September 9, 2009 – The Thirruppavai Mahotsavam and Andal Kalyanotsavam, Day One

Puttaparthi is a melting pot of all races, castes, colours and creeds! People from all over the world gather and so the festivals and rituals they observe become part of the Prashanthi festival heritage too. Swami welcomes all to celebrate their holy days and derive joy therefrom. "Close to all and closed to none" is the Divine motto and be it the Buddhists or Christians or the Hindus or Muslims, everyone gathers at His feet in the celebration of Divinity.

A three day celebration of the consummation of Love for God by divine merger of the devotee Andal, began in Prashanti Nilayam with the inauguration of the Thirruppavai Mahotsavam. A brief introduction to the celebration is a must here.

The Tiruppavai is a collection of thirty stanzas (paasuram) in Tamil written by a Brahmin saint, Andal, in praise of the God Tirumal or Vishnu. Tiruppavai belongs to the Pavai genre of songs, a uniquely Tamil tradition sung in the context of the Pavai vow observed throughout the month of Maarkazi, originally by unmarried girls praying to the Pavai goddess (related to Parvati) for a blissful married life.

In a broader perspective, it refers to the union of the individual soul (Jivatma) with the Oversoul (Paramatma) which alone is the cause for eternal bliss. As Swami succinctly puts it, "Happiness is union with God." Each day of the triad would witness worship in the morning and a Satsang in the evening where ten stanzas each would be elucidated upon. For complete details of this worship and the translation of the thirty stanzas please go here.

The Sai Kulwant Hall was decorated in yellow and saffron and it was such a beautiful sight! Everything from the stage to the hangings, from the cloth to the flowers blended into this theme of colours. Beginning at 7:00 a.m., the rituals and worship went on till 9:00 a.m. and concluded with bhajans and aarthi. Swami did not come at this time, however He went for a round through the village at about 11:15 a.m. and enroute observed the decorations and was appreciative of it.

It was at about 4:15 p.m. when Swami went out for a drive again in the Porte car. He made a stopover at the Sathya Sai International Centre for Sports where He convened a meeting of Trustees. Soon after that, Swami arrived to the Sai Kulwant Hall by 5:20 p.m. Alighting from the car, He came to the stage and had a look at the beautifully and tastefully decorated idols. He lit the lamp in the centre and then sat on the dais.

Permission was then granted to begin the paarayanam (spiritual talk) for the day on the first ten stanzas of the Thiruppavai. The speaker was Vidwan (scholar) Nidumaamidi Sri Srikanta Rao. Speaking in mellifluous Telugu, the speaker charmed the audience (who could understand Telugu of course) with his knowledge and wisdom. One story of Andal stood out in the speech.

Andal makes garlands for Sri Krishna everyday. One day, a hair is found embedded in the garland and everyone discards it and condemns Andal for defiling it. Like the case of Shabari offering fruits to Lord Rama after tasting them for sweetness, Andal tries on the garlands everyday to see whether it would look beautiful on her Lord!

The Lord is eagerly waiting for the garland of love from Andal and says that is the only thing that He cherishes! Like it is said the water of the holy Ganges is polluted with the spittle of the fishes and creatures that reside therein, the cow's milk is the leftovers from a calf's meal and even the best of flowers have been tasted by bees and insects. So 'the sanctity of the offering lies in one’s mind and not in the material' was the message that rang loud and clear.

Swami seemed touched and moved on two or three occasions including during the narrative of the hair in the garland. The speaker enthused everyone to ready themselves to receive the Lord by taking a holy dip in the river of His Name. He also reminded everyone of the great blessing to be doing the same in the presence of the Avatar.

As he concluded, Swami blessed him and there was a round of appreciative applause. Of course there would have been many who would not have understood the words spoken, but as always in Swami's presence, the spirit carried through. Swami then asked for bhajans to begin and blessed prasadam to be distributed. After a while, aarthi was taken and it was a nice sight to see so many aarthis being waved at Swami. It was about 6:30 p.m. when Swami blessed everyone and retired for the day.

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