By Nishta Baum
August 30th, New York – A 13-day cultural festival attended by over 1,000 people from 60 countries, ends today in Queens, NY. The ‘Songs of the Soul’ concert at NYU’s Skirball Center in Manhattan, hundreds of musical and theatrical performances, poetry, and sports events held in Rockland State Park and Queens, NY all celebrated the life and work Indian-born peace luminary Sri Chinmoy. The events were organized for the occasion of Sri Chinmoy’s 85th Birth Anniversary.
The festival began with the Sri Chinmoy Poetry Festival and launch of the first international Bengali-English edition of The Garden of Love-Light by Sri Chinmoy. The Bengali language is the author’s mother tongue and very close to his heart. Main presenters included Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury and Award winning writer and professor Neelima Shukla-Bhatt. President of the Jharna-Kala Art Foundation and festival director Ranjana Ghose introduced the book “as some of Sri Chinmoy’s earliest and important poetry
Ambassador and former UN Under Secretary-General Anwarul K. Chowdhury offered the opening remarks. “I am very happy that Sri Chinmoy’s spirituality, his work for peace, his humanism, his belief in the oneness of humanity has continued to inspire me in my work over many, many years.”
Professor Neelima Shukla-Bhatt, Director of South Asia Studies at Wellesley College, related that when she was at Harvard doing her Ph.D research on expressions of devotion through poetry and song, and on cultural forms and resources that tie people together across boundaries, she studied Sri Chinmoy’s poetry and was delighted to be now, years later, speaking at the Sri Chinmoy Poetry Festival.
Sri Chinmoy set music to all 140 poems in The Garden of Love-Light , and singer Debashree Bhattacharya and her accompanists performed a selection including the title song of the book, Premaloker Kanane: In the garden of Love-Light, In silence-dream, O Beauty Eternal!, and This heart of mine is in Your embrace.
At the ‘Songs of the Soul’ concert the following evening, an international orchestra, world music ensembles from around the globe and the Sri Chinmoy Bhajan Singers performed more of Sri Chinmoy’s musical compositions selected from a vast body of over 21,000 songs. The Songs of the Soul Concert was held at the Skirball Center at NYU in Manhattan to a capacity audience.
August 27th, Sri Chinmoy’s actual birthday, featured fireworks and a Guinness world record: 72,000 candles lit on a giant birthday cake spanning 45 by 10 feet (13.5 by 3 meters) organized by Ashrita Furman with 100 assistants.
During the festival Ranjana Ghose read out messages which had come from world luminaries around the world including President Mikhail Gorbachev:”I am glad to address your large international gathering in New York on the occasion of Sri Chinmoy’s 85th birth anniversary. As you may know, Sri Chinmoy and I were born in the same year… We had a strong mutual understanding which grew into friendship. Sometimes I read his books and I notice that his words give me strength to face the challenges of our times…
On the website of our foundation is the Motto which is very important to me. I’d like to quote it here: “The XXI century will be a сentury either of total all-embracing crisis or of moral and spiritual healing that will reinvigorate humankind. It is my conviction that all of us – all reasonable political leaders, all spiritual and ideological movements, all faiths – must help in this transition to a triumph of humanism and justice, in making the XXI century a century of a new human renaissance.”
And Archbishop Desmond wrote: “Sri Chinmoy gave his life to work for the dream of a world where peace will emerge victorious. He strove for the oneness of all peoples, especially by reaching out to the youth. May God bless all of you gathered to observe Sri Chinmoy’s Birth Anniversary as you continue with your wonderful service to our fellow humanity. In this way you will honour Sri Chinmoy’s life and work more than you can imagine.”