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. To 99% of his premies and/or PWiKs he is actually only an imaginary friend, a fat figure on a distant stage, a face in a picture or on a video. PWiKs are usually far more sedate than football fans, crowds at a rock concert or young folk at a rave but the relationship is no more personal.
Guru Puja (guru worship): July
Hans Jayanti ('jayanti'='celebration', in honour of Rawat's father, Hans Rawat): November 8-10
I attended the Hans Jayanti festival in Kissimmee Florida in 1978 where Prem Rawat dressed this way and danced on stage but there were 20,000 people there and we had a child with us so we were near the back of the crowd and I didn't see Rawat in all his finery. He was just a small figure in the distance. I saw him twice reasonably close but I can't remember what he was wearing then.
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. Brinsley Schwartz refused to stop playing their set until the peace-and-love premies began throwing chunks of metal from the top of the pyramid onto them. Professor Ron Geaves, Prem Rawat's cocker-spaniel has published a book, Prem Rawat and Counter-Culture, in which he gives Prem the credit for being the spiritual source of everything positive in the so-called "counter-culture." Prem's English was unintelligible and he was hooted off stage. Some of the participants in the Fayre later jumped on the Divine Light Mission bandwagon and almost as many have left it since.
Without the music of Blue Aquarius, Alan Thomas, One Foundation, Jiva and the other premie musicians Rawat would not have been able to generate the worship and devotion and donations in his true believers. 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:
- Invitations, Brochures, Pamphlets, etc for 1970's festivals
- Hans Jayanti 1975 Festival Gazettes
- Guru Puja 1978 Speeches from the festival held in Geneva, September 9 & 10
- A Festival In the Denver Coliseum booklet - February 23, 24, 25 1979
- Holi 1979 very large booklet with large colour photos designed by Rawat himself
- Hans Jayanti 1979 introductory pamphlet
- Invitations, Brochures, Pamphlets, etc for 1980's Festivals and "Events"
- Inview newsletters In the late 1980's Inview mainly dealt with the Élan Vital "Conventions"
- Event News By the 1990's Élan Vital festivals have now become "Events"
- In India, festivals continue as before Hans Jayanti 1990 Maharaji's speech in Life Force magazine
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:
- Guru Puja Festival 1972 And It is Divine magazine
- Guru Puja Festival 1973' And It is Divine magazine
- Holi festival 1974 And It is Divine magazine
- Guru Puja Festival 1974 And It is Divine magazine
- Hans Jayanti Festival 1974 And It is Divine magazine
- Guru Puja Festival 1975 And It is Divine magazine
The Most Important Festival of Prem Rawat's Career
The most important festival of Prem Rawat's career was also it's deathknell. While the fat young Godboy was obviously never going to bring world peace and darshan domination his followers might well have gone on to create a large and growing organisation rather than the small, unimportant dwindling group of old premies that it has become. Here we can see a clip of darshan at Millenium '73 festival which according to Prem Rawat's circular to his of followers was going to be (and presumably was according to him) "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.