The "Divine Almanac" had a red-letter day that is perpetually tallying with a dotted day in the English almanac. 23rd Nov earned the rare distinction, winning a “date” with Divinity, when God Himself decided to come down to earth in human frame on this very auspicious day of the eleventh month of English almanac, November.
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s Birthday celebrations is always a Special Occasion in Prasanthi Nilayam. It is also elaborately celebrated in other parts of India and all over the world with religious fervour. At Prasanthi Nilayam, the entire week is dotted with celebrations with one grander than the other, and to top it all comes the D-Day, Bhagawan’s Birthday on 23rd November.
We will begin our reporting with the happenings outside the portals of Prasanthi Nilayam. The local administration has ensured the cleanliness of Puttaparthi and its environs. The police force has taken good care of the security aspect with continuous rounds on jeeps and on foot through the lanes and by lanes of Puttaparthi.
On this morning, one could see long serpentine queues leading to the Ashram security gates. The Ashram officials did their best to accommodate the ever-surging concourse of devotees both inside and outside the hall. Cameramen and lensmen of news channels and newspapers were busy going about their work trying to catch the pulse of this grand event.
Now, coming to the setting inside the Sai Kulwant Hall. The hall was filled to its seams both on the gents and ladies side. Elaborate, but simple and elegant decorations were made inside the hall with Chinese lanterns, cloth hangings and festoons while fresh flowers of various hues adorned the stage. Welcome arches made beautifully with flowers with the wordings “84th Birthday of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba” were put up in front of the gates leading to the hall, i.e., the gate leading to Bhagawan’s residence and on the Dasavataram gate.
A separate makeshift elevated gallery for the pressmen was arranged in the hall at a vantage point. Video cameramen of the Prashanti Digital Studio and still digital cameras of the publications division covered the proceedings of the function. Television sets were placed at different points in the hall and 2 large screens were installed to beam live the proceedings of the function. A Nadaswaram troupe played Carnatic music tunes while the Veda chanting group of students and teachers chanted the Vedas from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
…With Sai Kulwant Hall filling and fulfilling, the adjacent Poornachandra Auditorium was made a secondary darshan venue which again was filled to capacity.
Bhagawan upon coming out of His Divine Abode, made it straight into the Poornachandra Auditorium granting His first darshan of the birthday morning to the concourse over there.
Thereafter, Bhagawan arrived in the hall at 10.10 a.m. in an immaculate white dress. Long contingents of Band playing students from the Anantapur Campus, Primary School girls’ and boys’ section, the university brass band, Veda chanting groups of students from the primary school boys’ section and the university and Higher Secondary School preceded Bhagawan to the hall.
As Bhagawan neared the primary school boys’ side, the tiny-tots showed the beautiful things that they had made as an expression of their love for Bhagawan. Upon completing His full round Bhagawan yet again went towards the ladies’ side and came back the same way quenching the thirst of the devotees on that side. It looked as if Bhagawan was gliding slowly amongst the devotees. Such is the inexpressible love of Bhagawan for devotees.
In the portico, Bhagawan lovingly cut the Birthday Cake specially prepared by the group from Italy. As Bhagawan sat on the dais, the university brass band followed by the Anantapur campus band played Happy Birthday tunes melodiously while the Primary School band played the song, “We have a great big wonderful Lord.” The Primary School girls’ band also played their part as the Veda chanting continued. The university brass band then played the song pregnant with meaning, “Love is Your form, Truth is Your breath, bliss is Your food" while Anantapur campus band took the cue from the university brass band.
After the Primary School boys section played the songs, “We shall overcome one day” and “Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hai” (You are the ocean of love), Bhagawan asked for the evergreen Carnatic melody duo Malladi Brothers to take the stage.
The singing duo started with the famous song, “Bhagawanudu Puttina Panduga, Paramasivudu Puttina Panduga, Jagadeeswari Sathya Sayeeyai, Jagadeeswari Mettina Panduga" (this is the celebration of the birthday of Bhagawan, the celebration of birthday of Lord Siva …) There was an emotional intro for this song which described the love of Bhagawan for the land of Puttaparthi. Then followed the songs, “Jagadanandakaraka”, “Rama Nannu Brovara.” One song followed the other like a cascade. They concluded their musical presentation with the song, “Sai Nama Smaranam, Sai Nama Dhyanam.”
Bhagawan then blessed the specially prepared chocolates brought by overseas devotees for distribution. As the brass band of the university and Anantapur campus band entertained the audience with their lilting tunes, Prasadam was distributed to everyone. An announcement was made for the evening programme that the Malladi brothers would perform again and would be concluded by a performance by Ms. Dana Gillespie of international fame.
Arati was offered to Bhagawan at 11.40 a.m. The special guest for this morning function was Sri Ashok Chavan, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, who was blessed by Bhagawan after Arati. Bhagawan then went to the Bhajan Hall of the Mandir and lovingly cut cakes brought by the staff and students of different educational and Ashram institutions.
This marked the morning session of the 84th Birthday Celebrations.