Sri Chinmoy’s 48,000 Birthday Candles

48000 candles by Susameepan KalbitzerMost people would have to wait until their 48,000th birthday to have this many candles on their cake, but not spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.

Ashrita Furman is one of Sri Chinmoy’s students, and also (not-so-coincidentally) happens to hold the Guinness World Record for holding the most Guinness World Records. This 48,000-candle cake was his 86th record, a symbol of gratitude to Sri Chinmoy on what would have been his 77th birthday.

Sri Chinmoy, who passed away last October, advocated self-transcendence — going beyond one’s own perceived boundaries in any field, competing with oneself rather than with others for self-improvement. This latest record by Ashrita and friends is literally a glowing example of such a philosophy!

48000 Candles by Piyasi MorrisOn the 27th of August an international team of 200, led by Ashrita, spent many hours counting and placing 48,523 candles on the 52 x 17 foot cake. Near midnight 80 assistants lined up around the cake with blow torches, knowing they had a span of only 2 minutes to ensure all their candles were alight simultaneously.

I was fortunate enough to be standing only a few feet away in the intense heat and electrifying atmosphere. Multi-coloured wax poured off the cake in strange rivers under the table, and I realised only then how fine the timing was.

The assistants had a large and dense rectangle of candles each to light, as they could not feasibly stand closer to one another whilst wielding blow torches. As they started near the centre of the cake and worked steadily towards themselves on the outside of it, the lit candles melted rapidly. The first would burn out soon after the last ones were lit, so the window of time in which the world record could be claimed was very slim.

48000 Candles by Jowan GauthierNot only did they need a steady hand and nerves of steel, but a decent pair of lungs; as the whoops of success went up, each assistant had the job of blowing out all of his own candles! (I hope they remembered to make a wish.)

At the height of this spectacle, strings of sparklers went off along the back of a huge arch adorned with pictures of a smiling Sri Chinmoy. Meanwhile the audience of around 1100 sang “Happy Birthday”.

Visit for more of Ashrita’s latest escapades, including slicing apples mid-air and drinking Tabasco sauce. “Don’t try this at home”, as they say! Previous records to honour Sri Chinmoy’s birthday include constructing the world’s largest pencil (76 feet), building a 20-foot high cake and assembling the largest flower bouquet (101,791 roses)

Photos by Susameepan Kalbitzer, Piyasi Morris and Jowan Gauthier (click images to see close-ups)

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