Maharishi's ashes immersed in Sangam

IANS, India/February 12, 2008

Allahabad, India - The ashes of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced the world to the Transcendental Meditation, were immersed in the Sangam, the confluence of three rivers near his ashram Tuesday afternoon.

The ashes and funeral flowers, gathered in brass urns and wrapped in white muslin cloth and garlands of roses, were carried to the Sangam, where the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Swaraswati meet, in an elaborate procession led by Vedic pundits from the Jyotirmath of the Shankaracharya, the spiritual order to which the seer belonged.

They were followed by the 35 'rajas' or kings who are nation heads for the Maharishi's TM organisation, including his nominated heir Maharaja Tony Nader or Adi Ram, the name by which he is now known.

Thousands of devotees and local residents accompanied the procession that set off at 12.30 p.m. from the Shanti Sthal, where the funeral pyre was lit Monday.

Girish Verma, the seer's kin and a functionary in the organization in India, and members of the seers' family presided over the ceremony along with the priests.

Around 1.30 p.m. the ashes were released into the waters of the Sangam, near his ashram at Arail, 15 km from the city, according to Vedic rituals.

"The Sangam was beautiful. There were 30 boats, people went on those boats and the seer's family on one of the boats performed the final rituals before scattering the ashes all over into the river," said Bob Roth, in-charge of global publicity at the ashram.

"They were spread out evenly into the water and some of our devotees took holy dips as part of the final cleansing ritual, integral to Vedic immersion rites."

The Maharishi died Feb 5 at his home and headquarters in Vlodrop in the Netherlands and was believed to be in his 90s.

Organisation sources said a part of his ashes would be distributed and preserved in 192 nations across the globe where the seer set up centres of meditation and Vedic learning.

Since 10 a.m., the Maharishi's abode on the banks of the Ganga was a hive of activity.

Though the Maharishi Vidya Mandir in the front quarters of the complex, where the body was kept in state from Sunday to Monday, wore a deserted look, the action was on in full swing at the cremation ground a kilometre away.

Priests chanted mantras as they collected in urns the ashes and the charred remains.

Clad in white Indian-style kurtas and payjamas, all the 35 kings, wore their ceremonial golden crowns, the heavy gold medallions and white shawls, and sat around the pyre in a semi-circle.

They performed the ceremonial circumambulation after the ashes were collected.

The Global Country of World Peace Tuesday opened its doors to women, who were there in large numbers to witness the immersion rites. Barring members of the Mother Divine sect, all women attached to the TM movement were present.

Unlike Monday, when all of them had decked up in their royal regalia of heavy Benarasi brocade saris and jewellery, Tuesday found the women in chiffons, cotton and light silk saris.

"We are happy to be able to see a part of the last rites. I am glad that Maharishi has been freed of his physical remains, but he will always remain within us," said Christina Schulze Bradshaw, Maharishi disciple from Germany.

The Maharishi was a monk as well as an entrepreneur, a visionary, who was often dismissed as a hippie mystic. The Maharishi started his TM movement in 1957, though it formally took after a discourse in Madras (now Chennai) in 1958 and brought it to the US in 1959. At one point, his disciples included the Beatles among other celebrities.

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