The March Event that shook up London in 1981

Remembering Here&Now

Kul Bhushan writes about the time when sannyasins took over the London Hotel Café Royal on Regent Street for a weekend of song and dance, meditations and exhibitions.

Sufi Dance at March Event 1981 - Alamy
Sannyas News 1
Sannyas News 2
Somendra, Veeresh, Aneeta, Teertha, Sudha, Rajen and Poonam
Hotel Cafe Royal today

Sannyasins booked the main conference hall and promoted the event with posters on London’s red double-decker buses, in the labyrinth of the London Underground, sprouting the news in health food stores, bookstores, colleges and universities. It was the greatest splash with Osho’s name, his portrait and his mala all over the place – all done through an advertising agency.

Over one thousand saffron-clad disciples took over the ornate hall and four floors of the upper crust hotel by launching The March Event with a thousand balloons to colour the sky red. The tight-lipped, haughty Londoners were shocked, enraged and quite upset with this happening.

No less than thirty media organisations turned up to cover this event about the so-called sex guru. They were looking for a sex orgy or ‘happiness for all’. This is how ‘Sannyas News’ reported the event:

Do those 1,000 people who attended The March Event a few weeks back know that they attended 
♥ ‘a sex cult romp’
♥ ‘an X-certificate version of Ring-a-Ring O’Roses in which 50 simulated the sex act’?
Are they aware that they were in 
♥ ‘half an acre of stinking, sweating devotion where
♥ ‘men performed weird love dances together and women shared wild embraces’?

Nobody we know did. Did some of the pressmen go to another event?

In the press room at Café Royal the most common single line of enquiry, with a few exceptions, was sex.

The above extract shows the obsession and fixation the British press from daily newspapers, radio and TV stations had about Osho without knowing him, reading him or meditating with him. These reporters were not interested in meditation sessions on four floors nor the singing and dancing in the main hall, all they were looking for was sessions of group sex which they never found, simply because they were not there.

It would have taken guts to write truly what was going on and one reporter who did got his story killed by the editor who wanted something salacious. Similarly, a distinguished photographer was assigned by a top magazine to get startling photos but ended up taking some divine shots of people dancing and meditating which were rejected.

Despite all this, some media did report The March Event in their own light. The highlights were interviews with Swami Ananda Teertha and Ma Prem Aneeta who flew in from Poona to face questions about sex orgies. Teertha said it was all in the past and the ashram has gone beyond that. Aneeta said, “For me, sex is just a very beautiful natural part of life, not something that needs to be discussed.”

The media was frustrated. But not the participants who had a whale of a time. Many newcomers discovered Osho and his meditations and books.

Ma Prem Sundra described her experience, “The March Event… a time of meetings, movement between old and new friends and lovers. With gifts they bring with his grace, I am carried into situations, things start happening. How grateful and loved I feel.”

Kul BhushanKul Bhushan is a regular contributor

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