Volume 8 - Issue 05
MAY 2010
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THE KODAI FESTIVAL 2009

Day Three

Puttaparthi is where the Lord was born and where He continues to stay for almost the entire year conferring love, support and solace to devotees day in and day out who throng in thousands to this sacred town. However, when summer arrives on most occasions, the Lord generally decides to move to His ashram in Bangalore or often to ‘Sai Shruti’ in Kodai Kanal so that the devotees are saved from the dry and zapping heat of Puttaparthi. For the devotees who now collect in Brindavan or in Kodai Kanal it is the coming of the special ‘Sai Season’ which brings with it so many beautiful blessings.

The Kodai sojourn especially is very unique and fascinating, and it is for this reason that Kodai Kanal is often described as the Lord’s playground. Though Swami has skipped visiting this holy hill station on a few summers, He did visit there in 2009. And we carried the first part of this “Kodai Festival 2009” in July 2009 of H2H. The second part in April 2010 issue had an account of the proceedings of Day Two of this visit along with many interesting anecdotes from earlier such trips. The current article gives you the story of Day Three.

Part - 12

How did these Kodai trips begin? When and how was ‘Sai Shruti’, Baba’s abode in this lovely hill station, born? Who gets to accompany the Lord? And what exactly are ‘Kodai sessions’? We offered interesting glimpses of all these answers in Part-2 of this series, apart from the proceedings of the second day of this divine visit.

Those who know something about these visits may wonder why we have not described anything about the divine ‘kodai gifts’ as Swami always begins by distributing a lot of goodies. Well, that is exactly what happened on the morning of Day Three. And before we get to this story, to get a feel of what this event is about and how it goes, let us have a few brief recalls. First, from the incomparable Prof. Anil Kumar; this is what he said in a radio interview recorded in 2003.


 

“On reaching Kodai, Swami gives everyone a sleeping bag. When the boys get in and pull the zip, we don’t know if it is a gunny bag of rice or a boy sleeping inside!

“That is not all. Next morning, Swami distributes a kit containing tooth brush, tooth paste, shaving cream, after-shave lotion, blades, the razor, and so on. After this, come towels, new dresses, cameras and what not. One suit case load of gifts of daily needs and certain monumental presents that we one feels like preserving for posterity. We take one suit case and bring back three!”

That is one description of this sweet event that is invariably a part of the Kodai experience. Here is another taken from an article that Professor Venkataraman wrote in 2006. 

 

“7.45 a.m., and there is a quiet signal. Some of the teachers and senior scholars go upstairs and bring various items. Looks like there is going to be a distribution session. I have heard the fabulous Kodai distribution sessions, and it looks like tradition is being maintained. First item: a sweater. A sweater many a times has been the first item, and no surprise in that. Kodai can suddenly get very chilly and our most thoughtful Swami always makes sure that everyone will be warm. So, He gives away sweaters just in case people have not packed one in - and many haven’t!

 

“Sweater distribution goes on for quite a while, first for the gents, then for the students, and finally for the ladies. While giving to the gents, one of them says, ‘Swami, You are always giving, giving, giving...’ Swami responds, ‘Because it is cold, cold, cold!’ This draws a big laugh. For the students and the gents, Swami distributes from where He is seated.

"He just throws accurately and the item goes straight to the person for whom it is intended, who catches it. For distributing to the ladies, Swami goes to their side, moving from person to person to hand over. Sweater distribution is over, but what next?

“One more signal and the boys scamper upstairs to bring more stuff. What is it going to be now? Shawls! Nice big white shawls. Why do we need shawls when there are sweaters? That is logic, but Swami’s Heart has never heard of it! He simply must give, give and give – that’s all!

“It is not over yet and there is going to be round three. What will it be this time? Towels, big bath towels! Distribution of towels takes Swami once more to the ladies side, and when they have been handed out, there is one more item – a tape recorder!

"Whenever Swami distributes a packaged item, the first time He hands it over, He makes a point of opening the packet and showing the contents to everybody! That’s what He does now, and by the way, the tape recorder is only for the ladies! 

“Next come cameras, and after that, film for the cameras! Wow, I say to myself, even Santa at Christmas-time is not so generous. What next? I don’t have to guess or wait for long to know. It is ladies handbags in assorted colours, and Swami has some fun in matching the colour of the bags to the colour of the saree worn by the recipient! After this: ladies umbrellas! It looks like it is ladies day, and I wonder whether the men are getting a bit jealous! As earlier, just before handing out the first umbrella, Swami opens it to show it to all! And after this distribution is done, Swami now carries one umbrella in His hand, walks over to the gents’ side and asks, ‘Any ladies here?’ There is a big laughter!

“You would think that Swami has by now distributed enough. No, alarm clocks next, this time for all!”

So this was a description of the distribution of non-eatable items that Swami usually distributes at the beginning of the stay. In 2009 too there was a similar distribution, and besides all these Swami gave the students what they treasure the most – His Special Love and Intimacy.

 

Prof. Anil Kumar in an earlier interview narrated a beautiful personal anecdote concerning this event. This is again from our archives:

“In Kodai, Swami often distributes many items including peppermints, chocolate bars, and so on. Suddenly one day He said, ‘I am here distributing all these sweets and chocolates for you to eat, but there is one fellow who is not eating; instead he is dumping all of them into his bag. Come on boys! Search everybody’s bags.’ It was something like an income tax raid (laughter)!

“Then I said, ‘Swami, why all this trouble? I am the one who is not eating. I am keeping them all in my bag.’ Bhagavan then asked, ‘Why do you do that?’

I replied, ‘Swami, I have four children. They expect something from me. When I take back these most precious things like peppermints - whatever You give is most valuable for all of us – my children will jump in joy’. Swami said, ‘Oh, is that so?’ He then told the boys, ‘Hereafter, you give Anil Kumar five pieces of sweets, four for his children to be kept in the bag, one for him to eat along with you and share that happiness.’

How can I ever forget that incident? I don’t recall anybody loving me more than Bhagavan Baba. In fact, this is the feeling of every devotee.”

 

Everyone who has been a participant of these special Kodai trips has his own story of receiving these beautiful gifts. And Day Three was the day when all had this memorable experience.

Swami blessed everyone with these gifts after the morning darshan. However something more enlivening happened later in that day. And that was Swami suddenly gave notice that there would be a Burra Katha performance during the Bhajan time that evening.

The Burra Katha is a traditional form of folk art, unique to Andhra Pradesh, and it involves story-telling, mostly from mythology and the epics. This form of art appears to have come into existence during the reign of the famous king, Sri Krishna Deva Raya. There are three players, the most important one taking his place in the centre.  Basically, he unfolds the story in musical form, via a series of songs, that is. He is called the Gayakudu or the singer.

 

As the singing progresses, there are many breaks where the other two participants pitch in. The one to the right of the Gayakudu, interrupts with what might be called expert commentary, especially related to current affairs, mostly political of course. He is called Rajakiyudu. The third person who stands left of centre is the stand up comedian who entertains with humorous comments that invariably evoke a lot of laughter. He is called Vidushaka.  Of course, it is all in Telugu.

Three boys who presented the program were:

Sai Prabhakar, M.A. in Economics, who was the main singer;
Sai Raguram, M.Sc., Bio Sciences, who was the commentator; and
Arvind Sai, M.A., in Economics, who was the humourist.

 

These three boys had specialised in this folk art and had performed several times before Swami during the last several years. When they were included in Swami’s party, it was clear that they would be called upon to perform in Kodai Kanal too. And they went fully prepared.

They had been alerted by Swami to be ready to perform on the third day, and they were given the final green signal at 3.30 p.m. Swami told them that they should be fully dressed and ready by 5 p.m.

Let us hear from one of the three boys, Sai Prabhakar, about their preparations and sweet divine interventions!  

Around 3.30 p.m. we went down and had our tiffin and as we were about to finish eating, Swami came to the dining hall! Then as were putting on our costumes, He came into the drawing room too! We couldn’t believe our eyes! Our joy knew no bounds. He was looking at the costumes all the time and as we were putting on our head-gears, we asked Him: ‘Swami, is this fine?’ And He was correcting us: ‘Maybe a little more on the side…you should adjust in the middle…’ Then He corrected us on the waist-band too: ‘It should be tight.’

Also, we did not have any shoulder-bands, so Swami told Ganesh, the costume boy, to use the waistbands. With Swami’s Grace, the extra waistbands turned out to work as shoulder-bands! So, Swami was sitting there, watching and directing us how to dress up.”


 

That was a glimpse of how involved Swami was in this Burra Katha performance. And in this trip, they performed not once or twice but thrice. The theme of this first one was the life of Swami, and by the way, this was the first time that the Burra Katha was ever staged by Swami’s students in Kodai.

Let us now go to the Bhajan Hall in Kodai, even as the first of the three Burra Kathas is about to be performed!

So that was the star event - the life of Swami, portrayed in the Burra Katha format, of course by Swami’s boys and in His presence before a big gathering of His devotees.

After that came the arathi, and it was curtains. So that was how the third day of Kodai 2009 unfolded. In the next part which is to follow soon where we narrate the proceedings of Day four, there is something even more interesting.

Part - 12

(To be continued)

- Heart2Heart Team

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