A guru or spiritual Master is expected to maintain personal contact with his followers to advise and teach them individually depending upon their character and development. While a personal relationship with the Master lies at the heart of the Rawat doctrines the reality is that all but a handful of his followers will only ever see him at large gatherings called at different times festivals, programs or events. The first festival he ever attended in the West was actually the 1971 Glastonbury festival. Premie memories recall that he was the hit of the festival though the public record suggests otherwise. The Divine Light Mission festivals were so important in reinforcing premies' beliefs that they were held even when DLM was in a parlous financial situation. In the August 31, 1975 Divine Times a "personal letter" from Maharaji Himself was published requesting premies pay their registration fees immediately so that the Hans Jayanti festival could go ahead. These festivals were far larger during the 1970's when there were more followers committed and enthusiastic enough to attend them. In 1977 Rawat upped the ante by having more and more "festivals." As Lucy Dupertuis (a former premie and academic) wrote:
Guru Maharaj Ji's physical darshan required tremendous sacrifices by his followers, which dominated their social and economic lives. Except for a select few personal attendants, most devotees were offered darshan only at "festivals, held during the 1970's several times a year in Europe, the U.S., and South America. As "festivals" were frequently announced at short notice - sometimes within just a few days - and could involve thousands of miles of travel four, five, even up to ten times a year, many devotees found themselves unable to hold regular, full-time jobs. Those who were not already marginal to the society (see Downton, 1979, on their social origins) quickly became so. They also sacrificed community and leisure activities to the all-consuming necessity of earning enough money to travel to "festivals." … Festivals not only absorb tremendous amounts of premie resources and energy; they also mold a premie's life around periodic interactions with Guru Maharaj Ji and the crowd of other premies he inevitably attracts.
Mike Finch, a premie for 30 years wrote in his memoire "Without The Guru" wrote about the life of a festival junkie and the joys and difficulties therein. A pseudonymous premie, 'Kabir', kept a record of the nearly 150 festivals/events he attended between 1974 and 2005. Before the early 1980's the highlights of these festivals was darshan, during which attendees would file past Rawat who was sitting on a throne and kiss his feet. This is also one of Prem Rawat's major sources of income as people make direct cash dedications (in envelopes) as they approach him. In the West festivals of this kind have only happened at Amaroo since the early 1980's. To prevent damaging publicity this ritual is done secretly and only after proving they are bona fide "People who Have Been Revealed the Techniques of Maharaji's Knowledge" by showing their Smart Cards or being vouched for by a premie with credibility within the organisation. The three major festivals were:
The closure of the ashrams in 1982/83 and the remarkable change in his teachings had a significant effect on the number of his followers. Since that date he has never been able to attract a crowd of more than 10,000 people to a festival/meeting/convention/event only half of those who would gather circa 1980. This was something that was obvious to those who continued to attend but premie falling confidence was partly offset by internal publicity about the improvements in India where he could attract large crowds of over 100,000 though this was only 10% of the crowd that the young Balyogeshwar had attracted in 1971.
The worship of Prem Rawat in these festivals can be readily seen in the DLM documentation:
Many journalists saw parallels between the responses at the largest DLM festivals and 1930's Nazi rallies. As Rawat's halting speechifying was the opposite of the frenzied speeches of Hitler or Goebbels these parallels could only be discerned in the chants and acclamations at the end of the speeches. In 1978 I attended the largest festival Rawat held outside of India and I sat in the middle of a crowd of maybe 20,000 and the premies were faint-hearted and tepid compared to their Nazi counterparts of the 1930's. At their best (or worst) as recorded at the beginning of the TVTV documentary "Lord of The Universe" they were creepy.
Articles about festivals were prevalent in Divine Light Mission publications:
Here is a recorded darshan and pranam of Prem Rawat's wife and devotee, the former Marolyn Johnson. Prem Rawat gave her the title of Durga Ji after their 1974 marriage. In 1979 to the ecstatic chants of "Bhole Shri Satguru Dev Maharaj Ki Jai" from the thousands of premies watching she symbolises their devotion by crowning Prem Rawat with the crown of Krishna and then doing full pranam before him and lovingly kissing his "Lotus Feet" as his students then referred to them. It is probably a Hans Jayanti festival.
Unfortunately this is a very poor quality video clip. If anyone still has the original tape or a better quality clip, please contact me.
In 1980 at a Divine Light Mission religious festival to a song which makes a pretty straightforward statement about Prem Rawat's role on earth, a song called 'You Are My Saviour'. Prem Rawat's wife is shown crowning him with the crown of Krishna whose costume he is wearing and then doing full pranam (lying on the ground in front of him) and kissing his feet in adoration.
In the previous years, before Prem Rawat began his public dancing performances, darshan was the peak feature of all Divine Light Mission religious festivals. This clip of a darshan line is from 1979. It was held in a darkened tent either to enhance the mystery and experience or keep them secret and ushers prevents too much enthusiasm from his followers as they kissed his feet in adoration.
On the left he is giving "Holy Breath" to a first time darshanee.
Below is a video clip of a darshan line during the Guru Puja Festival, London, England in 1973 from the movie 'Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?.
Here is a video clip of a darshan line at the Guru Puja festival in Montrose, Colorado in July, 1972. Bihari Singh collects the donations as the premies pranam to Maharaji.
In India such huge crowds gather for festivals that darshan is sometimes seeing the Master drive past but in the West darshan lines of over 20,000 were known in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Darshan in the West is now only held at Amaroo in Australia where lines of a few thousand have been known in the 1990's.
A scene from the Hans Jayanti festival (in honour of Prem Rawat's father, the previous Master) in November, 1978 years before, the premies, then in their twenties, dancing with Prem Rawat, their Lord of the Universe.
When the number of premies was growing rapidly in the 70's Prem Rawat devised a system where two people could do pranam at the same time. When numbers fell in the 1980's this was no longer required,
note premie in right lane receiving Holy Breath by holding his cupped hand behind his right ear.
Click to see darshan at Millenium 73. Prem Rawat wrote to his followers that Millenium '73 was going to be "the most Holy and significant event in human history". Rawat is giving Holy Breath.
Prem Rawat being drawn through the crowd at the Hans Jayanti Festival in Kissimmee, Florida in 1978 or 1979.
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