Satchidananda Thapovanam, Kandy, Sri Lanka Reopens on December 22, 2016
On December 22, 2016, the day of Sri Gurudev Swami Satchidananda’s 102nd Jayanthi, Satchidananda Thapovanam in Kandy will reopen its doors in service to the people of Sri Lanka and to visitors from all parts of the world.
In keeping with Sri Gurudev’s teaching that “Truth is One, Paths are Many,” the Kandy Thapovanam will be a hub for spiritual seekers of all traditions and a place of interfaith harmony.
Sri Gurudev’s Service in Sri Lanka
Sri Swami Satchidananda had deep and abiding links to Sri Lanka, a land that was always close to his heart. His first visit to Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was called then) was at the early age of twenty-two, when he was working for his uncle’s automobile business in Coimbatore and had the opportunity to travel to the island country to learn special welding techniques for motor vehicles. During this trip, he got to know the country well. He traveled extensively, making excursions to the holy pilgrimage sites of Kataragama, Manneswaram, and Adam’s Peak.
In 1953, recognizing his connection with Ceylon and also because of his fluency in Tamil, Sri Swami Sivanandaji sent Sri Gurudev, along with another sannyasin, Swami Satchidananda Mataji, to establish a branch of the Divine Life Society in Ceylon. The two Satchidanandas arrived in Trincomalee on February 1, 1953. Sri Gurudev remained in the country and served the people of Ceylon for 13 years.
In service to his Guru, Swami Satchidananda established several branches of the Divine Life Society in Sri Lanka—in Trincomalee, Colombo, and Jaffna. While in Trincomalee, he also taught classes at the Ramakrishna Mission school and established an orphanage, a free medical dispensary, and cottage industries for young unemployed women who wished to become self- sufficient.
In Trincomalee, Sri Gurudev also began the interfaith work that would ultimately lead to the building of the LOTUS shrines in Virginia and in India. Not wishing to exclude devotees of other Gurus and religions, Sri Gurudev and the devotees at the Trincomalee center celebrated the first “All Prophets Day” on Guru Poornima in July 1953. The walls of the center were covered with pictures of Jesus, Buddha, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Shiva, Vishnu, and many other saints and deities.
Meanwhile, Sri Gurudev’s devotees in Kandy had found a lovely coconut grove containing a huge building–an old choultry–on the banks of the historic Mahaveli Ganga, with an adjoining temple. Beautiful Kandy, surrounded by green hills and lakes and from where Sri Gurudev could drive to anywhere on the island, was a more central location than Trincomalee. The temple trustees gave permission to use this property as a Yoga ashram, and on October 29, 1955, Satchidananda Thapovanam was dedicated in Kandy, becoming the center for Sri Gurudev’s service throughout Sri Lanka.
Throughout his years of service in Sri Lanka, Sri Gurudev gave talks all over the country and regularly contributed columns and participated on radio shows, speaking on Yoga and spirituality. In addition, he inaugurated numerous social service programs in Sri Lanka, leading Yoga trainings for police staff, mediating conflicts between various sects, regularly speaking out against the dowry system, promoting vegetarianism, and encouraging the youth to maintain their cultural values. Sri Gurudev’s years of service in Sri Lanka are chronicled in the book, Swami Satchidananda: A Yoga Master’s Early Years in India and Sri Lanka. In the mid-1960s, Sri Gurudev’s wealthier devotees contributed enough funds to purchase land on which to house the ashram. Also located along the Mahaveli Ganga, in another beautiful location, this new property is the site of the current Satchidananda Thapovanam.
Satchidananda Thapovanam Today
After Sri Gurudev was invited to the West in March 1966, he placed Swami Vimalananda Mataji (the sister of Satchidananda Mataji) in charge of the Satchidananda Thapovanam, which continued to serve as a gathering place for various spiritual communities and events. However, when Swami Vimalanandaji was deputed to the Integral Yoga Center in Chettipalayam, India, in the 1980s, activities at the Kandy ashram declined.
Among Sri Gurudev’s close and devoted supporters in Sri Lanka were Mrs. Amma Rasiah (Fine Arts Society, Yogaville) and Mr. Shanmugam. Mrs. Rasiah has continued to serve as a Trustee for the Thapovanam throughout all these years, and now Mr. Shanmugam’s son, Mr. Senthilnathan, has stepped forward to undertake the complete renovation of the Thapovanam. In support of this project, Swami Gurucharanananda (Mataji) and Swami Priyananda, from Yogaville, travelled to Sri Lanka to dedicate a shrine to Sri Gurudev in the building that was his former residence. After two years of reconstruction, the project has been blessed with a successful conclusion, and a beautiful small ashram is ready to open its doors to the public.
Mr. Senthilnathan’s vision is to restore this beautiful retreat back to its former potential to serve the community. In addition to being a place of communal gathering, the Thapovanam will also function as an institute for Yoga classes, meditation, Yoga teacher trainings, and various Yoga programs and retreats, where guests will be able to rejuvenate and rehabilitate while being at one with nature.
The current premises contain two buildings: one that served as the personal quarters for Sri Gurudev and, later, for Swami Vimalananda Mataji, and the second that was a hub for classes and gatherings. The first building has been renovated to serve as a shrine and meditation space, with archival photos and documents representing the history and activity of the Satchidananda Thapovanam during Sri Gurudev’s service in Sri Lanka. Construction work on the other building is now also complete. This facility will contain the Yoga Hall, Dining Room, and accommodations for eight guests.
Thapovanam Dedication and Jayanthi Celebrations on December 22nd
The inaugural function will be held on Thursday, the 22nd of December, 2016, with a full program of ritual and prayer, discourse, prasadam and entertainment. All are cordially invited to join us in Kandy for the celebrations.
Whether or not you are able to join us in person, please bless this venture with your heartfelt prayers and good wishes, as the devotees in Sri Lanka hope to see,once again,the Light of Yoga and the Sacred Peace of Sri Swami Satchidananda spread throughout this beautiful island!