols that will not pollute the rivers & lakes
  • Immersion of idols in specially made tanks rather than the rivers
  • less noise pollution from the public pandals during the festival

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Story Title: Sant Tukaram’s Palkhi

By Akshay Sharma
Word Count: 534

Sant Tukaram’s Palkhi

Sant (saint) Tukaram was one of the most important and prominent saints from the time of the Bhakti Movement. He was also a poet. He was born in Dehu in 1577, a town which is close to Pune. His poetry reflects devotion and spirituality. The Palkhi Festival is an important event through which Tukaram is remembered and celebrated in Maharashtra.

The Palkhi Festival takes place every year. It is a unique Maharashtrian tradition going back a long time. In the festival, warkaris (which means pilgrims) worship Vithoba, a form of the Hindu God, Krishna. The Palkhi is an annual pilgrimage wherein devotees go to Pandharpur in groups of warkaris known as Dindis. They sing and chant devotional songs and poetry and dance in celebration of the glory of God and the saints.

They warkaris carry a palkhi (a palanquin) which contains a symbol of the saint. That is where the name Palkhi for this festival comes from. In Tukaram's palkhi, his silver padukas (footsteps) are placed in the palkhi.

The tradition of pilgrimage to Pandharpur is long standing one. warkaris used to undertake this pilgrimage. Then in 1685, Narayan Baba, who was youngest son of Tukaram decided to make the palkhi a part of the procession. The palkhi contained silver Padukas of Sant Tukaram. That procession went to Alandi, the place of another great saint, Sant Dnyaneshwar, and there the padukas of Dnyaneshwar were put into the palkhi as well.

This became a tradition and continued until 1830. Then, in that year, a dispute arose among the warkaris. As a result, the tradition of palkhi got divided into two parts. Instead of one procession carrying the padukas of both the great saints, there have been since then two processions. One starts from Dehu, the birth-place of Tukaram, carrying the Tukaram palkhi and heads to Pandharpur.

The other starts from Alandi, the place of Dnyaneshwar, carrying the Dnyaneshwar palkhi and it also heads to Pandharpur. The two processions come together in Pune for some time and then separate at Hadapsar and then meet again at close to Pandharpur.

The palkhi procession usually starts in June, and the procession lasts for 22 days. Thousands of devotees participate in this festival. There are some special events that take place during this the palkhi festival.

One of these events is the Ringan. In this event a sacred horse which is called Maulincha Ashwa, (that is believed to represent the soul of the saints whose palkhi is being carried) is released to run through the procession. The warkaris try of catch the dust which is kicked up by the horse and smear it onto their heads.

Another interesting event that takes place is called the Dhava. This event is a kind of race which commemorates the event of Tukaram seeing the temple of Pandharpur for the first time and started running towards it. The arrival of the palkhi in Pune is a huge event. Many roads are shut to traffic and citizens of Pune feed the warkaris.

Sant Tukaram is one of the important figures in Maharashtrian history. His contribution to Marathi literature is immense. He is remembered most through this religious festival.

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