“Of all the Sai programmes for promoting harmony and unity among the peoples of the world nothing is so significant and far‑reaching as the observance of "Akhanda Bhajan "on a global scale, initiated by Bhagawan. It represents a unique attempt at making people in every part of the world conscious of their Divine essence and to experience the sense of oneness spiritually”, commented veteran Journalist of repute and Former Editor of Sanathana Sarathi, Late Sri V.K. Narasimhan writing on the event in the late eighties.
The Akhanda Bhajan, which is observed by Sathya Sai Centres in all countries, from Tokyo in Japan to Vancouver in Canada, from Fiji in the Pacific to Trinidad in the Caribbean, has become over the years one of the most looked‑for event in the Prasanthi calendar.
A simple exercise started over a quarter century ago by a great devotee of Bhagawan, Dr. R.S. Padmanabhan at his Bangalore residence, enthused by His greater inner prompting, has become a global phenomenon, when devotees from the fraternity opt to sing bhajans for a marathon 24-hour, invoking Universal Peace.
Akhanda Bhajan involves constant contemplation on God in the morning, evening or even during the night time. It is constant contemplation on God during all the three states - the waking, dream and deep sleep. It is “sarvada sarvakaleshu sarvathra Harichintanam, said Bhagawan long ago, explaining the significance of the marathon spiritually elevating saga.
…And Akhanda Bhajans of yester years used to have Bhagawan’s greater participation. Reminiscing the beauty and subtlety of the marathon Bhajan Saga, one of the old students of Bhagawan’s University, who has been blessed by Bhagawan to sing in His presence writes:
“Akhanda Bhajan was about to begin in a few minutes. Bhagawan entered the bhajan hall from the rear side and was slowly walking on the carpet towards the altar where He had to light the “Akhanda Jyothi” to mark the commencement of the Bhajans. As He reached the altar, He noticed a glittering artificial garland placed around the neck of the Hanuman Idol by the side of His chair. One could see a frown on His face as He went close to the Idol, bent over the lamp placed by its side, removed the garland and dropped the same saying ARTIFICIAL. We all know that every act of Bhagawan has an inner meaning. We felt that Bhagawan was indirectly teaching us to sing Bhajans from the Heart and not as an Art. He says, whatever we do should be “Heartificial” and not Artificial.”
This year’s Akhanda Bhajan in the Divine Presence started precisely at 6 pm when Bhagawan lit the Akhanda Jyothi, officially marking the commencement of the 24-hour “Yajna”.
This time, the regular fixture for the second saturday and sunday of the birthday month every year, came bit early, commencing on the 7th evening at 6 to end at 6 on the 8th evening.
On the scheduled evening, Bhagawan, coming out quite early at 4:20 pm, made several rounds distributing sarees to selected old women devotees, a gesture attributed to the auspicious occasion of Bhagawan’s birth day as per the Telugu almanac.
On the 7th evening, upon the commencement of the 24-hour “Yajna”, Bhagawan sat for half an hour in the bhajan hall before retiring to Yajur Mandiram. He made an unusual return when He came back to the hall at quarter to eight. Blessing the singers and students in the bhajan hall with His gracious presence, Bhagawan moved down the aisle taking rounds of the illumined Sai Kulwant Hall, packed with devotees, reverberating with bhajans. Bhagawan later returned to Yajur Mandiram at quarter to nine spending a full hour with devotees in the Mandir.
Loud speakers were turned off as a regular practice till the next morning at eight. ..And half an hour slots were fixed for various recognized groups to sing bhajans covering the night session without loud speakers. The morning witnessed yet another saga of His sumptuous darshan. Bhagawan came at around ten and had been there till half past twelve, granting His gracious presence inside and outside Bhajan Hall, moving around, often coming down the aisle blessing the vast concourse. Once again loudspeakers were turned off until half past four. In the evening, Bhagawan came at half past five, once again blessing the bhajan hall that had been eluding His gracious presence during bhajans, for past over ten months, ever since Bhagawan commanded to have bhajans outside. Bhajans continued beyond the scheduled hours, at His instructions, till ten minutes past six when He called for Mangala Arathi.
Elaborate arrangements had been made for the distribution of prasadam (sweet rice pudding and tamarind rice) to all the devotees. Bhagawan blessed the prasadam and saw to its expeditious distribution to everyone.
While devotees present in Prasanthi Nilayam were doubly blessed by their participation in the Akhanda Bhajan, there is no doubt that the presence of Bhagavan in spirit was experienced by devotees in every place where the bhajans were held. The Global Akhanda Bhajan is perhaps the most powerful spiritually unifying force at work to bring all humanity together through loving faith in God, regardless of name or form.