72,000 Burning Candles: A Celebration and A New Guinness World Record

In was in 2005 when Ashrita first came up with the idea of setting a new Guinness world record in order to celebrate Sri Chinmoy’s 74th birthday.   At the time it seemed like an impossibly difficult if not dangerous thing to do.

All of the above of course were true but in the end it turned out to be an amazing and inspiring success.

Of course great records can never last for ever and a few years later Ashrita assembled another large team in order to try and take back the record this time with 48,000 candles.

Fast forward 11 years and once again the record is broken and the goal is to break the new record of 50,000 burning candles

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“It was very exciting all the candles merged into one single huge flame.  It was very exciting.”

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Bahumanya who is helping out with the record this year describes what it was like lighting the first cake in 2005.

“That was 27,000 then we went on to do 48,000.  An even bigger single flame.”

Bahumanya says that these records are for him a celebration of Sri Chinmoy’s work and his life.  He also describes how the records are also part and parcel of his philosophy of self transcendence.  “We try and exceed what we have done before”

Since he had worked on the previous records I ask him if there is anything new and improved that the group will use this time.  “Actually one of the difficulties is extinguishing the flame.”  Once lit he describes the cake as an inferno.

“The first time we did it we did not anticipate that it would be quite so intense.  Our plan was just to blow the candles out.  The problem is that when you have a flame that is 6 or 7 feet high…… it is kind of difficult.  We have CO2 extinguishers this time.”

Bahumanya has worked on many other of Ashrita’s records and describes the many qualities he likes about taking part.  “It is the intensity, discovery, oneness with the team, learning…….and more intensity.”

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“Every time I hear that there is a new record I can’t wait to get over here.”  He lives in the UK.  “It is a great opportunity to work with the guys and do something that has never been done before.”

Ashrita’s record attempts on Sri Chinmoy’s birthday have to date never failed.  Bahumanya suggests that does not mean that doubt still did not exist from time to time.  “Inevitably we will feel that.”

“You just to keep moving forward.  Whenever you are faced with difficulties.  You have to keep faith and move forward and a solution will present itself.”

Bahumanya feels strongly that you are not limited.  “Some of the most wonderful experiences that I have had are absolutely new experiences.  Embrace new experiences.  Embrace challenges.  Have faith and keep moving and you will get there.”

He says that this record like all that he has been part of , “are a very joyful experience.  It is a joyful thing to witness and be a part of.  The essential idea is that anything is possible.”

Bahumanya says that the first of these records that he worked on was helping to make the world’s biggest bouquet of flowers.  “I just thought wow, this is amazing.”  He remembers clearly witnessing Sri Chinmoy’s reaction to the records.  “He was so proud, so happy.  He gave us such encouragement which really motivated us to do it again and again.”

“There is no end to it.  The next record, who knows what it will be.  It will come along and we will be ready.”

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Putting in candles

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Unmukta

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A job that went on for a long time

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“I can’t recall the first record I helped Ashrita with but it was a long time ago.

Annurakta has been a core member on many of these big Guinness record book attempts.  “I usually  like keeping busy during August celebrations and working on Ashrita’s records is a perfect way to keep busy.”

He describes that each record is always about transcending.  “It is nice to be busy and to be selfless.  Self giving is very important on our path.  I get a lot of spiritual satisfaction from helping out.”

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Help came in all sizes

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Taking shape

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“I am Abhijatri Robinson.  I am from Johannesburg in South Africa.  Basically we are having a lot of fun.  We are putting candles on cakes.”

He is asked if he has been involved with the logistics of any of the previous cake records.  “Actually I have.  We have done this record twice before. I don’t remember putting candles on the cakes but I do remember lighting them.  That was a lot of fun.”

“It gets hot but you just need to step back from it.  It all has to be done on time and done quickly.”

As we talk he admits, “we are getting much better but we are way behind schedule.  We are all pretty relaxed.  We just work as quickly as we can.  There is no point in worrying.  The more efficient we get the faster and better we will be.”
“I started yesterday afternoon taking candles out of boxes.”  Abhijatri is an engineer but says he hasn’t been called upon to use any of his particular skills.  “You work out things as you go along.”

“It is nice working with everybody and having the oneness.  It is fun.  What I really like is that everybody is in a good consciousness.  They are all smiling they are all happy.  We are happy doing something like this which is really unique.”

“For Sri Chinmoy self-transcendence was always a big thing.  He got joy and we got joy when we did something bigger and better than we had ever done before.  That is what this is all about.  Everybody gets inspired when they hear about it or read about it, or get involved and that is great.”

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Sanjaya checking the total

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The honorary cake there as well

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Torches ready

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The sound of the record being broke

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“We are celebrating Sri Chinmoy’s birthday.  Sri Chinmoy is our meditation teacher.  He was a great lover of peace.  He gave so much to each one of us.  He taught us mediation, spirituality, love of our fellow human beings.  Love of God.”

“So as a gratitude offering to him on his birthday we decided to make the largest birthday cake with lit candles.  For Guinness it is the most lit candles on a birthday cake.  We put out more than 72,000 candles.  We are pretty sure the final official total will be around 72,000 being lit at the same time.”

“Probably altogether there were 125 people who helped.  Putting candles in the cake.  Lighting the candles.  All the tremendous amount of details.”

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“This is our third time attempting the record.  First time we did 27,000 and it was actually in a confined area.  We learned from that that you can’t be in a confined area.  The heat is just too intense.”

“Last time we actually did it out here and we did 48,000 candles.  This record was broken with 50,000 candles.  So that is why we decided to do over 70,000.  I guess what we learned is we needed fire extinguishers.”

“You have to very very flexible, like in life.  Everything is planned but in reality sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”

“You have to be grateful.  We feel that there is a special blessing from our teacher, this is his birthday.  It all worked out.”

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“We were worried about the heat.  It is so intense.”

“I think it is a joyful celebration.  I feel happy.  It was a group effort.  People worked for days on this thing.  I love that we all work as a team in order to celebrate our teacher’s birthday.  We wanted to give joy to all those who were watching and I think we accomplished that.  I feel very happy.”

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Footage shot by Mridanga

Every morn and every eve
My heart and I sing
A new Golden Shore-song.
With twinkling eyes
And dancing heads,
The cosmic gods
And goddesses throng.

13 August 2005
New York

One Comments to “72,000 Burning Candles: A Celebration and A New Guinness World Record”

  1. nirmala says:

    I wish to please God with the quality of my experience.
    I want to perfect my life with the quantity of my experience.

    Sri Chinmoy, Flame-Goal, Agni Press, 1973

    with gratitude for this wonderful achievement,
    with much love
    Nirmala

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