The Early Years
The Divine child became the pet of the entire
village of Puttaparthi and the farmers and cowherds vied with
each other in fondling it and feeding it and playing with
its lovely silken curls. Its charming smile attracted every
one. Like a lighted lamp, Sathya moved about the house and
laughter tinkled in the street when he lisped his sweet vocabulary
The little “Brahmajnani”
The villagers started referring to him as
“Brahmajnani”, the knower and proponent of Brahman
or Godhood. Even at a young age, Sathya was known for his
extraordinary love and compassion towards creation and aversion
towards harming any creature. His heart melted at human suffering.
Whenever a beggar appeared at the door and raised his cry,
Sathya abandoned his play and rushed in, to force his sisters
to dole out grain or food. The elders in the house tried to
deter him saying, "Look here! You may give him food;
but, mind you, you will have to starve." That did not
daunt the child; he used to run inside and bring food to the
hungry man at the door; and stay away from dinner or lunch,
himself. Nothing and nobody could persuade him to come to
his plate, which was left untouched!
While others relished non-vegetarian food,
little Sathya would advise them to desist from such cruel
habits. Whenever such food was cooked in the household, the
boy used to run to the Karnam's (village chief) house, for
they were Brahmins and vegetarians and take the food offered
by Subbamma, the aged lady residing there.
So distinct was his behaviour that a wag once nicknamed him
"the Brahmin child"! Yes, it was a fitting description.
Little did that wag know that, while in the previous body,
this child, so laughed at now, had declared at Shirdi, "This
Brahmin can bring lakhs of men on the White path and take
them to their destination!"
The early school days
At the age of eight, Sathya was declared fit to proceed to
the Higher Elementary School at Bukkapatnam, about two and
a half miles from Puttaparthi. He had to start early, after
a meal of cold rice and curds or cooked ragi (maize), rice
and chutney, carry the afternoon meal in a bag, and with his
companions make the arduous trek daily to Bukkapatnam.
Sathyanarayana was a precocious child, learning more things
than any one could teach him and much quicker than most; he
could sing all the songs and Sthotras (prayers) that were
recited at the village operas. He even composed at the tender
age of seven or eight, some touching songs for the cast, which
were gladly accepted by them for public presentation!
The Pandhari Bhajan group
When he was about ten years of age, Sathya formed a 'Pandhari
Bhajan' group in the village of Puttaparthi. The group consisted
of about sixteen to eighteen boys dressed uniformly in ochre
clothes, holding each a flag in the hand and wearing jingling
anklets. They all danced to the tune of folk-songs and ballads,
describing the yearning of pilgrims for Lord Panduranga's
Darshan. He also added some Bhagavatha songs of his own. It
was noticed that he added to these traditional themes, songs
on a pilgrimage to a new shrine of which no one had heard,
and the majesty of a new Deity of whom they had not even the
faintest idea, Shirdi and Sai!
Moreover, it was observed that when an infection of cholera
swept like a poisonous miasma over the area and wiped out
entire families in the surrounding villages, Puttaparthi did
not feel the blast of death. Wise men told one another that
the Divine Atmosphere generated by the Bhajan group was responsible
for saving their lives
Sathya had to move to Kamalapuram with his brother Seshama
Raju. His parents planned to give Sathya a college education,
so that he may become an officer! And hence, they were prepared
to part with their beloved son and send him to far-off Kamalapuram
so that his studies could be continued.
Sathya was a quiet, well-behaved boy and the favourite of
his teachers. Once, he sang the prayer song before the curtains
went up on a drama in the town and those who heard his sweet
voice spread the news that a 'fine musician' had come to town.
Prayer songs at functions like public meetings became his
monopoly thereafter. A merchant by name Kote Subbanna who
sold medicines, tonics, glassware, umbrellas, etc came to
know of Sathya’s talents and approached him for a ditty
to market his new product. He gave him the necessary information
and by evening, Sathya was ready with an attractive Telugu
song, which was sung in chorus by his friends and him. They
used to march along the streets, with placards in their hands,
singing Sathya’s slogan-filled song and evidently enjoying
A word may be said about Sathya and his involvement in the
theatrical activities at school. Sri Thammi Raju, the teacher
in-charge, once asked Sathya, who was only twelve years old
then, to produce a play in Telugu. Sathya plunged into the
work very enthusiastically. The drama was a great success,
not only because the hero of the play was a little boy, a
role enacted by Sathya himself, but, chiefly because it had
as its theme the eternal sin of man – hypocrisy. The
title of the play was "Cheppinattu Chesthara?" meaning
"Do deeds follow words?"
For the detailed storyline of the
play, click here.