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Posted at 11:50:34 Hrs. IST on Feb 12, 2010

"I am Nataraja—the dance master, the first among dancers. You are all dance pupils. I alone know the agony of teaching you each step in the dance!"

-Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

On Shivarathri how fortunate and deserving one would be, to be in the precincts of Prasanthi Nilayam that is blessed by the presence of Shiva himself in His physical frame! Yet, are we ready to embrace this fact. Or, will it be conceived to be a pseudo world that lures one with a temporary, so called, heaven?  Well, it is not an insignificant piece of information that is to be sidelined in favour for the petty, ephemeral and mundane choices of the world. Instead, it is an awareness that one should accept and assimilate. Our being contemporaries of Sathya Sai Baba is neither a biological accident nor a mere co-incidence. It is His merciful compassion—His love for mankind. As Bhagawan has mentioned time and again, it is the good acts of many previous births that has brought us close to this divine phenomenon. So, let us reciprocate, remain vigil and be grateful...

When Bhagawan says He is Nataraja, it is not a claim, but a revelation—the highest Truth. Hence, a Shivarathri with Shiva serves as a reminder of the eternal link between human and the Divine. This is the holy occasion when the jiva remembers and adores Shiva, who is the Lord of all souls. And this has been so from the 1940’s. Bhagawan has said: “All that you find in this world, mobile and immobile, is nothing but the Cosmic Dance of Shiva. This is wonderful, blissful and beyond human comprehension…”

This foremost dance master, the ‘constructor’, who fondles and kindles ‘the constructed’, has come down in person, attracting millions and billions, making this festivity of Shivarathri a real happening, a spiritual carnival on planet earth even though the depth of this holy occasion is realised by ordinary mortals only to their degree of understanding and perception. As Dr. V.K. Gokak has said in one of the Shivarathri occasions in Prasanthi Nilayam, "We all feel one with each other under the Fatherhood of God.”

Maha Shivarathri, which means the Great Night of Shiva, falls on the Krishna Chathurdasi day which is the fourteenth day during the waning of the moon in the month of Megha, though in some years it may occur in Phalguna also.

The Legend

This festival has a unique tale that dates back to the ancient times. The legend has it that in the ancient city of Srisailam a thief with a keen desire to plunder a Shiva Temple went there with this intention and patiently waited behind the ‘Lamp of the Lingam.' Crowds came and went and the hours passed on. At last when everybody left the temple the thief was left alone but there was a cyclonic weather! An unknown fear enveloped the thief suddenly and in spite of himself being a thief, he started muttering ‘Shiva, Shiva'! This little Japa proved sufficient. In his great concentration in invoking Lord Shiva to protect him, the Lord appeared. And pleased with his devotion, Shiva liberated him!

How the festivity is celebrated?

This festivity adorns varied styles in different parts of the country. In the South it is usually celebrated as a day of fasting and worship to Lord Shiva. At night they break the fast and take food (non-cereals) that is offered to the Lord. The whole night is spent in the invocation of Lord Shiva in various ways like Akhanda Japam, Akhanda Bhajan etc. In the Malabar area of Kerala, this is celebrated more or less similarly, with slight variations, giving more importance to the fast and going through the various pujas with an elaborate evening function called the 'Sheeveli'. During Sheeveli the deity (Lord Shiva) is adorned on top of a majestic temple elephant and taken in procession along with other elephants around the Divine Abode. After this, the night would start, and people after worshipping and witnessing the ritual, would break their fast by taking the 'abhishekam'—water of tender coconut.

In Benares, the Abode of Lord Viswanatha, the festivity reaches its climax when thousands and thousands of Hindus of all shades, sects and sections throng, practically transforming the ancient city into a 'Sea of Humanity'. On this day Lord Viswanatha is practically covered with all the Bilwa leaves of India!

And in the Highest Abode of Peace, at Prasanthi Nilayam, the festivity takes a different dimension and it has all the reasons to be so. What is so charismatic that attracts millions and billions to this remote hamlet-turned-township in the southern part of India?
Those who battle their way to Prasanthi Nilayam to be in the towering presence of Bhagawan know the pulsating feeling that the festivity of Shivarathri injects.

In the olden days
Shivarathri is supposedly one of the major festivals in Prashanti Nilayam that draw maximum assemblage of devotees and significantly it has valid reason, backing up the claim. Shivarathri of those days used to be completely different in style from the festivity that is celebrated today. Bhagawan would hoist the Prasanthi Flag atop the Prasanthi Mandir which would be followed by short discourses. Invariably, there used to be scholarly speeches by prominent personalities also who would talk on the significance of fasting, the night vigil and the worship that was laid down by the Sastras as obli­gatory on Shivaratri Day.

The Prasanthi Flag is symbolic of a successful sadhaka who achieves realisation through the conquest of evil qualities namely, attachment, anger and jealousy etc... and through the expansion of Love and the practice of Yoga they ascend through various stages of Sadhana, resulting in the blossoming of the Lotus in his heart, and thereby attaining Pra-kanthi, Higher Illumination, Prasanthi, Highest Tranquility and Param-Jyothi, the Higher Splendour of Realisation, merging his ‘imagined self’ into the Universal Self; conquering sleep, sloth, thamas and clamorous demands of the senses—Rajas and winning the unshakable equipoises of the wise—Satwa. During one of the Shivarathri Divine Discourse, after hoisting the Prasanthi Flag, while speaking on the symbolic significance of hoisting the flag, Bhagawan exhorted that the flag should be hoisted over every heart, simultaneously with the hoisting on the Prasanthi Nilayam Mandir. Those days there used to be a sea of expectant faith in the vast open space in front of the Shanti Vedika (a newly construc­ted hexagonal Mantapam, with friezes of Gitopadesam and of Sita-Rama with Lakshmana and Hanuman, and with the Sivalinga represented on every pillar) waiting to witness the grand hoisting ceremony.

About the mysterious Lingodbhavam…

“It is the Form emanating from the Formless. The Linga creates itself in Him; He creates Himself in the Linga.”

    - Prof. N. Kasturi

Browsing through the past editions of Sanathana Sarathi one would get a glimpse of the unique Divine Phenomenon, Lingodhbavam of yester years. The then Editor-in-Chief and the chosen biographer of Bhagawan, Prof. N. Kasturi, had written about the Shivarathri of those days: “Shivarathri is the festival which manifests most of the God that Baba is. The miracle of the formation, in His stomach, of stone or metal spheroids during the week previous to the holy date, was enough to electrify the atmosphere of Prasanthi Nilayam. Days ahead, a broad aura of dazzling white with pink border enveloped Him wherever He was. He Himself announced that the Lingam was growing, and if the growing pains were unusually perceptible, the number, He foretold, was more than one.”

Every year, since 1940, when Bhagawan declared that He had come to restore Dharma and foster His Bhaktas, the indisputably Divine Emergence of the Linga, (one or many, emerald or crystal or silver) has happened on Maha Shivarathri night…in the earlier days it would happen at round 9:00 p.m.

Quoting an incident wherein Prof. Kasturi prayed to Bhagawan for directions about a cover design for the 1967 Shivarathri Special, Kasturi wrote referring to the All Religious Symbol that Bhagawan drew on the occasion as a response to his prayer, “Baba says His Grace is so vast and limitless that He claims the whole world to be His mission, every state being but a Hall within it.”  He continues, “This is the reason for the emergence of the Linga from Him on Shivarathri, for the Linga is the most universal symbol of God, the simplest, the most easy to comprehend and transcend.”

Reminding one of the crucifixion that Jesus had taken upon Himself as the son of God, for the benefit of humanity, this very form of God also goes through the ‘ordeal’ in its minute detail enabling humanity to partake the highest benefit of this most dignified spiritual drama of the modern age. Notwithstanding the travails that would be expected during the olden days due to lack of proper transportation, lodging and other facilities,  there used to be a congregation of anything between twenty to thirty thousand people thronging in to celebrate Shivarathri in His hallowed Divine Presence.

How observant…how conscious…how eager were the devotees ensuring that they would not miss the most coveted Divine Melodrama? Read on the exhilarating, yet most incomprehensible account of the episode in 1969…

The Divine ‘ordeal’ was never a choice for the devotees but a compelling benediction…indeed a blessing in disguise

Excerpts from Sathyam Shivam Sundaram

Every year, since 1940 when He announced that He was Sai Baba 'come again', the emergence of one Linga (or many) from His Body through His mouth has taken place, during the Lingodbhava muhurtha (the auspicious moment for the exterior manifestation of the symbol of the all-pervasive Divine Principle). This is an inscrutable mystery: how the Lingas of various types of stone or metal are formed within Him and how they emerge at that particular moment, every year, calculated according to the ancient texts of Jothishasastra! Nine lingas, of 'silver' have come out one year; in other years, there have emerged five or seven or three or two, all in a lump or in succession. Until that illustrious moment, no one can pronounce on the number, size, or composition of the lingas that are undergoing concretization in Him. It is all so normal, until the Lingodbhava muhurtha arrives. 

"Until 1956, the Shivaratri all-night vigil and Bhajan could be held in the Prayer Hall itself. Baba sat on the silver chair placed on over a tiger skin on a low platform. When the slower hand of the clock hovered near eight, the Linga or Lingas indicated the desire to emerge and Baba showed signs of physical struggle to smoothen their way out. Year after year, 1 have stood on His left, holding silver jug of water. Seshagiri Rao stood on the right with a silver plate to receive the Linga as it fell out. At predetermined moments, proceeding through the gullet, the Linga presented itself for public view and personal use. One year eleven Lingas emerged in a row, one behind the other. Another year, there were nine. He has given Me one of the nine. It is worshipped with Mantras prescribed in the scriptures. The Linga miracle does happen annually on every Shivaratri day wherever Baba happens to be.

On one Shivarathri Baba spoke for about forty minutes on the mind and its manifold tactics to confuse and confound, and how man has to discover the strategy by which it can be controlled and made subservient to the intellect, thereby leading to the realization of the Atmic reality. Suddenly the gushing stream of superb eloquence and supreme guidance was interrupted by gasps and gutterings - premonitions of the emergence of the Lingam - which Baba endeavored to put down, a little while; then, He signaled for Bhajan to start and Himself sat on the chair, behind the table. No one heard the Bhajan, though they were mechanically uttering the words in the tune allotted to them. For, the crucial moment was fast approaching and no one in the gathering wanted to miss it. All senses were now concentrating their efficiency on the eye, so as not to miss the Divine Event!

Baba was under the flood lights, squirming, turning, twisting, sitting forward and leaning backward, sipping water and showing signs of exhaustion, all parts of the amazing Drama that He was now allowing these thousands to witness, so that they may stand witness in their own lives to the glory of being contemporaneous with the Avatar! Fifty thousand eyes were focused on that serene Mouth - for over fifteen long laborious minutes! "Ah! It has emerged, in one leap; a blue shaft of light, was it? No it was the blue Lingam oval shaped, oval sized gem, celebrated in the Sastras as specially sacred, on account of the color and the size." It has fallen from His mouth into the cupped palm of Baba. He held the Wonder in his Hand, high in the light, to be seen better by the vast gathering, now in the height of Bliss.

Baba continued sitting in the chair. He would, usually, descend from the Dais on the Santhi Vedika and move into the Nilayam; but, He sat in the chair and remained motionless. We thought that another Lingam may emerge after a little while. But, no! He was getting stiffer, and motionless. The right hand was lying flat on the table. The left was erect, the elbow fixed on the table, fingers near the eye, the head was slightly inclined to the left, the thumb held apart, the ring finger and the little finger folded, and the other two straight up - the breathing was slow; it became slower.

Who dare touch Him? Who had the courage to draw His attention away from the place or mission on which He had gone? I was sitting on the left of the chair and Dr. Bhagavantham and Dr. Bhaskaran Nair on the right. Five minutes sped by - I expected Him to return from wherever He had gone. For, this is special occasion, where anxious souls were getting alarmed. At no time previous had He left His Body on a transcorporeal journey when so many were looking on!

But, His Compassion knows no limitations of festival or gatherings. When the devotee calls out in agony He rushes to his side, whoever may be with Him or whatever the work he is engaged in, at that time. On other occasions, He has fallen on to the floor, but this unusual posture amazed everyone; anxiety was imprinted upon each face.

After twenty minutes, I could restrain myself no more. I leaned towards Him on my knees and, in a subdued voice called 'Swami! Swami!', as if He would come back when we call, from where He had gone in response to the sincere yearning of some one in pain. His mission of Bhaktharakshana knows no bounds of class, creed or nationality. He blesses, whatever be the name by which He is called.

Thirty minutes ... all eyes were now watching the face for the slightest sign of any movement; they prayed as never before ... The fortitude of the devotees was being transformed into nervousness ... the hand was stiff, upright, the finger did not jerk or come together... the angle of the head was the same since the past fifty minutes.
One or two from the Bhajan party came on to the dais ... a few began to weep, here and there ... courage faltered before the onslaught of concern!

Fifty five ... Ah ... a slight movement of the fingers ... of the left hand! The hand came down ... I broke into tears ... His eyes opened ... He saw! He smiled!

Fear and doubt vanished shamefacedly from the gathering. Baba rose ... the fateful minutes were over!

Baba went into the Nilayam, and when some of us, including Dr. Bhagavantham followed Him, He said that He had gone on a Manasa-sanchara, round the World!

He went in order to give signs in every home or hall where Sivarathri was celebrated that hour, that the Lord is here, that His Grace is available in plenty for all who need it, and pray for it, with pure and sincere faith. He showers mercy; and they become humble, wise, victorious.

What we were privileged to see that night was the sight of Baba journeying far and wide to confer peace, to foster the erring brood of willful, peevish, half-blind children, into ways of justice, peace, love and righteousness. He was converting the Rathri of Rajas and Thamas that was darkening the horizon of man into the Sivam, the splendor of love and joy. We saw two Udbhavas (oncomings) that day - the Lingodbhava and the Premodbhava.

In an apparent reference to the skeptic minds, unable to assimilate the phenomenon called Lingodhbavam, Bhagawan aired a word of caution. He said: "Why do you discuss and debate among yourselves about My nature, My Mystery, My miracle, My reality? Fish cannot gauge the sky; the gross can grasp only the gross. The eye cannot see the ear, though it is so near. When you cannot reach down to your own reality, why waste time trying to explore the essence of God? You are like a Telugu audience sitting through a Tamil picture or a Malayali sitting through a Japanese picture. The nuances, the subtler significances, the deeper meanings and inter-relationships, the inner patterns of the fabric, are beyond his understanding. Sit through the entire film; master the language and the technique; watch earnestly and vigilantly and try to imbibe the meaning of every gesture and act and word; then, you may know Me, a little."

The gathering of 20 or 25 thousand sit expectant and worshipful, listening to the discourses by Pundits on some scriptural text or spiritual discipline. The talks are mostly on Siva, the Aspect of the Godhead that destroys the basic ignorance, that awards enlightenment, overwhelms the accumulated consequences of the past, and wipes off all traces of one's ancestry, in order to cleanse the mighty stream, called the mind. When the Pundits have finished, Baba takes up the trend and sweetens the programme with one of His inimitable discourses. At some point during that discourse or at the end of it, during the Bhajan sessions which Baba leads with a few songs, people become aware of His slight cough which, as many of them know, is the harbinger of the precious Linga. The empyrean eloquence is interrupted off and on, by gasps until the internal thrust can no longer be checked. Then, amidst the paean of Praise, Om Namah Sivaya, [Om, I bow with devotion for Siva] rising from many thousands of hearts, the Lingas travel to the mouth and fall on to a silver plate. Baba invariably holds them aloft for all to see and revere; they are kept for public view the whole night and in the morning, Baba takes them in His Palm and passes along the serried ranks of bhakthas, who are stunned by the size which could not, without a miracle, pass through the tiny passage of His throat. 

In 1966, after about 20 minutes of swaying and heaving, gasping and coughing, in order to ease the passage, an emerald Linga, three inches high, fixed on a pedestal five inches broad, that had formed itself in Him emerged from His mouth, to the unspeakable joy and relief of the huge gathering, which was watching His face with single pointed attention.

In 1965, fifteen to eighteen thousand people watched this unique and solemn process in deep silence and tension; their eyes as riveted on the spare resplendent figure on the dais. The tension mounted to a climax, as a shining smooth, transparent Linga, emerged from His Mouth, its green sheen almost dazzling the eyes - a symbol of Brahmanda, the Universe over which Siva keeps eternal vigil; it was a symbol of something too infinite, too stupendous, for our little minds to grasp. Its green glory moved us into tears of joy and gratitude, it spoke to us of the beauty and light that resides in every thing and being, in the star-studded sky and the human heart. 

Mahashivarathri, 1970! A flood of devotees flowed into Prasanthi Nilayam. There was tremendous rush, but, absolute silence. Baba told the young men and women of the Seva Dals, selected by the Sathya Sai Seva Samithis from the different States of India, "You yearn to do some Seva in My Name, don't you? Well I have a thousand heads, eyes and feet! The Vedas proclaim that God is 'Sahasra Seershaa Purushah,' 'He has a thousand heads!' The thousands who have come here, the aged, the children, the diseased, the afflicted - they are all Me. Serve them, you serve Me!"

Baba hoisted the flag on the Nilayam, and said that loyalty to higher truths has to be built up from childhood, even through the lessons learnt while in the mother's lap. At noon the creation of the huge stream of Vibhuti caused wonder and amazement, even to those who know that it was part of the Sivarathri Festival.

Baba's compassion led Him to begin His discourse with a Sanskrit verse, meaning, "I am not a human being nor a god or a superman. I am neither a Brahmin, nor a Ksatriya, nor a Vaisya nor a Sudra! Then you may ask Me who I am. Well, I am the Teacher of Truth; I am Truth, Goodness, and Beauty!"

During the discourse the Linga that was growing in the stomach of Baba since about a week announced itself as ready to emerge, and so Baba sat on the chair. The huge gathering sensed the cosmic undertones of the movement and sang with eager excitement a song in praise of Shiva, the God represented by the Linga, for whom Sivarathri was dedicated.

Fifteen minutes later, a heavy oval Linga of a substance akin to an opal came up and out; the enormous gathering shouted Jai in adoration and uncontrollable bliss, when Baba held it in His hand for all to see. Throughout the night, the Bhajan continued, the divine offspring was placed in full view of all, so that it may inspire them in their vigil and fast.

Prof. Kasturi writes in Bhagawan’s biograpahy, a beautiful incident that had happened during the epoch making Divine Visit to the North Indian Pilgrim spots Varanasi and Badrinath. Baba visited the foremost Saivite shrine of India, Varanasi and the foremost Vaishnava shrine, Badrinath in 1961 in order to infuse spiritual power in those dynamos of Grace. At Varanasi, He created a unique jewel to be placed on the idol of Visweswara declaring that it has the mystic might to charge that symbol of the Lord with Divine potency. At Badrinath, He drew from under the present Narayana image, a Nethra-linga which according to Him was brought from Mount Kailasa (!) and ceremonially installed there, by no less a person than Sankaracharya about twelve hundred years ago! This Nethralinga when it emerged at the call of Baba, created a chapter in history; a Linga as the basis of the celebrated Vaishnava shrine was a welcome reminder of the basic harmony of Saivites and Vaishnavites. .. and more to come…Bhagawan revealed that the particular linga was one of the five lingas Shankaracharya had brought from Kailasa and installed in India…

As is the biblical saying, a simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his step,  there was one scholarly person whose intellectual brain wanted an authentic proof from the scriptures to vouchsafe what was revealed by Bhagawan…Kasturi ji goes on record saying that the person who wanted to testify the revelation of Bhagawan got a reply from the Sringeri Math, the monastery established by Shankaracharya, that mention was made about the lingams in the Sivarahasya Mathethihas. In the XVI chapter of the IX Section of this book, it is said that Lord Siva welcomed Sankara at Kailas and blessed him with the words, "You are marked out for the establishment in the world of the true teaching of the Vedas, viz., Adwaitha. Spend 32 years of your earthly existence spreading this faith and overwhelming those who decry or deny it. Accept these five Lingas that I am giving you now. Worship them with the Panchakshari and with Satharudrabhisheka. Offer the sacred Bilva leaf and Ash and recite the holy Pranava. Complete your three Tours of Victory dispelling the darkness of Dwaitha and then, install these Lingas from this thrice-holy Kailasa, marked by the effulgence of the Crescent, named Yoga Bhoga Vara Mukthi and Moksha, in sacred sites chosen by you, before you shed this mortal frame at Kanchipuram." So, the story of the Linga at Badrinath was authentic! 

This Shiva of the present age has a special mission and He has revealed the same while materialising the Nethralinga. Baba announced that the Nethralinga was the original nucleus which had to be "energized" by Him (with suitable rites and ceremonial ablutions with the sacred waters of the Gangothri, the golden Bilva leaves and the actual Thumme flowers which He miraculously procured on the spot) even the Trustees of the Badrinath temple were pleasantly surprised! 

A similar feat was performed in the ancient Mallikarjuna Temple at Srisailam. While inside the innermost shrine, Baba showered on the Mallikarjuna, golden thumme (Leucas Linifolia) flowers which He created on the spot by a wave of His Hand. That was the ceremonial rite of multiplying the potency and improving the sanctity of the focus of worship. 

Who else could one expect to perform such a feat, pulling out the Lingam that originated at Kailasha which was sent with a mission by the Lord of all Lords, and ceremonially installed over a millennium ago, by the Great Shankaracharya himself? Who else would you expect could see through the base of the holy idol at the most revered temple at Badrinath? Whom else would you qualify to empower, to multiply the potency of an idol that had a legend which dates back to ancient times…and has millions of worshippers?  Even a mystic yogi would not be qualified to show up with such a rare feat…and it could be expected only from the One who presides over the very holy shrine…at Badrinath…or Srisailam…

In 1963, Sai declared: "I have been keeping back from you all these years one secret about Me; the time has come when I can reveal it to you. This is a sacred day. I am Siva-Sakthi," He declared, "born in the gothra of Bharadwaja, according to a boon won by that sage from Siva and Sakthi. Shiva Himself was born in the gothra of that sage as Sai Baba of Shirdi; Siva and Sakthi have incarnated as Myself in his gothra now; Shakthi alone will incarnate as the third Sai (Prema Sai Baba) in the same gothra in Mysore State."  …of course the Divine Gestures were much more in the years followed by…and the word of caution was indeed an advice to be ever focussed…alert…to catch the glimpses of Divinity uncovered over the years…in greater proportions…in varied fashion…

The festival of Mahasivarathri in 1971 was celebrated on 23rd February. Though Prasanthi Nilayam gets overcrowded during that time, the peace of that Abode is maintained, due to the holy rays emanating from that holiest of places. Speaking from Santhivedika, Baba raised a very interesting question and answered it Himself. "Why does Swami produce the Linga from Himself this day? Let me tell you that it is impossible to understand the attributes of the Divine. You cannot measure Its potentialities, nor gauge the significance of Its Mahima; it is Agamya: unreachable, Agochara: un-understandable. Because of these, you get an example of Divine attributes. In order to bear witness to this Divinity that is amidst you, for your benefit and benediction, the Linga emerges. If even these glimpses are denied, faith in the Supreme will vanish and an atmosphere of greed, hatred, cruelty, violence and irreverence will overwhelm the good, the humble and the pious."

In a discourse on Shivarathri a few years ago, Baba recited a verse, such as He is used to composing and reciting at the commencement of a discourse, in which He recounted the aims and purposes of His own Avatâr at Puttaparthi. "Vâsudeva, who lives in all has come in this body at Puttaparthi to show to the Kali age the path of truth; to eliminate hate and greed; to save the good and humble from pain and shame; to reveal the significance that lies obscured in ancient texts; to destroy the pomp and pride of little men; and to redeem the pledge of Grace given to mankind." He has declared that He is the Divine Essence that is known and worshipped in many Names and Forms all over the world.

On various types of Lingas, the Earth Principle Linga, the Water Principle Linga, the Fire Principle Linga, the Wind Principle Linga and the Sky Principle Linga:

He spoke of the places sanctified by the installation of these Lingas and referring to the Akasa Linga in a temple, He explained that the Linga there hangs in mid-air with no support! Devotees stared in awe for they could not understand how this could happen, and continue to happen. Baba explained that the Linga is of some ferrous material and that two magnets, one on top, on the underside of the roof and another fixed on the floor, exercise equal and opposite pulls on the Linga, so that it remains in the center, in mid-air, without support. Then, He asked, "O! Do you desire to see it? I can dislodge it from the pulls and bring it here!" Saying so, He waved His Hand and Lo! The egg-shaped ferrous ball was in the Hand. It was passed from one person to another until all had the feel of it and the thrill. Then Baba wrapped it in a kerchief and gave it to a young man to be kept with him. The entire group of three hundred sat for dinner on the sands, with Baba in their midst, joking and keeping every one in the best of spirits. It was about eleven at night when the launches returned to Rajahmundry. The young man was shocked to find the ferrous Lingam gone!

Some of us prefer as the symbol of God, neither Fire, nor Sun, nor the Living Laborious Brother called Banyan Tree, but the Linga. During Dasara, a pundit can be seen on the altar at the Auditorium shaping 1000 Lingas every day, and after worshiping them with utmost devotion rolling the black clay back into a ball, for use the next day! The permanent static base, pure existence, is Shiva. Its projection as dynamic energy is Sakthi. Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi used to write an 'O' at the beginning of the letter he sent to people, says Yogi Shuddhananda Bharathi. Maharshi explained it as the Lingam, the symbol of the ultimate principle which is beyond the triple entities of life, world and God!

The 17th of 1970 was an epoch-making day. Baba 'charged the Somanath Shrine' that day with Divine potency. He also fulfilled the prayers of the late Jamsahed of Nawanagar, the person primarily responsible for the renovation of that historic temple, by visiting the place and allowing His Name to be associated with a structure that is a limb of that complex. The Rajamata succeeded in persuading Baba to inaugurate the imposing architectural gem called Dig Vijaya Dwar (after Sri Digvijaya Singh, the late Jamsaheb), the Gateway of Victory.

This temple is situated on a spot celebrated in the Vedas and Epics. The shrine is of Shiva, as Sauma, with Uma, as Shiva-Sakthi. Baba has come as Shiva-Sakthi in human form to charge the ancient shrine with Divine potency. The Shivayogis who specialized in Soma Vidya and the followers of the Pasupatha cult founded by sage Lakulisa about 200 AD, spread the fame of this temple from sea to sea. They established Somanaths with Somesvara Shrines all over the land, in Ratnagiri, East Godavari, Purnea, Jodhpur, Mysore, and South Kanara Districts.

Somanath was one of the richest temples of India. When the Muslims conquered and ruled over the Punjab and Sindh, it attracted the plunderers. Depredation, desecration, destruction, reconstruction and rededication became recurring chapters of its long history. The infamous raid by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1026 AD was the third in the long list of catastrophes. The fifth temple too met with a similar fate, at the hands of the rulers of Delhi.

On Diwali Day, 1947, when the Indian Army entered Nawabdom of Junagadh and liberated the pathetically dilapidated pile of stone recognized by many as Somanath, it was rescued from those who could not appreciate the value and validity of idols, images and symbols of the Unknown and the Unknowable. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel announced that day, amidst the joyous roar of the waves of human and saline seas, "We have decided that Somanath should be reconstructed. This is a holy task in which all should participate."

The new temple (named Mahameru Prasad, like the previous ones) was planned closely on the basis of the earlier temples and now, the Gopuram, the main gateway through which seekers would enter into the portals of Jyothirlinga, was to be inaugurated by Someswara, come in human form: Shiva-Sakthi, come as Sathya Sai!

Baba declared that He would reveal, that day the genuine Somanath! This declaration filled us with wonder and enthusiastic exuberance. So all roads converging from Jamnagar to Somanath were shouting Jais in exhilaration. Baba was received at the decorated Shamiana in front of the Digvijayadwar by the trustees of the Somanath temple, as well as by the high officers of the District and States. Amidst strains of temple music, He walked on the red carpet laid on the steps, and opened the lock on the artistically carved and silver-embossed door with a silver key. Then, He proceeded along the festooned pathway, between rows of fresh banana trees, to the main shrine of Someshwar, the focal point of the faith of millions for millennia!

He entered the holy of holies; Brahmin Pandits were reciting Vedic Hymns which reverberated from the arched and conical roof, from the finial 150 feet above the ground! He directed that a plate be brought. He spread the fingers of His right hand and shook it over the plate, 108 silver Bilva leaves and 108 golden flowers fell from His hand in a clinking shower. They were reverentially touched by devotees 'for it is on their behalf and for their sake that the process of 'charging the 3 feet high Lingam' was being undertaken by Him. This Lingam had been recently installed, when Babu Rajendra Prasad, President of India, inaugurated the Temple. He poured the leaves of silver and flowers of gold on the Linga, as He had done at Srisailam when He was set on revitalizing the Linga there. It was like Ganga water poured into the stream of the Ganga.

Within seconds, He waved that Divine hand! Lo and behold, a ball of brilliant light manifested in His palm. I was at that time reciting within myself the Dwadasa-Jyothirlinga-Stotram, the verses in praise of the twelve "Lingas of Light" which every Hindu is exhorted to remember reverentially. The twelve include Viswesa or Varanasi, Kedarnath in the Himalayas, Rameswaram in the extreme south, Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Mahakala at Ujjaini and Tryambaka in Nasik. But the very first in the list is "Sowrashtra Somanatha," Somanath of Sowrashtra. The Somanatha Linga is the only one of the twelve which is adored as Jyothirmayam, "Imbued with the splendor of light." And, Baba had the "Linga of Light" right now in His grasp! What a great moment was this, I wondered.

Then I remembered Baba's announcement: "I shall show you the genuine Somesvara Linga today!" so, this was It, the Genuine One, installed, as legend says, by Brahma Himself, and worshiped by the Moon-God, the God who presides over the mind of man.

In a pamphlet issued by the tourist department, it is said that Skanda Purana mentioned thousands of years ago that "the Sparsa Linga of Somanath is a 'Swayam-Bhu' (self-originated) Linga, of great prowess, as bright as the sun, of the size of an egg of a hen, which is situated underground." It is a characteristic of Vayu, air. These are the other Lingas representing the other four elements: Akash, Tejas, water and earth.

So the oval ball of light in His hand was the authentic Somesvara He had resolved to bring up from its underground niche, kept away since many centuries from depredation and desecration. The Sparsa (touch) Lingam was nestling for centuries under the Linga in the Shrine. This information was given to us by Baba, as well as by the priests and trustees. Baba waved His hand again and created a silver stand on which it could be placed. He gave it to the chief priest, "Let it be in the full light of day hereafter! Let pious eyes admire its brilliance and imprint its glory on their hearts. There is no need any more to keep it away. The avatar has come to remove all fear," Baba declared.

To make the triumphant emergence of Somesvara, Baba unfurled the flag on the towering finial over the central shrine. Thousands acclaimed 'Jai Bhagwan' as He gave Darsan on the temple steps. Baba left for Rajendra Bhavan at Veeraval and at 2 p.m. He motored to Keshod aerodrome from where He enplaned for Bombay. Over 30,000 devotees were awaiting the arrival of Baba at Dharmakshetra, Bombay.

A poem:

To Kailash

Here was a mountain—a huge, white, snowy expanse. I stood at its foot. What vastness! Miles and miles of engulfing white, disappearing beyond my sight. In that cloud of pure stillness, I stood at its foot. But, somehow, I was not lonely. There was life: breath and life. Life in every granular snow I saw. How? I do not know. I looked up and, up in those heights was that ultimate truth. “Up above the world so high”, for ages it had been sung—the glory and the beauty of that which is high and beyond. And from it I picked the essence, the truth we cherish ‘It’ to be. And so, up and beyond my imagination, I walked. Walked through those mental lanes, to see the glory I had wanted to see.

I climbed the mountain and stepping into that snow, I sank, I eased. Hey, I expected solid below! But… What shall I say? It was soft… liquid, no, wait—it was milk. Snow as light as milk! I put my next foot forward. Milk again. I sank peacefully up to my knee. And thus I stepped, the next foot and the next, and up that milky path I climbed to the truth. With every step I took I breathed-in the silence and gasped in anticipation to see that long-sung-glory.

As I climbed, there was a light—a crescent. Its rays, they were bright yet calm in the distance. A glow rather than a ray. And the higher up I climbed, on a mound it perched. A mound or rather a mound on a mound. And then, there was water fall beside, a gigantic fall!

Hey wait! It’s it! I accelerated up exclaiming… And behold!

Immense in stature, tranquil, silent,
Look! He rested cross-legged on a height.
The atmospheric grandeur, the energy, the love,
No word can capture, no film shall display.
The sight, the thought, the breath, the power,
The only sound, the fall of Ganges.
The only sound, listen: frothing and bubbling,
It’s mother, peace and nothing else.
And that light, Oh! The moon I had known,
So near are you to this blissful bliss!
Illuminating this aura within your shine,
Oh God, what grandeur, what love, what beauty!

The very posture, serene to the eye,
There was coolness around, a breeze.
A breeze around, a breeze within,
Every joint exuded love.
The hair, the curls, how perfect, how calm.
Untroubled to the minutest.
A meditation through years, through yugas in time,
The peace, can you measure, the immensity of it?
I saw, I felt, but there was much, much more,
The completeness—definitely I failed to realize.

Calm and soothing, his eyes were in prayer,
The lids, there was light from within those lashes,
Light around, light within, I bowed in obeisance,
Bowed up to my foot.
Was there a stillness as lovely as this,
The air I breathed, it had love in it!
Thus lighted in love, I devoured the sight,
My mind kept wavering, I wanted to hold,
The scene, was it blurring, shivering, oh, its gone,
Left to myself—“Om Namah Shivayah!”
What aura, power, there is so much unknown!
But sure, dear Shambo, I know it from heart,
There is love up there, love, peace, love!