Amrit Bhaarat, a CHYK camp, was held at the foothills of the Dhauladhar ranges in the Kangra Valley at Chinmaya Tapovan, Sidhbari, from 14 May to 19 May 2022. Under camp acharya Swami Swatmananda, 75 saffron-clad Bharatiyas gathered together to celebrate India’s 75 years of independence from British rule, and to introspect about the true freedom of Bharat. The week was filled with a continuous chain of satsangs and activities to keep the campers engaged at every point. The strong positive vibrations of the ashram kept the campers’ energy high and made them realise their responsibilities not only in their individual lives but also towards their country.
The group gathered at Chinmaya Amrit in Amritsar. After praying at the Golden Temple and learning about the sacrifices made by the Sikh Gurus, there was a visit to Jallianwala Bagh where there are three galleries depicting the incident of 13 April 1919 when General Dyer opened fire on the people assembled there for Baisakhi. The bullet marks, the well of death, the Fire-torch and the memorial made us aware of what our ancestors went through. After lunch, we attended the retreat ceremony at Attari border where the Indian National Flag lowering ceremony is held every evening. The atmosphere was charged with patriotic fervour, songs and chants of 'Bharat mata ki jai'. The last stop was at Govindgarh Fort, where we saw a light and sound show on the history of Punjab and the valour of the Sikhs.
The group reached Sidhbari and the camp formally commenced with the Purna Kumbha held by campers from Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Amritsar, Chennai and Surat. Swamiji began the camp by making us think – was Bharat a country or only a set of kingdoms? Why is our country called Bharat? Who is a Bharatiya? So many wrong notions and false narratives were challenged and we got clarity. We then proceeded to the evening aarti at Swami Chinmayananda’s samadhi. The chanting and the aarti is most inspiring and the silence there completely engulfs the mind. We then had a unique ice breaker, which helped us to know about Bharat, the strengths and drawbacks of its different parts. We came up with bright new ideas to solve a few of the challenges. As the day came to an end, the campers were divided into six teams which would do all the activities together throughout the camp. These teams were named as per the ancient regions of Akhand Bharat mentioned in the Vishnu Purana: Tamraparna, Indradveepa, Kaseru, Nagadveep, Gandharva and Gabhastimaan.
The morning aarti was followed by a Gayatri Havan at Ram Mandir. Swamiji explained the significance of the Gayatri Mantra and the havan after which all the campers took turns to sit around the havan kund and chant the Gayatri Mantra eleven times each while offering the ahuti.
Swamiji took the first satsang of the camp where the campers chanted three verses on Bharat, and gained knowledge about the rich culture and history of Bharat.
Then, the Amrit Mahotsav was conducted where zones themed Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Cultural and Spiritual were set up throughout the ashram. The teams spent fifteen minutes at each stall where they did various activities to go through physical challenges, learn about revolutionary freedom fighters, develop resilience, solve intellectual puzzles, meditate on Bharat etc.
The afternoon kept the campers fully occupied in Bharat Bhraman: a one-of-a-kind board game with different types of quizzes about India. It was a game that inspired the campers to travel around Bharat, exploring its rich culture and architecture. This game is being brought out by CHYK Mumbai as a board game which can be played by all.
The evening satsang started with discussions about the values in the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 16 The day ended with the screening of half of the movie ‘On a Quest’, depicting the life of Swami Chinmayananda.
The group was led by Swamiji to the nearby stream in the morning. The campers felt fresh and peaceful sitting on rocks amidst the flowing water. The satsang continued at the ashram, where Swamiji also explained about Varna Vyavastha or caste system and we understood how it was a system of classification based on the three gunas and the profession. Following the satsang, we saw the rest of the movie ‘On a Quest’.
Then, there was the most awaited activity of them all – the Treasure Hunt. Five minutes into the game, a storm brewed which added extra difficulty to the hunt. After an hour or so, everyone was so much into the hunt that all time limits were forgotten, only true team spirit remained!
Dinner was followed by a surprise, i.e., a night walk in pitch darkness! ‘Face your fear’, was the motto as we walked to every living beings’ final destination: the crematorium. Remembering Hanumanji or our ishta devta, we successfully completed the task.
It began with a forest walk with Swamiji. The tall trees, the majestic Dauladhar range of mountains, the silence in the forest were enchanting. In the forest there was a meditation session conducted by Swamiji. The topic of the next satsang was the third quality: Jnana Yoga Vyavasthiti.
A paduka pooja was performed in Gurudev's kutia, followed by a heated debate: does God exist? There were three teams: Theist team, Confused team and Atheist team. Swamiji then gave the Vedantic logic and methods by which the nature of God as Consciousness is proved and experienced.
In the afternoon, the campers were glad to meet Dr. Kshama Metre who guided them through the various departments of Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development (CORD). Swamini Kaivalyananda added another treat to the day by showing everyone some special belongings of Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Tapovan Maharaj at Gurudev’s Kutia. For the last satsang of the camp, the topic was the art of giving, i.e., daanam. A clear explanation of why we have kanyadaan, bhudaan, etc. in our culture was given by Swamiji.
The last day at Sidhbari included travelling to various destinations which would inculcate a spiritual and patriotic feeling in the young minds before leaving Sidhbari. We visited the Chamunda Devi temple, Jwalamukhi temple, Kangra Fort and the War Memorial.
Back at the ashram, the valedictory session saw campers sharing their feedback. With a lot of memories, learnings and Gurudev’s blessings, we were all equipped to leave the ashram and march on to serve Bharat Mata. Amrit Bhaarat brought a significant positive change in each camper’s perspective and approach to life and our beloved Bharat.