Sri Sathya Sai Organisation - Andhra Pradesh & Telangana
Sri Sathya Sai Organisation - Andhra Pradesh & Telangana
In the Bharatiya tradition, rivers have always been revered as life sustaining Divine Mothers and sanctifying holy waters. Pushkaram is a traditional festival dedicated to the worship of rivers, especially of 12 that are considered worthy of special adoration. Each of these rivers is associated with a zodiac sign and depending on which zodiac sign the planet Jupiter is in that year, the corresponding river is worshipped. Thus, though Pushkaram is an annual festival, the worship of a particular river happens once in 12 years.
While this is the festival that occurs once in 12 years, a Maha Pushkaram is celebrated once in 12 such cycles - which means it occurs once in 144 years. The Maha Pushkaram of the Godavari river (that originates in Maharashtra state and flows through the twin states of Andhra and Telangana before it merges into the Bay of Bengal) was celebrated this year 2015. The festivities that lasted 12 days from 14 to 25 July 2015 drew not less than 110 million pilgrims over all. The worship was offered at different ghats which are spread across the two states.
This massive gathering and a celebration of this scale would definitely throw up innumerable opportunities of Seva, and as always the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation (SSSSO) stepped up to grab the opportunity and please Swami through their selfless service. This involved months of meticulous planning, and the aim was to deliver a wide range of service activities directed towards ensuring the convenience of the visiting pilgrims and help in enhancing their spiritual experience of participating in the Godavari Pushkaram.
Sevadals from 17 districts participated in the Seva, and in all well over 7,000 sevadal, men and women, were on duty. To offer a perspective, the number of sevadal on duty in the whole of Prasanthi Nilayam (including the super speciality hospital) is generally much less than 2000. Marshalling this kind of a work force over a period of 12 days is clearly no mean achievement. But what was more commendable is the variety of areas in which assistance was offered to the pilgrims.
First and foremost in such huge gatherings, the distribution of food and water becomes critical. Though the government does make arrangement for these, any contribution in this regard could be considered welcome and even quite necessary. Food distribution centres were set up at various places and the food was offered as prasadam. In all, over a lakh people were served each day.
Food was distributed even to the pilgrims standing in queues to make it convenient for them. Apart from food, the Sevadal thoughtfully made arrangements for milk, which was offered to children and the aged. Another sight that became common for the pilgrims was that of men with blue scarfs carrying a backpack-water-can and moving about the crowd distributing water. 1,500 such water cans were procured for this event, and sevadal were quenching the thirst of the pilgrims, round the clock.
Special attention was extended to the elderly and physically challenged who came to participate in the Pushkaram. Hundreds of wheelchairs were pressed into service and the Sai youth were enthusiastically wheeling these devotees all day long. Some of the Sevadal even positioned themselves at the ghats to help those infirm who wanted to take a holy dip.
Apart from helping the elders, Sevadal trained in disaster management were positioned at various places to avert accidents of drowning occur while the pilgrims were taking their dip. Also the Sevadal were helping the authorities to keep the waters clean by removing flowers and other such offerings from time to time.
Two mobile medical vans equipped with facilities like X-Ray, ECG, Oxygen Supply and Blood test lab were deployed to address medical emergencies. Doctors and paramedics were on duty at various Ghats at the time when they were opened for the pilgrims. Clearly, the organisation covered all areas in which they could help.
Another thoughtful and essential service that the Organisation provided was that of setting up cloakroom facilities near the ghats, and the Rajahmundry and Godavari railway stations. This was much appreciated and was very helpful for the pilgrims, most of whom were making short visits. In addition, the sevadal members set up counters where devotees could even deposit their footwear for safekeeping.
Apart from this, a number of cultural programmes too were arranged at the different ghats. Spiritual talks and cultural programmes by members of the organisation and Balvikas children were organised. Also, the Prema Jyoti exhibition that was blessed by Bhagawan in 2007 was set up at the Thyagaraja Kalakshetram, Rajahmundry.
The Sri Sathya Sai Gurukulam school in Rajahmundry was abuzz with activities all through the event. It transformed into a centre for the seva activities in Rajahmundry, the town where four ghats where the Pushkaram festivities were being held were situated. Talks and cultural programmes too were organised at the Gurukulam.
In all, the Sevadals performed commendable service at the following places: Pushkara, Markandeya, Gowthami and Saraswati Ghats in Rajahmundry. Annavaram Temple in East Godavari. Kovvuru, Narasapuram, Pattiseema and Siddhantham ghats in West Godavari district. Bhadrachalam in Khammam district and Kandakurthi in Nizamabad district. Basara, Mancherial and Gudem in Adilabad district and Dharmapuri in Karimnagar district.
An activity of such scale needed enormous planning and we are sure these sevadals made Bhagawan very proud through their Seva. Such was the efficiency of the Sevadal that even the police began delegating works of crowd control and safety to these dedicated Sai servitors. We extend our hearty congratulations to every participant of this holy seva.