Cambridge, August 12 — Well-known Ramayana exponent, Morari Bapu, has inaugurated a momentous 9-day discourse on the grounds of Jesus College at the University of Cambridge, marking the first-ever Hindu spiritual event on campus. Against the backdrop of this esteemed institution, renowned for producing numerous Nobel laureates, Bapu has aptly named his 921st recital ‘Manas Vishwavidyalay’.
Bapu’s Katha commenced with warm welcomes from Sonita Alleyne OBE, the 41st Master and the first woman to lead Jesus College since its establishment in 1496, as well as Lord Dolar Popat, a Conservative peer at the House of Lords, representing the organizing family.
In a profound gesture of greeting, Lord Popat read out a goodwill message from His Majesty King Charles III. The principal leader of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury also sent a message saying, “Knowing that this is a special moment for many British Hindus, I pray that our communities may be able to deepen our work together for the common good.”
Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, said, “The atmosphere in this space is extraordinary. It is a privilege to feel a connection with every single person in this room. These moments of peace, of purposeful contemplation are too rare.”
Bapu, renowned for spreading the message of “truth, love, and compassion” worldwide, described the Ram Charita Manas of Goswami Tulsidas as a university in itself. He proclaimed that he had brought a “universal text to the university”, noting that the Hindu epic imparts knowledge, dispassion, and science.
The spiritual leader said that the Ramayana was a university, with its seven cantos functioning as different departments led by vice-chancellors who were incomparable. He named 11 vice-chancellors and universities from the sacred text as Sage Vishistha, Sage Vishwamitra, Maharishi Gautama, Sage Valmiki, Sage Agastya, Sage Yagnavalika, Kak Bhusundi, Mount Kailash, Prayagraj, Nilgiri Mountain, and Goswami Tulsidas, the author of the text.
Bapu emphasized that an hour with an enlightened being imparts an education unmatched by even the finest universities. “I am a student of the university whose chancellor is Tulsidas Goswami who feels ‘aadhi ghadi, aadhi me bhi aadh, tulsi sangat saadh ki, kate koti apradha” (half a moment, rather less than half a moment is needed to remove a multitude sins).” Universities should be to remove sins and not become centres of crime, Bapu asserted.
Bapu added, “Auspicious is the moment when we meet a saint and read the epic of Ramayana. It does not offer a long course, nor are there too many subjects. All you need is faith!”
Drawing from his lecture at a university where Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had stated that each sage in India is a university, Bapu concurred, describing Ram Charita Manas as a mobile university and its narration as accessible to all without admission tests and examinations.
Bapu picked these two verses from the first canto – Bal Kaand 107 and 146 – igniting the 9-day discourse:
Bisvanatha mama nath purari, trivhuvana mahima bidata tumhari
Bhagata bachahala prabhu kripanidhana, bisvabasa pragate bhagvana
The event was further elevated by The Third Culture Collective, a choir that blends Indian music with Western classical music that performed for the inauguration of the Katha. Their conductor Kavi Pau studied and now teaches music at Cambridge University, and for this special occasion he composed a new piece based on the Ram Charita Manas. He was joined by eight choral scholars, all students, and alumni of Cambridge University, to premier this piece.
Cambridge is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the UK and the world. Among former students, three Indian Prime Ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi, and Manmohan Singh, were educated at Cambridge, as were thought leaders like Sri Aurobindo, Amartya Sen, C.R. Rao, Subhash Chandra Bose, Sarojini Naidu. The city itself has more Nobel Prize winners than any other in the world.
Bapu’s first Katha in the UK took place in 1979; the last Katha in 2017 at the Wembley Arena brought together almost 10,000 listeners daily. Now, six years later, Bapu is back in the UK, this time at the prestigious Cambridge University.
About Morari Bapu
Morari Bapu is a renowned exponent of the Ramayana and has been reciting Ram Kathas for over sixty years throughout the world. The overall ethos of his Katha is universal peace and spreading the message of truth, love, and compassion. While the focal point is the scripture itself, Bapu draws upon examples from other religions and invites people from all faiths to attend the discourses. The remarkable journey of reciting the Ram Charita Manas (a popular version of Ramayana written by Goswami Tulsidas) began in front of three village folk when Bapu was fourteen and has now taken him to all corners of the world from all major cities and pilgrimage sites in India to countries like Sri Lanka, Indonesia, South Africa, Kenya, United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, Australia, Israel, and Japan, drawing millions in audiences. Bapu has often gone beyond stereotypes, holding Ram Kathas for sex workers, transgenders, and those living on the margins of society. He has also been in the forefront in providing aid to any area that has been disaster-hit whether within India or countries abroad like war-torn Ukraine.