Ashadi Ekadashi - Devotional fervour reminiscing age old traditions…
Dindi Seva and Music Program by Sri. Kunal & Smt. Gayatri Ganjawalla
July 11-13, 2008
The Vaarkari Sampradaya that showcases maratta legacy with great religious passion dates back to centuries displaying devotion to Lord Vittal Rukmai, the Lord of Pandharpur, is followed with great devotional fervour even today in Maharashtra. Lakhs and lakhs of devotees go walking on foot in huge processions to Pandharpur, the abode of Lord Vittala singing abhangas of Sant Thukkaram and Sant Jnaneshwar to have the darshan of their Lord on the auspicious month of Chaturmasa that heralds the arrival of Ashadi Ekadashi.
Ashadi Ekadashi marks the beginning of the Chaturmasa and that ends with Kaarathik Ekadashi. It is celebrated during the months of June-July, known as Ashada Shukla Paksha in the vernacular calendar. People consider the two eleventh days, “Ekadashi”, of every month to be of special significance. The eleventh day of Ashadi is known as the great Ekadashi or Maha Ekadashi. This is the day on which people go on walking in huge processions to the Abode of Lord Vittala in Pandharpur, which is popularly known as Vaarkarari Sampradaya. This is a time honoured cult and an important landmark in the colourful history in the state of Maharashtra. According to historians devotees have been performing Vaari long before the advent of Sant Jnaneshwar in the 13th century and the current practice of carrying the paadukas of the saint in a palki from the Samadhi of the saint to Pandharpur for the holy darshan of Lord Vittala was started by the son of Sant Thukkaram by name Sant Narayan Maharaj in 1685.
With every culture and tradition find due recognition at the highest abode of peace in Prasanthi Nilayam, Ashadi Ekadashi also has been a regular feature in the festival calendar in Prasanthi Nilayam for the past more than a decade, evoking nostalgic memoirs of the golden days of the past. An aesthetically decorated Sai Kulwant Hall bore a festive look with the backdrop on the dais adorning a huge cut out of Lord Vittala and hoardings with Divine Teachings and buntings hanging in the hall. Reminiscing the past, rallying behind the traditions set by the two great spiritual masters from the state, Sant Thukkaram and Sant Jnaneswar, Sai Fraternity from the twin states Maharashtra and Goa thronged to Prasanthi Nilayam, rekindling the golden memoirs, to be in the Divine Presence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba on the auspicious occasion on 14th July 2008.
Earlier, this year’s Ashadi celebrations had a wonderful beginning on the 13th evening with celebrity singer duo, Kunal Ganjawalla and Gayatri Ganjawalla sang their heart out in the Divine Presence displaying a perfect blend of devotional fervour and Divinely gifted talent. More than the singing show what captivated the entire audience was Bhagawan’s all conquering love that was aptly reciprocated by the devotional touch of the singing duo. Starting with invocation song on Lord Ganesha, the couple took the entire audience to melodic ecstasy with selected Hindustani numbers including, Thumak Chalat Ramachandra, Sainath Tere Hazaro Haath, Oh Rama! Nee Nama Yenta Ruchira etc., all that were so close to the heart of Bhagawan. The evening was made doubly beautiful with the Lord reciprocating to the prayerful supplication of the duo, in His most inimitable style. At the end of the programme Bhagawan materialised a chain and a ring and asked the couple to exchange the same to each other, virtually performing a ‘marriage’. Later when our reporting team met the singer duo, they narrated the incident as the most special one in their life, a dream come true, a long cherished desire that was fulfilled by all merciful Bhagawan.
A huge contingent of Sai devotees from Maharashtra and Pune walk every year from Dharmavaram to Prasanthi Nilayam symbolically signifying the age old and time tested Vaarkari Sampradaya. “Service to Man is service to God”, the popular dictum of Bhagawan is essentially put in to practice every year by the devotees participating in the religious walk who are engaged in service and social activities enroute their walk to Prasanthi Nilayam during the approach days of the festivity. Multi-speciality medical camps were conducted during the two days of their walk, with specialised treatment in Dentistry, Ophthalmology,Physiotherapy and Dermatology were given to the needy alongwith Veterinary Camps and Vibrionics Camps followed by Narayana Seva.
A Dance displaying 'Vaarkari Sampradaya' and a skit entitled, 'Atma Ramayana'
Morning, July 14, 2008
Haribhaktom Ki Doli Aayi Hei…Ashadi Manane Parthi Aayi Hei …this was the song that reverberated Prasanthi Nilayam when Bhagawan made His grant entry on the auspicious morning at 8:50 a.m. The rendering captivated the air with vigour and the audience went ecstatic as they clapped rhythmically to the chanting of Vittala Vittala Jayapanduranga, while the men in the middle symbolically representing the Vaarakari Sampradaya, danced to the tune to the dais, to the Lord who was seated on the dais. The function got underway with Bhagawan lighting the lamp on the dais.
Atma Ramayana, a musical dance ballet on the story of Lord Sri Rama by the children of Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas and pre-sevadal from Pune Zone was the highlight of the morning session. It was Ramayana live in the Divine Presence with various facets of the epic were depicted with élan changing scenes in quick succession not compromising the continuity. The story began with a Balavikas class discussing the epic and its greater significance. With the Teacher’s narration goes into the basics, there came great composers of the epic, namely, Valmiki, Kamban, Tulsidas, Thyagaraja explaining the significance, getting in to finer aspects weaving the epic in detail. The golden deer episode, abduction of Mother Sita, Jatayu’s loyalty, Sugriva Episode, Killing of Vali, Crossing over to Lanka, The Lanka Fire, Killing of Ravana and Kumbhakarna were all depicted beautifully interposing with ballets to make the presentation live and colourful.
Bhagawan holds Ramayana so dear to His heart and any presentation on the theme should win His heart in no uncertain terms. Immensely pleased Bhagawan gave a coveted photo session to the entire troupe comprising of 143 girls and 81 boys. The Ramayana is such a powerful story that one does not need a fantastic script or great acting skills. The story simply narrated itself inspires and generates devotion and love from within. So the morning session that started off with devotional fervour on Lord Vittala ended with the coronation ceremony of Lord Sri Ramachandra, a perfect finale for a wonderfully blessed morning.
'Tripura Rahasya', A Dance Ballet
Evening, July 14, 2008
In the evening, Bhagawan arrived at 4:30 p.m. and the stage was set for the second presentation for the day, Tripura Rahasyam, yet another music ballet by the students of Balvikas from Mumbai. The dance ballet was an attempt highlighting through stories and analogies, the entire spectrum of man’s pursuit towards finding an answer to his spiritual quest and his final attainment. The ballet was based on one of the greatest works of Sri Ramanana Maharishi expounding the traditional teachings where a Sadguru imparts knowledge about the inner perception, enabling the disciple to share the same state. The presentation had a message for the world to understand the ultimate Trinity inherent in one and all.
The Tripura Rahasyam literally means, "Beyond the Trinity". For his part, however, the disciple must be eager, have full zeal to know and have unqualified faith in the Guru's guidance. The programme began with a dance in veneration of Goddess Tripura. The goddess, regarded as the pure unsullied Intelligence manifests in ten forms, namely Dhoomavathi, Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshwari, Tripura Bhairavi, Maha Kali, Tara, Matangi, Chinnamastha, Bagala Mukhi and Kamalathmika.
The presentation revolved around Lord Dattatreya, the ultimate Guru, imparting the knowledge to Sage Parasurama, the representative of man. The programme interwoven with classy dialogues coupled with beautiful and colourful ballet had glittering curtain down with the Divine Mother manifesting with all Her majesty and grandeur on the chariot while all the sages, namely Sanaka, Vasishta, Pulasthya, Pulaha, Kratu, Bhrigu, Athri, Angiras, Prachetasa, Narada, Cyavana, Vamadeva, Vishwamitra, Goutama, Sukra, Parashara, Vyasa, Kanva, Kashyapa, Daksha, Sumanthu, Shanka, Likhita and Devala, were praying for Her ultimate presence!
And again it was time for photo session. Bhagawan chose to climb down the aisle once again to bless the participants with coveted photo session followed by one to one interactions with many of the participants. Reward for all the hard work and devotion from the Ultimate Divinity!
Music Program by Shri. Kailash Kher and Pandit Falguni Mitra
July 15-16, 2008
The Sufi Singer whose penchant for evoking undiscovered adrenalin with his high pitched devotional numbers often with his raw, yet deep voice that touches the soul would have wondered at the perfect discipline that was on display in Prasanthi Nilayam when he set the hall into raptures on the 15th evening with his popular all time hit, Alla Ke Bande that was followed by a bouquet of devotional songs as a dedication at His Divine Lotus Feet. It was the emerging singer’s prodigal talent that was on display in the beautiful evening that succeeded the auspicious Aashadi Ekadashi. With his rare blend of talent, devotion and discipline, the singer went on singing interposing with commentary, at times going bit informal. As was his wont, the singer was on his feet for a moment, lifting the mike admitting that he was not used to sit and sing, rather would be ‘dancing to his tunes’. Acknowledging the discipline in Prasanthi Nilayam, the singer shared his feelings on the entire episode in a brief chat with our reporting team at the end of the programme. In a humble gesture Kher summarized the entire episode as a great feeling that could not be expressed. In his life, he has always been spending time with saints in Godly Company and has been fortunate enough to be allowed to sit at their feet; it has been a great journey for him. And about the day’s experience Mr. Kher said, it was not different as he felt all of them were incarnations of God in different forms. So, it was the energy that flowed through them, it was singing from the heart that was doing the miracle. It was a great feeling and he felt like a child sitting in His lap completely surrendering to Him, acknowledged the singer. While blessing the singer profusely for his wonderful performance, Bhagawan materialised a ring and a chain and the entire troupe has been blessed by Bhagawan with safari pieces, coveted photo session and beyond all, Blessings in abundance! A perfect evening, when adrenalin was checked by the wondrous presence of Lord in physical, adrenalin was in fact turned into a feeling of Divine Ecstasy!
On the 16th evening the stage was set for the curtain down of this year’s Aashadi Programme and on the stage was Pt. Falguni Mitra, a foremost exponent of dhrupad. Bringing forth imaginative phrases filled with emotion and nuance with extra ordinary sense of proportion the veteran singer engrossed Bhagawan and the capacity gathering for almost an hour with his North Indian Classical rendering. The singer was blessed with a ring materialised by Bhagawan, along with shawl and the entire troupe was presented with safari pieces and sarees with blessings in abundance.
As Ashadi slowly gliding past, up comes Guru Purnima on 18th July with Educare Conference and an International Exhibition on its sidelines waiting for Divine Benediction. An eventful week to come…