Ratotsavam in Prasanthi Nilayam comes as a forerunner to the grand Birthday Celebrations of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. ..And ever since its inception many years ago, this festivity has been a fixed schedule for the 18th November. For so many years, this day had been tagged with another big event, Narayana Seva, en mass for the villagers in and around Puttaparthi, where in Bhagawan would present Himself through and through, along with hundreds of University students and sevadal volunteers, held at the Vidyagiri Sports Stadium.
85th year of His Advent is slowly dawning, completing 84 earthly years for the Lord walking the earth. When the date with Divinity, 23rd Nov, is slowly emerging, the week-long birthday festival got off to a colourful start on the 18th morning at Prasanthi Nilayam with the annual Rathotsavam.
The grand procession started just before 9 after the idols, mainly Venugopala Swami idol, were blessed by Bhagawan inside the Bhajan Hall; the chariots were taken out in a procession with the escort of Vedam and Bhajans by group of students from Sri Sathya Sai University.
Bhagawan came out to the Gopuram gate, where the chariot was stationed, blessing the procession in its onward journey to Pedda Venkama Raju Kalyana Mandapam. Upon mounting the idols on the chariot, coconuts were broken and arathi was offered before the procession continued with great religious fervour attended by students and hundreds of villagers. The ecstatic mood of the village folk dancing to the tune of drumbeats, breaking coconuts and offering arathi enroute, is evidential of the religious fervour attached to the festive occasion.
The Venugopala Swami idol that was taken out in the procession was mounted at the Kalyanamandapa. Return procession began subsequently carrying the Sita Rama idols, a custom that has been in place ever since the Chariot Festival began in Parthi.
After a long stint of Vedam chanting that continued upto 10:15, bhajans continued for fifteen minutes. Safari Suits were distributed to students en mass, of the University and schools, while Bhagawan was present on the dais. As the procession entered the Sai Kulwant Hall on its way to the bhajan hall Bhagawan called for Arathi marking the end of the morning session.