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Posted on : Oct 15, 2011
one special DASARA recalled
CASCADE OF COMPASSION – THE STORY OF THE SRI SATHYA SAI DRINKING WATER PROJECT FOR THE ANANTAPUR DISTRICT
by Prof. G. Venkataraman
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Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prasanthi Nilayam. It’s been a long time since I did a regular musings talk; there have been many reasons for this. There is no time to go into all those details but let me just say I have been quiet busy and I hope to resume my regular broadcasts shortly. Meanwhile I am doing this talk for a very special reason.
As many of you are aware the Dasara celebration just went by. There is plenty of folklore and there are many stories about the meaning of this festival, its significance and so on but I shall skip all that now. There is a reason why I am making a reference to Dasara and that has a bit of important history that all of us must know. Specifically I wish to recall today the Dasara of 1997; that year this festival fell on October 11 and something very important happened that afternoon. What was that? That is what I am going to tell you now.
Recollecting Those Divine Dasaras
Back then the routine on Dasara day used to be as follows. In the morning we would all assemble in the Poorna Chandra Hall for the conclusion of the yagnam, the grand conclusion I should say when the Poornahuti (final offerings to the sacred fire) would be performed in Swami’s divine presence. Oh, it was wonderful, glorious!
|Baba can be seen here seated on the dais during the Poornahuti function. Below is a video of a Poornahuti from a more recent year|
After the Poornahuti all go out in a procession, sometimes in those days it used to be led by Sai Gita (Baba's devotee-elephant). They would go to River Chitravathi to bring some water which would take almost an hour. During that time Swami would give a divine discourse and by the time He ended the priests would also be marching in. I don’t know how they timed it but it happened that way almost always. And once the priest came they would offer the river water ceremoniously to Swami, He would bless it and then would start the exciting procedure of sprinkling holy water on all the devotees. The water would be poured out from the pot into a big silver bowl and Swami would go around sprinkling it with a big sprinkler. And He would go up and down the hall and people would lean forward, waiting and craning their necks for some drops of holy water to fall on them; some got really drenched and they were so happy. Of course, Swami also was fully wet and the interesting thing is that the more He sprinkled the more happy He would become, and He would go all along the aisle and different corners of the hall to make sure that not even an ant or a mosquito is left.
|At the end of the yagnam, Bhagawan would walk around the entire auditorium sprinkling the holy water on all assembled.
Seen here are scenes of one such occasion
|This act of sprinkling sanctified water is referred to as prokshanam and It is done to purify a place or a person. Every year people gathered
would yearn to receive this benediction from Baba at the end of the yagna. Below is a video of that scene taken during Dasara2002
And that would not be all, He would go outside the hall because there would be many people waiting on both sides of the auditorium and He would shower His blessings and grace by sprinkling holy water on all of them. By the time it all ended it would be almost 1 p.m. and after that you would normally think it would be a relaxed afternoon, often it is but on this particular Dasara day there was a hectic schedule in the afternoon also. It started around 3.00 p.m. and what was that function about? That’s what this talk is about.
Let me first do a bit of a flashback by taking you back from 1997 to 1994 when it all started. On the afternoon of November 22 that year there was a function in Poorna Chandra Hall. The purpose of this was to honour Dr. Venugopal; he’s the surgeon who performed the first heart operation on November 22, 1991, the day the hospital was inaugurated.
A suggestion to the Government that Turned into a Mammoth Initiative
Three years had passed, Dr. Venugopal had done yeoman service to Swami’s hospital and Bhagawan wanted to bless and honour him in public. That is why this function was arranged. The then Prime Minister of India, Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao (who by the way was the person who inaugurated the hospital three years earlier) was invited to be present on this occasion as the chief guest. Dr. Venugopal was duly honoured and after that the Prime Minister gave a speech, which was of course normal.
Dr. Venugopal who performed the first heart surgery in the SSSIHMS is being felicitated by the then PM of India, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao, November 22 1994.
|It was the third anniversary of the Super Speciality Hospital in Puttaparthi and it was during the discourse delivered on this occasion, that Baba asked the Government to take steps to solve the problems of the Rayalaseema area.|
Finally came Swami’s discourse wherein He spoke about the hospital, the contributions of Dr. Venugopal and so on, but then suddenly He injected a new note. Turning to the Prime Minister Swami said: “This area is an arid region.” An arid region means a place which is almost like a desert; which gets very little rainfall. So Swami stated: “This region, Rayalaseema has been suffering without proper drinking water facilities for a long time; nobody has done anything about it, it's time that somebody did something.” And then Swami said very significantly: “If the government comes forward to start a project, we in the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust would not be far behind and are ready to extend any help that the government may want.” Now that was the direct appeal to the Prime Minister. After that the function was over, the Prime Minister left and now the question is 'What happened?'
Well, in Delhi (the Capital of India) nothing happened but over here Swami was waiting for a response. After November and December, January too came and went. Same with February and March but not a word from Delhi. Swami became seemingly impatient; this was 1995. So what did He do? He called the members of the SSS Central Trust and gave them orders - I would like to call it 'marching orders' because it was given in March. So what did Swami say? Simply this: “Give safe drinking water to as many people as possible, in as many villages of Anantapur district as possible and in such a manner that they get water throughout the year.” The last phrase 'throughout the year' is very important.
So there are two points here: safe drinking water and perennial availability all the year through. And then He added: “Do it as quickly as possible; do not worry about the cost. The job must be done, that’s all.” Those were the orders.
The members of the Central Trust were definitely stunned at least to a certain extent because there were cash flow issues but then Swami’s orders are orders. So promptly the missionaries swung into action and the first person who was sent for was Mr. Kondal Rao. He was at that time a chief engineer in charge of irrigation and water works in the government of Andhra Pradesh. Swami also sent for Mr. A. Ramakrishna who at that time worked for Larsen & Toubro (this company had just then completed the construction of the Sai Kulwant Hall, at least parts of it). So these two people were called and told that a drinking water project had to be done for the Anantapur Districts, and it had to start almost immediately. “Go ahead, look around and give Me a plan.” That was Swami’s order.
Baba seen with A. Ramakrishna (to His right) and Kondal Rao (to the left) who together played a leading role in the execution of not only the Anantapur Drinking Water Scheme but many others.
Then Mr. Kondal Rao and Mr. Ramakrishna went and met the state government of Andhra Pradesh, after all their permission was needed as the land belonged to them. They also started scouting around for sources of water. Here we must pay careful attention to what Swami had said: “Safe drinking water.” What’s the meaning of this? Normally till that time people were drawing water from the ground for purposes of drinking. Well, that’s what people do in most places but in Anantapur district there was a problem with ground water because of the presence of excessive fluorine.
Now anyone who knows chemistry would know that fluorine is a chemical element rather like chlorine. While chlorine is often used to purify water, fluorine is also needed in water to a small extent but excess of it can be very troublesome. Why? Firstly, it produces what is caused 'dental fluorosis' wherein the teeth get deformed; they become black and there are all sorts of problems. But more dangerous is 'skeletal fluorosis' wherein the bones get horribly deformed. It is really frightening to see these people as all their life they walk with completely bent bones; walking is torture and some people can’t even walk, they have to drag themselves. Thirdly, it causes rheumatic arthritis.
|Seen here are pictures showing cases of severe skeletal fluorosis, a condition very common in the Anantapur District
prior Baba's drinking water scheme.
All these problems are widely prevalent in the district of Anantapur and Swami was aware of that. That is why He insisted on safe drinking water, which in simple words means, water without fluorine.