Published on Monday, November 22, 2010 at 1715 Hrs. IST
“Annam Brahma, Raso Vishnu” (Food is Brahma and the essence is God) is what the scriptures herald and what Bhagawan has been echoing over the years. When that sacred food is served by the Supreme Personification of Godhood, in His very ‘own’ courtyard, one could easily assess the significance attached to the Divine act.
When an announcement on the “food for ten days’ was made on the 14th November evening in His immediate Divine presence, there were loud cheers all around, not for the sumptuous free feast, but for the “Holy Feast” from Bhagawan Himself!
On a mammoth carnival of the stature of 85th Birthday celebrations of the Lord in physical frame, where estimation of quantity of food becomes a herculean task, it is praiseworthy to note that the “Divine Food Service” that commenced on the 15th Nov morning is running smooth, serving tens and thousands flocking in, three times a day, providing maximum comfort to these visiting guests of Prasanthi. …And for sure, most of the Prasanthi household kitchens and even from that of the neighbouring villages have turned inactive for the time being, for no one would want to miss the sanctified prasadam served on the most auspicious occasion, at His ‘own’ behest!
As a token of His Divine appreciation, on the 16th Nov evening when large assemblage of devotees in Sai Kulwant Hall was awaiting Bhagawan’s arrival, Bhagawan took everyone by surprise and went in the opposite direction towards the massive food pavilions, conferring Divine benediction. Landing straight at the undocking area, Bhagawan headed into the pavilion where hundreds of sevadals were on duty, serving food, and equally a large number of devotees were rejoicing the feast. Moving through the Pavilion, Bhagawan had a quick glance of the proceedings, an apparent blessing raising the morale of the selfless team of dedicated sevadals who are on duty sans divine darshan. Blessing the mix of assemblage, Bhagawan accepted Mangala Arathi before moving off the scene. Such was the joy of the selfless team of Sevadal volunteers that the inspiration carries them along to deliver most tirelessly as a united team.
A walk-through the entire process, from the many functional kitchens to the massive food pavilion would talk about the meticulous management of the whole of affair.
The entire variety of food is being prepared at four locations. While the South Indian Canteen prepares curd rice and tea, the Punjabi canteen is dedicated to make north Indian cuisine that includes famous punjabi naan, tandoori roti, chappathis along with dal, rajma etc. The Grama Seva kitchen that does yeomen service during Grama Seva activities every year is into varieties of rice preparations, that includes fried rice etc. along with twenty varieties of pickles and the North Indian Canteen is dedicated to prepare sweet dishes.
The Punjabi canteen is assisted by 800 sevadals , 400 ladies and gents apiece, mainly from Punjab, completing the number from the central pool of sevadals. Eighty Five cooks from the state have been specially brought that includes assistants, most of them non-devotees who have not heard or seen Swami. Four truck loads of provisions including five hundreds bags of wheat flour and 600 to 800 bags of pulses have been brought from the state along with proportionate quantity of condiments. Special Utensils like tandoors have been brought to enhance the cooking procedure with efficiency. The work begins as early in the wee hours, at 3:30, and continuous till 11:00 hrs. This will be followed by the next shift that begins at 1400 hrs. and goes up to late night.
The’ non-devotee cooks’ who were perhaps travelling 2500 kilometers for the first time with a cooking assignment were at their wits end towards the end of the tiresome journey, without having any clue about their holy destination. They were wondering when the journey would come to an end. “Your journey is going to begin and it is a spiritual journey” was the answer by the senior organizational office bearer. Upon reaching Prasanthi they just had two hours of rest, before commencing their holy task and they have been relentlessly delivering most tirelessly, filled with greater vigor and enthusiasm, as if having a fire in the belly as inspired by none other than their unknown Divine Lord! The kitchen is cooking an estimated quantity of 30000 to 50000 per day and on the final day they are planning to make it 1,25,000.
…And about the supply of vegetable provisions? Devotees from Ooty had the privilege of sending specially cultivated vegetables at Bhagawan’s express approval. According to the district president of SSSSO, Ooty, Dr. Ramu, five hundred selected villages in the district have earmarked ten cents each, exclusively for cultivation of vegetables for Prasanthi Nilayam. And by His divine grace, these earmarked plots have yielded the best of results. Their prayers were heard as Bhagawan approved their offer to send the vegetables during the birthday. 52 tonnes of vegetables collected from all villages, suffused with dedication and love, is being sent, being used in the main kitchens. Apart from this vegetables are coming from Muddenahalli of Karnataka and Krishnagiri district of Andhra Pradesh as well.
Grama Seva kitchen that is synonymous to dedicated service is a scene of round the clock activity where kitchen activities are in full swing. The kitchen is ably assisted by over 400 men sevadals and 350 women sevadals apart from 138 cooks, 100 from Andhra Pradesh ably assisted by 38 from Tamil Nadu for two days. The Andhra Pradesh cooks have come from the districts of East Godavari, Khammam.
The South Indian and North Indian canteens are utilizing their existing facilities with the help of existing cooks ably assisted from external hands making curd rice, tea (by South Indian canteen) and Sweets by North Indian canteen, all working from early hours to 11:30 hrs. , to come back again at 1600 hrs. continuing till late night.
Coming to the final destination, the Food Pavilion, the centre of service point, where thousands upon thousands are being served most meticulously. Over the years, though special food counters were operational during big festive times, this is undoubtedly the first time that massive arrangements have been made, with due diligence, giving maximum comfort to the inflow of devotees.
Sixty counters are operational, 30 each for gents and ladies, with special counters for guests, vips and physically challenged, staff and students, police, doctors, press and media people. Each counter is assisted by eight sevadals and a refilling team is ever active, taking care of the stock replenishing them in time. While a strong 150 strong sanitation team is ensuring hygiene another 150 odd sevadals are acting as watch and ward, doing crowd control and patrolling. Overall the tally of sevadals goes to 1000 that works in double shifts, first shift from early morning 4 to 14:40 hrs. followed by the second shift from 14:30 hrs. to the end of the day, serving the last of the guest. On 22nd and 23rd the dedicated sevadals are prepared to dedicate their might round the clock for 24 hours.
Ensuring hygienic standard disposable glouses, face masks and caps are provided to sevadals. While parcel service section is active giving food in disposable foil paper containers, massive food is being diverted to major locations, all the three hostels inside the campus, general hospital and the super speciality hospital, police counters, sevadals on duty, the Raliway Station where later arriving devotees are served food and the Road Transport Staff on duty. Stock monitoring is done in every ten minutes ensuring refilling of the containers most effectively. Food is being transported by a group of youngsters in canter vans from all the four cooking destinations, taking His Name on their lips.
No wonder that Bhagawan personally visited the pavilion instilling greater inspiration. Adding to this, showing clear signs of His Divine Grace, the main altar erected at the pavilion had honey oozing out of Bhagawan’s image, a clear indication of His omnipresence as the Eternal Witness!
…And every morning the duty starts with Omkar, Suprabhatam and Arathi attended by the Sevadal force en masse, before the first plate is served to the devotees.
Epic Ramayana talks about the tiny squirrel’s story of her urge to serve the Lord in her own little way…In this present age of Sai Ramayana, all those who are part of this mighty task, with dedicated body, mind and spirit, are indeed blessed beyond human estimates.
Let’s pray to Him to walk ahead, guiding us from the front, while ensuring that we follow His footsteps as worthy instruments, pleasing Him in all possible ways. Prasanthi Nilayam is the ultimate place where one can find salvation!