Nostalgic memoirs of the golden days of the past were brought to life with elated emotion and spiritual fervour in a jam-packed Sai Kulwant Hall on the auspicious morning of Ashadi Ekadashi in the immediate Divine Presence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in Prasanthi Nilayam on 25th July 2007. An aesthetically decorated Sai Kulwant Hall bore a festive look with the backdrop on the dais adorning images of spiritual giants from the Maratha state and hoardings with Divine Teachings and buntings were seen hanging while flowers were strewn all around the dais and at the main entrance. Reminiscing the past, rallying behind the great traditions set by two of the greatest spiritual masters from the state, Sant Tukaram and Sant Jnaneshwar, Sai fraternity from the two states of Maharashtra and Goa thronged to Prasanthi Nilayam, rekindling those golden memoirs, to be in the Divine Presence of their Vittal Rukumai in physical frame, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Ashadi Ekadashi is the festival that marks the beginning of the Chaturmasa and that ends with Kaarthik Ekadashi. It is celebrated during the months of June - July (Ashad Shukla Paksha). People consider the two eleventh days, “Ekadashi”, of every month to be of special significance. The eleventh day (bright) of Ashad is known as the great Ekadashi or Maha Ekadashi. This is the day on which people go walking in huge processions to Pandharpur, the abode of Lord Vitthal singing the abhangas (chanting hymns) of Sant Tukaram and Sant Jnaneshwar to have the darshan of their Lord Vitthal. The Vaarkari sampada is a time honoured cult and an important landmark in the colourful history in the state of Maharashtra. Large number of devotees from the city of Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra and from the state of Goa come every year to celebrate this festival at the Divine Lotus Feet of Bhagawan at Prasanthi Nilayam.
The evening of the 23rd of July saw a heart warming performance by the upcoming artist Shri Sumeet Tappoo, a senior disciple of Shri Anup Jalota. Shri Sumeet Tappoo has given over 200 solo concerts worldwide apart from performances accompanying Shri Anup Jalota and Shri Jagjit Singh.
The morning of the 24th came to an enlightening start with the inspired talk by Sri Ritu Raj Ji Maharaj from the Biavara Village in Madhya Pradesh. From the age of ten, Sri. Ritu Raj Ji Maharaj has been giving discourses on Upanishads, Ramayana, Bhagawat Katha and Bhagawat Geeta in his travels across North India. He was sponsored through UNICEF as "Bal Rajdoot" (Child Ambassdor) to Holland and his lectures were lauded. He has been associated with the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation for the last four years.
This was followed by an enthralling dance drama presentation by celebrated Bharatanatyam Dancer Shri Deepak Mazumdar and his most distinguished disciple Shri. Pavitra Bhat. Shri Deepak Mazumdar is an awardee of Yuva Kala Vipanchee and Kala Ratna (Mumbai). He is also the recipient of Gold Medal from Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba for his art at Puttaparthi in the year 1970.
The evening of the 24th had all the devotees gathered in the kulwant hall captivated by an awe-inspiring performance by Padmashree Hariharan of the "Colonial Cousins" fame. Hariharan is well trained both in Carnatic and Hindustani music has had great success in his fusion experiments. Though he started his career as a Ghazal singer, he found a grander following in fusion music with his aluum in 1996. Since then he is a much sought after singer in the light music scene as well.
The morning programme on the 25th commenced with Bhagawan lighting the lamp shortly after His arrival in Sai Kulwant Hall at around 8:10 a.m. Then, it was the turn of the Vaarkaris, symbolising the traditional procession to the Abode of Lord Vittala at Pandarpur, who set started their journey on foot from Dharmavaram on 22ndJuly, doing service to the poor and downtrodden all along their journey while spreading His Divine Teachings, before arriving at Prasanthi Nilayam carrying a palanquin with Padukas of Bhagawan.
The programme got underway with an emotional touch as two tiny-tots took the entire audience to a flashback into the morning programme in the previous edition of the festivity in 2006. Referring to Sai Gita, Bhagawan’s pet elephant, the pachyderm who lived a life par-excellence, the children described her as a true devotee without animal traits. Equating Sai Gita with the elephant God Ganesha the children broke into a beautiful dance sequence in adoration to Lord Ganesha to the tunes of the famous song Ekadantaya Vakratunda… Indeed a fitting tribute to Sai Gita and a wonderful beginning with adoration to Remover of all obstacles.
A quiz exposition, an enactment, featuring contestants, expert panels from current and former Bal Vikas students, some of the illustrious greats of the nation was the highlight of the morning session. Aptly titled Master the Mind, Be a Master Mind , this masterly presentation was intertwined with musical offerings projecting man’s eternal quest, Who am I? to be the central theme. The lingering question allied with an array of relative questions that have come from the Quiz Master to the participants got guidance from the rich experience of Bal Vikas students, who were cashing in all that they have learnt at the Divine Lotus Feet to help the contestants in guiding to find the right answer. The expert guest panel comprising four illustrious greats of the nations, namely, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Muthuswami Iyer and Rabindranath Tagore delivered their words of wisdom on different topics related to the Mind helping the contestants to understand the vagaries of the Mind to reach the ultimate goal. It was indeed an innovative style of posing the much debated question, Who am I? and the much sought after answer “I am I”. The Quiz Master was seen summarising the progress with an assessment of the good lessons learnt on the day. …And the Quiz Master won special Divine Acclaim when Bhagawan chose to specially speak to him at the end of the programme before materialising a chain for him.
Bharat, the land that is acclaimed as the land of Avatars is equally rich with the presence of great masters of spiritual acclaim preaching and peering words of Wisdom to the masses. Often Prasanthi gets introduced to these great lives in the form of dramas and presentations held in the Divine Presence as an offering during many of the festivities. The highlight of the afternoon session was a dance drama on Jhule lal, the chosen God of Sindhi community who lived during the 10th century by the Bal Vikas children from Thane District of Maharashtra.
Put to suffering at the hands of a tyrannical ruler Mirkhshah and his fanatical followers, the Hindus in the Sindh Province prayed to the Water God for protection and yielding to their prayers came a prophesy stating that their saviour would come at the end of eight months in a town called Nassarpur. Born as Uderolal, under miraculous circumstances, Jhule lal had to face the wrath of the tyrannical ruler who under pressure from fanatic muslim leaders tried to persecute him. The altercation between the king and Jhule Lal and the subsequent sermon about Jhule Lal’s Divine nature and the wrath the ruler had to face at the hands of nature were at portrayal changing scenes at rapid pace. Lost and defeated, a humiliated Mirkhashah sought Divine Mercy upon him. He was forgiven by the merciful Lord who instructed him to treat Hindus and Muslims alike. After Jhule Lal’s passing away when there was an altercation between Muslims and Hindus about the construction of a proper monument, there came a voice from the heavens:
“Behold, make my shrine acceptable to both Hindus and Muslims; let it’s one part be like a temple and the other part be like a Dargah (shrine). I belong to all of you”.
At a time when communal harmony is at stake and world is reeling under violence over fanatic passion, the message of Jhule Lal is of absolute significance for one and all to receive and embrace in practice and precept. The puchline was delivered with a bottom-line towards the end of the Programme: Muslims believe that everything is God's and the Hindus do believe that everything is God; the difference is an apostrophe s ('s) and that 's is nothing, but SAI...The day one realises this SAI principle, world will be One with unity and religious harmony …A wonderful presentation on the inspiring life of the Lord of Sindh on the day of his 1000th birth anniversary at the very Lotus Feet of God walking on earth. . Immensely pleased with the presentation, Bhagawan gave away watches to all the participants before distributing Prasadam to the huge congregation of devotees. Bhagawan materialised a chain for a little boy who acted as a disciple of Uderolal and chose to speak to the boy specially calling him on the dais. Bhagawan retired to Yajur Mandiram after receiving Mangala Arathi at 5:30 p.m. after a short stint of Bhajans by Maharashtra Choir.