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Datta Kirtan Mandali- From then to now

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

During Sri Swamiji’s visit to Trinidad in August 1990 many pujas, discourses and Kriya yoga seminars took place. Key amongst the newest introductions was the creation of the Datta Kirtan Mandali. At that time the members were Satish Ramroop; who was made leader of the group at the time, Gyan Ramlogan, Latchmin Ramnarine, Parbati Arjoon, Rita Sharma, Pt Boloji and others. 

 

Along the years many more would have come along and some would have moved to the background for various reasons. Fast forward to June 2006 when the Datta Kirtan Mandali visited the Mysore ashram on instruction of His Holiness Sri Swamiji to perform a cultural program for Swamiji’s birthday celebrations. A contingent of 50 members took part in a program that consisted of bhajans composed by Sri Swamiji, film songs, local folk songs and tassa. This moment was a turning point for the Mandali. The worldwide appeal and expectations skyrocketed. Devotees from far and wide have come to know about “Trinidad’s Satsangh group” from the other devotees who were present to witness that performance but also due to the glowing remarks from Sri Swamiji.

 

Members of the Mandali that visited Mysore Ashrama in ‘06 accompanied by new members. Picture taken at the Sri Sachchidananda Yoga Ashram, Penal, Trinidad circa 2010.


Picture of the late Aunty Vashti Ramcharitar (left) who was such a treasured member of the Mandali as well as the late Aunty Lalita Maharaj . Picture taken circa 2012 at the Sri Sachchidananda Yoga Ashram

 

Sri Swamiji often speaks about the love that Trinidad devotees have for Him and He remarks that what amazes Him the most is that Trinidad devotees sing His bhajans in “all different languages and they don’t know the meaning of what they’re singing but they sing with so much love for Me.”

 

A few years later Sri Swamiji instructed the world to chant the Sri Hanuman Chalisa for the peace and protection of the world. At this time the Datta Kirtan Mandali was on the brink of another evolution. Gyan Ramlogan who is still the leader of the Mandali since the early 2000’s was tasked with the propagation of this mission of Sri Swamiji and was simultaneously given the responsibility of recruiting more and younger members to the Mandali. By the grace of Sadguru this was done in quick time. In May 2015 the Epic Hanuman ChanTTing event took place in Trinidad where over 10,000 people gathered in one location to chant the Sri Hanuman Chalisa. This chanting was was executed and spearheaded by the Mandali. In 2016, His Holiness visited Sri Swamiji and lovingly acknowledged the contribution of the Datta Kirtan Mandali for traversing the length and breadth of Trinidad AND Tobago for 18 months chanting the Sri Hanuman Chalisa and the mahā mantra Om Namo Hanumate Namaha. “They have been traveling the length and breadth of this country singing Hanuman Chalisa” remarked His Holiness in July 2016. By this time, the Mandali had grown to almost thirty members most of whom were between the ages of 13 to 30. Sri Swamiji expressed His happiness of this fact and urged the Mandali to continue doing seva.

 

 Picture of the newly formed Datta Kirtan Mandali in 2016 after offering bhajans during Sri Chakra Puja at the Sri Sachchidananda Yoga Ashram ,Penal, Trinidad.


Sri Swamiji visited Trinidad again in 2018 but this time with a new task. It was geared towards the preparation for a Mahā Rudra Yagna that Sri Swamiji wanted to perform in Trinidad in the year 2020 with the propagation of the mahā mantra Shivaaya Rudraaya Namaha.  In September 2019 the Rudra Mantra Fest event was organized where again thousands of devotees gathered to chant Shivaaya Rudraaya Namaha along with some of Trinidad and Tobago’s finest artists. This event was again executed and organized by members of the Datta Kirtan Mandali. Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic the Mahā Rudra Yagna couldn’t take place in 2020 but later happened in 2023.

 

Fast forward to 2023 and Sri Swamiji is carded to be in Trinidad for 10 days with packed programs for Ram Navami, Hanuman Jayanti, Mahā Rudra  Yagna and Sri Swamiji’s 80th Birthday Celebrations. The Datta Kirtan Mandali was instructed by Sri Swamiji to learn the bhajans of His Keertana Chandrika to sing for Him during His visit to Trinidad. During this visit, Sri Swamiji tasked the Mandali to sing Ram bhajans from 6:20 am (sunrise) to 6:20pm (sunset). Sri Balaswamiji came promptly at 6:20 that morning to light the inauguration lamp to begin the celebrations and was pleased to see all members of the Mandali present and ready to carry out Sri Swamiji’s instructions. In His infinite wisdom and love, Sri Swamiji prayed that we continue to stay together, promote and maintain camaraderie and most importantly; do not develop any ego and let it get in between us. “If I had not sent for them to take rest, they would have continued singing for the rest of the day” said Sri Swamiji on the evening of Hanuman Jayanti as He was referring to the bhajan group singing Hanuman Chalisa and Hanuman bhajans from early in the morning till sunset. “ I have listened to how they sing Kannada bhajans, Telugu bhajans, Tamil, Sanskrit and I have no words…such ease they sing in all these different languages. In India my devotees in certain states only sing bhajans that are in their language, but here you sing everything. I am very happy” said Appaji in His evening address.

 

Moving forward, the challenges ahead for the Datta Kirtan Mandali are plentiful. We must always remember the higher purpose which we serve, we must always remember the tenets and principles that guide us on our path, we must do our duty we humility, love and earnestness. It is important as young people we carry ourselves in a way that is in alignment with the values taught by our Sadguru. Every member of the Mandali can attest to the greatness and compassion of our Master and it is for our good that we continue to be of service but to also want to be of service. I don’t think it is possible for us to ever repay our Sadguru but I strongly believe we must offer our every breath to be of service to Him and His mission in gratitude. As for now, the Mandali stands in great stead for the future. Many young and upcoming singers-turn-devotees show great potential in being able to carry Sri Swamiji’s mission forward.

 

One member by the name of Dana Sirju had this sentiment- Jaya Guru Datta. I firmly feel that Swamiji's music served as my inspiration for completing my degree. Music generally motivates me, but during my last year, for some reason, nothing seemed to work. When it was advised that I use Appaji's music as my motivation at that point, my life was forever transformed. Bhajans were my study companions, but as the months went by, I naturally started to worry about the future. However, Sri Swamiji's music for healing gave me the impression that He was holding my mind in a tight grip and spent his time unravelling all the knots of concern. Every occasion calls for a certain kind of music, and Sri Swamiji's music speaks when everything else fails.

 

Another one of our young members, Jahnvi Sooknanan, had this to say- Jaya Guru Datta. The music of Sri Swamiji impacts every person differently. When surrounded by Appaji’s music, whether it be singing, playing an instrument, or simply listening to a composition, it can completely fill your mind with wonder, at the structure and beauty expressed within each note, while simultaneously filling you with fathomless calm and peacefulness. Sri Swamiji’s music has a way that it completely encompasses you, where the feeling you experience is of only you and the sounds of that composition. His music can take you to an entirely different world of calm and serenity, without moving an inch. It has your mind rushing, but completely clear at the same time. Each note -some so similar, some with stark differences- convey such different emotions and feelings through their combinations. Whatever the mood you are in, or whatever emotion or dilemma you are experiencing, Appaji’s music delivers the clarity to settle your thoughts and provides an avenue to think and breathe, and to remind us all that everything that occurs is through His grace. Appaji has taught us to have faith in Him and His teachings, and His music is one of those means to bring us closer to Him. His music serves as a reminder to continue to have the faith that Sri Swamiji will always be there to guide us, regardless of the situation. Sri Guru Datta.

 

One of our newest recruits, Varaun Ramgoolie, who had the unique opportunity of accompanying Sri Swamiji on keyboard in Dallas,Texas in July 2022 had this to share- Jaya Guru Datta. Pujya Sri Swamiji’s music has had a significant impact on my spiritual and musical growth. With every new composition that I hear, I am inspired in my own musicianship to learn more of his work and play his bhajans. Appaji’s songs all have their specific style and when I listen to them, I feel as if I am in the presence of Guru. Before going to bed, I play Swamiji’s music through my phone through the night.

I think that we are so fortunate to have been blessed with so much songs and bhajans from our Swamiji and we should continue to keep singing, chanting and glorifying the name of Datta Guru. Jaya Guru Datta.


Last but least we must give special mention and utmost appreciation to Uncle Sheetal. For over the past twenty years, The Trini-Canadian-Indian virtuoso who has so selflessly and graciously devoted his time to teaching, mentoring and preparing the Mandali for all of Sri Swamiji’s visits to Trinidad. Time and time again he consistently made the journey from Mysore, India where he resides to spend weeks in Trinidad prior to Pujya Appaji’s visits to teach new bhajans and ensure that the bhajan group is firing on all cylinders. He may not always be in the best of health, but he assiduously carries out his seva with nary a complaint. A true stalwart and soldier in the army of Sadguru deva.


Picture of Uncle Sheetal playing the melodica during the welcome procession for Sri Swamiji’s most recent visit to Trinidad , April 2023.


Picture of the Datta Kirtan Mandali with Pujya Sri Swamiji and maestro Sri Ambi Subramaniam on the completion of the 80 -bhajan offering for Sri Swamiji’s birthday program April 2023.



At the lotus feet of my Gurudeva

Jaya Guru Datta

Vinayaka Ramlogan



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