July 21, 2010 – Ashada Ekadasi Celebrations in the Divine Presence
The day of Ashada Ekadasi dawned in Puttaparthi on July 21 and as announced the previous day, the children from Mumbai were ready with the drama on the Gayatri Mantra. The centre stage was set and it was at 9:15 a.m. that Swami arrived. The PA system filled the air with a welcome song that was on the glory of the Vedas in general and the Gayatri in particular.
The hall was filled and as Swami moved to the centre of the hall, devotees in traditional Maharashtrian attire blew conches heralding Swami to their midst. Swami then moved into the gents’ side and completed a round. Much to the delight of all the assembled devotees, Swami took another round in the ladies side before going to the portico from their side. Soon He was on the stage and He sat on the ladies’ side half of the stage. He lit the lamp that had been placed in front of a shrine of Lord Vitthala before seating Himself facing the audience.
He asked for the Veda chanting to cease and the programme to begin. At the outset, the devotees placed their gratitude at His lotus feet for the permission to celebrate Ashaadi Ekadasi in His presence. Then, as per the tradition, the varkaris arrived.
These are pilgrims who make the annual pilgrimage to Pandharpur on foot, singing glories of Lord Vitthala. The modern day varkaris did the same, only this time they moved towards the south to Puttaparthi, the home of Sai Vitthala.
The palanquin made a round in the central part of the hall as a garland of Tulsi leaves was offered at Swami’s feet. It was then that the children putting up the dance drama made their offerings to Swami and the programme began.
The presentation traced the origin and history of the Gayatri mantra. It began with a troubled youth seeking God’s help and Lord Krishna appearing before him. He was guided to chant the Gayatri mantra to get rid of the six vices of Desire, Anger, Greed, Attachment, Pride and Jealousy. The mantra would also protect and nourish him it was told.
To highlight the importance of subduing the six vices, the story of sage Vishwamitra was depicted where the sage successively loses all the power of his penance as he falls prey to these vices, one after another. Finally, on conquering them, he becomes a Brahmarishi. Dances formed the major part of the presentation and they were lively and colourful.
The songs and audio quality of the programme was also of a high quality and Maharashtrian saints like Eknath made their appearance in order to drive home various lessons. The story of redemption of Gajendra, the elephant was also creatively depicted. The story of King Trishanku who tried to ascend to the heavens in the earthly frame had its highlight when the actor was pulled up to the roof via ropes and pulleys.
After about 50 minutes, the children came together in the final formation before which Mother Gayathri, in all glory with five faces, arrived in a golden chariot. Coming together, the presentation ended with the Gayatri mantra being chanted by Swami (recorded voice) which all the children followed. It was like a mass initiation into this powerful mantra which has no boundaries of caste or religion.
Once the programme concluded, Swami looked at one of the actors and asked, “You are Vishwamitra?” The boy nodded. Then, Swami had white cloth pieces and sarees distributed to all recipients. Prasadam was also blessed for distribution after which Swami received aarthi.
Swami then moved down the stage and granted group photographs to all the children. He spoke to a few and collected letters from many of them before moving towards His residence. Then, something special happened. Swami stopped and turned around.
He said that He would receive aarthi and then moved back towards the centre. Moving through the children again and granting them bonus padanamaskars and chance to touch Him, Swami moved to the stage. He asked for the priest. Thinking that Swami was retiring the priest had already moved towards the Ganesha temple to attend to his duties. He came running at top speed and Swami told him to take aarthi.
Thus it was that a second aarthi was performed in the morning much to everyone’s delight. They could not have asked for more. There had been a duet of double darshan rounds and it was being rounded off with double aarthi. To top it all, Swami blessed everyone with both hands before retiring for the morning at about 11:40 a.m.
The evening turned out to be a special one in terms of the fact that such programmes are rarely performed at Prashanti Nilayam. It had been raining for the whole day and so, at about 6:00 p.m. when Swami arrived, He came in the car. His vehicle took a full round of the hall before Swami descended and came on the stage. The programme scheduled was entitled, “Naatya Veda” and it was to be performed by the Bharatanatyam exponent Deepak Mazumdar and his troupe. His disciple Sri Pavitra Bhatt too was accompanying him.
The exponent had received early training at the Divine lotus feet and when this was announced, everyone was keen to see the student of the “Dance Master” perform! Swami came on stage and after a short burst of Veda chanting, asked for the programme to begin. The floral offerings were made and then the presentation began.
It was a visual and audio treat to say the least. The dance traced the concept of creation as per the Sanathana Dharma. The Naatya Veda or the Veda of Dance is considered as the fifth Veda that has in it elements derived from the original four Vedas. The body is moved to the stirrings and music of the soul and in the perfect harmony between the triune of the body, mind and spirit, one realizes that everything being sought lies within.
Sri Deepak performed as the Sutradhaari - narrating the story through fluid body movements as his disciple donned the role of Lord Shiva, the cosmic dancer. The Bal Vikas children who formed the rest of the huge troupe performed remarkably well.
It was announced that these were Balavikas children from Thane lest it be misunderstood that they are also part of the Dance troupe! The origin of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara from nothingness till the arrival of man was depicted. Also shown gracefully was the potential of man to attain Divinity.
The beauty and joy of the evening can be captured only by having a look at the pictures! (A picture is worth a thousand words!) Swami moved into the interview room for a short while towards the end and when He was inside, the dance programme concluded. As soon as He came out, Swami moved down the stage and posed for pictures with the huge colourful group.
Then He moved back to the stage where He interacted with the co-ordinators from the participating states. Swami was all smiles and it was a beautiful sight to see Him even as the prasadam distribution went on. The aarthi was performed after which the group photo taken a few minutes before was presented to Him.
Swami showed the photo to everyone assembled in the hall before gifting it to one of the girls from the troupe. Swami then confirmed from the priest whether the aarthi had been performed.
It was 7:20 p.m. when Swami moved to the car. The members of the “Vidya Vahini” team that has been trying to integrate the Sathya Sai System of Educare into the education system of India itself got blessed by Swami. Then the Lord retired to His residence.
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