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Posted at 07:00:34 Hrs. IST on Feb 08, 2010

A big group of 690 devotees from Ooty, Nilgiris have come on a pilgrimage to Prasanthi Nilayam spanning over three days. The group comprising 350 ladies and 340 gents had an extra day stay when Bhagawan asked them to have their programme on the 7th evening, against the original plan of having the same staged on the 6th evening.

The Nilgiris, popularly known as the fairyland of Tamil Nadu is a marvellous natural wonder, an epitome of God’s creative craft in pristine perfection, where mother nature bejewels herself with exquisite repertoire of native boons. Passing through the times in several centuries, the Nilgiris, the blue mountains of Southern India has been going through rich cultural evolution from time to time, from the times of the Cheras and Cholas through to the times of Pandyas, to the Hoysalas, to British to the present day.

After the rare initiative taken up last year bringing spiritually elevated souls from the valleys of the blue mountains, this year the group had the folk art form, Therukoothu, Street play of Tamil Nadu to present to the Lord.

On the evening of 7th February 2010, devotees from Ooty, Tamil Nadu presented a folk dance drama “Sathyavan Savitri” from the epic Mahabharata. The folk art style of the artistes brought alive the hoary culture of Bharat. Bhagawan came for Darshan on this evening at 5.05 p.m. to the chant of the Vedas. After Bhagawan came to the dais of the Hall, the organisers sought Bhagawan’s blessings and presented the programme for the evening to Bhagawan. As is the tradition, the drama began with salutations to Lord Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. There was a cast dressed in the costume of Lord Ganesh, which made the presentation all the more realistic.

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The inner meaning of the story of Sathyavan Savitri is that God protects those who lead a life of chastity following the path of truth. The story runs thus: The childless king of Madra, Ashwapati, lives ascetically for many years and offers oblations to Sun God Savitr. He wishes to have a son for his lineage. Finally, pleased by the prayers, God Savitr appears to him and grants him a boon: he will soon have a daughter. She is born and named Savitri in honour of the god.

Once Savitri reaches the marriageable age, she chooses as her husband Sathyavan, the son of blind king Dymatsena, who after he had lost everything including his kingdom lives in exile as a forest-dweller.

Sage Narada advises her father that Savitri had made a wrong choice of marrying Sathyavan as he was destined to die in a year. In response to her father’s pleas to choose a more suitable husband, Savitri refuses by saying that she will choose her husband only once.

Three days before the foreseen death of Sathyavan, Savitri wears the clothing of a hermit and takes a rigid vow of fasting and vigil. Her father-in-law tells her she has taken too harsh a regimen, but Savitri replies that she has taken an oath to perform these austerities, at which Dyumatsena offers his support.

The morning of Sathyavan’s death, Savitri taking the permission of her father-in-law accompanies her husband to the forest. While splitting wood, Sathyavan becomes weak and swoons to death. Lord Yama comes to claim the soul of Sathyavan. Savitri follows Yama as he carries the soul away. When he tries to convince her to turn back, she discourses on Dharma to Yama, praises Yama for his just rule and offers successive formulas of wisdom. Impressed by her speeches, Yama accedes to offer her any boon except the life of Sathyavan. She first asks for restoration of kingdom and eyesight for her father-in-law. Yama instantly grants the boon. Secondly, she asks for a son for her and Sathyavan. Yama agrees to grant even that boon. It is then that Savitri seizes the opportunity and tells Yama that it is you who have praised me as Pativrata (one of chastity). Now what am I to do? Unable to wriggle out of the tricky situation, Yama agrees to give back the life of Sathyavan.

Sathyavan awakens as though he has been in a deep sleep and returns to his parents along with his wife. Meanwhile Dyumatsena regains his eyesight. Since does not know of the happenings, Savitri narrates everything to her husband and parents-in-law. Joyfully the king and his entourage return to his kingdom. At this happy turn of events, the drama too concluded.

Bhagawan materialised a gold chain for the lead actor Savitri and also blessed the cast with a photograph session. Bhagawan also gave clothes to all the participants with His own hands. After distribution of Prasadam to the cast, Arati was offered to Bhagawan at 6.45 p.m. Thus, concluded the programme of the devotees from Nilgiris.       

The group has been coming regularly for the past 5 to 6 years. Sai awareness programme is on aiming at having 108 bhajan mandalis during the 85th year of His Advent. The Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, over the years, has been striving to bring the village heads of the Badaga community, main populace of the valley spreading over 600 villages, to Bhagawan as a part of the ongoing awareness programme.