World’s Largest Flower Garland…The Amazing Things You Can Do When You Are In Your Heart

“We are trying to break the record for the world’s largest flower garland.  So we have 185,000 stems of carnations freshly arrived from Colombia.” …. Pavaka

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The sun has just started to brighten up the large playing field in Queens.  Many hours earlier around 5 am Pavaka, had gone and picked up the huge mountain of boxes from a warehouse. Now that the boxes, filled with cool carnation flowers are stacked by the gate.   The real job of breaking the Guinness record has just begun.

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It is not something that Ashrita has not attempted before.  Being the man with the most Guinness records period he continually scours the book looking for new challenges.  But this record is uniquely special.  Tomorrow would have been Sri Chinmoy’s, his spiritual Masters 83rd birthday.

So he, along with the help of Pavaka, and gradually increasing crowd of fellow student disciples are attempting to do something which is not just record breaking but really awe inspiring.  It will take a lot of work, it will not be easy, and as the day progresses it gets hotter all the time.

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Pavaka says, “we had gotten the record 2 years ago.  I think it was 2 and 1/4 miles I think, and that was since broken.  So now we are trying to get it back.  I believe it was broken in India.”

Photo by Jowan

Photo by Jowan Old Record

“The 185,000 flowers is what we calculated would give us a 5 mile long garland.  Which would really break the record.”  Pavaka explains that the flower tops will be cut off of each stem and then a slim wire is inserted through a section of tightly bunched flowers.  This in turn is connected to another section, and so on.  This will continue until all the flowers are looped around the perimeter of the field.  “So it is not like it is 5 miles of a single strand.  There is a wire going through the whole thing.  We are going to assemble it in 3 foot segments.”

Pavaka actually works in the flower import business and he tells me he is familiar with the very farm in Colombia where the flowers were grown.  He told them that he wanted flowers for a special project.  “So they sent us very short carnations, at a very good price.  Those flowers flew from Colombia last Monday to Miami.  A week ago they were cut.”  He says that the short stems meant the flowers were less expensive to ship and also that only the blossoms will be used.

“Carnations are one of the hardiest flowers out there.”

 

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I ask him, as one who works all the time in the flower business what he enjoys about this project.  “I am personally doing this as a volunteer.  It is quite a unique project and everyone working in the chain of it was quite interested in what we were doing.” There is also, to add to the pressure, a time limit on how long the project can take.  Pavaka says they have use of the field only until 1pm.  Now just 6 hours away.

He says he will stay no matter how long it takes.

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 Giving Instructions:

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As with all such large complex projects unexpected problems arise all the time.

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There are approximately 50 tables set out around the field.  In a very spontaneous way groups form and they decide how to share the job of making the 3 foot lengths.  I ask a group of girls from Oneness Dream Boat Shore how they like working on this project.

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“We have oneness within this team.  The flowers are so good and fresh.  It is nice weather, and it is the birthday of our teacher, Sri Chinmoy.”  As they look out around the field at the many other groups working, one girl mentions that she also feels oneness with everyone else who is also here doing this job and being part of a celebration of Sri Chinmoy’s birthday.

“It is new for me but it is joyful.”

“We are very happy to take part in this project.  It is very important to feel joy inside.  When you do it, it helps.”

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I ask Nripatri if he has one of the fun jobs.  He is the first, of what will be the job of many others,  to start connecting the 3 foot lengths of garland.  He says, “it is the moving part.”

For every job each person will develop their own specific technique.  His choice is to be seated on his backside and slide along backwards.

“I am linking the flowers together.  I started practicing this whole technique 5 or 10 minutes ago.  After 20,000 of these I will be an expert.”

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He no longer works in the flower business but did so for quite a few years.  In that job he says he never really saw the flowers.  “They would always be in the box.  This is the most that I have actually touched flowers in a long time.”

He says that he is not using any complicated technique of attaching the strands.  “They are not going to be lifted.”

It is still very early and Nripatri is just the first to start this job of attaching.  He says, “I am going to get better at this part.”

“Right now because I have just started I have enthusiasm.  Whenever I get tired I just think to myself.  How little this is compared to what he (Sri Chinmoy) did.  It robs me of my tiredness and reminds me that I have a lot of capacity.”

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Lots of smiles

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Early in the morning it is still cool.

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Getting longer all the time

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Lots of concentration

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There are still shadows .

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“For me this is beautiful selfless service dedicated to Sri Chinmoy.”

“It is a lot of joy and we are just enjoying working with the flowers and talking to friends.”

“Flowers mean purity. They help to purify our thoughts and give personal joy because our heart can come more forward.”

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Getting it just right

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When it gets really hot most move to shadier spots.

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Slowly it grows

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Figuring out the weight

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Jobs for everyone

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Yesterday Pataka ran the marathon and today here he is, along with a table with other boys working on the garland.

“We know Ashrita and Ashrita is our friend.  He always comes up with something very special, bordering on the impossible.  But there is nothing which is impossible we know.  Yesterday I have to say was much harder than this marathon.  This kind is much nicer, more devotional, more fulfilling.  Much less painful so far.”

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Some of the boys at this table heard by word of mouth and others were asked, whatever the case all are enjoying the jobs they have now found themselves dedicated to.

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Looking at it from every angle

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“It is pure delight.”….Tilvala

“To be part of something which is also extremely meaningful, trans formative, beautiful, and historical, all at the same time.”

“I feel such joy because we are all together.  Doing something which is very joyful and very childlike.  It brings forward our best qualities.  Being together serving the Supreme.  Honoring Sri Chinmoy’s life, and being able to offer our gratitude.”

“I worked on it 4 years ago and we were just talking how amazing it is that we can all participate.”

“It is dynamic, silent, and sacred all at the same time.”

“All can be done if the God touches there.”

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jobs for everyone

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“We are going to spell out gratitude.”  Papaha is searching around the field for 2 particular colors of carnations.

“We have the expert flower master from Chicago (Siddhanta) over there helping us. He has chosen out 2 beautiful contrasting colors.  After we are through with the record we will be able to hang them and spell out the word gratitude.”

“I have known Ashrita for 30 years and I have helped him on a lot of these world records.”  I ask him if he is designing the font that will be used and am curious that there is no danger involved with his job this time unlike his last record.

“We have set this record before.  We did 2 miles around the lake in Flushing Meadow.  We have also set 2 records for the world’s largest bouquet.  The last was 101,000 roses.”

He says that he expects that something like 20 strands of the garland will eventually circle the 400 meter field.  “When we did the math with Ashrita, a couple of days ago.  Figuring out basically how many would fit on 3 feet of wire.  We figured out that we just might have 30,000 extra flowers.  So there is a good chance we could go beyond 5 miles.”

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Are you having fun?

“Are you kidding me.  A beautiful morning, nice and clear.”

He says that after this record has completed they will take, at least some of the strands of flower, and make an entire temple of flowers.  (20ft x 30ftx 20ft high)

“It is going to be a beautiful canopy of flowers with them all hanging down 3 feet.  All the way across the ceiling.”

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It is getting hot.

 

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“I was just walking down the driveway at the court and I came across Ashrita.”  A couple of days ago Siddhanta first heard about the record, and since he works professionally with flowers he was looking forward to getting involved.

“We are fluffing up the flowers because these are not hydrated and so we are looking to trying to give them a little bit of a volume.  This is a little side project and we are trying make a sign that says ‘gratitude.'”

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Annurakta is also there, and says, “I am only following orders.”

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Yuyudhan

“It was my job to make sure people had flowers to do the loops around the park.”  Yuyudhan is the project manager, and unlike many of the very difficult records he has worked on with Ashrita before this one does not involve danger.

“Just make sure people were doing what they needed to do and that we get the right number of rows out and connected.  There are 18 rows right now.”

As we are talking the official measuring crew has started around the garland.  It will take several hours.  “They need to find out how long it actually is.”

He says the actual record was completed with 16 loops of the field.  “We had time to do 2 more laps and that is what we did.” He says that no matter what happens they have to stop by 2pm.

“We had 185,000 and we have probably used 2/3 rds of those.”

“We had enough carnations to do 25 laps, and we have done 18.”

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I ask him how it compares to working with steel and wood as he has done in the past.  He says here it is more about working with people. “This is a quick one shot one day thing.  There is not a lot of planning and everything else.  This is just a lot of people.”

“Everybody wants to be a part of something bigger.  That is the fun thing about this.  You can know say (helpers), we now helped to make the world’s largest garland.  It translates.  Others will want to know about it, and people are inspired.  When they see it they say, this is cool.”

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Ashrita does an interview with Fox news.

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“This is artificial turf.  It is a bit like a carpet.”  Sanjaya is the official measurer of the garland.  “So when you put the wheel on it sinks in a bit.  So you actually have to calibrate the wheel against an accurate length.  So we take a steel tape.  It has to be a certain temperature, it has to be a certain tension.  But for the distances we are doing it is something like 1.15 feet different over a 35 meter length.  So we adjust for that when it comes to the final measurement.”

He suggests that they are going to measure to allow with the utmost accuracy that the numbers will tend to be on the short side .  “So that the figure we finally give to Guinness will be on the pessimistic side.”

The attention to accuracy he suggests is way beyond what one actually needs for this sort of thing.  He says each lap is about .22 of a mile.  “We have to do 5 miles so there is going to be about 22 rows of flowers, give or take.”

“Time is the operative thing.  We have to be out of here by 2.”

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“We have done a 2 1/2 mile one.  The thing is you have to be very careful to get consistency.  In other words the wheel has to be as close as it can to the flowers.”

In order to avoid even a hint of error he says he will measure the entire length of the garland.  “Each row will have to be done separately in fact.”

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A job requiring lots of work

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And also a little play as well.

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Lots of calculating.

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From a bird’s eye view everything looks great.

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The record assured the ceremony begins, the measuring continues to get the final distance.

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Photo by Jowan

“We started at 7 o’clock this morning.  Due to Pavaka’s amazing hard work we got a flower farm in Colombia to ship us 185,000 carnations.  We started this months ago because they actually had to grow the flowers.  We picked them up this morning.  The old record was 2 1/4 miles.  Which we did in Flushing Meadow Park which we did a couple of years ago.  It got a lot of publicity in India thanks to Ashok.  As a result, 4 months later a group in India broke the record.  They did 3.1 miles, which is 5 kilometers.”

“So we have been thinking about it and we really wanted to honor Sri Chinmoy in a special way on his birthday.  Now we have got all you helpers from all around the world.  Probably 35 or 40 countries represented.  There is probably about 175 people working for 7 hours in the hot sun.  A really really great job.  All the people who put the flowers together thank you so much.”

At this point Ashrita is not certain exactly how long the garland will be, though the record most certainly has been broken.

Jimmy Gennaro symbolically connects the last strands of the garland.

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“What a great way to honor our Guru, by not just breaking a record but also showing a terrific feat of transcendence.  Which is what this is all about.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful day.  God bless you all.  Happy birthday Guru.”

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“It was a very very inspiring thing.  We got here in 5 in the morning.  So that is almost 11 hours.  We wanted to do something really special for Sri Chinmoy’s birthday which is tomorrow.  He is our meditation teacher.  He has taught us that we can do anything through the power of meditation.  So we wanted to prove this self-transcendence.  So we have built a 4.89 mile garland in his honor.  There are about 22 loops around the field.  It is the world’s largest garland.”

He says that the first flower project was one in which a bouquet was constructed of 27,000 flowers.  “That goes back 15 maybe 20 years ago.  It has gone up and up and up from there.  Then we did a bouquet of 101,000 roses.”   He then mentions how the record garland from a couple of years ago was beaten.  The new record he says broke the current Indian one by 1 3/4 miles.  I am very happy.  It keeps going on.   I am sure someone else, somewhere in the world will do better.  That then creates another opportunity for us to make another beautiful garland.”

“I hope it gives people joy.  It also expresses a feeling of oneness.  This wasn’t done by one person.  It was done by almost 200 people and they all had to work together.  So I hope that the message that they get is about oneness.  That you can do amazing things when you are in your heart and you are one with your fellow human beings.  Then you can do incredible things.” (Ashrita holds 206 current records)

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Photo by Jowan

Each self-giving action of mine
Immediately becomes
A most beautiful flower
In my Lord’s Victory-Garland.

2 Comments to “World’s Largest Flower Garland…The Amazing Things You Can Do When You Are In Your Heart”

  1. Francesco says:

    Hi Utpal
    thank you very much!
    Very nice and inspiring, great photos.

    I have millions of flowers
    In my heart-garden,
    But I love the silence-flower
    Infinitely more than any other flower.

    Sri Chinmoy, My Christmas-New Year-Vacation Aspiration-Prayers, Part 22, Agni Press, 2004

  2. Utsahi says:

    Tons of gratitude, Utpal, for doing such an amazing job. It’s such a nice souvenir: hundreds of us working together, with joy and harmony, to create the largest Garland to honor our Guru on his birthday! This project, like many others, demonstrates the strenght of team work, the beauty of selfless service and the joys of self-transcendence. Thanks to Ashrita, we have participated in a project that might have appeared to be impossible for the human mind, yet, when done with the heart, produced a Garland of smiles… and flowers.

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