29 Sep 2015

Official Press Release: German Resident Honoured at India’s Historic Kumbh Mela Festival

Sri Swami Vishwananda becomes first ever Germany-based spiritual leader to hold prestigious title of Maha Mandaleshwar.  
(pdf link to press release)

SPRINGEN, GERMANY, 29 September 2015 — Resident of Heidenrod-Springen in Hessen/ Germany, Sri Swami Vishwananda, returns to his home ashram near Frankfurt after receiving the title of Maha Mandaleshwar, one of the most prestigious titles given to Hindu spiritual leaders.

Sri Swami Vishwananda was acknowledged by all four heads of the Vaishnava Sampradayas (spiritual lineages), a very rare and special honour, as well as the hundreds of sadhus (Hindu holy men) and over 125 devotees from Bhakti Marga, his international spiritual organisation based in Germany. The ceremony took place in Nashik, in the Indian state of Maharashtra where this year’s festival was held this month.

A Maha Mandaleshwar (meaning superior of many monasteries) is considered to be a guardian and pillar of the Hindu faith, presiding over several ashrams and temples and the title recognizes significant spiritual achievement and leadership. The title originates from the 9th century and was established by Adi Shankaracharya. At the time India was under religious threat for the first time and so in order to safeguard the religion and its customs, Akharas (spiritual armies) were formed. Those Akharas of which today there are 14 have developed over the centuries into spiritual institutions tasked with preserving and propagating moral, cultural and spiritual values into society. Sri Swami Vishwananda was initiated into the Nirmohi Akhara, a Vaishnava Akhara founded in the 18th century with its headquarters in the city of Ayodhya, India. Its leader, Mahant Sri Rajendra Das was also present at the initiation.
The heads of the Vallabha, Sri, Madhava and Nimbarka Sapmradayas elevate 
Sri Swami Vishwananda to the seat of Maha Mandaleshwar
Over the past 10 years, Sri Swami Vishwananda has travelled the world to spread the message of love, patience and unity, and the importance of opening one’s heart to a personal relationship with the Divine. Sri Swami Vishwanda’s recognition by the Akharas is therefore even more special as he has predominantly operated outside of India, educating those who are new to Hinduism and its deep spiritual tradition. 

"I am thankful to the entire fraternity of sadhus for conferring this title on me. I will spread the message of love through Bhakti Marga everywhere," said Sri Swami Vishwananda. 

As a Maha Mandaleshwar, Sri Swami Vishwananda has now been conferred, amongst many other things, a greater responsibility in sharing the message of Hinduism and spirituality and places him amongst the foremost figures of Hinduism. The title grants him the possibility to reach many more people than ever before and it marks a turning point for Sri Swami Vishwananda’s mission in India, as he looks to spread his divine message across the globe in an effort to uplift mankind to love unconditionally.

The initiation ceremony took place during the famous Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest spiritual festival, where millions of Hindu devotees gather on average every three years to bathe in four of India’s holy rivers. 
The procession towards the holy river in Nashik
Sri Swami Vishwananda (centre) with most of the approximately 125 devotees 
that followed him on the pilgrimage to the Kumbh Mela
The Kumbh Mela, literally translated as the festival of the holy pitcher, is a tradition that dates back thousands of years, in which Hindus believe that the Gods spilled drops of the nectar of immortality from their holy pitcher on to the four locations of Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Allahabad. It is undoubtedly the most important pilgrimage for Hindus as the holy waters cleanse away all impurities and give new life and hope for the millions of believers striving for divine fulfilment and perfection. The last Kumbh Mela was attended by approximately 100 million Hindus making it the largest human gathering in the world.

Maha Mandaleshwar Sri Swami Vishwananda after his initiation
Sri Swami Vishwananda and his group of over 125 pilgrims from over 30 countries were in the public eye as the only predominantly western group to participate at this year’s Kumbh Mela, further showcasing Sri Swami Vishwananda’s extensive work to open up previously closed doors to the western world, granting devotees the possibility to participate in these deeply spiritual pilgrimages regardless of cultural background. The group received extensive local, national and even international press coverage.

A Mauritian of Indian origin, Sri Swami Vishwananda founded his mission Bhakti Marga in 2005 with the principles of love, patience and unity. Based in Springen, just west of Wiesbaden and Frankfurt, the main international spiritual centre and ashram Shree Peetha Nilaya, which means “abode of the Divine Mother”, hosts meditation courses, spiritual events, and annual festivals. This past July, the organisation celebrated its 10th anniversary with 2000 guests from all over the world. 

As of September 2015, over 1’000 spiritual groups inspired by Bhakti Marga are active in 50 countries around the world, with a special focus on Europe. Bhakti Marga is opening its first ashram in India in April 2016 in Vrindavan. 

22 Sep 2015

Following the Master: Kumbh Mela 2015 - Conclusion

Jai Gurudev,

Thank you for following along with us the last few weeks as we travelled to Kumhb Mela, the heart of spirituality, in India!

We hope you enjoyed the first of the “Following the Master” series, and we plan to have many more in the future as Sri Swami Vishwananda travels around the world. If you would like to take part in a Bhakti Marga pilgrimage, please visit our website for future dates and destinations: www.bhaktimaga.org/events. 

If you simply can’t wait for the next pilgrimage to be with Swamiji and Bhakti Marga devotees, we invite you to join us for Navaratri. Navaratri is a 9-day celebration at Shree Peetha Nilaya (near Frankfurt, Germany) to honour the Divine Mother from 13th October through 22th October, 2015. For more details on Navaratri, visit: www.bhaktimarga.org/events/navaratri 


We hope to see you soon, either at Shree Peetha Nilaya or on a special trip somewhere in the world with Swamiji.

Just Love,
Bhakti Marga Communications

21 Sep 2015

Following the Master: Kumbh Mela 2015 – Day 11 (The Final Day)

The Journey:

The final day of the pilgrimage was spent visiting temples around the area and performing kirtan. The highlight of the day was visiting the Trimbakeshwar temple and spending time with Swami before leaving India. The temple contains one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, the main lingas of India.

In addition to visiting the Trimbakeshwar Temple, the group also visited the birthplace of Hanuman. Interestingly, during the monsoon season, the winds are so strong that the water in the waterfalls is pushed back up the mountain, challenging gravity.

The group also visited the temple and ashram of Sage Kapila, where the main deity is Rama. In this place, Kapila, when he was 5 five years old, gave Brahma Vidya (divine knowledge) to his mother. This happened during Satya Yuga (the Golden Age). In this place, the great Guru Gajanand Maharaj lived and practiced sadhana for many years, attaining liberation and all his siddhis.

At the ashram there are two kunds (ponds/water reservoirs), where, for thousands of years, water has naturally flowed in. Despite there being no exits for the water, it never overflows. In ancient times, the Kumbh Mela would take place in these kunds.

Another interesting story here is that the southern area of the ashram was the place of Sri Shukracharya, the Guru of the asuras. He cursed the region and no plants would grow until Lord Rama, who was in exile, walked on this land. When his feet touched this ground, everything became green and blossomed.

Later in the day, the group visited a very beautiful Rama temple in Nashik called Mukta Dham. The main deity is Sita-Ram, but other exquisite deities such as Radha Krishna, Lakshmi Narayana and Hanuman were present. The group took the harmonium, mridanga and manjiras, and started a powerful kirtan. Many other people joined in the Hari Naam, clapping, singing and watching the group with curiosity. It was a great energy and within a few minutes the temple was full.

In the evening, the group spent the last few moments in the camp, which had become home for the past eight days, and had brought everyone together. The group had a candlelight dinner to create a special festive atmosphere, and then they received an extraordinary visit by the head of one of the biggest Akharas. He had a private exchange with Swamiji and then listened to the kirtan we performed especially for him.

The final moments of the unforgettable pilgrimage was spent thanking Swamiji for allowing the group to take part in this special mystical journey to the heart of spirituality in India, the Kumbh Mela. Through the Grace of the Master, everyone in the group was able to experience the Love of the Divine in their own unique way, and can now shine and share that Love with the people around them as they head back to their homes.


"It ended up being another late night, and by now, we were all exhausted and happy to catch a few hours of sleep that had been sorely missed. Next day we bade farewell to our beloved Guruji, who took off for a little extension of his stay in India as he travels on to the region of Pune with a small group of devotees, whilst the rest of us embarked on two big buses headed to Mumbai, where flights to Frankfurt, London, Moscow or Johannesburg were awaiting us. It was an unforgettable 10 days that we spent together as one grand family, and we will treasure the memories in the hearts." - Swami Vishwakurunandhanananda (a.k.a Swami Kuru)

Upcoming Events:

If you would like to learn more about how you can take part in upcoming events with Sri Swami Vishwananda, please click on this link: http://www.bhaktimarga.org/events

For more pictures, please visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SriSwamiVishwananda

19 Sep 2015

Following the Master: Kumbh Mela 2015 – Day 10 (The Second Bath)

"Water acts as the element to purify the outside. So when the outside is purified, the mind is purified. The spirit is purified so that the inner fire, which is Shakti Herself, can reveal Itself." 
- Sri Swami Vishwananda

The Journey:

An amazing journey guided by the Master, Sri Swami Vishwananda, came to a culmination with the second and final bath ceremony.


One person writes:

"The activities started early. The group left the hotel at 2:30 a.m. During the snaan (bathing) days, many streets are closed, forcing us to leave early. The group arrived at the initial site at about 4 a.m. There, some meditated and others took rest. A puja was offered to Krishna.

"We started the procession before 6 am. It was raining a lot and was still dark. Guruji looked beautiful in his chariot, which was actually a Jeep nicely decorated with garlands and an umbrella. Unlike the previous snaan, there was fewer people in the streets. The pilgrims were very excited, dancing, clapping and singing bhajans. We could follow Guruji very closely."

"The procession looked like a marathon in some points, since the jeep was going fast and the pilgrims needed to literally run to follow it. The locals were offering flowers and greeting Guruji and our group. Some would even approach the Jeep to touch Guruji's feet. Guruji was often greeting and blessing them, and many locals were mesmerized by his Divine presence."

"After a fun journey to the bathing site, our group took the three dips. On the way back, the group was still dancing and singing."

"Back at the initial meeting point, we waited for Guruji while singing bhajans. He joined us and gave us prasad. After awhile the pilgrims walked back to the buses."

"On his way back, Guruji stopped at Balaram Das (from Vrindavan) camp. He had gone to Guruji's initiation the day before. He was sweet and super excited for Guruji. His main principles are: Hari Naam (singing the name of the Divine) and Prasad (eating the food offered to the Divine)."

"We went back to the hotel at 10:30 and had a free day to rest. Some went again to Nashik to visit temples and to buy gifts, etc. Also, at the camp before dinner, an OM Chanting session took place."

To learn more about OM Chanting, please visit: www.omchanting.org.

"The next day will also start early, we will leave at 5:30 a.m. for the Trimbakeshwar Temple. Westerns usually can't go to this temple, but thanks to the mayor we received special permission."

Trimbakeshwar is considered one of the holiest places in India because it is the source of the Godavari River, the birthplace of Lord Ganesha, and more.

We will post more stories and adventures later, as the pilgrims wind up their Kumbh Mela experiences and begin their journeys back home.

For more pictures please visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SriSwamiVishwananda

18 Sep 2015

Following the Master: Kumbh Mela 2015 – Day 9 (Mahamandaleshwar Initiation)

"One can't understand spirituality through words. It is only when it springs up from deep within you that you then become spiritual. Spirituality is not through the understanding of the mind. The same with the soul - the mind can't grasp the quality or the essence of the soul even if the mind wants to, this is the same with spirituality. The essence of spirituality you can't grasp with the mind, only with the spirit." - Sri Swami Vishwananda

The Journey:

We are excited to announce the initiation of Sri Swami Vishwananda as a Mahamandaleshwar. He becomes the very first one from outside of India to be given this special title.

Mahamandaleshwar is a title used by Hindu monks. A person initiated as a Mahamandaleshwar has been elevated by his peers to the highest level of traditional Hindu spiritual guardianship.

The Mahamandaleshwars are part of the Akhara system founded by Adi Shankaracharya as a way to preserve traditional Hindu practices from being lost or forgotten. Sri Swami Vishwananda will join the Nirmohi Akhara, which is a Vaishnava Akhara founded in the 1700s.

Within the Akhara, several sampradayas are represented, and we belong to the Sri Sampradaya founded by Sri Ramanuja Acharya. (It is important to know that even though Adi Shankarychara founded the Akhara system, belonging to an Akhara does not necessarily make us followers of him or his philosophy.)

The Times of India published a small article about Swami's initiation and the Bhakti Marga connection. Click here to read more:


One participant told us about the day's activities and the initiation:

"Since today was Lord Ganesha's birthday, Guruji performed abishekam on Lord Ganesha and Giridhari in the morning. After the prayers, a yagna took place where everybody could make offerings to the holy fire. The celebration was followed by the offering of food and light (arati) to Lord Ganesha. The pilgrims took Darshan and Guruji led some bhajans, with people singing, clapping and dancing very enthusiastically."

Gurudev enjoyed the morning and was in a playful mood and posed for photos.

"In the evening, we made our way to the initiation of Guruji. The place was completely full, and a puja was conducted to Guruji, initiating him as a Mahamandaleshwar. After the initiation, Guruji and the group made our way back to the place we were staying."

A short video clip of the event was broadcast on Periscope. Periscope broadcasts normally last only 24 hours, so if you'd like to be notified of the future broadcasts, download the Periscope app, then click "Follow" on our profile page: https://www.periscope.tv/bhaktimarga108

"When we arrived at the hotel, the group offered a beautiful garland and flowers to him celebrating the occasion. Guruji gave a small satsang, saying that he was really happy with the love shown by his devotees. Also, that if we want to attain God, we need to be humble. He cited Gandhi, saying that although he had the title of Mahatma, he kept humble, even though he could have been very proud of the title. The devotees listened very attentively."

"We will have a few hours sleep now before setting off at 02:30 local time for the second main bath at the Kumbh."


"After the initiation we came back to our place and warmly greeted Guruji with garlands and flowers. Guruji also re-emphasised that humility is the most important quality to cultivate on the spiritual path. He also later repeated what he's been saying the whole trip: the faith that the people here have is beautiful." - Nilkrit, Brazil

Tomorrow should be quite exciting as the group takes part in the second dip. Stay tuned!

For more pictures, please visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SriSwamiVishwananda

17 Sep 2015

Following the Master: Kumbh Mela 2015 – Day 8 (Fun in the Water)

"These rivers are not just mere rivers, you know. They are there to purify humanity, to purify us so that we can advance on the spiritual path freely without any obstacles in our way, to remove all the dirt that we create every day in this mundane life." - Sri Swami Vishwananda 

The Journey:

Day Eight of the journey was spent mostly relaxing and having fun in the water.

The morning was free and many spent a couple of hours just shopping in Nashik. In the narrow streets of Nashik our "scouts" found murtis, makan (butter) pots for Krishna Janmashtami, puja and other devotional items, and much more.

In the late afternoon/early evening, the group went with Swamiji to the Godavari River. The men went in the water with Him, and the women watched nearby. There was even a moment when the men created a small human pyramid with Swamiji climbing to the top, much to everyone's delight!

About the Godavari River:
  • It is the second-longest river in India after the river Ganges. That's why the Godavari is sometimes referred to as the 'Ganga of the South.'
  • There are several pilgrimage places on the banks of the Godavari. The major spot of pilgrimage is Trimbakeshwar (one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and the ancient temple of Lord Shiva).
Later in the evening, the group hosted the mayor of Nashik for some bhajans and dinner. He was deeply touched by meeting Swamiji.  He then presented Swamiji with two beautiful Radha/Krishna murtis.


"We went to the place where originally the bathing used to take place. The bathing areas were eventually separated into different areas because of fights between the Vaishnavas and the Shaivaits. We had some beautiful hours there with Guruji. He also went in the water for a dip and it was really sweet." - Pankajananda, Germany

For more pictures, please visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SriSwamiVishwananda