The following document is an excerpt J. E. Llewellyn's website

The Kumbh Mela Home Page, Hindu Pilgrimage in Contemporary India.

Premnagar Service

A Kumbh Mela Event

"Premnagar Ashram is a large institution on the road between Hardwar and Jwalapur, which includes several buildings and a broad ghat on the Ganges Canal. On the evening of 12 April 1998 the first of three nights of services was held there. The head of Premnagar Ashram is Satpal Maharaj. One of his disciples told me that the service would be attended by five hundred thousand people, all of whom were staying at the ashram for the Kumbh. That number was almost certainly an exaggeration, but there must have been several thousand people in attendance."


"The meeting was marked by great reverence for Satpal. I noticed that some of the devotees bowed and touched their foreheads to the stage on which their guru would sit. The program began at about 5:30 and continued until 10 p. m. There were three other speakers who gave sermons before Satyapal preached. Each of them bowed to his seat or to him (when he arrived in the middle of the program). Before Satyapal spoke, a low murmur of "Victory to the guru!" swept forward in waves from the crowd."


"Satpal began by explaining that Hardwar means the door (dvar )of Har, or Shiva, because it is the point of departure for pilgrims who are travelling to Kedarnath, a major Shaiva pilgrimage center in the mountains. Similarly, a human birth is the door to realizing God. Satpal then told the story of how the gods and demons churned the ocean to obtain the ambrosia of immortality. The first product of their labors was a devastating poison which Shiva agreed to drink lest it destroy all living things. Satpal offered a spiritual interpretation of this myth. We must also consume poison, by enduring all kinds of difficulties in life, before we can obtain immortality. The secret for learning how to do this is satsang, meeting with the saints. People are running to the Ganges, Satpal said, but it can only wash away their bodily impurities. Much more important is to get rid of inner impurities, and this can only be accomplished through satsang. The guru spoke critically of all the controversy that has marred the Kumbh. "How much time we are wasting in fighting with each other!" Through spiritual experience you realize that God is in everyone, and then all divisions come to an end. Satpal urged his listeners to seek out satsang while they are at the Kumbh, and to practice meditation and devotional singing.

Though he is a former member of Parliament, who has also run unsuccessfully for political office several times, Satpal's sermon struck me as quite traditional. He quoted the late medieval poets Tulsidas and Guru Nanak, and much of what he said about the difficulties of life in this world and the importance of spiritual experience could have just as easily been Nanak's words."

Source: My own observations of the service at Premnagar Ashram near Hardwar, 12 April 1998.

Copyright J. E. Llewellyn 1998. Updated 28 April 1998.

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