The fortnight in retrospect reflected the spirit of the festivity, Shivarathri, auspicious night dedicated to Lord Shiva. The second part of the fortnight had been rocking with the Anantapur Students got their dues from the Divine that had been pending for some time.
The first half of the fortnight had been normal except for the Sunday that found devotees from Ooty staging a folk dance drama entitled “Sathyavan Savitri”. Six hundred and Ninety devotees had come from the Nilgiris, the fairyland of Tamil Nadu known for her marvellous natural wonder. The district organization has been regularly arranging such pilgrimages to Prasanthi Nilayam every year around Shivarathri. The group that was scheduled to stay for three days got its trip extended with Bhagawan’s fore-vision permitting to have the show on the fourth day, a grace day presented by Bhagawan.
Unprecedented rush has been the hallmark of festival of Maha Shivarathri. This year was no exception as Prasanthi experienced the surge of devotees from the 10th Feb onwards. The Shivarathri evening darshan of the Lord clad in maroon was a rare feast for the eyes of thousands filled every inch of the Sai Kulwant Hall. Those who failed to get an entry in to the spacious hall were accommodated in the Poornachandra Auditorium. Bhagawan, upon coming of His residence, straight away headed towards the Poornachandra blessing the devotees before coming to the Sai Kulwant Hall.
The Shivarathri Akhanda Bhajan was preceded by an hour long musical feast by the students of the University. From Carnatic to Hindustani, this talented bunch had enough of musical weaponry in their kitty to enthrall the Divine. The musical feast that started at 5:45 lasted an hour before Akhanda Bhajan started at 6:45 pm. When the twilight was slowly giving way to the auspicious night, boys and girls, in alternate turns continued with the bhajans and Bhagawan was sitting through for quite long until retiring to Yajur Mandiram after 8 pm.
An announcement that was made at the instance of Bhagawan about the Akhanda Bhajan and would be Arathi at 7 am evoked greater interest. Making the morning uniquely fresh, Bhagawan came out of His residence at 6:05 am gliding through the capacity crowd immersed in the bhajans. Consecrating the prasadam Bhagawan came on to the dais to sit through till Arathi was called for at 7:10 a.m. Post Mangala Arathi, Prasadam, tamarind rice and Sweet Pudding were offered to the entire audience before Bhagawan retired to Yajur Mandiram.
Earlier, a day before Shivarathri, on the 11th Feb, Bhagawan blessed and inaugurated a mobile hospital, Sathya Sai Prana Mitra Ambulance meant for Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Ch.Pothepally, West Godavari District. The Ambulance, a Classic I Model ambulance fabrication on Force Tempo Traveller Vehicle WB 3350 has multiple hi-tech medical facilities. It would be pressed into service for 24X7 from Shivarathri onwards.
The same evening marked yet another Puppet Show, as He would often call it…Ajit Popat, the voracious orator devotee from the United Kingdom was commanded to give a talk. The speaker dilated on the simple rule to being close to God - Swasth Raho, Vyasth Raho aur Mast Raho!" (Be healthy, busy and joyous). It was an extemporaneous speech that evoked greater interest as the speaker in his usual exuberance was dilating scriptural quotes and anecdotes filling the hearts and minds with wisdom needed for modern man. Health referred to both physical and mental aspects. Being busy in contemplating upon, "Who am I? Where do I come from?" is the way to wisdom. Being happy by living in the present and not anticipating the future or worrying about the past was the way to lead a life. The speaker presented many anecdotes from the fictional life of Mullah Nasaruddin which is metaphorical of man's life today.
God’s delays are not God’s denials…the student folk from Anantapur would be humming this as they were the recipient of immense blessing from Bhagawan on the 14th Feb, incidentally celebrated as International Valentine’s Day. In Prasanthi the concept gets a spiritual flavor and love turns into Divine Romance. Having missed out their dues during the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet, the girls from the campus were over joyous singing His glory in His immediate Divine Presence. The forty minute programme had in its repertoire good variety of songs from light to classical. Starting with a prayer invoking Lord Ganesha, they went on to songs of Shiva and the Mother. Interspersed were two excellent renditions on the violins followed by a solo piece on the keyboard too.
The music session that saw over thirty girls singing in presence of Bhagawan concluded with the Sports Meet Gratitude Song by the Anantapur Campus. Bhagawan moving down the dais presented a saree each to each member of the group before posing for group photo sessions.
As the programme by the Anantapur was on, another set of boys from the Brindavan Campus was waiting for Bhagawan’s attention with a placard, “Swami, Plz come to Brindavan”. It appeared these folks were reminding the Lord of His trip to Brindavan that has been over due.
Surge of devotees during Shivarathri had a unique group of 400 from Orissa. The penultimate batch of Orissa Housing Rehabilitation Programme was in Prasanthi offering gratitude to Bhagawan. The group was blessed by Bhagawan in a session held in the bhajan hall on the 13th afternoon. Spending time amidst the women in the group Bhagawan gave away clothes to these hapless turned “God’s Own” in a gesture of His all encompassing Divine Love. The gents in the group were blessed with clothes and vibhuti prasadam in Sai Kulwant Hall itself.