June 27, 2009 – Parthi Yatra of East and West Godavari Beneficiaries

The people from the Tribal Agency areas of the East and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh arrived at Prasanthi Nilayam on their first ever Parthi Yatra (pilgrimage to Puttaparthi) on June 27, 2009. More than 900 of them had gathered to express their deep love and gratitude to Swami for gifting them life and livelihood. The work that has been done by the volunteers of the Sathya Sai Organisation in the hilly tribal areas of Godavari where inhabitants still live by hunting and collecting forest fruits and flowers in the dense and dark jungles is so phenomenal that it has to be attributed to sheer human perseverance backed by Divine Love. Please read our cover story “The Copious Stream of Pure Love” to know more about this incredible work.

The Mandir had been decorated by the people from Godavari with festoons and banners. The opening banner read, "Salutations from the residents of the hills" in Telugu.

Swami arrived for darshan at 3:50 p.m. During the darshan rounds, He looked up quite a few times, presumably at the decorations that hung in the Sai Kulwant Hall. The students had not yet arrived and so there was a vast empty space in the centre. This turned out to be a blessing of sorts for the devotees as Swami's gaze was always on them. Swami took a complete round and then moved to the stage. Sitting on the stage, swaying to the Vedic chants and looking so beautiful, Swami granted to these simple devotees from the hills what they had pined for – His sublime darshan.

The Lord of Love arrives to witness
a festival of love
 
The eager devotees are thrilled to present their offerings and seek His blessings

At about 4:30 p.m., He asked for the programme to begin. As has become the 'norm' now, tens of people from the ladies’ and gents’ side came forward to offer bouquets, lamp-lighting candles, roses, cards et al. Of late, this in itself takes up about 10-15 minutes. So Swami gently told many of them to be seated and granted abhayahastha to assuage their expectant hearts. He accepted the offerings from a few people and the message seemed clear - "Begin the programme! I am very eager to see it!" And thus is was that Dr. Bhaskar Rao, a medical doctor by profession and a veteran devotee cum active functionary of the Organisation dilated at length on the Sri Sathya Sai Village Integrated Programme (SSSVIP) programmes being implemented by the Organisation in these districts.

A continous stream of Sai Grace
 
Dr. Bhaskar Rao introduces the programme

As he spoke, it became increasingly clear that the name SSSVIP was no coincidence. Swami has literally outlined every detail for the uplift and welfare of the village people. God taking so much interest and showering immense love on anyone definitely makes them VIPs! The Sai Organisation in these hilly areas have taken up 44 out of more than 400 villages in the first phase and have literally transformed them into ideal villages envisaged by Swami. You can read more about this in Part-1 and Part-2 of the June 2009 H2H cover story. After the 25 minute speech, which was both enlightening and moving, Dr. Bhaskar Rao concluded with a prayer that Swami visit the Godavari districts. Swami immediately said, "I will." The profundity of this little statement was discovered over the next two days also as incidents where Swami had been seen in the hills were narrated!

To begin the procession, a tribal, decked in all traditional finery and holding a decorated insignia, came forward and spoke aloud expressing his gratitude to Swami. The Lord smiled and in the meanwhile, a little boy went up to Him with a plate containing a scroll. Swami looked at it keenly and rolling it back, He blessed him and lovingly pulled his cheeks, much to the joy of everyone assembled. Then, like in the kingly days of yore, people came forward offering Swami the plants and produce of their fertile hills. The forest products were all placed on the steps in front of Swami.

 
A love story - so sweet, so sublime!

After that the traditional dances unfurled gracefully in the Divine Presence. To start with, a group of youth beating drums performed the ‘Konda Reddla Dappu Vinyasam’, an art featuring synchronization of their drum beats. The next was ‘Koyadorala Kommu Nrithyam’ by the Koya tribals who were dressed with bull horns. They locked horns with each other in mock combat. The Garga dance, performed by the villagers to appease the goddess of the village, was constituted by people balancing small containers on their heads. Stilt walking by children and the traditional Kolattam dance (dancing with sticks) was performed with élan by these villagers.

Swami is happy and moved...
 
The tribals perform with all their heart

Next was the peacock dance performed extremely well by a little girl. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the viewers felt that there was a peacock that looked like a girl and not the other way! The theme of that was simple like all others. Hunters try to kill the peacock which rushes to take refuge at Swami's feet. This act has a transforming influence on the hunters. It went down very well with the audience and Swami seemed so happy.


 

The final dance was so touching as it depicted the river, Mother Godavari, requesting Swami to bless her with the touch of His Lotus Feet and relieve her from the burden of sins of all the devotees bathing in her!(It is believed that a holy dip in the Godavari washes away ones sins.)

Swami made a brief visit to the interview room and when He came out, white cloth pieces and sarees also were brought and stacked behind Him. The dances were done wholly by the tribals and featured both boys and girls performing separately. The whole programme was backed by beautiful and apt music and soul stirring commentary.

There came a point when Swami seemed thrilled with joy. This happened when the narrator explained as to how the police inspector of the area had said, "Your Baba is really God. He has eradicated naxalism from our area. And He has done it not with any of the weapons that we use, but with sheer Love." Naxalism is a result of the growing divide between the haves and have nots where the latter desperately take to radical measures for survival.

"Mother Godavari" offers
her salutations
 

Swami once again demonstrated for all to experience and imbibe the power and transforming ability of love and selfless service.

Swami saw that all the children had been seated at the back. He asked them to move front near the stage. The children came and sat in supreme discipline and Swami so lovingly moved down the stage. He went up and down the path in between the children asking many of them their names and age. It was such a lovely scene. As the youth and children reached out to His feet, Swami also reached out to bless them by placing His hands on their heads. His arms were all the while extended, blessing the tribals.

Love flows and overflows...
 
The innocent tribals are awe-struck

Swami then sat for group photos with them. He told the photographers that He would bless the girls also with the photo opportunity. The simple-minded tribals just sat in reverence and awe as Swami advised them to make a place for Him in the middle.After that, Bhagavan moved to the stage. White cloth pieces for the boys and sarees for the girls were blessed for distribution.

Loving gifts from the Lord
 
The chance of a lifetime

Prasadam distribution also began simultaneously. Swami enquired about the next day's programme as bhajans by devotees continued to fill the air. At 6:15 p.m., Swami received aarthi and as the mantra for Universal Peace was being chanted, He raised both His hands in blessings. With a loving smile and words expressing His happiness, Swami retired for the day.

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