September 2, 2009 – Onam Celebrations (Day 3) in the Divine Presence

The day of “Thiru Onam” dawned in the hamlet on September 2 and the whole Mandir was filled with festivity and traditional Kerala decorations. The place in front of Swami's residence had been tastefully decorated and a beautiful Mandir with a deepa sthambam (pillar of lights) had been installed there. Much to the delight of everyone assembled, Swami arrived for morning darshan.

The Yajur Mandir doors opened and the State President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Kerala, shed tears of gratitude to Swami for making the Onam so special for all the devotees from Kerala. Swami patted and blessed Him and asked a student nearby as to what the decorated Mandir in front of the Residence was all about.

There was the Aumkara symbol in the Mandir and instead of the traditional "dot" there was a star in the crescent on the Aumkara. The student said that it was symbolic of the Hindu-Muslim unity and the Sarvadharma unity at a broader level. Swami smiled and seemed to be happy with his attempts of a good answer! Then Swami moved for the darshan rounds.

Swami was accorded a befitting welcome with girls in traditional attire arrayed on both sides in the pathway giving a ceremonial welcome. Band Girls from the state accompanied them, amidst bhajans and panchavadyam (an orchestra of five instruments) by both University students and a special troupe from Kerala.

The University boys of Kerala origin from both Brindavan and Prasanthi Nilayam campuses along with boys from the Higher Secondary School had various creative cards and presentations wishing Bhagawan “Happy Onam”. As Swami came on the stage, He admired the beautiful "banana tree" cages that had been made for the brass lions. He also saw the huge temple that had been made to house the Ganesha at the centre. When He finally sat on the stage, it was a grand and godly scene! The picture was complete and perfect! The bhajans were barely being heard as the various bands went on in full swing.

Swami smiled seeing the "poor plight" of the bhajan singers and told the bands to stop. Immediately, the bhajans gained in momentum and volume and it was a beautiful bhajan session as Swami sat swaying and swinging gently to the bhajans.

After a few minutes, Swami called for Prof. Anil Kumar. He told him to announce that He would deliver a divine discourse after 4:00 p.m. that day. It was such a spontaneous gesture that was met with another spontaneous gesture - the wild and joyous clapping by all the assembled devotees! With that thrilling announcement, Swami received aarthi and retired for the morning.

As promised, Swami arrived at 4:20 p.m. for darshan. And with this shower of Divine darshan, there started another shower from the heavens; it began to rain and poured down relentlessly. The rains were so heavy that visibility was hardly a few metres. Swami arrived for darshan in the car. He seemed to be in a hurry to talk to His children from Kerala. The backdrop for a drama on Bhaktha Nandanar had been put in place and all was set for the 'drama' to follow. Swami arrived on the stage via the portico and asking the chanting to cease, He asked for the proceedings to begin. Before that, however, Swami blessed a dozen or so students who offered Him cards and roses.

At the outset, the State President of Kerala, Prof. Mukundan introduced Mr. A. Jayakumar, IAS, Chief Addl. Secy., Home & Vigilance, Govt. of Kerala, the lone speaker for the session, preceding the Divine Discourse. In a humble tone and a tenor that reflected submission, Mr. Jayakumar mentioned that, while back in Kerala people from all over the world come back home to celebrate the festival, devotees of Bhagavan come to their ‘real home’ in Prasanthi Nilayam to celebrate the festivity in the Divine Presence of Bhagavan.

Bringing parallels between the festivity and Swami, Mr. Jayakumar reminded fellow devotees that it was time for sacrifice and surrender to the Will of Bhagavan for the greater benefit of humanity. Just like the floral decorations that are done ten days in advance to the Onam festivity in Kerala which symbolize purity, devotees have their hearts ready with floral decorations on all the days for Bhagavan to come, concluded Mr. Jayakumar. Then, as the mikes were brought and placed in front of Swami, He seemed to blush and that seemed to give greater joy to all the devotees. Given below is an exhaustive summary of the divine discourse.

Man is born out of, grows in, and finally departs from this world due to actions. Action is verily the embodiment of Divinity for man. It is only due to karma that happiness and sorrow occur in this world.  Embodiments of Love, dear devotees from Kerala! Earlier, the kingdom was ruled well by kings like Bali. They took care of all the subjects like children and provided them with all comforts, conveniences and a sacred atmosphere. Emperor Bali, in order to show the truth to one and all, decided to conduct the Vishwajit sacrifice. Many people from many different lands came to participate in it. Charity was done and lot of grains and gifts were given away. (In olden times, if one had to win over the world, one had to do the maximum charity and sacrifice unlike in times today when a "conqueror" is one who grabs the maximum!) The royal family was seated on the stage.


Then, a small beautiful boy, holding an umbrella came there. The daughter of the emperor was so overcome at the mere sight of him that she wanted to marry him! This boy came forward and climbed the dais. All felt so happy seeing him. (And that is the joy that God spreads - all encompassing and without any reason!) The emperor washed this brahmin boy's feet and welcomed him, garlanding him and receiving him with all respects. He also made kind enquiries like, "Who are you? Where have you come from?" The boy said, "I came to know that you are doing a great charity here. I have a desire and I have come to get it fulfilled." When asked for what he wanted, he said, "I want that much of land that I can cover with three steps!"  The emperor was surprised. "Ask for anything else also. You want only so much? You can take your three steps wherever you want."

It was then that Vamana, the boy, began to grow. (It is said that the Lord is Anoraneeyan mahatomaheeyan, meaning that He is subtler than the subtlest and larger than the biggest! In Vamana's form, the Lord only proved that.) In one step, He covered all the land in the whole world. In the second step, He covered all the skies. Then He asked Bali, "Show me where do I put the third step?" The people were all watching in surprise that a person with a foot of only four inches had done so. Bali then said, "There is no place my Lord. Place your foot on my head." (That was symbolic of the fact that however mighty a man is, he has to bow down to the Divine. The ego or identification with the body must be destroyed and one must realize the Divine origins!) Vamana placed his foot and because of the weight, Bali went underground to the netherworlds. The people were feeling very sad and remorseful. They could not think of living without their king. Life is like that! Pleasure comes as an interval between two pains and vice versa.

At this time, a sound emanated, "I love you all my children! I will take care of your welfare and keep you trouble free. I am not far from you. I am in you, with you, above you and below you." (As Swami said this to the people assembled in the hall, it was like a flashback of how the people would have heard the voice! The divine was reassuring His children!) And so every year, Bali comes up to see his people on this day and people wait for him. They have a head bath, get decorated, wear new dresses and prepare good food as offerings to him. They enjoy themselves and ever since, the tradition of Onam has continued. Rains also begin first in the state of Kerala during this time. For fruits and vegetables and all edibles, water is a necessity. People often question, "Have the rains not yet begun in Kerala?" in order to estimate when they would receive the rains.


God who stays at one place, takes care of people everywhere. Water is life and life is God. God is all pervasive. He is one and not two - Ekam Sat Vipraha bahuda vadanti. To go by names is only an illusion. The Sun is only one but it is seen in different times in US and in India. But the Sun is the same. God also manifests according to the circumstances and time. The same God comes in different forms - Ekoham Bahusyam. Since our thoughts are different, we get the different forms of God.

Kerala is God's gift and the people there advance in life because of this fact. Kerala is a very small place but the peace and bliss there are infinite. That is because of the individuals who are there. The people of Kerala respect age. They please their elders and serve them. True service is seen there. That is because the people there have daiva Preeti (love for God) and Paapa Bhaathi (fear of sin). Therefore there is morality in society. Morality is of paramount importance. Only Neethi (morality) makes you eligible to be part of the Jaathi (human race). Speak the Truth and do righteous deeds. Make efforts to be worthy followers of emperor Bali.

Consider your mother and father and elders as you would consider Bali. First place is given to mother, then to the father and finally to God. Wherever you maybe, whatever the age or time, never forget your mother. Love and respect your mother. In Kerala, the elderly are escorted and supported always. On Onam, they are given new clothes and made happy. So, always love, respect and please your elders. God will come and take you to Vaikuntha (heaven). What is the significance of Onam? It is to think of God with a pure body, mind and feelings.

The people make special food on this day. They make 12 types of puddings with bananas! And all of them are tasty. That is because they make it with a pure heart. They make it as an offering to God. Others cook one item and they are exhausted. But people of Kerala keep serving one item after another. They consider the heart as an altar of god and prepare food with holy thoughts. So Onam is not an ordinary festival. It is a day to follow the ideals of Bali. Give up all your doubts and consider your heart as the temple of God. Love all and Serve all. There is no greater penance than this. Prostrate to whoever comes, even if he is your enemy. Lead a life of unity. That is true human nature. Acquire morality through love for God. Keep in mind the three principles - Love for God, Fear of Sin and Morality in Society. Without these you are not a human. Develop character and humility more and more.

Now move and make some space. The children will put up a drama.

Immediately the marble blocks were cleared and the children putting up the drama came forward to make their offerings to Swami. The drama was entitled “Bhakta Nandanar”, and was being done by the students of Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar, Aluva.

Bhakta Nandanar was one of the celebrated devotees of Lord Shiva, belonging to the famous Nayanar saints of South India.  The drama had few incidents from the life of Nandanar, who was an epitome of true, pure and unsullied devotion. There were the episodes where the little Nandanar is cured of his high fever with just vibhuti, the wonder of the huge stone Nandi moving metres to the side to give the great devotee a chance to see his Lord and finally how the Lord does harvesting of more than forty acres of fields so that Nandanar could visit Chidambaram to see his favourite diety.

Swami seemed to be gripped in the emotions of the drama. There were powerful songs that were sung so beautifully that anyone understanding them seemed to express his/her appreciation through the language of tears! It must be credited to the creators of the drama that the effect of the huge bull Nandi, set in stone, moving across the hall with apparently no one being involved was jaw-dropping. It was achieved by the efforts of two people hiding under the idol! At about 6:00 p.m., Swami made a visit to the interview room to get gifts for the children who had apparently won Him over so completely.

As He returned, He asked the photographer seated there, "How is the drama?" "Very nice, Swami!" "Tamil? Malayalam?" "Swami Kannada! But I understood!" Swami was so moved and He told the State President that the children had done very well. As the drama concluded, the children came together in the final formation.

Swami called "Nandanar" to the stage and created a beautiful golden chain for 'him'. The grateful children from the school fervently prayed to Swami thanking Him profusely for the grand boon bestowed upon them. Swami moved down to pose for a photo session. Clothes were distributed to all the thirty two participants. A bhajan was sung after which Swami asked for aarthi. Meanwhile, the photograph of "Nanadanar" receiving the chain was given to Him and He called the child and gave it away! Blessing everyone gathered profusely, Swami retired for the day.

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