Prasanthi woke up this morning to a festive ambience and who better to add colour to an occasion than Maharashtra. The Varkaris continued their grand tradition of Palkhi Seva. Every year they carry a Paduka for Bhagawan in a pada-yatra ( through walk) from Dharamavaram to Puttaparthi. Sri Nimish Pandya (District President of Mumbai), who played the master of ceremony today, recollected how Bhagawan used to always enquire about the welfare of these simple devotees from him again and again over the years.
The programme for the day started at 8:00 AM with the chanting of the Holy Rudram. At 0820 hrs, Sri S.V. Giri, after taking Bhagawan's blessings, lit the lamp to start the proceedings. It started with the sacred sound of the conch. The sound of victory, the sound of truth, the sound of clarity, lit joy in the hearts of all as it declared the festivities open.
Sri Pavithra Bhat who has performed on numerous occasions in front of Bhagawan led the procession with a rhythmic dance. The flag bearers followed behind and then came the solemn bearers of the Palkhi. The Palkhi was brought near Bhagawan's throne and the bearers, removed the Padukas from it and placed it at the lotus feet before lovingly adorning it with a garland made from Tulasi. At the conclusion of the dance, Sri Pandya announced the music programme by the Mategaonkar family.
Sri Parag Mategaonkar led the family in taking Bhagawan's blessings. He played the keyboard. His wife Smt Suvarna Mategaonkar and daughter Ketaki Mategaonkar were the singers of the morning and Sri Amit accompanied them on the tabla. Smt Suvarna started the proceedings with a dedication to Lord Vittala, "Sundare ke...". She was followed by her daughter Ketaki who sang the Bhajan, "Ram ke gun gaan..." (Sing... Sing the glory of Lord Rama). There was an emotional piece by Kum Ketaki, "Sai Ke Sang..." which spoke about the travails in the path of devotion and how a true devotee sticks to the Lotus Feet even when everything is taken from him. They concluded traditionally with a Vittala Bhajan. The participants were honoured with clothes.
Bhajans began at 0930 hrs. and Arati was offered at 0945 hrs. completing the morning's programme. A dance ballet by Balvikas children from Maharashtra is scheduled for the evening.
The third block (the section of Sai Kulwant Hall directly in front of the stage) was empty. Backdrops were in place. A few official looking people running around with tension on their faces. Thousands of others sitting packed in the Sai Kulwant Hall with anticipation writ on their faces. Familiar sites in Prasanthi. But the first time since the Maha Samadhi.
The programme started at 1630 hrs with Vedam Recitation. Bhajans commenced at 1715 hrs and went on till 1745hrs, at the end of which Sri Nimish Pandya continued his role as the master of ceremonies. He announced that under the Omnipresent guidance of Bhagawan, the organisation work in Mumbai is going in full flow. Various coordinators presented their work reports at Bhagawan's Lotus Feet. Sri Pandya also spoke about the star project of Maharashtra, the mobile hospital which is now being expanded further. Sri Ramesh Sawant, State President of the Maharashtra Organisation, placed the keys of the new vehicles at the Lotus Feet.
"Dhanyanti Parthi" (Blessed is the Land of Parthi) was the name of the Dance Ballet which was to follow. This dance was also a deep spiritual lesson helping the audience understand the philosophy of the Varkari's system of devotion. Sri Deepak Mazumdar, one of the earliest Balvikas students was the teacher for the event. The dance started with a group of children headed by Sri Mazumdar all dressed up as Varkaris, starting their pilgrimage to Pandharpur. Their one prayer to Vittala being that let them always be attached to Him and be completely detached from the world.
A question is then raised that since God is omnipresent, what is the need to travel to pilgrimage sites like Pandharpur and Parthi. The answer is given that since the Lord had taken human form and lived there, the sacredness of even the soil here can raise the consciousness of the pilgrim to great spiritual heights.
As the Palkhi Seva commences, the point is brought forward that body is in fact the temple of God and hence the search for God should always lead us within. Finding the omnipresent companion within, the devotees dance to the tune of Divine Music, in the company of the Divine. Demonstrating this beautifully, Sri Mazumdar worshipped an empty screen with flower petals only to find it forming the silhouette of Bhagawan.
Bhagawan is the Divine Director, Composer and Artist of this play called life. It is only in union with Him can we rid ourselves from the travails of the world. Attachment to Him and Detachment from the world is the message with which the dance programme reached its completion.
Gifts were distributed to all participants. At 1730 hrs. Bhajans resumed and Prasadam was distributed to the entire gathering. Arati was offered at 1740 hrs. This was a very important event as it revived the grand festivity of Prasanthi Nilayam - the land of Nityakalyanam (eternal auspiciousness) and Panchathoranam (eternal celebration).