November 18, 2009 – Rathotsavam Celebrations and Convocation Drama Rehearsal

The Rathotsavam (chariot ceremony) in Prasanthi Nilayam comes as a forerunner to the grand Birthday Celebrations of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. And ever since its inception many years ago, this festivity has been a fixed schedule on November 18, when the chariot holding the idols of the Lord moves from the Prashanthi Mandir to the Pedda Venkama Raju Kalyana Mantapam (Old Mandir). Swami arrived at 9:00 a.m. to the musical rendering of the boys' nadaswaram band that had been constituted with saxophones instead of the traditional shehnais!


Swami took a complete round and after a few interactions with the children from the Primary School, moved to the Bhajan Hall. The Veda group was present there in full strength as Swami asked the priest to take aarthi. The camphor was waved to the two sets of idols - of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita with Hanuman and another of Venugopalaswami. Swami blessed the procession to begin and the Sevadal volunteers assigned hoisted the idols in the palanquins onto their shoulders.

The path of the palanquins to the gopuram gate had been decorated with beautiful floral patterns on the floor. As the idols moved out, Swami also arrived out of the Mandir and headed towards the gopuram gate. The sight just outside the gates was one of a sea of humans. Wherever the eye went, it met people with hands folded in prostration. All the balconies, building tops and vantage positions had been taken up to get a glimpse of Swami.

Bhagavan arrived outside to witness the statues being positioned in the chariot and the worship being performed. He flagged off the chariot to go around. This is a wonderful tradition that has been kept alive. The chariot moves to the Kalyana Mantap where it is stationed till the night. Through the night, it moves through the village and people can have darshan at their very doorsteps. They also offer worship to the idols on behalf of their families. The children of the village gleefully dance to the beats provided by the drummers in procession. Overall, it is a happy and holy event.


Swami blessed the Rathotasavam procession and then moved back into the Sai Kulwant Hall. As He neared the boys at the end of the marbled blocks, Swami told them to sit calm and not rush to His feet.

Swami then moved into the Bhajan Hall where He had kept gifts ready for His children! The research scholars of the University were blessed to distribute safari cloth pieces to everyone of the students. Swami sat through the entire distribution and personally ensured that all had indeed received His gift of Love.

For a short while, Swami moved into the interview room. When He arrived outside again, the procession from the Rathotsavam had arrived.

Swami now glanced at the photographers sitting by the side and told them to go and shoot pictures! They obeyed Him immediately and as pictures were taken, the procession returned. Soon after that, Swami received aarthi and retired for the morning.




 

In the evening, an ambulance stood outside Swami's residence. It had on it the lettering, "Life on Wheels". It was a sophisticated modern ambulance with multifarious features, with a commitment to survival of life under adverse conditions.

The ambulance was an offering by iCare, Ion Bio Med-iCare Pvt. Ltd., Delhi owned by Mr. Anil Kulwant Rai and Group, to the Sri Sathya Sai Medical Trust and Swami had graciously agreed to bless it.

Mr. Kulwant Rai, Mrs. Bimla Rai, their daughter-in-law, Malvika Rai and grand daughter were present during the occasion, seeking Divine Blessings.

Bhajans had begun and it was at about 5:25 p.m. that Swami arrived. He had a detailed look at the ambulance and spoke to the Rai family.

The various features were 'explained' to Him but more than anything else, it was a wonderful blessing for the family that had come up with this noble venture. Swami then asked, "Drama?"

The students had made the changes as He had suggested in the Convocation drama and were ready to re-present it to Him in the Poornachandra auditorium. Swami now wanted to see it.

The answer from the boys was, "Swami, right here in the auditorium." Swami nodded and soon was in the hall. As He was entered, He saw the actors. He immediately asked the demon king Hiranyakasyapu, "Are you speaking with greater vigour and anger?" The boy nodded, "Yes Swami! Just as you had told me to." Swami seemed satisfied and saw the other actors too.

A makeshift platform had been arranged and the stage was set as it would be on the final day in Sai Kulwant Hall. Swami immediately told the actors to begin. The drama started and right from the beginning, Swami got involved. He seemed happy and satisfied that the changes He had suggested the previous time had been incorporated well. The script had been changed, a few scenes modified and one scene had been completely replaced.

Swami watched the drama as if He was seeing it for the first time! No wonder they call God as Nitya Nootana (the ever new). During a soliloquy song by the hero, Swami suggested that if the song was in English rather than Hindi, it would be better. As the drama progressed Swami was very moved. He called the Vice Chancellor and told him (pointing to the hero), "That boy makes me cry!" Swami saw the whole rehearsal and had very few suggestions. As He moved back towards the residence, all the backstage boys and sets boys formed a path for Him to go through. All of them took namaskar.

Swami looked at the hero of the drama and told him that he was doing a good job. Swami then told the mythological 'characters' also that they were doing well. He teased the teachers of Prahalada about how they seemed to be 'shivering in their dhoties' when the demon Hiranyakashyapu roared at them! Then He moved to the Sai Kulwant Hall.

He took a complete darshan round of Sai Kulwant Hall and then moved to the interview room. After that He came to the verandah and sat for a few minutes onstage before accepting aarati after seven o'clock. An announcement regarding the next day’s Ladies' Day celebrations was made before Bhagavan returned to His residence in the car at 7:10 p.m.

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