INDIA. Mumbai: The Mumbai-based Photojournalist Shirish Shete, recently published a coffee table book “Swami Umananda Saraswati…A spiritual Revolutionary” unfolding the spiritual journey of Swami Umananda, a disciple of Swami Muktananda of Ganeshpuri in Maharashtra.
The book contains rare photographs of Swami Umananda(nee Kusum Sharma) and presents an insightful analysis of her life and times. It carries her gorgeous photographs related to different aspects-right from her role as a homemaker to spiritual Guru. They include the occasions like the inauguration of a spiritual centre in Andheri in northwest Mumbai by Swami Muktananda, a “Sanyasdiksha” (initiation into the life of renunciation) given to her by him, while delivering discourses and celebrating different festivals including Guru Poornima and Mahashivratri, while playing different musical instruments including the harmonium and percussion instruments, etc.
The photographs with lucid narratives
The four-colour book, printed in glossy art paper, contains nearly 120 pictures with lucid narratives making it easy to understand the Siddha Yoga teachings followed by Swami Umananda. The foreword is by her daughter Nilima Sharma. The book is delightful pictorial literature that seeks to communicate the importance of spiritualism even to those uninitiated.
Swami Umananda’s spiritual journey encompasses various aspects. Born on December 31, 1916, in the Thosar family, at Khamgaon in Buldhana in Maharashtra, she was brought up in different places in the Vidarbha region. She spent some part of her childhood also in Indore in Madhya Pradesh. She completed her graduation in civics. She also worked for the Hindu Mahasabha founded by Barrister Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. She was married to Prof. Govind Amrit Sharma on April 08, 1940, and was initially settled in Indore. Being a civil servant, Prof Sharma was posted at different places and was eventually posted in Mumbai. Naturally, she too had to shift to many places.
A wife of an IAS officer, she was first drawn towards spiritualism when she attended Swami Chinmayananda’s discourse at Mumbai’s KC College on December 08, 1961. Inspired by his teachings, she set up a Chinmayananda Study Centre at her residence in “Yashodhan” in South Mumbai. In 1965 she met Prof. Sonopant Dandekar, renowned philosopher and scholar of Jnaneshwari (Dnyaneshwari, a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita completed in 1290 C.E. by the poet-saint Dnyaneshwar). He advised her to study Shri Jnaneshwari as a text on Gurubhakti. She learned about love and devotion for Guru for the first time. The Guru removes the ignorance of the self (Atman). Thus her yearning for Guru began.
A meeting with Guru
She met Swami Muktananda during his visit to Mumbai in 1968. This was the first milestone of her spiritual journey. She began giving discourses. She severed her family ties in 1975 and shifted to her disciple’s place in Andheri. In the same premises, the Shri Gurudev Dhyanmandir was set up which was inaugurated by Swami Muktananda on August 01, 1975. She gave discourses all over Maharashtra and parts of India. She gave Kundalini Deeksha (consecration) to her disciples. The “Kundalini Shakti” translates as “coiled power”, the energy released within an individual using specific meditation.
She was given a “Sanyasdiksha” (initiation into the life of renunciation), by Swami Muktananda on May 15, 1978. She was initially named Yogini Kusumeshwaree and subsequently named Swami Umananda, by Swami Muktananda. The number of her disciples went on growing and subsequently, another spiritual centre was set up in Nashik in North Maharashtra. She attained Samadhi on March 01, 1985. Later yet another ashram was set up in Nagpur by her disciples.
Her involvement in spiritual literature is mind-boggling since she single-handedly wrote several books in Marathi and English, including “Shri Guru Geeta”, “Shri Rudram”, and Jnaneshwari As Understood”. “Shri Guru Geeta”, is the Marathi commentary in prose mantra form on Guru Geeta’s Sanskrit text. It is a dialogue between Lord Shankar, the Siddha Guru of the whole world, and Goddess Parvati, the divine mother of the world, as a seeker. Thereby they instructed and showed the world, the path of liberation.
The book is certain to be a feast to those who are interested in spiritualism and occultism. The spiritual power left behind by Swami Umananda has been a guiding force to many. The most important fact is, one gets spiritual bliss within four walls of the modern apartment and is not required to visit mountains to invoke blessings of God.
About the author
Shete who worked for different news organizations, had also published a couple of books earlier including a book focusing on the work of Lavani dancers of Maharashtra. Lavani is termed as a romantic song sung by a lady who longs for her lover’s love.
Title: “Mahayogi Swami Umananda Saraswati-The spiritual Revolutionary”, Pages 150, Price: Rs 1775 and Publisher: Shirish Shete, Mumbai 9867313147