Om Namo Bhagavade Sivanandaya
Established in 1949 by Sri Swami Sivananda
Water from the Ganga has the recursive property that any water mixed with even the minutest quantity of Ganga water becomes Ganga water, and inherits its healing properties. Also, despite any impurities put into it, Ganga water remains pure even if stored for several days.
Based on this principle, the Divine Life Society of South Africa has constructed several large water features in South Africa which are regularly sanctified with Ganga water brought from India. Littered throughout this web-page, you will find pictures of such water features in the Divine Life Society Ashrams in South Africa.
Presently (2015), the holy Ganga water sanctifies fountains at the following places, four at Sivananda International Cultural Centre, La Mercy, one each at Sivanandashram (Reservoir Hills), Sivananda Ghat (Clare Estate), Sivananda Sunlit Path Centre (Chatsworth), Sivanandashram (Zakarraiya Park), Sivanandashram (Chatsworth), Sivanandashram (Pietermaritzburg), Sivanandashram (Stanger), Sivanandashram (Richards Bay), Sai Ashram (Chatsworth), Nelisiwe Ganga Baptismal Centre (Port Durnford), Ebuhleni Ganga Baptismal Centre (Inanda).
At the Nelisiwe Ganga Baptismal Centre, African girls dressed in saris, belonging to the Nazareth Baptist Church, perform Ganga Arati once a week. Ganga Arati is relayed over a sound system. The picture of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, has been installed on the shrines in the centres at Port Durnford and Inanda, together with pictures of Bishop Shembe and his past Masters. The Shembe clan, which has a following of about five million, also worship water. So they have great reverence for Ganga
Lord Krishna says in the Gita: "Among streams, I am the Ganga".
Devi Bhagavatam: "He who utters 'Gange, Gange' even from a distance of hundreds of kilometers, becomes purified from all sins, and attains Vaikuntha, the world of Vishnu."
Lord Dhanvantari: "When the body is afflicted by senility and diseases, the holy water of Mother Ganga is the medicine, and Lord Narayana (Hari), from whose Feet Mother Ganga emanates, is the great physician."
Sri Sankara: "Even a little study of the Bhagavad Gita, or drinking of a little Ganga water, and worship even once of Murari, will make one immune to Yama, the Lord of Death."
Prayer to Ganga
1. Om, obeisance to Ganga, identical with Siva and the bestower of happiness! Obeisance, obeisance, obeisance to you in the form of Vishnu! Obeisaince to you in the form of Brahma!
2. I bow to you in the form of Rudra, Sankari (benefactress)! Obeisance to you in the form of all gods! Obeisance to medicine personified!
3. Obeisance to you, the most excellent physician of all ailments of all people! Obeisance to you, the destroyer of the poisons arising from mobile and immobile beings!
4. Hail to you, the destroyer of the poison of worldly existence! Obeisance to the enlivener! Repeated obeisance to you, the destroyer of the three types of distresses, the Goddess of the vital breath!
5. Obeisance to the Goddess, the cause of lasting peace! Obeisance to you of pure form! Obeisance to the purifier of everything! Obeisance to you in the form of the enemy of sins!
6. Repeated salutes to the bestower of all worldly pleasures and salvation! Obeisance to the bestower of welfare! Obeisance to the bestower of pleasure here and hereafter! Obeisance to you, the river in the nether worlds!
7. Obeisance to Mandakini! Obeisance to the bestower of heavenly pleasures! Obeisance to the triple-streamed one!
8. Obeisance to the holy river abiding in the three white ones (pure ones, namely, its source, Prayaga and confluence with the sea)! Obeisance, obeisance to the one with forbearance. Obeisance to the one abiding in the three types of fire! Obeisance to the brilliant one!
O Adorable Mother Ganges!
by Sri Swami Sivananda
O adorable Mother Ganga, the Shakti of Lord Siva,Prostrations and adorations unto Thee!
Thou art the creatrix and nourisher of the world.People address Thee as "Bhagirathi", "Har Har Gange",
I know well Thy story, O dear Mother,
Once King Bhagiratha brought Thee down
To purify the ashes of his grandfathers,
Lord Siva took Thee in His matted locks,
Thou takest origin in Gaumukh, beyond Gangotri,
Thou passest through Uttarkashi, Rishikesh and Haridwar,
Thou purifiest the Punyabhumi of Bharata Varsha;
Thou finally mergest in Ganga Sagar;
Thou art Bhrantinashini and Jagatjanani;
Thou adornest the head of Gangadhar,
Thou art the nectar of immortalilty that gives salvation,
Thou art Mahamaya, Adishakti and Avyaktam,
People sing "Gange Lahari" in the evening,
They do Arati with Bhav and devotion;
They raise Jaya Jayakar: "Ganga Mayee Ki Jai!",
They worship Thee with flowers and Prasad,
Thou art Jnana Ganga, the wisdom nectar,
Thy subtle form is in the celestial regions,
Thy gross form only human beings behold here,
Thou pervadest the world as subtle Chidakasa,
Thou hast attracted the people of the whole world,
Thy name has holy associations and vibrations,
A dip in Thee refreshes and purifies the heart,
Millions flock to Thee during Kumbha Mela,
Thou art the purest water on earth,
No germs can thrive in Thee,
This is the finding of the scientist in his laboratory,
Thou art sparkling and clear as crystal,
A drop on the tongue at the moment of death gives Moksha,
Yogins and Sadhus do Tapas on Thy banks in cottages,
Thou deliverest them from the rounds of births and deaths,
Who can describe, O Mother, Thy glory and splendour?
Will a day come to me, Beloved Mother,
To sit on a block of stone on Thy bank,
To shed continuous tears of Prem on Thy lap,
And merge in Thee for ever and ever?
O all-powerful Mother of compassion and love,
Bless me with Thy Grace and mercy,
Destroy my darkness and ignorance,
Remove the veil and show Thy true form,
I am thine, O Mother, Thou art mine,
The sense of duality has vanished now,
The bridge that separates us has broken now,
Let me dwell in Thee, Mother, for ever and ever.
While every Hindu adores the Ganga, Swami Sivananda's love for Her was unprecedented. He clung on to a small set of rooms on the bank of the holy river for more than three decades, only because from there he could always commune with Mother Ganga day and night.
During his early days of rigorous Tapas in a cottage at Swarg Ashram, Rishikesh, he would get up at 4am and, even during winter, would enter waist-deep into the ice cold waters of the Ganga. Only when the sun appeared would he climb out of the waters. This awesome Tapas affected the Divine Master's body in later life, but his reverence and love for the celestial river did not diminish and continued up to his last days on earth, as will be seen from the narratives below.
This incident occurred about 24 June, 1963, a few weeks before the Master entered into Mahasamadhi. At the lunch table he could not pick up the towel with his left hand when he tried, nor could he perform his usual salutations to Mother Ganga after taking his meal.
On July 8, he was wheeled to the verandah and, at his bidding, the doors of the verandah opening onto the river front were thrown open, enabling him to drink his fill of the beauty of the holy Ganga to his heart's content. Ganga Darshan to him was always a spiritual feast.
On July 10, the Master expressed a desire to see Ganga from where he lay in bed. An intervening wall obstructed the view. So the direction of the bed was suitably changed in order to enable him to view the holy Tirtha, which he loved so much, on whose banks he had lived for almost forty years, and on whose glory he had written a book.
At 10am the Master was brought to the verandah as usual. Normally he sat there for half an hour, but that day he rested for just ten minutes, with a straight gaze fixed intently on the Ganga.
On July 14, as was the usual practice, the disciples wanted to give the Master barley water or jeera water, but he wanted to have Ganga water, pure and simple. The water was brought. The Master, who had experienced difficulty in taking the smallest quantity of solid or liquid, gulped down half a glass of Ganga water wihout apparent trouble-and with that, the Being that was Swami Sivananda laid aside his mortal vesture. It was 11.15pm.
Headquarters of Divine Life Society of South Africa is located on a 2.5 hectare site at Reservoir Hills, Durban, which is a fifteen minute drive from the centre of the city of Durban. The magnificent Sivananda International Cultural Centre is located at Sivananda Nagar, La Mercy, which is about a half an hour drive from Durban. Ashrams have also been established at Chatsworth (Durban), Northdale (Pietermaritzburg), Stanger, Richards Bay and Zakariyya Park in Gauteng. The Society has no other registered branches but there are several prayer groups all over the country.
The most beautiful Sivananda International Cultural Centre at La Mercy, situated on a site almost 20 hectares in extent, amidst rolling hills and green canefields, has developed into a substantial complex.
1. Sivananda Prayer Hall consists of two spacious wings providing seating accommodation for approximately 1 800 males and females. The Cry Room adjacent to the prayer hall is used by mothers to take care of babies who become restless. A most beautiful illuminated shrine with duratrans of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, Maha Guru Swami Vishwananda (Guru of our Divine Master), Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Siva, Mother Saraswati and Lord Ganesha captivates the hearts of all those attending Satsang in the hall.
3. Darshan Hall is used as a classroom during the one-day monthly Yoga Camps.
4. Kitchen & Dining Hall are opposite Darshan Hall. As these were found inadequate to cater for increased number of devotees attending Satsangs, a new dining hall and kitchen complex has been set up (see 17 further on).
5. Sivananda Guha is used for Yoga Camps.
6. Workshop is used by our carpenters to produce various items for the SICC complex, like burglar guards, balustrades, etc.
7. Vishwananda Hall is used for Yoga Camps and overflow of Sivananda Prayer Hall. It has a beautiful shrine like that in Sivananda Prayer Hall.
8. Atmananda Hall is used for Yoga Camps and overflow from Sivananda Prayer Hall. It has a beautiful shrine similar to that in Sivananda Prayer Hall.
9. Sewing Centre produces garments for the poor and needy Africans in the area.
10. Ganga Darshan, 25-roomed living quarters for the rishikumars (male renunciants).
11. Toilets & Bathrooms
12. Children's Auditorium consists of two halls, one of which is terraced. They are used for the monthly Yoga Camps and also for overflow of Sivananda Prayer Hall. The terraced hall has a lovely shrine like the one in Sivananda Prayer Hall.
13. Ganga Rani has a half Olympic size covered swimming pool for children (our Spiritual Darlings), attending the one day monthly Yoga Camps. The beautiful shrine of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, is illuminated with a garland of colourful duratrans. Ganga Mata's lovely shrine is situated near the pool where devotees prostrate. There are carpeted seats for males and females for silent meditation. Except when children swim, complete silence is observed in Ganga Rani. It is sanctified with holy Ganges water on auspicious days. A small circular paddling pool for the little ones is on one side of the large pool.
The rishikumars conduct Satsang daily with Ganga Arati being relayed over the sound system. On important Satsang days devotees offer flowers to the holy Padukas of our Divine Master at his shrine. They then prostrate to Ganga Mata at Her shrine, and take some water from Ganga Rani. Most of the devotees attend functions at the SICC mainly because of the attraction of Ganga Arati. A similar Ganga shrine is also in Bhagirathi.
On entering Ganga Rani many remark on the beauty and serenity that pervades it. Even a Christian and Muslim gave it high praise. With green fibregrass all around the pool, and light from the transparent roof sheeting, Ganga Rani looks quite spectacular. The girls who perform Ganga Arati dress in saris and observe strict rules of cleanliness.
14. Guru Kripa captivates the hearts of all those who enter it. The remark often made by devotees and visitors is that it is "heaven on earth". Illuminated duratran shrines of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, Maha Guru Sri Swami Vishwananda, Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Siva, Mother Saraswati, Sri Hanuman and Lord Ganesha are enchantingly beautiful. The green wallpaper gives added serenity and beauty to the shrine.
There are also many display cabinets with stunningly beautiful multi-colour pictures of exotic birds, flowers, animals, scenic wonders, etc. A large section contains lovely photos of animals, scenic wonders, birds, etc. mounted on boards. Guru Kripa is not only a place pervaded with serenity but is also highly educational, for it contains inspiring sayings of our Divine Master that are simple to understand, universal in outlook and practical in application. Guru Kripa certainly gives peace and solace to all those who visit it. Pencils and pads are kept on the display cabinets for visitors to take notes of the sayings.
15. Sivananda Nature Reserve occupies the area next to the verandah of Guru Kripa. Here also there are several illuminated cabinets with information on nature and animals. Guru Kripa and Sivananda Nature Reserve are both beautifully carpeted. The soothing, soul-stirring music played in Guru Kripa enchants all those who visit the place.
16. Vishwananda & Sivananda Presses are fully equipped with offset printing machines, including the new Four Colour Heidelberg Speedmaster, folding machines, guillotines, etc. They produce spiritual literature, mainly for free distribution.
17. Dining Room & Kitchen Complex: This large complex consists of a spacious, modern kitchen with electrical cooking equipment and three carpeted multi-purpose dining halls. The beautiful water fountain called "Saraswati" is situated in the middle of the dining halls. The dining halls are used to conduct workshops, etc.
18. Bhagirathi has three water fountains with water cascading from one fountain to the other. It is extremely beautiful. The sound of cascading water has a soothing effect on the mind. Water therapy is used now in some overseas hospitals for treatment of ailments. On important function days Ganga Arati is performed in Bhagirathi, with offering of flowers to the holy Padukas of our Divine Master in front of his lovely shrine. As in Ganga Rani, the girls performing Ganga Arati dress in saris and observe strict rules of cleanliness.
19. Vaikuntha Dham displays the Society's spiritual literature. Framed multi-colour pictures of exotic birds, flowers, etc. as well as health tonics are available in this extremely beautiful section. It is tiled and has four carpeted sections separated by decorated wooden balustrades, where devotees may spend a few minutes in silence and prayer in front of beautifully illuminated shrines of Lord Krishna, our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, and Sri Swami Vishwananda. Silence and prayer go on side-by-side with the sale of books and health tonics. Light, instrumental music and Ram-Nam Kirtan are also relayed over the sound system.
20. Sivananda, Vishwananda & Ganga Stadiums have seating accommodation for about 5000 people. A spacious sports field in front of the magnificent stadiums provides ample space for Satsangs, mass drill displays, Zulu dances, plays, etc.
Vishwananda Stadium has three halls, two of which are fully carpeted. These multi-purpose halls are used for serving meals, conducting workshops, etc. The hall on the ground floor is used as a workshop to produce school furniture, windows, etc. for the many schools the Society is building for the disadvantaged.
Parking: The most beautiful Sivananda International Cultural Centre is very fortunate in being able to provide ample parking space for vehicles.
Location of the Centre: The Centre is located in Sivananda Nagar, next to Desainagar on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, about 35 km north of Durban. It overlooks the Indian Ocean and is situated amidst rolling hills and green canefields.
Directions: From Durban City Centre, take the M4 (Stanger Street) northwards, till you cross the Umdloti River and reach the Desainagar turn-off on the M4 (old N2); then follow the Divine Life Society signposts to the Centre.
If you are on the N2 heading up the north coast, turn off at the Verulam/Umdloti interchange, which is the alternate route marked A . Thereafter turn right on the M27, and within 200 meters left on the M4 to Ballito. On crossing the Umdloti River, continue as above.
A Visitor's Comments:
We reproduce extracts from a letter written by Dr Anil Sooklal, Counsellor for Political Affairs for the S.A. Government, stationed in Geneva, Switzerland, after his visit to the SICC in April 1997:
I was filled with awe as the magnificent complex came in view. As I arrived at the Ashram I marvelled at the sheer beauty of the place, but more so I was absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer size of the complex.
The last time I had been to the Ashram was in 1993. Since then it has expanded considerably, so I was unsure where to proceed as I watched the hundreds of devotees of Gurudev stream to the Ashram on that tranquil Sunday morning.
Lovingly one of the devotees suggested that I first visit Ganga Rani, and directed me towards the building. I wondered what exactly Ganga Rani was. As I entered the building I could not have imagined the existence of such a unique and spiritually elevating concept. I sat in this most magnificent spiritual centre which makes one lose all perceptions of time and space, transporting one to the 'world of the Devas'. I am sure that Ganga Rani is unique, not only to South Africa but the world.
Having had the blessings of Mother Ganga, I returned to the peace and tranquillity of the Satsang Hall where I had the good fortune to partake in Satsang, which I had dearly missed since leaving South Africa eighteen months ago.
I subsequently visited Guru Kripa, the exhibition centre, which I am sure will serve as a great medium of education to young and old alike. Finally, I had a wonderful double helping of the biryani prasadam which I thoroughly enjoyed!
The Sivananda International Cultural Centre is a tribute to the perennial teachings of Sri Gurudev Sivanandaji and a living embodiment of the vibrancy and relevance of Gurudev's teachings to this day and age. I felt extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to visit the Ashram and renew and recharge myself by being bathed by the immense spiritual ecstasy that fills this wonderful home of Sri Gurudev and all his beloved devotees.
Thank you, Swamiji, for giving South Africa this magnificent spiritual retreat and centre of spiritual education and regeneration, which I am sure will soon become a familiar landmark in the country. I dearly look forward to returning to the Ashram in December when I visit South Africa for my home leave.Sri Anil SooklalCounsellor-Political AffairsS.A. Govt., Geneva, Switzerland