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Posted on: Nov 19, 2015
SAI STREE SHAKTI SERIES - 08
Mother Easwaramma - The Exalted Devotee
Dedicated way beyond the definition of the term, they have over decades, become their roles - Mothers to thousands of children as young as 5 years of age, all the way to high school teenagers, who live and learn and grow in their personal care.
Radio Sai special series Sai Stree Shakti chronicles the forces of nature that incarnated as women of spiritual substance to serve as the chosen instruments of the Avatar, contributing significantly to the Sai Mission.
Bhagawan not only hailed their sterling virtues but also shaped them to be exemplars of duty, devotion, dedication and determination.
To mark the auspicious 90th year of the divine advent, we salute these dynamic and divine Sai women whose contribution to the Sai mission has been strong and steady and largely silent.
Starting March 19, 2015, every month till November 19, 2015, Radio Sai is celebrating Ladies Day by highlighting the life and dedication of such individuals who will go down in history as the able and capable contemporaries of the Sri Sathya Sai Avatar. Their incarnation appears to be a significant part of Bhagawan's master plan.
On March 19, 2015, Radio Sai offered its first tribute to the late Mrs. Sarla Shah under this series. (click here)
On April 19, 2015, Radio Sai featured the contributions of Mrs. Carole Alderman of the United Kingdom in the area of Sathya Sai Education in Human Values. (click here)
On May 19, 2015, the humble and simple Mandir Ladies of Prasanthi Nilayam were under the spotlight as the custodians of the sanctum maintenance. (click here)
On June 19, 2015 Radio Sai shared the journey of Mrs. Angela Loraine Burrows, an English lady who was transplanted to Thailand to serve as an ambassador of the Sai Educare Mission. (click here)
On July 19, 2015 Radio Sai profiled Dr. Hema Gopinathan, the Deputy Medical Superintendent of the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Prasanthi Nilayam. (click here)
On August 19, 2015 Omani expatriate Mrs. Chithra Narayan who runs an adopted SSSEHV Nursery in an Absolute Islamic Monarchy was under the spotlight. (Click here)
On September 19, 2015 Radio Sai saluted the Mothers Divine whose role is to love, nurture and raise Bhagawan’s beloved students on His behalf. The teachers of the residential schools set up by Bhagawan.(Click here)
In this holy month of November 2015, Radio Sai offers obeisance to the first lady-devotee of the Sai Family, Mother Easwaramma. In this article we recall her unique journey from a mother, to a devotee to an exemplar for all devotees.
The great Tamil Poet Kavimani Desika Vinayagam Pillai, aptly described the glory of a woman as:
“One ought to have performed great penance in order to be born as a woman”
How apt are these words to describe the blessed life of Mother Easwaramma. If it calls for immense penance to be born a woman, how much more blessed one must be to born a woman and a contemporary of the Avatar. Then, it is indeed the rarest of the rarest blessing to be born with the opportunity to mother the Avatar Himself. On this Ladies Day 19 Nov 2015, Radio Sai salutes the first amongst women and the best amongst devotees – Mother Easwaramma. Many women in this World have lived up to the highest call of righteousness. Higher than the highest is the practical illustration of a successful journey from 'I to He' which a simple, noble and pure-hearted woman accomplished, as our contemporary. In her book, 'Mathru Stuthi', Dr. Kamala Arora, a long standing devotee, recalls that Bhagawan repeatedly mentioned that Mother Easwaramma is His first and best devotee. With humility and love, Radio Sai presents a glimpse into this journey – ‘The Making of the First and Best Devotee of the Lord, Mother Easwaramma’.
Easwaramma, a Young Bride with a loving heart
Prof. N. Kasturi, in his book, 'Easwaramma – The Chosen Mother' writes, “The house of grandfather Kondama Raju sheltered not just the parents and their two sons, but a few widowed and orphaned aunts, uncles, cousins and their offsprings, of about 25 people! Though their home was small, their heart was big and noble! Easwaramma, the young bride of Pedda Venkamma Raju came like a ray of sunshine to the Ratnakaram (which means - Treasure chest of Gems) household. As their eldest daughter-in-law, she was too tender to bear the burden of the upkeep of the Raju household. Like most Indian rural women born, bred and wed in Indian household villages, she quickly adapted herself to the populous joint family. She gladly applied herself to the regular daylong routine grind of pounding, husking, milking, churning, grinding, cooking, washing utensils, washing clothes, mopping, scrubbing, cleaning and caring for the well-being of every single member of the household. Despite the grinding chores, she was well trained to speak modestly, carefully, politely and showered affection in abundance to every member of the family and in no time became a laudable example of an ideal wife, sister, and daughter-in-law. She recalled later with gratitude, how the love and affection showered on her by her husband, mother-in-law Lakshmamma and father-in-law Kondama Raju, helped her adapt into a new life as a young wife.”
Easwaramma conceived within two years of married life to the great joy of her mother-in-law. Her first child was a son, and two daughters arrived a few years later. The Rajus rejoiced, as their home was now filled with laughter, song and prayer. Easwaramma then had 4 abortive pregnancies in a series. Elders attributed it to black magic and when Easwaramma entered into her eighth pregnancy, her mother-in-law vowed a series of Pujas to Lord Sathyanarayana to be blessed with a grandson. Lord Krishna too, was born as the eighth child to Mother Devaki!
The household was filled with auspicious music – sweet musical notes from percussion instruments and strings to give joy to the child growing in the womb. Grandfather Kondama Raju had his Guru Venka Avadoota, coming in his dreams, instructing him to be prepared. Pedda Venkamma Raju found out from astrologers that the soulful divine music was for the joy of the baby in the womb, played by angels! And as a culmination or answer to the prayer from the household, Lakshmamma returned with the Prasad after Sathyanarayana Puja and Easwaramma partook the same and relished it. Shortly thereafter, on the auspicious Karthika Somavara day (Monday in the month of Kartika), 5.06 a.m. on 23rd November, 1926 with Arudra as the reigning star, the Lord was born to fill all hearts with joy and bliss indescribable. The loving child was aptly named ‘Sathyanarayana’.
Like Blessed Mother Mary, who gave birth to Lord Jesus in a simple hut, the Lord selected, for His Advent, a simple ordinary household, filled with minimal necessities but full of love, service, sacrifice and respect for each member, not just within the family, but for the whole village. How could the Lord of the Universe destine Himself to toddle over the dusty floor, to suffer oddities and crudities of normal living? Only pure Love that could do this, perhaps to raise humanity into Divinity this was necessary.
Swami clarified many times, that the Avatar descends only for the uplift of the humanity, in response to the prayers of the saints and good people. He declared, “The Avatar alone has the freedom of choice to select a soul as His Mother”. It is indeed a unique blessing, a very intimate and personal relationship, a good fortune that can only be won by an individual in several ages! Mother Easwaramma was extremely fortunate to receive a bounteous serving of affection, gratitude and grace from the Lord. Little did Mother Easwaramma realise, that being the Avatar’s mother was just the beginning of her lifetime’s journey to win the title of ‘best amongst devotees’ from her own darling Son!
Raising a Divine Child, the Mother’s woes, challenges and tribulations
Despite her abundant virtues of simplicity, purity, innocence, faith in God, honesty and loving care, she suffered a lot, as most ordinary mothers do today. Swami, as her beloved Child, would eat very meagrely. He was always ever ready to give away to others, and would gladly be the last one to accept anything that was left behind or rejected by the others, be it clothes or food. He never seemed to have any wish of His own, but His face would light up with a beam, when He saw the other children happy! She related later, “I was very worried about His ‘utter-unconcerned-ness’ even in small little things. One day I hugged Him close and tried to get Him to confide to me. “Sathyam, please tell me what You want, I will give it to You”, I said to Him. Little Sathya sweetly responded, “Amma, I do not need anything”; that was His only reply. “How I pined He would ask me something?” said Mother Easwaramma.
She had several little things to worry about her loving little Son. One grouse Mother Easwaramma had was the solemnity Sathya assumed when He was inside the house. He was all laughter and fun outside the house, skipping, hopping, jumping with other children, playing on the banks of River Chitravati, and singing bhajans for hours with them. But when she coaxed Him to return home, He would make Himself grave and heavy. “I never understood this”, she said. What was so different that He became deeply sober and serious? Alas, was the title ‘Brahma Jnani’ that elders gave Him perhaps true, she wondered.
The little village urchins who played with Sathya were a very mischievous lot. They could never tolerate the extraordinary cleanliness little Sathya held - be it personal cleanliness or clean speech and behaviour. Their strategy to prune to the unusual to ordinary was by teasing, ridiculing and making a mess of stuff. They would swing a hen upside down to irritate Him, kick a dog to make it squeal or twist the tail of a bullock and all these pained little Sathya and made Him miserable. Later on, His fellow school mates would spoil His spotless white shirt with dirt by dragging Him into the water and sand. Yet little Sathya never complained to Mother Easwaramma about what they did. Mother Easwaramma was worried that she never got a single complaint from Sathya despite all the troubles He went through! Sathya seemed totally devoid of vengeance, hate or even dislike. His feelings delved deeper, His words were always softer, sweeter and loving.
This nature of tolerance, love and suffering silently grew with Sathya as He joined Primary School and later stayed with His brother, Seshama Raju in Kamalapuram. Sathya gladly carried pots of water walking several miles and did all the household chores at His brother’s home. Mother Easwaramma endured unbearable agony when her Son was taken to an exorcist and tortured to drive the ‘devil’ out of the Boy. As any mother would, Easwaramma piteously cried and prayed to all Gods as the exorcist shaved Sathya’s scalp, incising a deep cross into it, pouring lemon juice and chilled water into the wound and applied a paste that would broil the eyes. Sathya remained silent even as His face became bloodshot and swollen. Easwaramma could bear it no longer. She and Sathya’s father pleaded and obtained His release from this craziness and took Him back to Puttaparthi.
All these instances troubled Easwaramma as she could not recognise the Divinity of her Child. He was so near and dear to her, yet so far that she couldn’t fathom His true nature. A few weeks and months later as Sathya continued His mystical behaviour, the elder brother Seshama Raju came back to Puttaparthi with a resolve to mend Sathya’s strange ways. Sathya now called Himself ‘Sai Baba’ and the perturbed school teacher Seshama Raju, who believed in the curative power of the rod, told his parents, that Sathya must be put to more useful tasks like going to school than be allowed to spend His time climbing hills, scattering flowers and weaving stories. He persisted and they yielded and sent Sathya again with His brother to Uravakonda.
Easwaramma again suffered the separation from her beloved Boy. Even as she prayed and yearned desperately to be with Him soon, an unwelcome news came home – At Uravakonda, the young Boy has declared Himself as a ‘Bala Yogi’. The parents rushed there, and when they reached the spot, Sathya was seated on a chair with flower garlands piling on His right! When they went up to Sathya, He said, “Maya has come!” “Maya??” exclaimed Easwaramma and fell in a faint. But the father Venkamma Raju grasped the gravity of the remark as Sathya took the stage as the beloved Guru of the world, which He really is. Venkamma Raju also understood that the nicknames that Sathya earned in the childhood of Brahma jnani and Guru were literally coming true. He tried to educate Mother Easwaramma, but she responded with resentment and dejection. She sat by Sathya’s side, tears flowing copiously, and begged Him to speak one word to her, as He would lovingly do.
In her heart of hearts, Easwaramma remained unawed and unmoved by these profundities. She focussed on the basic well-being of her Son. She asked, “When did He eat? What did He eat?” When told He had not eaten for long, she immediately began preparing something nice for Him. Sathya waited for her to finish cooking; invite Him to come and partake the food. She served Sathya lovingly a full meal and nervously signalled that her offerings be accepted. In a swift moment, Sathya swept all food into one mass and rolled them into three balls. He signalled Mother Easwaramma to come forward and He put a ball in her hand. He made her give Him the three balls of food one by one and ate them. He then said, “Maya is gone!” This extraordinary supper struck the elders and they realised there was no ‘retrieving’ possible now.
The family struggled to deal with this – they simply were at their wits end! After deep contemplation, the mother decided to ask Sathya of a boon that would eventually bring new joy to every being in the Universe! She waited until He finished His bhajans and the crowd slowly reduced. She then went to Sathya, now seated as Sai Baba on the boulder and begged of Him. “Sathya”, said His mother, “You are free from Maya, but we are still in Maya. We will not interfere with Your ways but accept it. Please give me one word – that You will remain in Puttaparthi. She assured Him, “Let all Your devotees come there, we will welcome them wholeheartedly and serve them, treat them kindly. Please grant my prayer”, she pleaded. Thus destiny designed the scene for Sathya’s momentous answer. Sathya then declared, “I have chosen Puttaparthi as My Kshetra. I grant this boon to you and to everyone in this village and the Universe. I shall always remain there. ”
Easwaramma was astounded at this spontaneous benediction! She was speechless with delight, her face beaming the good news to all around. Her heart was full, for even at a circumstance that she had no control over and was not happy, she found a solution that soothed her heart. She was truly satisfied that with Sathya remaining in Puttaparthi, she could care for Him herself, along with the sisters, the aunts and the motherly Subbamma. His wellbeing and her ability for her to care for Him and be with Him always was the only thing that mattered to the pious, doting and loving mother!
Learning to Survive – Sevadal to the Avatar’s Mission
This was the third phase of her life filled with uncertainty – Transforming herself into a Sevadal in the Lord’s mission! Every stage in her life as a mother posed new challenges to the Mother, and at every critical juncture she let her virtues grew as abundantly as the Lord's love. She also learned to quietly accept the Lord's will and surrendered her fears and anxieties.
As Puttaparthi grew with pilgrims and devotees pouring in, the mother started serving the devotees in every way she could – cooking, serving, caring for them and so on. As Swami began work to construct the hospital and the Mandir, she gladly and readily engaged herself as a volunteer. She mingled amongst the women devotees hauling sand, stone, bricks and cement from the road upto the site of the hospital. She lifted bricks herself, brushing aside protests from other women.
When the wards were ready, she sought out women patients, brought them to the doctor and nursed them. She sat with the patients while they were interrogated, waited until diagnosis and gave them comfort. She cared for every unfortunate woman who had serious illnesses and comforted them by letting them know that there was a Mother who was interested in their recovery.
In 1968, when Swami hosted the 10 day Optical Diseases Diagnosis and Treatment Camp, more than four thousand patients were examined and over thousand operations were performed to confer vision on those blinded by glaucoma, cataract etc. Carts-full of old men and women came hobbling along the village roads to Prasanthi Nilayam. Mother Easwaramma never realised before that so many people needed this help. She most enthusiastically joined the hundred odd women volunteers, to help with the camp. The elderly ladies and women needed to be cleaned and made ready for the operation – Mother Easwaramma and the other volunteers, washed their faces, oiled and plaited their hairs, allayed their fears and were with them as they went through the operation and received the blessing of vision. She was always modest and was at ease amongst visitors and villagers. She was very happy when the villagers were fed, clothed, cared for and rehabilitated. Easwaramma learnt the art of enthusiastic giving and caring from Swami and always was ready to offer a word of consolation, to assuage grief of her fellow beings and took immense joy when Swami asked her to distribute Sarees to the womenfolk.
Once when Swami announced that everyone must care for their fellow-villagers, Mother Easwaramma took it to heart and followed it with utmost sincerity. Every day, after her household duties were over, she would visit every home and check on their well-being. She sought out the sick abed in their homes and persuaded them to accompany her to the Sathya Sai Hospital. All the way from the village to the hill-top, she would give them words of solace and courage. Her speech vibrated with hope. She would stand beside them, her warm hand on their shoulder, as the doctor needled or knifed, as appropriate. And soon the entire village accepted the doctors as holy healers and pleasant sevaks, commissioned by Bhagawan to keep them happy and healthy. The villagers and visitors alike found deep comfort in her care as she tolerated their long narrations, never evincing hurry or boredom, without any resentment or disgust in their misery.
While she was immersed in the mission, the mother had many a cup of storm that blew up in her life. Death snatched away four of her infants before they were born. Her younger children had periodic illnesses as they were growing up, needing her time care and attention. Her both daughters were widowed in the prime of their lives. She had a deaf grandson who grew up dumb. One granddaughter fell a victim to smallpox. These were a few telling challenges that she confronted in her personal life, even though she was the Avatar’s Mother. She dealt with these life-events serenely and compassionately, with steadfastness (Dhrithi) and absolute faith in Swami. Her calmness during storm and deep distress impressed everyone. She never cashed in on any privilege, during any situation, as the ‘Mother of the Avatar’.
Not only this, mother would encourage everyone by confiding in them, her own story – she would tell them, “You must practice patience. It is a long time from the tiny bud to blossom into a flower and then into a juicy, tasty fruit. Be patient”. She internalized this quality and people revered her as the embodiment of fortitude. Fortitude brought in her, equanimity and equanimity made her radiate love to those who did not know how to and when to return it! Mother Easwaramma was full of Kshama and hardly remembered any incident where she felt hurt by anyone. The events in her life manifested as they would for any good domestic woman. She chose to deal with them as purely as a Sadhak would do, full of love, with no room for ego, anger, jealousy or hatred.
Easwaramma’s life in the Avataric Mission is best described by the poem written by the Nobel Prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore. He says,
Woman! You are blest! You have your home, your household work –
In the midst of it you keep a little gap
Through which you hear the cry of the weak.
You bring your offering of service, and pour out your love.
Your patience is endless - Their helplessness calls out your mercy.
Mother Easwaramma the Revolutionary
Mother Easwaramma, as we see from many situations described above, was abound with ‘Medha Shakti’ - Intrinsic Wisdom that clearly distinguished her from those around. She was righteous, noble and carried herself appropriately to every situation. Here are three examples which speak loud the nobility of her character.
Mother Easwaramma was both in pain and awe of her Divine Son after the 1963 Guru Poornima incident when Swami cured Himself of a paralytic stroke and declared Himself as the Shiva Shakti Incarnation. Four months later, she lost her husband, Pedda Venkamma Raju and faced the calamity wearing the armour of fortitude. Now Swami became her only fortress, her rock, her shield, her strength, her everything. Swami took her along on a few travels, and that opened up Mother Easwaramma’s vision of the world. When He took her along to witness the opening of Dharmakshetra in Mumbai, the Mother witnessed the mammoth inauguration with deep awe and respect - this instance made a big impact on her.
Soon she learnt that Swami had agreed to visit East Africa and that upset her totally. She couldn’t imagine Swami travelling by aeroplane and sea into the jungle of lions and elephants. She had even heard that there were man-eaters and was extremely worried for Swami. In His own sweet way, Swami assuaged her maternal fears. Mother Easwaramma bid her time in prayers and silence. At the same time, a strange thing happened! In Mumbai for the first time she saw the impact education had on women. She was astounded at the educated women and the things that they could do! As soon as Swami returned home, she prayed for a College for women so the village folks could educate their daughters! Mother repented that she had kept herself free of reading and writing skills. Yet, she prayed for this boon so the future young women are bright and educated! What better illustration for Medha Shakthi is needed, than this profound prayer from the Mother? Her request was the foundation for Swami’s Universities which today stand foremost in the Educational System.
Mother as a revolutionary of her own might, was extremely happy when Swami honoured women and motherhood during the festivals of Dasara. Swami welcomed even widows to perform the puja during the festival, which was another social taboo that Swami broke. The OM is the purest and fullest verbal symbol and women were dissuaded from chanting it. She was overjoyed when Swami permitted and instructed them to recite the mystical syllable OM. She told Swami how happy and grateful she felt at this singular blessing of His. These are small snippets of her noblest and subtlest thoughts which earned her the rightful place in His Kingdom as the Divine Mother.
The Mother was an exemplary housewife and followed the rules of daily living as practised in most villages. It took her years to agree and change certain rigid customs and practices, including treatment meted out to Harijans. Gradually she understood that subservience to meaningless customs and traditions must change for good, giving way to conscious, meaningful and happy spiritual living. She took every opportunity to visit the ‘untouchables’ of the village, the people who did the menial jobs, gave them hope, give them the costly saris that Swami asked to distribute and served them food. On certain occasions she would even invite them into her homes, serve food, mingle with them and eat with them. Though she was initially ostracised and blamed for challenging a deep-rooted taboo, she did not give in. She totally believed in Swami’s philosophy, ‘There is only one caste, the caste of Humanity’ and practised it with an open mind.
Dr. Kamala Arora, a long time devotee of Baba and author of the book ‘Mathru Stuthi’, says, “Mother Easwaramma had no ego and was ready to serve anyone, at any time. If someone was hungry she would cook food for them. If she knew someone was sick, she would run and tell Swami about their sickness. She always remained humble and approachable to villagers and visitors alike. Many would come sit around and talk to her and say all sort of nice things to her. Her reply would always be in one sentence. “Antha Swami Daya Amma” (Everything is Swami’s Grace).
Dr. Kamala Arora, further elucidates, as a young mother, Mother Easwaramma had several other children living in her household. As a young wife, she lived in a house with 25 other people…some widowed aunts, older uncles, 18 children and she was the only women cooking, washing, cleaning the utensils and all these duties she performed silently, without losing temper and most lovingly. This attitude pleased Swami. She would never complain or think, ‘Let me give more to my children, less to others’, nothing of that sort. Later, when she served the villagers and devotees at the Mandir, the same attitude continued till the very end of her life. She shunned publicity and was always modest, humble and simple. This is why Swami called her His ‘First and Best Devotee’. Service with Love was the be all and end all of Mother Easwaramma! She stands out as a shining and illustrious example of a Sevadal – she shunned limelight, publicity of all sorts and did her seva, silently and lovingly, consistently, throughout her life.”
Prof. Kasturi, in his book, ‘Easwaramma, The Chosen Mother’ says Mother Easwaramma spoke sweetly at all times. Her speech reflected patience and forbearance. It was crystal clear, for it was ever free from pretence. It had no sharp edges to hurt the listener.
As the mother grew in age and wisdom, her life too slowly and steadily transformed into one of deep stillness, prayer and joy. The Lord too abundantly showered His infinite love and compassion on this Noble Soul. And as an ultimate consummation of a life-time of modesty, simplicity and humility, her end came easily and peacefully. Describing the scene Swami would say, “Around 7 a.m., after her prayers, she drank coffee and called out to Me “Swami, Swami”. I immediately responded, “Coming, Coming”. In that call, she breathed her last.” What greater sign of auspiciousness is needed to a life that was full of virtue? Unconscious of the last moment in this sojourn, the mind usually strays and seeks some object or the other – food, jewellery or an extreme fantasy. It seldom dwells on the Divine. But for Mother Easwaramma it was an authentic consummation – that every devotee must strive for. It is an excellent example, worthy of emulation by millions of devotees, declared Swami. Bhagawan declared 6th May as Easwaramma Day and Children’s Day which is celebrated universally at all Sai Centres.
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, in Dharma Vahini states “Humility, purity of thought and manners, meekness, surrender to high ideals, sensitivity, sweetness of temper, the particular blend of all these qualities is modesty.” He also made it amply clear that Modesty is the priceless jewel for all women. The Supreme Teacher, who has come to redeem the mankind, by virtue of His selection, demonstrated the qualities that win His approval and appreciation. Mother Easwaramma displayed these qualities consistently in various facets of her life. During joyous moments as well as when disaster or tragedy struck her, she stuck to these basket of virtues, time and again.
On this auspicious and most holy 90th Birthday of our dear Lord, on the occasion of the Ladies Day, we salute the noble mother of the Avatar, His First and Best Devotee. We pray that she continues to inspire and bless young men and women with precious lessons of character and wisdom.
Compiled by Ms. Janaki Balaraman
- Radio Sai Team
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