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Published on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 1130 Hrs. IST

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s 85th Birthday, a day to remember, a day to cherish, the 23rd of November 2010 is to be ensconced in letters of gold in the annals of history. Yes, it is the 85th Birthday of the Avatar of the Age, a landmark event for the entire humanity.

This Birthday witnessed huge concourse of devotees. People from every part of the world had come to witness this event. Long serpentine queues had become an everyday occurrence during the Birthday Celebrations from 15th November 2010, especially it got accentuated on the 22nd and 23rd of November. The Ashram authorities and the office bearers of the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation had made elaborate arrangements for their stay in the Prasanthi Nilayam Ashram. Special shelters had been laid for the convenience of devotees. The ones near the shopping centre were allocated for the ladies and for the gents sheds were laid just outside the culvert gate. The culvert gate is situated next to the road leading to the newly constructed Halls. Bhagawan had made arrangements for the distribution of free sumptuous food in unlimited quantities from 15th to 24th November 2010, irrespective of any considerations whatsoever. Food was served for all sessions – breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the evening tea was served. Special food pavilions were put up for the gents and ladies on the backside of North Blocks. 100 counters were arranged to serve food to devotees. Additional counters too were arranged on 23rd November. An added attraction near the food pavilion was a huge illuminated panel representing the Vaishnavite symbol. Medical camps were also organised separately by Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, India near the food counters and by the Overseas organisation in one of the North Blocks. Historic sites and temples of different States of India were represented as models near the food counters, North Indian Canteen and near the temples of Mother Gayatri and Goddess Varalakshmi. To name a few: The multi-faith temple in New Delhi – the Bahai temple, the Jamma Masjid, Trayabakeswar Temple, near Nashik, Maharashtra, the Srirangam temple in Tamil Nadu, etc. Banners heralding the 85th Birthday of Bhagawan were suspended at different points in the Ashram and in Sai Kulwant Hall. Beautiful well carved and digital printed flex arches bearing the 85th Birthday Logo and the lettering 85th Birthday of Bhagawan were put up at various points both inside and outside the Ashram. 

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Now let us move to the venue of the Birthday function, Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium. People had queued to attend the Birthday function as early as 2.30-3.00 a.m. The entire stadium was decorated elaborately. Three large LED screens were placed at vantage points in the stadium for better view of the proceedings. High wattage speakers bellowing booming sound were placed both in the gents and ladies side. Flags of different nations were hoisted at the periphery of the stadium hugging the grills of the galleries. A large balloon with the wording Happy Birthday Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was tethered near the statues of divine personalities The stage, the centre of action was set up ornately. Various floral designs adorned the stage with an equally beautiful silver and gold rimmed throne for Bhagawan. Elaborate coverage of the Birthday function by the print and visual media was done. There was a beautiful arch in the western end of the stadium, which gave a grand welcome to the Lord as He was ushered in the stadium. There were also beautifully designed photographs of Bhagawan with apt sayings of Bhagawan both in the gents and ladies side. And of course, there are the towering permanent statues of divine personalities which add to the grandeur to the stadium. The proceedings of the Birthday function began with Veda chanting from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. followed by Bhajans by students. There was a sea of humanity at the Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium. At 9.45 a.m. a multilingual commentary commenced in Telugu, English and Hindi describing the panorama of the stadium and the glory and grandeur of Bhagawan’s Birthday function, the qualities of Bhagawan and the free food distribution to thousands, a testimony of Bhagawan’s Love.

Bhagawan entered Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium at 11.25 a.m. in the golden chariot in a creamish white coloured robe. Bhagawan has incarnated to raise human consciousness and to uphold the virtues of Truth, Righteousness, Love, Peace and Non-violence was the announcement in the Public Address system. Bhagawan descended from the chariot to a mobile raised platform which slowly moved to the stage with the Lord. Bhagawan sat on the throne at 11.40 a.m. The programme for the morning was presented to Bhagawan as the artistes who were to perform took the blessings of Bhagawan. The renowned artistes were Sri Shankar Mahadevan, the acclaimed playback singer, Sri Hariharan, an adept in Ghazals and is also a playback singer, Sri Suresh Wadkar, also a famous playback singer, Sri Sumeet Tappoo, the singer who learnt under the tutelage of the famous Ghazal singer Sri Anup Jalota, Sri Nishikant Barodekar from the Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music and a Tabla player who had player for many leading artistes, etc. Aaj Tumhara Janamdin Hai Parabrahma Avatari… (Today is the Avatar’s Birthday…) was the Birthday song sung by all the artistes. Sakala Jagat Ke Rakhwale Sathya Sai… (Sathya Sai takes care of the entire world…) As this song was sung by the artistes, a helicopter hovered above showering rose petals on the audience. Then Sri Shankar Mahadevan sang the famous song, Mahaprana Deepam Sivam Sivam… As this song was sung as the sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds giving a respite from the heat to the audience. Yes, Bhagawan was compassionate and concerned seeing the large audience drenched in the sun’s heat.

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A host of VIPs were also present on the stage. Hon’ble External Affairs Minister, SM Krishna, Union Ministers, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Governor of Andhra Pradesh, ESL Narasimhan, Governor of Punjab, Shivraj Patil, Dy.CM Tamilnadu, Stalin, Union Minister Virbhadra Singh, Minister from Andhra Pradesh, Dr. J. Geeta Reddy, Industrialist Sri Ratan Tata were among the host of dignitaries present on the occasion.

Sri V. Srinivasan, a famous industrialist and All India President of Sri Sathya Sai Organisations then took over the podium. He offered his reverential salutations at the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan on behalf of millions of devotees all over the world. Today is the day we have been waiting for the auspicious 85th Birthday of the Lord. Let us rejoice and be happy, as Bhagawan says. The first distinguished speaker for the day, Sri S.M. Krishna, External Affairs Minister, Government of India was invited to speak by Sri V. Srinivasan. Sri S.M. Krishna began his speech by saying that thousands have gathered here and millions around the world to offer their salutations to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Bhagawan has been making great contributions in the field of spirituality, social, education, etc., for the last 6 decades and more. The thirst of the people of Anantapur and Chennai was quenched by Bhagawan by providing pure drinking water. People of Bengaluru will be eternally grateful to Bhagawan for providing healthcare and educational facilities. The spiritual contribution of Bhagawan is impeccable. He has a huge contingent of devotees in Latin America, Europe, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, etc. Our lives have been enriched by sitting at Your Lotus Feet, said the erudite speaker. Sri S.M. Krishna concluded His speech by extending his heartfelt greetings on behalf of Government of India.

Sri E.S.L. Narasimhan, Governor of Andhra Pradesh was the next speaker who spoke in Telugu. Referring to Bhagawan, Sri Narasimhan said, “Twameva Matha, Twameva Pitha (You are our mother, You are our father). Today we are in great company. We are in the company of Sathya, Dharma, Santhi, Prema and Ahimsa. I consider it a great privilege to be here”. 7 crore people of Andhra Pradesh require Your blessings, he prayed to Bhagawan. Concluding his speech, Sri Narasimhan said that for ordinary people, we wish happy birthday, but for Bhagawan, it should be Pallandu Pallandu Pallayirathandu, Pala Kodi Nurayiram (Very many years! Many thousands of years! Many crores of, hundreds of thousands years!)

Dr. Subramaniam, the Mayor of Chennai was the next speaker. We have received water in plenty by Bhagawan’s grace. It is my privilege to be here along with Sri M.K. Stalin, Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, said Dr. Subramaniam. From the Telugu Ganga Canal, no appreciable water could reach Chennai due to seepage. Bhagawan announced in the year 2002 that He would provide water to the people of Chennai. The canal was realigned with great cost using latest technology. Now the water from the Kandaleru canal reaches Chennai in four days, said the distinguished speaker. When Bhagawan visited Chennai, Dr. M. Karunanidhi offered his gratitude to Bhagawan. 2,000 teachers of Chennai Corporation schools were trained in human values by Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation of Tamil Nadu. Sai volunteers provide medical services. 109 villages were adopted by the Organisation under Sri Sathya Sai Village Integrated Programme (SSSVIP). Dr. Subramaniam concluded his speech by offering his sincere gratitude on behalf of the people of Chennai and Tamil Nadu.

Before introducing the next speaker, Sri V. Srinivasan said, Bhagawan has done much for India and the world. The university is recognised as a citadel and beacon of learning. Now Bhagawan is launching a new project to extend modern electronic education using web-based tools.

Sri S.V. Giri, former Vice Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning was the next speaker. After offering his humble salutations to Bhagawan, Sri Giri said that we are in the threshold of a revolutionary education. There is lack of equity and access in education. 80% of the population of India has less access to education while only 20% have good access to education. True education is qualitative in nature. Learning should be a joyous experience. Many students drop out in 2nd standard and many others in 8th standard. We have to find a method where education becomes a joyous experience. Through this project, the experience of Sathya Sai Schools will be shared with other schools. Secular education should be imbibed with values. It is to promote the curiosity of students that Bhagawan has applied latest technology to education, wherein the teaching material reaches the doorstep of villagers. This project has been developed in a period of 5-6 months from the conceptual stage. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is helping in this project. With the active cooperation of Dr. Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons and Sri Chandrasekaran, CEO of TCS, a specialised software is developed. The software was formally presented to Bhagawan by Dr. Ratan Tata and Sri Chandrasekaran. This project is named as Vidya Vahini.

Bhagawan blessed the project on 6th May 2010 on the occasion of Easwaramma Day. On 23rd November 2010, the project is launched. A visual presentation was made by the TCS. It was said in the presentation that an average 6th class student in a city has better knowledge than a 10th class student in a village. 250 million people require quality education. This Vidya Vahini project will help the teachers and students. We pray for the project to be a resounding success.

Sri V. Srinivasan then announced the launch of two new projects – a dedicated Sai Net of all the volunteers of India in one integrated system and the launch of Digital archive system which will capture all the activities of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation.

The next programme for the morning session was speech by beneficiaries of Bhagawan’s benediction. The first speaker was Sri P. Narasimha Reddy from Pothipadu village of Anantapur District. He began his speech by offering his humble salutations to Bhagawan. Rayalaseema receives very less rain. People had to walk long distances to fetch water. It was because of the compassion of Bhagawan that 731 villages in Anantapur District received supply of pure drinking water in 1995. To an ovation from the audience, Sri Reddy said, after Bhagawan gave us water, we have been receiving copious rains. It is because of the Super Specialty Hospital that people of this district receive good medical treatment for chronic diseases.

The next speaker was Sri Suryanarayana Reddy from Kutrawada village of East Godavari district. We had no proper drinking water system, as a result, people were consuming polluted water and that was the cause of diseases. Bhagawan spent crores of rupees to lay pipelines and construct tanks. We receive medical care regularly from Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation. They construct schools, have built Bhajan centres and hold medical camps.

Lakshman Bhai from Rajkot, Gujarat was the next speaker. He said that a massive earthquake shook Gujarat in 2001. Many buildings crumbled in that impact. First the members of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation came to our help. Then Bhagawan sent truckloads of relief material containing food, medicines, clothes and articles of daily need. Under the leadership of Sri Chiranjeevi Rao, food grains, clothes and tents were laid. We express our gratitude to Bhagawan.

The State of Tamil Nadu came under the effect of Tsunami on 26th December 2004. Nagapattinam was the worst affected. Sri R.M.P. Rajendran Nadar from Keechan Kuppam village was the next speaker. Under the stewardship of Sri K. Chakravarthi, relief materials were sent from Prasanthi Nilayam by Bhagawan. The government relief material could not reach us. When people were crying for help, a white army came and first disposed the putrefied bodies, gave medical help to the injured. Now we have got another life, said Sri Rajendran.

In 2008, the State of Orissa was affected by flash floods. Many were affected. Bhagawan sent Sri A. Ramakrishna, Sri Kondal Rao and Sri V. Srinivasan to estimate the damage. 700 houses were constructed. “First the Seva Dals came and helped us, and then Bhagawan gave us succour by constructing permanent houses for us”, said Sri Ravindranath Sahu from Orissa.

Ijaz Ahmed, a taxi driver from Bengaluru city spoke on the treatment he received from Super Specialty Hospital, Whitefield, Bengaluru. A hospital in Bengaluru declared that he cannot survive long. Then he was taken to Bhagawan’s Super Specialty Hospital. An angiogram was done and open heart surgery performed on him. He was completely cured. Bhagawan visited the hospital at that time. He prostrated to the Lord at that time. Sri Ijaz Ahmed said that the hospital offers treatment completely free of cost. This does happen anywhere in India, opined Sri Ijaz.

The last speaker was Sri Rangappa from Nedumamidi village of Anantapur district. Sri Rangappa used to smoke beedi, cigarette and drink brandy. A doctor diagnosed that he had gastric problem. Then the mobile hospital under the leadership of Sri Narasimhan came to his village, at his doorstep. He took an X-ray and diagnosed it as heart problem. He was sent to Super Specialty Hospital, Prasanthigram where he was completely cured without a trace.

On this auspicious day, Bhagawan launched another project of distributing food free to villages where the mobile hospital was conducting check up camps. This is another sign of Bhagawan’s compassion, said Sri Srinivasan. Arati was offered to Bhagawan at 1.10 p.m. Thus, concluded the morning session of the Birthday function.

Evening Function:

As the devotees were waiting for Bhagawan’s arrival, Veda chanting was in progress. At 6.00 p.m. Bhajans commenced. The entire stadium was clothed in light. All the statues were lit up. The welcome arch through which Bhagawan was to enter the stadium was effervescent and colourful with multi-hued lights. The administrative block of the Institute and the Sanathana Samskruti museum shown up brightly with lights. A huge light tower too presented a brilliant look. The added attraction for the evening was laser beams emitting green light in mid-air. There was an elegant silver throne on the stage for the Lord on His Birthday. The stage with its ornamental golden-hued decorations presented a grand spectacle with lights. Bhagawan entered Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium at 7.35 p.m. in a luminous yellow robe to a song which conveyed that Bhagawan is the Guru (preceptor) and He is the Paramatma. There were white beams of light in the stadium focusing multi-directional lights. At the outset, “Prema Pravaham” (stream of love), the programme for the evening was presented to Bhagawan. This programme was presented by Bhagawan’s students, some of them studying while others are serving Him here in various capacities. It was a programme By Love, For Love and With Love. One may recall that two students of Bhagawan presented the story of Lord Rama adorning the characters of Lava and Kusa, the twin sons of Lord Rama in Bhagawan’s presence. This programme featured Bhagawan’s boys singing His glory in His direct presence.

The programme consisted of six songs, each dealing with one particular aspect of the Sri Sathya Sai Avatar; topping them all was a stirring and memorable chorus. Even as the songs were being sung, matching visuals was seen on the various giant screens with visual effects placed around the stadium. The video clips have been selected with great care and sensitivity from rare and precious archival films, going back to the sixties.

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Brief perspectives concerning the themes of the various songs are given herewith. The first song was appropriately named “Prema Pravaham”, calling particular attention to Bhagawan’s compassion and forbearance. From this Divine fountainhead flows an unstoppable Torrent of Love (Prema Pravaham), that brings relief to those in distress and agony, banishes ignorance, breaks down barriers built by prejudice and hate, elevates as well as enlightens, and transforms one and all irrespective of race, religion, nationality, caste, language or whatever.

The second song was titled “Vedamurthi-Shree Sathya Sai”. In earlier times, Bhagawan often used to remind devotees that one of His main missions was to protect and preserve the Vedas. In remembrance of that, this song celebrates Bhagawan as the Veda Purusha or the Embodiment of the Vedas.

The next song “Vishwa Guruvu” describes Bhagawan as the Chancellor of the Universe; the scriptures describe Him as Sadguru or the Guru of Gurus which, in a sense, means the same. As the indweller, God always illumines from within. However, when humans wrap themselves heavily in Ajnana or spiritual ignorance, God incarnates to become a Divine Lighthouse to the whole of humanity; and so, this song is in adoration of Bhagawan as the Universal Teacher.

The fourth song “Dayasagara” was about the remarkable Temples of Healing, where patients not only get the best medical care absolutely free, but are also treated with love and compassion. Is it any surprise that those who come with serious ailments and great anxiety, leave with smiling faces, joy in the hearts and the firm faith that there is someone who really cares?

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The penultimate song in this series “Aarthathraana Paraayanudu” celebrated Bhagawan’s role as the Aapadbandhava or the One who comes to the rescue of people in difficulties and danger; among other things it is in praise of Bhagawan’s various water projects, which, together, have brought safe drinking water to people in hundreds of villages, to tribals living in far away hills, to towns and even an huge Metro (Chennai).

The last song in the main part of the programme was all about Sai’s Glory. More explicitly, it highlights a casual remark made long ago by Bhagawan to late Dr. John Hislop. Bhagawan pointed out that in no other Avatar except the present one, has the Incarnation become known worldwide and adored even while the Avatar walked the earth, as in the case of the Sri Sathya Sai Avatar. How true that is, with Sai going out to the world and the world coming to Sai in huge batches from all parts of the world!

“Tu Pyaar Ka Sagar Hai” (You are the Ocean of Love) was a Celebration of Love. Originally sung as a prayer song in a famous film of the mid-fifties, the lyrics were altered so as to hail Bhagawan’s Incomparable Love, retaining, however, the original captivating musical score.

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At the end of the programme, Bhagawan blessed and gave Padanamaskar to the Music Director Raj Kumar Bharathi, Sound Engineer Sai Shravanam, the persons who composed the lyrics of the songs Saikrishna Yachendra, Bhuvanachandra, Prakash Rao and Bhagawan’s students.

Dazzling and electrifying fireworks adorned the firmament from the Institute Administrative Block side as the song “Humko Tumse Pyaar Kitna” was played in the background. The last programme for the evening was Laser Show as high decibel music was played in the background. Arati was offered to Bhagawan at 8.50 p.m.

Thus, concluded the grand and glorious 85th Birthday Celebrations. The Celebrations will be surely etched in the sands of time as a memorable Birthday in all respects of God in human form.