ANANDI CHOWKA (CHOWKA ARTI OR SATTVIC YAGNA)
A brief explanation by Dr. J. Das, Kabir Association of Canada.
Published with permission
The chowka ceremony is a sacred ceremony performed by devotees of the Kabir Panth (Kabir Path) to mark any important religious occasion, or by any individual to celebrate any joyous occasion, of when seeking initiation (diksha). It is a devotional service to Satguru Kabir, to God, to other gurus and for the welfare of all. Every part of the ceremony has a deep symbolic meaning that relates to our own inner life.
The chowka is prepared in a way that symbolizes the universe and the firmament. A ramaini in the Chowka Chandrika states: jo rachna hai lok ki, so chowka bistar-as is the formation of the universe, so is the manifestation of the Chowka. The small square platform (bedi) symbolizes the earth, and the overhead chandani (canopy) symbolizes the sky.
There is a central square on the platform representing the gaddi (seat) for Satguru Kabir. On it will be the Beera Prasad, offered to God, blessed, and shared to devotees and guests by the Mahant at the end of the ceremony. It is the parwana or “passport” that grants liberation to go to Satlok.
On the four sides of the centre gaddi are four gaddis for the first four gurus after Satguru Kabir.
On each of these is a special item.
1. Gaddi of Guru Dharam Dass is to the left of the mahant performing the ceremony. It is usually the North side, as the mahant is facing East. On this gaddi is the specially made Jyot with one light, representing the soul.
2. Gaddi of Guru Bankeji on the East. This gaddi has the kalash and diya with five wicks representing the five elements that compose the body, the five senses, and the five pranas.
3. Gaddi of Guru Chaturbhuj. This gaddi has the amidal (nectar). The amidal (sweet milk) in a glass represents the nectar of God. On this glass will be the tinka or straw – short fine twigs- that the mahant will have each devotee break. This is symbolic of breaking away from Kal and all negativities.
4. Gaddi of Guru Sahateji. This gaddi has the gutka (book of mantras or sumiran used in the Chowka. This sacred book also has the holy names of God – ekotar nam). Beside this gaddi, on the right side of the mahant, is the silla (stone) on which the mahant will, with the silent reciting of a special mantra, break the coconuts previously offered by devotees.
At the beginning of the ceremony, the mahant will proceed to the gaddi, ushered by a devotee with an arti, while the singers will sing the appropriate ramaini. About five devotees will follow the mahant. Everybody will stand during this. With prayers, he will light the Jyot (soul). The diwan (assistant) will then light all the other lights. The Mahant will then take his seat on his gaddi. He will usually face the East.
The bhajan mandali will sing different ramainis and shabdas to coincide with what is going on in the chowka ceremony.
The devotees will then, one by one, do nariyal bhent (offering the coconut) received from the diwan (assistant), and standing in front of the chowka. At this time the devotee doing the bhent will silently say, “O Sat Purush, I surrender my heart with love and devotion to you, and I ask for your blessing”. The method of this bhent may vary according to time and circumstances. The mahant will silently recite mantras and the devotee then hands the coconut to the mahant, and bows down to him. The devotees will then break the tinka or (straw) and throw it into a thali and wash his or her hands. This symbolizes breaking away from all that is negative or sinful, and dedicating yourself to a noble and spiritual life. The order in which this is done may vary.
After all the coconuts are offered, the devotees will perform the arti over the chowka.
After the arti guest singers may sing bhajans if there is time.
The Mahant then breaks each coconut on the silla with the silent recitation of prayers.
This is followed by bhog, or the offering of the chowka to God, and the blessing of the beera prasad that will be later distributed by the mahant.
The Mahant will then share the beera prasad, while the arti will be passed to everyone to convey the blessing of the chowka to everyone.
The coconut is symbolic of the devotee. It is offered in exchange for the soul that will be set free of all negativity, passions and Kal, and will proceed to Satlok in a state of enlightenment.
Please note that the above is an explanation of the meaning of the Chowka. The items required and the preparation of the Chowka, are given in the Chowka Chandrika written by Hazur Prakashmani Nam Saheb.
Chowka for the deceased is called Chalawa Chowka and varies in a few details from the above.
Ekotari Chowka is similar to the Anandi Chowka, but consists of 101 chowkas with 101 officiating mahants.
May the blessings of Satguru Kabir be with everyone.