The fortnight that passed by belonged to commemorating His Advent, this time for the 84th time. The Divine Birthday glare was fully on the fortnight and running up to the D-Day, Prasanthi witnessed many an interesting session.
Traditional annual Ratotsavam was the first to come; 18th November is the marked day for this festive grandeur that comes as a forerunner to the grand birthday celebrations. On a pleasant morning when Bhagawan chose to come before nine, Idols including that of Venugopala Swami, were taken out in grand procession from the Mandir to the old Kalyana Mandapam. In a return procession, Sita Rama idols were brought back to the Mandir, a custom that has been in place ever since from the inception days of Chariot Festival.
Ecstatic mood of the village folk dancing to the tune of drumbeats, breaking coconuts and offering arathi was evidential of the religious fervour attached to the festive occasion.
The 19th was the annual ladies’ day, a day marked to the womenfolk to celebrate in the Divine Presence. In a global conglomeration of varied cultures, the womenfolk organizing the function had an array of presentations ranging from Mexico to Thailand, from Fiji Islands to South Africa, finally to culminate with a glittering dance drama in the evening on the pristine life story of Panchali.
The marked day in Prasanthi Nilayam started with Suprabhatam by veteran playback singer Smt. P. Susheela followed by Veda Chanting and Nagar Sankirtan by girl students of Anantapur Campus, which has been the practice right from the inception of the even way back in 1996.
The story, “Panchali Charitamu”, was a “run through” the epic Mahabharata with focus on Panchali and her battle for modesty and righteousness. The drama was a classic enactment, by a group of sixty-four children from Hyderabad, whose labour for perfection was well received by Bhagawan, who was seen deeply engrossed in the presentation that lasted for more than ninety minutes, especially the classic show up by the cast of Panchali.
Earlier, the day began with Bhagawan lighting up the richly decorated Sai Kulwant hall with His majestic presence. The morning proceedings included two overseas speakers, Mrs. Sharon Sandweiss from the US followed by Mrs. Harriet Tay-Agbozo from Ghana, sharing their thoughts.
The Primary School children who would normally glitter the evening/twilight with dazzling heroics on artistry, on the ladies’ day, got their dues on the 20th evening when the stage was set for yet another “epical battle” in the Divine Presence.
Little hearts from the Primary School put up a glittering dance drama, encapsulating the entire Ramayana in forty minutes, effectively sending out the greater message the epic unravels from the life of Lord Sri Ramachandra.
21st Nov, the stage was set for the Annual Convocation Drama 2009. Deviating from the prevailing schedule, this year, the drama was organized preceding the Annual Convocation.
“Vidyaamritam” was a depiction of the saga of courage, sacrifice and determination of a Divine Instrument despite being faced with trials and tribulations. The story traces the protagonist’s struggle against the greed for money that has completely perverted the value system in the current educational scenario. The characters in the drama symbolically represented the subtle cross-currents that plagued the sphere of education. The climax had the sacred touch of reformation brought forth by Bhagawan through His educational movement. The hero rightly declared, the Soul of Education is the Education of the Soul.
In the midst of the drama presentation, Bhagawan materialized a chain for the student playing the lead character.
The “passing out parade” of the young students, both boys and girls, an annual event dotting the Prasanthi Calendar on the 22nd November every year had a twist in its tail when in an unusual gesture, towards the end of His Divine Benedictory Address, Bhagawan had asked His students to sing a song in unison. Reciprocating to the Divine Command, the students sang in chorus the song “Hum ko tum se pyar kitna ...” Receiving the love of the students, Bhagawan declared that their song had given Him immense happiness.
Calling students from the university 'good' compared to other students, Bhagawan exhorted them to earn good names for themselves, parents and for the institution.
This time, deviating from the existing practice, the Convocation was held on the morning of 22nd November, against the normal practice of evening convocations.
Delivering the key note address as the chief guest at the occasion, Prof. Samuel Sandweiss, exhorted the students against developing selfish tendencies as they produce great suffering to their fellow human beings. He advised students to imbibe qualities of service and sacrifice by emulating the teachings of Bhagawan. The teachings of purity should be put into practice in order to gain wider acceptance.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Vishwanath Pandit, in his inspirational rhetoric had the story of the inception of the first college at Anantapur followed by the ones in Brindavan and Prasanthi Nilayam. He further spoke about education imparted stressing on character building, UGC appraisal on the University’s performance, various extra-curricular activities undertaken, and about the alumni spread in different parts of the world, becoming role models in the society. Referring to the blurred scenario of current time taking education to a backseat, Prof. Pandit lauded the educational system followed by the University.
Bhagawan distributed 21 gold medals and certificates of commendation to meritorious students of the Sathya Sai University. Four of the current faculties from the University were awarded doctorates for their research papers.
Zee TV sponsored reality show in Marathi, who enchanted the Divine with their natural flow of talent at Hadshi in Pune were again seen in Prasanthi Nilayam, glittering the D-Day eve with yet another musical extravaganza. At Hadshi, Bhagawan was extremely happy with their programme and kept appreciating the fact that they were completely uninhibited and let the meaning of the songs control their gestures.
Completely in synch with their natural talent they sang mellifluously enchanting the Divine producing an array of songs, cooling the hearts, raising the temper of excitement to an unknown realm of devotional ecstasy. The participants, Arya Ambekar, Rohit Raut, Prathamesh Laghate, Mugdha Vaishampayam and Kartiki Gaikwade were felicitated by Bhagawan at the end of the show.
Finally born the D-Day, 23rd November 2009! Marking the grand occasion with gaiety and religious fervour, the day broke open to the chants of Suprabhatam, singing the tune invoking Him, “O Son of Easwaramba! O Resplendent Majestic One! Dawn is heralding in the East… awake, O Lord Sathya Sai!” in the early hours, lighting up the hearts and souls assembled in Prasanthi Nilayam.
Prasanthi experienced unprecedented rush, filling the ashram to its brink. The spacious Sai Kulwant that was the venue for the occasion was full and so was the secondary darshan venue, Poornachandra Auditorium. It is worth to notice that Bhagawan, on the auspicious morning, upon coming out of His Divine Abode, hastened Himself to the Poornachandra Auditorium as if He wanted to satiate the hunger and pain of those who could not get access to the main venue, Sai Kulwant Hall.
The morning was blessed by His immaculate white robe darshan, a rarity that comes only during such selected auspicious occasion. Bhagawan most graciously cut the special birthday cake by the devotees from Italy apart from blessing and cutting scores of cakes representing various institutions. Earlier the famous Carnatic duo from Vijayawada, Malladi Brothers were blessed by Bhagawan to sing in His Divine Presence.
Morning’s immaculate white robe darshan was followed by golden-hued robe darshan of the Lord, lighting the evening turned twilight to eternal bliss.
…And adding to the glittering charm of the blessed twilight came two musical shows; the first to perform was Dana Gillespie from the United Kingdom followed by yet another show up by Malladi Brothers from Vijayawada.
Matching the unprecedented rush, the state Sathya Sai Organisation had deployed additional sevadal force, especially in the areas of food distribution and crowd controlling. The Maharashtra State Organisation had erected ten special stalls in various vantage locations inside the ashram, serving tea, coffee and snacks to the devotees, in collaboration with Girnar Tea as an offering at His Divine Lotus Feet on the auspicious occasion.
…And a glance outside the Prasanthi gates would be interesting as the occasion was meted with great devotional fervour by the locals and shop owners.
All the streets of Puttaparthi, whether it was the main road leading to the Ashram, Samadhi road or Chitravathi road, they were all punctuated with digital prints of Bhagawan accompanied by His sayings. They maybe traders, shopkeepers or belonging to the local Sai Samithi, everyone had the common goal, to express their gratitude to Bhagawan for all that He had done to them. “Happy Birthday to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba” was the common refrain in all the prints. The digital prints from the youth of Chitravathi road reminded one of the coveted Chitravathi sessions which Bhagawan bestowed on devotees in the 1950’s, The pet elephant of Bhagawan, Sai Geeta with Bhagawan was another depiction. The either side walls of the gate of the Ashram had the digital prints of various projects of Bhagawan in the form of a collage. Even leading mobile phone service providers, an international courier company also welcomed the devotees of Bhagawan to Puttaparthi.
On 23rd November, the Birthday of Bhagawan, in almost all the streets of Puttaparthi, free food (tamarind rice, sweet pongal and curd rice) was distributed in unlimited quantities to devotees. A bakery outlet even distributed cakes to devotees. Inside the Ashram, all the temples, Bhagawan’s residence, shopping complex and Book Stall were illuminated beautifully with lights.
There were other events during the fortnight that involved the participation of Bhagawan. The first to come was the 16th evening when Bhagawan blessed and ‘honoured’ the intramural captains of all the campuses of the Sai educational institutions at His residence. The session that was convened at the adjoining building next to Bhagawan’s residence, Yajur Mandiram was attended by 24 girls and 24 boys, all captains and vice captains of various houses.
The same evening also witnessed a Burrakatha on the life of Mother Easwaramma and Bhagawan’s foster mother Karnam Subbamma.
20th Nov being the anniversary of Sri Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music, boys from the college had a private session with Bhagawan inside the bhajan hall singing exclusively for Him. Earlier, the same morning Bhagawan most lovingly cut a cake meant for the occasion, blessing the students from the college.
On the 20th evening Poornachandra witnessed the Convocation Drama rehearsal that was blessed by Bhagawan’s filing presence. This was the final dress rehearsal before the final show scheduled for 21st evening.
“Life on Wheels”, a sophisticated modern ambulance with multifarious features, with a commitment to survival of life under adverse conditions, was blessed and inaugurated by Bhagawan outside His residence on the 20th evening. The ambulance was an offering by iCare, Ion Bio Med-iCare Pvt. Ltd., Delhi owned by Anil Kulwant Rai and Group, to Sri Sathya Sai Medical Trust.
A new entrance gate to the ashram, parallel to the existing Ganesh Gate, was thrown open to the devotees during the birthday occasion. This new gate has security check-up points for ladies and gents separate, well guarded by women and men volunteers (sevadals) separately. This would make the “traffic” effective as the existing gate that had been used for both entrance and exit would become the new exit point where as the new gate would be new entrance point.
Post the D-Day, Prasanthi was still bustling, reminiscing the grandeur of the occasion, though there were no special activities or programmes scheduled. This was fortnight that was blessed by His sumptuous presence filling and fulfilling minds, hearts and souls.
A UGC review team was in Prasanthi Nilayam visiting the University for a routine inspection ahead of the NAAC team visit scheduled for next month.
Dignitary visit during the fortnight included the Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, VHP veternan leader Ashok Singhal, Former Foreign Secretary M.K.Rasgotra, Former Air Force Chief NK Suri, Popular Actor from Malayalam Cinema Mohanlal, Minister of Major Industries, AP, J. Geetha Reddy, Veteran Tamil Film actor Saukar Janaki, popular film playback singer Kavita Subramaniam etc.