The first family retreat at the Sringeri Sadhana Center was held from July 1 to July 5. It was inaugurated by Padmasri V.R.Gowrishankar, CEO and Administrator of Sringeri Properties. The family retreat occurred soon after the Swarna Mandapam was offered to Sri Sharadamba earlier on July 1.
In his inaugural address, he emphasized the significance of having a family retreat. In the old days in the village everyone knew each other and thus would provide support to each other in times of good and bad. This helped each member in the village to be secure and very happy. In the modern days, with everyone staying at a distance, such retreats provide a means of family with similar values in life to come together and share their joys and come to know each other more closely.
Dr Yegnasubramanian (Chairman, SVBF) and his wife Ms Rajalakshmi conceived and planned a nice program for the family retreat. Dr. S.S. Iyer ably worked thru the orchestration of the program with the support of the volunteers of the various sub-committees. A copy of the program is attached. They took pains to ensure every participant is provided a nice place to stay. They spent time at the site to oversee every aspect of the camp is organized in the best possible manner. They charted out the menu for all the days with the food coordinator (Ms Sujatha Rau, Ms Geetha Shivagiri and Ms. Padma Iyer). They identified the team leaders for various aspects of the camp to ensure the program runs in a smooth manner. The registration team consisting of Ravi Ramanathan and Ms Shalini greeted every participant and assigned them the rooms for their stay. The children's activities were coordinated by Ms Shalini and Ms ShyamalaSeshadri.
By the Grace of Sri Sharadamba, the Blessings of His Holiness, the leader, dedication with hard work and support by Dr Yegnasubramanian and Ms Rajalakshmi led to a grand success of the first family retreat.
Let us provide a glimpse of the daily routine of activities in the family retreat.
The daily program started with the Yoga class led by the instructor Ms Geeta Shivagiri at 6:30 AM in the community hall. It was a pleasure to see a good number of participants ready by 6:30 AM to attend the class regularly on all four days. Everyone appreciated the yoga class and that is a tribute to the instructor.
After yoga, the participants all came to the old temple (Bhojana shala) for their breakfast. The breakfast was prepared by a group of volunteers identified by the food committee (Ms Sujatha Rau, Ms Geeta Shivagiri; Ms Rajalakshmi). They had prepared a schedule for the volunteers for serving the breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner for each day. In a similar manner, they identified a group of volunteers to collect and store the garbage in an efficient manner after each meal. The food committee did a great job with nice food at all times and worked late hours to ensure total satisfaction.
After the breakfast, the participants were divided in to various groups. The children went for the spoken Sanskrit class with their teacher and the adults did the same to another location. After the Sanskrit class, the children were busy with children activities led by Ms Shalini and Ms Shyamala with the adults out to the Community hall to attend the Vedanta Lecture by Dr S.Yegnasubramanian. This was followed by all coming to the temple for the mangala arati in the temple at around 11:30 AM. Thereafter, all the participants went for lunch at the old temple.
A 1 hour relaxing time was provided after lunch. This helped the family members to relax and spend some special time with their friends.
The Vedanta lecture based on Tattvabodha Vedantic Primer was continued from 2:00 to 3:00 PM for the adults in the community hall. In parallel, the children had a special hour for their activities. Then, there was a break for coffee and snacks.
A special lecture from 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM was scheduled each day for the adult. The lectures presented by medical doctors addressed specific topics of health awareness. This was followed by the second session of the day on spoken Sanskrit in parallel sessions for adults and children.
At 6:00 PM, all the participants gathered for the routine Lalitha Sahasaranama in the temple. Some children used this moment for games and play time in the vast facilities outside.
The final program for the day prior to the dinner was an exciting one. The Sampradaya Bhajan by Shenkotah Hari and his team entertained the participants with their religious and devotional songs. All the participants joined in the chorus at various moments. Thereafter, everyone went for dinner and retried for the day.
A general format of the day's program was presented above. However, there were unique programs presented on Sunday, July 4.
Sampradaya Bhajan with Unchavrutti by Bhagavathas (Shenkottah Hari; His wife and Raman Mama) was presented on Sunday morning at 10: AM. This was a scene to witness as it is a rare event in this part of the world. Words cannot describe the feeling as one participates in this event. Dressed up in the traditional manner for this program, they started from the priest's quarters and walked along the path to the community hall and then along to the new temple. The entire path was decorated with Kolum (Rangoli) by the ladies and at specific locations the ladies offered Bhiksa to Sri Ramanmama (the Bhagavatha) and prostrated and offered namaskarams. It finally ended at the temple entrance where Yegnasubramanian and Rajalakshmi offered the traditional welcome by washing his feet while Hari and his team sang the bhajans.
In the evening, the Sampradaya Bhajan was presented with Deepa Pradakshina in the temple hall. This was another great program enjoyed by one and all. This was a great hit in the family retreat.
Finally, on Monday morning, the children presented a skit in Sanskrit (quick learning in four days) and recollecting all the events of the retreat in a very enjoyable manner. Thereafter, there was the concluding program presented by the Chairman with special remarks by Padmasri V.R.Gowrishankar. All the teachers, special volunteers were honored and the retreat came to a close.
The participants expressed their special thanks to Sri Gowrishankar for his presence and to Dr S.Yegnasubramanian and Ms Rajalakshmi for a well planned retreat and all participants are looking forward to the next year.