- Topics & Settings
Weekly Satsang Service
During the winter of 2011, weekly satsang was held on Sunday mornings from 10:00AM until noon. Services started with chanting bhajan, or devotional hymns. These were led by the temple’s president, Satya Balroop, who has a wonderful singing voice that she amplifies with the small speaker system. The reverb quality of the small speaker gives her chanting a distant and echoing effect that is reminiscent of a much larger and elaborate temple. Chanting is accompanied by the dholak, a South Asian two-headed hand-drum, which is usually played by Mrs. Balroop or a temple youth, as well as by various shakers and bells. All members participate in the chanting and all chants are done in Hindi. For those not familiar with the texts, there are printed prayer books, which are handed around. There is a certain participatory aesthetic in these chants that reflects the general mission of spiritual education, promulgated by Mrs. Balroop and the Bharat Sevashram Sangha. For sample recordings of bhajan and aarti chanting, refer to the “Guyanese Hindu Music” page..
After the bhajans (Indian devotional song), the hawan ceremony begins. This is a ritual practiced by all branches of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha (BSS) that has its roots in the ancient Vedic traditions of northern India. To begin, all members gather around the small silver hawan and begin chanting a capella. Incense is lit, and all members meditate for a short time before offerings are made. All devotees must cleanse themselves by first pouring water onto their palms out of a tiny golden spoon, and then drinking water from the spoon. This is repeated with both milk and ghee for all members surrounding the hawan. The fire, which Mrs. Balroop explained is understood as the mouth of god, is then lit. Offerings of ghee and incense are consumed by the fire through the visual metaphor of smoke. Wood is also offered to the fire, which symbolizes the giving of all material wealth to god. All members put a piece of wood in the fire, and then ghee is offered five times, followed by an offering of water in all four directions, starting with the east. Worshippers then rub their palms all over their bodies to receive the divine energy. The hawan ceremony concludes with the offering of prasad, or some type of edible offering, to the fire. This ceremony represents the primary offering to the deities as a whole. Individual offerings are later made towards specific murtis.