His Holiness Shree 1008 Swami Hariharji Maharaj established the first Geeta Ashram in 1947 on the bank of the holy river, Yamuna at Mathura, the sacred birthplace of Lord Krishna. Here, His Holiness started to deliver pravachan on Bhagvad Geeta on regular basis and soon this became a popular place for devotees to seek knowledge on this sacred scripture. Swami Ji Maharaj also started round the clock Geeta-path at this place. The practice has continued non-stop since then. At present there is a beautiful temple at that site with idols of Lord Shree Krishna and Ma Radhika enhancing the grace of the place. Devotees throng to this temple daily to pay their homage. Regular satsangs are held in the temple. A full-time pujari is in attendance to provide his selfless service with dedication.
A foundation stone of another Geeta Ashram was laid at Delhi Cantonment by Dr. S.R. Radha Krishnan, former President of India in 1954. This Ashram became the “Supreme Sacred Seat” of His Holiness Shree 1008 Swami Hariharji Maharaj. From here, he monitored all activities of Geeta Ashrams both in and out of India.
A hall-mark of the Ashram is the large temple. This temple houses beautifully carved marble “murties” or statues of Radha-Krishna, Ram Darbar, Shiva-Parvati, Hanuman Ji, Ganesh Ji, Durga Ji, other goddesses and that of His Holiness Shree 1008 Swami Hariharji Maharaj. The temple also contains a spacious hall with a seating capacity of about 3000 persons. In addition to the Guest House, the Ashram runs a Vidya Mandir (school) along with a residential block with many rooms for its inmates.
Activities of the Geeta Ashram start with an early morning “Aarti” in the temple. It is followed by Geeta Path, havan and yoga classes. A “satsang” is held regularly every evening in the temple. In addition, special events such as Guru Poornima, Janmaashtami, Geeta Jayanti, Hanuman Jayanti, and Navaratri Pooja are celebrated by devotees with great devotion and enthusiasm. As in Mathura, the Geeta Path continues non-stop in the temple since the inception of Geeta Ashram in Delhi Cantt.
The Geeta Ashram, Delhi Cantt. functions as the Central Headquarters, keeping close links with all other Geeta Ashrams in the world. It has a large library with a huge book-bank including publications of the Ashram. The Vidya Mandir caters for more than 500 children on its roll. The school is duly registered with the Delhi State Government and is run like any other unaided private school in the country with English as the Medium of Instruction. The children admitted here are mostly from the Armed Forces, stationed in Delhi Cantonment with some from the civilian population living in the area.
The Ashram publishes “Guru Prasad”, a monthly magazine. Its distribution is free to life members both in and outside India.
In order to spread the message of the Bhagvad Geeta far and wide, His Holiness established Geeta Ashrams in Faridabad, Mumbai, Baroda, Pune, Kanpur, Kapurthala, Meerut, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Ranchi etc. in India.
Around mid-Sixties, Swami Ji Maharaj succeeded in establishing the first Geeta Ashram outside India in Petaling Jaya near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was followed by Ashrams in Penang, Singapore, Thailand, and Hong Kong. The Seventies saw the setting up of Geeta Ashrams in Minneapolis, Houston, Chicago, Austin, Charlotte, New York, San Francisco, and San Diego in the U.S.A. During this period, His Holiness also visited Africa and with the support of his devotees he had no problem to start Geeta Ashrams in Monrovia, Sierra Leone, Lagos to name a few. Later, Ashrams were also set up in London, Madrid, Las Palmas, and other cities in Europe. In the Eighties, the Geeta Ashram Movement spread to South America and Central America with its branches appearing in Peru, Panama, and Chile etc. Thus, working relentlessly on his mission, His Holiness carried the message of the Geeta to all the four continents of the world.
By and large, a similar pattern of spiritual activities as observed in the Ashram at Delhi Cantonment is followed in all the Ashrams around the world.
The Geeta Ashram has also been holding and convening International Conferences on various aspects of the Geeta and their respective implications on every day life in different parts of the world. These conferences have been very popular, attracting greater participation of the public at large from all over the world and from all walks of life. Their main aim has been to exchange views and ideas on the impact of the Geeta’s teachings on every day life with the following objectives:
(a) To promote peace and universal brotherhood through the message of the Geeta.
(b) To promote spiritual and inter-cultural activities irrespective of caste, color and geographical boundaries between countries.
Brief Account of International Geeta Conferences
Since Geeta Ashrams are located in different countries of the world with their specific and respective creed, culture, tradition and religion, His Holiness thought of providing their members a single platform where they can gather and exchange their views on the application and implication of the teachings of the Geeta for the well-being and welfare of mankind. Thus, in the year of 1974, it was decided to organize periodical international conferences on the philosophy of the Geeta.
Accordingly, Swami Ji Maharaj established an “International Federation of Geeta Ashrams” with its Headquarters at the Geeta Ashram in Delhi Cantonment and made it responsible, amongst its other tasks, to plan and organize a series of International Geeta Conferences in different parts of the world in the future. Brief account of conferences that were held under the Patronage and President-ship of His Holiness Shree 1008 Swami Hariharji Maharaj is given below.
The First International Geeta Conference was planned and organized at the Geeta Ashram Headquarters in New Delhi in 1975. This proved to be of great success. It helped to serve as an effective foundation for planning and holding future conferences with a specific focus on achieving universal brotherhood and international understanding.
The Second International Geeta Conference was convened and hosted by the Geeta Ashram of Thailand in Bangkok in March 1976 under the theme of “Promotion of International Peace and Harmony.” It was inaugurated by His Excellency Prof. Sanya Dhammasakdi, President of the Royal Privy Council of Thailand with His Holiness Shree 1008 Swami Hariharji Maharaj in the chair. The closing ceremony was performed by H.H. the Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, Lord Abbot of the Royal Bovoranives Buddhists Monastery, Bangkok and Preceptor of His Majesty the King of Thailand.
Delegates from Africa, Europe, East and South East Asia, India and the U.S.A participated in the Bangkok Conference. The conference had full support not only of the Government of Thailand, but also that of the most influential Buddhist Clergy. Several religions were represented by their delegates and speakers. This created an atmosphere of harmony and mutual understanding amongst all those attending the conference. Further, this helped to provide a great stimulus for the Geeta Ashrams in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Far East in organizing their future activities.
Dr. Preedee Kusumsup, a Buddhist prominent scholar, educationist, and a former Vice-Chancellor of Thammasart University in Bangkok as well as an ardent follower of the teachings of the Geeta, was appointed as the Vice-President of “International Federation of Geeta Ashrams”.
The Third International Geeta Conference was held in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia in West Africa in March 1977. President Talbot of Liberia, a very prominent figure in the Christian hierarchy, delivered the inaugural address at the conference. A large number of ministers and high officials of the Government of Liberia participated in the conference. They also helped in arranging a special cultural program for the benefit of all the participants. The Conference succeeded in bringing together not only the adherents of different faiths in West Africa on one platform to discuss their common problems but also went a long way in strengthening links between them for future exchanges of ideas on the subject.
Various recommendations emerging out of the deliberations of the Conference emphasized the strengthening of activities of the Geeta Ashram based on the teachings of the Geeta aimed specifically at community service with regard to promoting and providing education, health care, financial assistance and yoga training for the needy.
The venue for the Fourth International Geeta Conference was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August 1978. The theme of this conference was “Geeta and the Youth”. In addition to the large number of local participants from Malaysia and Singapore there were more than 150 foreign delegates representing Geeta Ashrams around the world. They included members of the judiciary, educationists, engineers, medical practitioners, businessmen, philosophers and leaders of various religious organizations. The special feature of this conference was a Yagna, with 108 Havan Kunds. The ceremony was hosted and performed at the premises of the Geeta Ashram Malaysia, in Petaling Jaya.
The conference was inaugurated by Y.B. Datuk Amar Haji Abdul Taib bin Mahmud, Minister of Defense, Government of Malaysia. The conference concluded that an action-oriented program be launched to inculcate moral and spiritual values among the youth. It also praised the high ideals and principles enshrined in the Constitution of Malaysia.
During the fourth conference, a need for reinforcement of cosmic inspiration, experienced earlier in the first International Conference of Delhi, was felt. Accordingly, it was unanimously suggested to hold the next conference in India. The Geeta Prachar Mandal, Jodhpur offered to host the Fifth International Conference on Geeta in Jodhpur. In accepting the offer, His Holiness Gurudev Ji Maharaj gave his blessings.
It was perhaps a blessing in disguise since Jodhpur, the heart of Rajasthan, has the proud privilege of being the auspicious birthplace of His Holiness. In addition, Merta, the hometown of one of the greatest devotees of Lord Krishna, Bhakta Shiromani Meera, is situated very close to Jodhpur.
Thus, the Fifth International Geeta Conference was organized and convened in Jodhpur in December 1980 with the theme of “Geeta, Religion and State”. It was attended by a large number of delegates from all over the world including various States of India. The conference attained a special significance with the participation of high dignitaries like His Highness Dr. Karan Singh, Ex Sadar-I-Riyasat and Governor of Jammu & Kashmir as well as Ex Cabinet Minister of Government of India, His Highness Maharaja of Jodhpur, Hon’ble Judges, senior advocates, doctors, professors, engineers, philosophers, etc. The conference concluded with great success.
The special feature of this conference was the great reception accorded to His Holiness by lacs of his devotees from all over Jodhpur. The grand procession, “Shobha Yatra”, formed in honor of His Holiness, extended over miles. It passed through the main roads and streets of Jodhpur city. Multitude of people with garlands of flowers either lined up on both sides of the roads or stood on the roof tops of houses and on the garden walls to welcome His Holiness. This was because it was first home coming of His Holiness since he took Sanyasa over sixty years ago. It was a great welcome to their “Great Guru”. They showered tons of variegated flowers over him and felt happy and excited to have “Holy Darshan of His Holiness Maharaj Shree” after so many years.
The Sixth Geeta Conference was held in 1982 and was convened in the Rattanakossin city in Thailand. The country is very well known, internationally, as a unique model of religious tolerance and freedom. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sriinthoru was gracious enough to inaugurate the Conference. She also participated in some sessions of the Conference. Further, His Holiness Some Det Phra Nayanasamvara, Lord Abbot of Wat Bovoranives Vihara and the Preceptor of the King of Thailand not only delivered the keynote address but also blessed the delegates. The Conference was attended by a large number of delegates from many countries in the West, South East Asia and India. The theme of the Conference was “Geeta, Peace and Spiritual Revival”.
The Seventh International Geeta Conference was held in February 1986 in the Holy City of Allahabad, India. This conference derives its significance from the fact that it was held in the “Sacred Tirath Asthan” Prayagraj, located at the confluence of three sacred rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. It was jointly organized and hosted by Geeta Ashrams of Allahabad and Delhi Cantonment at “Prayag Sangeet Samiti Hall” in the Magh Mela grounds. A large number of delegates from all over the world came to participate in the conference. Various dignitaries attending the conference included saints and religious leaders from major faiths, officers of judiciary, well-known advocates, philosophers, administrators, social workers, scientists and technologists. The theme of the conference was “Geeta – The Dynamics of Harmony, Peace and Secularism”.
The Eighth Conference was held in July 1989 in the United States of America and was hosted by the Geeta Ashram of Chicago under the theme of “Geeta and Today’s Youth”. It was the first Geeta Conference to be organized in the U.S.A. Thousands of participants including a large number of delegates from various Geeta Ashrams in the world attended the conference. The main feature of the conference was “Shobha Yatra” which was taken out through the city of Chicago. The keynote speakers of the conference included high dignitaries from within and outside of the United States. The experience proved to be rather unique since it was the first time that the Geeta Conference was convened, for the first time, in a highly advanced country with modern technology as well as pluralistic and secular society. The conference left a big impact on the people of the U.S.A. and this led to the establishment of more Geeta Ashrams in various parts of the country.
The Ninth Conference was originally planned to be held in Mathura-Vrindavan but due to some unavoidable circumstances the venue of the conference had to be shifted to Delhi. The time for reorganization of the conference in the new venue was rather short, however, with the inspiration and blessings, of His Holiness Gurudev Maharaj Shree, the Geeta Ashram Headquarters at Delhi Cantt., measured up to the task and succeeded in convening it in Ashoka Hotel, Delhi towards the end of December 1991 under the theme of “Geeta and Modern Society”.
The entire place including its three main gates leading to the Convention Hall were attractively decorated with flowers and lights. Beautifully designed arches and banners were erected on the outskirts of Ashoka Hotel for the welcome of delegates. A large number of people including high dignitaries, religious leaders from different faiths, philosophers and delegates from various Geeta Ashrams world-wide attended the conference. The most important guests, in addition to His Highness Dr. Karan Singh, included Shri Vasant Sathe, Cabinet Minister of Government of India. Badshah Peer Sahib, a Muslim religious leader from Pakistan, Sardar Nindr, a Sikh religious leader and Sr. Vice Presidents of various Geeta Ashrams of Penang, Malaysia (Mr. Edgar S. Mitchell, a Christian); Thailand (Dr. Professor Preedee Kasemsup); Liberia (Mr. Behram R. Vakil, a Parsi); and Singapore.
The conference was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Chief Guest Dr. Karan Singh after Geeta Path and Guru Vandhana. The beautiful Convention Hall of Ashoka Hotel seated about 2500 conference participants for each session. The hall reverberated for three days with eloquent speeches and teachings on Geeta, delivered by various saints and scholars. All the delegates were served with tea, coffee, snacks and luncheons on each day of the conference.
Devotional songs in praise of the Lord were sung by famous singers. They added to the spiritual atmosphere of the conference. The other special feature of the conference was a beautiful live show on the life of “Bhagwan Sri Krishna.” “Rasleela” arranged by the organizers of the conference. This was an added attraction. Some renowned and prominent cultural organizations of India also presented an exciting musical-cum-spiritual program. In this, about 60 senior artists gave a thrilling performance for more than three hours to the delight of participants in the auditorium of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
After the deliberations at Ashoka Hotel, the conference program was extended for another two days at Geeta Ashram Headquarters in Delhi Cantonment.
The Tenth International Geeta Conference was held in U.K. and was convened at Harrow Leisure Centre, London, from 26-28 August 1994. Its theme was “Geeta and Universal Brotherhood”. It was attended by a large number of delegates from all over the world. His Holiness, showering his Divine Blessings on all the participants, made the opening remarks. The conference was then addressed by many scholars on the relevance of Bhagvad Geeta to the selected theme. The conference concluded with great success.
Subsequently, it was decided to hold the Geeta Conference each year during the birthday celebrations of His Holiness at Geeta Dham, Tinwari, about 40 kms from the city of Jodhpur.
More on Geeta Dham can be found separately on the Geeta Dham website.
Geeta Ashram is neither a mere structure of bricks and mortar nor it is simply a meeting place for individuals. Each Geeta Ashram, in fact, is an International Spiritual Movement that aims to build a new society imbued with universal brotherhood for the good of all mankind.