The Ashram is a spiritual event centre open to the public, as well as an active monastery. Whether you are coming for the day, attending an event, or planning to come and stay awhile, here are a few guidelines for what to wear during your visit.
What should I wear at The Ashram?
In general, everyone who comes to The Ashram is encouraged to dress modestly. Although Indian dress is encouraged, it is not required.
- Women: Long skirts or saris are recommended for women, and modest necklines and sleeves are preferred. Tight trousers, leggings, shorts, spaghetti straps, and see-through fabrics are best left at home. If you wear trousers, please wear a longer top that extends below your hips.
- Men: While men are welcome to wear kurtas and dhotis, nice shirts and long pants are also acceptable. Shorts and tank tops are discouraged.
- Seva: All our guests are encouraged to take part in our daily seva (selfless service) program. Most often, guests are placed in the kitchen, gardens or housekeeping, so it is a good idea to bring along appropriate clothes, especially if you have the opportunity to work outside.
Shree Peetha Nilaya hosts a wide variety of events each year. In addition to the above-mentioned guidelines, here are a few more things to keep in mind when you plan your attire.
Darshan with Paramahamsa Vishwananda is a special occasion. It is an opportunity to see and be seen by the Divine, so it is best to dress nicely, in clean, colourful attire. As He will place His hand upon your head, please come with freshly-washed hair.
Throughout the year, we hold a number of traditional Hindu festivals which praise the Divine in Its myriad of forms. Please keep this in mind when planning your attire. You are coming to celebrate with the Divine and proper attire is required in order to make offerings to the deities and take part in yajnas (see below for more details). These festivities are joyous occasions and you are encouraged to wear bright colours. Many people like to wear the deity's favourite colour, too.
Prayer clothes should be clean, neat and in good repair. You will often see people wearing white, the colour of purity. While it is nice to see, it is not required.
Yajna: Fire Ceremony
A yajna is a fire ceremony which invokes the blessing of the Divine. Many of our events feature a yajna and one is conducted every day during morning prayers. Proper attire is always required in order to make offerings. Women must wear a long skirt and cover their heads with their sari or a shawl in order to make offerings at the fire. The daily temple yajna is only open to women who are not menstruating or in the three full days afterwards. The Yajna Shala is outside, so please dress accordingly.
What do the colours mean?
Shree Peetha Nilaya is staffed by nearly 100 resident brahmacharinis (nuns) and brahmacharis (monks). You are sure to notice some very distinctive colours being worn by various groups of people; the colours identify the person's role in the community. To avoid confusion, guests are asked to avoid wearing head-to-toe orange or red.
- Swaminis & Swamis: Swamis and Swaminis are charged with nurturing and supporting the spiritual development of devotees. They wear head-to-toe orange every day. Although Paramahamsa Vishwananda is also a Swami, He most often wears elegant robes in a wide variety of colours.
- Rishika & Rishis: Rishis and Rishikas are special teachers who are considered to be Swamis in training. They wear head-to-toe red at all times.
What are the face markings?
You will notice that many in The Ashram have distinctive markings on their foreheads. It is called a tilak and it is a defining symbol of our Bhakti Marga spiritual order, which is part of the Sri Sampradaya lineage: the oldest and most established branch of Hindu Vaishnavism. We apply our tilaks daily to help us remember to put God first in all that we do. Wearing the Bhakti Marga tilak is reserved for devotees who have taken Devotee Initiation and publicly declared Paramahamsa Vishwananda to be their Guru.