Shree Rajneesh Kirtan Mandali
The Kirtan Mandali was a sannyas phenomenon of the early 70s. It involved groups of sannyasins going to Indian villages and towns and singing and dancing in the town squares and then offering talks on Osho. They would get fed by townspeople and put up in homes, temples and dharamsalas, whatever simple accommodations were offered to travelers in those simpler days. Some Westerners participated but it was mostly a project of Indian sannyasins, who were familiar with both the territory and its traditional form.
The best description we have seen so far of this enterprise has been British Ma Aradhana's article about her days with the Kirtan Mandali in 1973 in Haryana in Osho News. There are lots more stories mentioning the Kirtan Mandali in Osho News.
On occasion people asked to join the Kirtan Mandali, as Aradhana did, but more often it was Osho who assigned them to it for a period of time. For example, Keerti relates, in his first meeting with Osho, of being mala'd and sent out with the Kirtan Mandali to tour Gujarat, in an excerpt from his book Allah to Zen posted in Osho Nisarga's website.
Various people have led these Mandalis, including Ma Anand Madhu, Sw Chaitanya Bharti, Mahesh Yogi, Sw Narendra Bodhisatva, and many more participated. One group has been found with a small book of their bhajans from 1975, Bhagwan Rajneesh: Bhajan Mala, Bhag 1 (भगवान रजनीश : भजन माला, भाग १), cover image top right. The middle image has a list of the current "Mandaliers", including a Sw Brahmadatta Rajneesh, and Brahmadatta's whole family.
Image bottom right is from Aradhana's article. She writes about the groove that happened from town to town:
- Every morning we were rounded up by Madhu to do Dynamic Meditation, as instructed by Osho, but not too early, maybe 7 or 8 am; then showers and brunch, probably bread and chai. Next we went out into the streets to ‘work’. The local people were a heady mix of Hindus, Muslims and tall Sikhs in turbans, and they came out in droves to see us. We usually went to the village square in our orange clothes and malas, taking the PA system with us, and stood in a circle. Vairagya had a little hand drum that he beat with a short dumpy stick and Nirmal would take the mike.
- Tall and elegant in a smart polycot* lungi suit, Nirmal sang the first line of a song and then we all sang it after him. This is Kirtan, a simple ancient song form: the leader sings one line and the rest of the singers repeat his line. We often started with Govinda bolo hari, Gopala bolo; Radha Ramana hari, gopala bolo which would be sung over and over again, but with the tune rising on the second repetition. It roughly translates as: Krishna we call you, Radha Ramana, we call. This is the best known Kirtan song. These were the days long before any of our much-loved sannyas songs had been written, hence we adopted old Hindu devotional songs.
- We started to sway as we sang, then Nirmal began singing faster and we also sang faster and eventually danced like lunatics. We must have been quite a sight for the locals in those small towns where not much happened out of the ordinary: a circle of orange-clad, singing and dancing individuals, including two western girls with long hair flying in the sun, Bharti fair and me, red. Each song lasted 5 to 10 minutes and then on to the next. After an hour or so we wound down and Vairagya made the announcement of the talk about Osho that would be given later in the day.
- In the afternoons we went out again in ones or twos to sell a publication by Osho called Anand. It was a basic pamphlet printed in Punjabi, stapled together and sold at one rupee each. Some days I went out with Vijay – we made a good selling team – but other days I went alone. Armed with a stack of Anands, I strolled around the empty streets in the afternoon sun calling out “Anand, Anand!” (bliss, bliss!) [ ... ]
- In the evenings Vairaga or Madhu would give a talk about Osho in the local town hall, if there was one. People piled in to see us as there was not much else for them to do. We all went and sat on a sort of dais, but as the language was unintelligible to us Westerners we used to get restless and fidgety, and were relieved when it was over. Many of the people were curious about us and would surge forwards to get a better look as we left. Madhu briskly hailed a horse-drawn rickshaw and shoved us in, instructing the driver to take us away fast. It was a bit like being famous rock-stars!