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November 15, 2008 – Sahasra Poorna Chandra Darshana Mahayagna Begins

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A grand nightly view of the stage made for the yajnam
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The much awaited day of the Sahasra Poorna Chandra Darshana Mahayagna finally arrived on November 15. The Sun also seemed to be in a hurry to come out and see the beginning of the day! Crowds were slowly flowing into Puttaparthi and though the resources available in the Spiritual Capital of the Universe had not yet been tested to the hilt, massive preparations were on for the inflow that was expected especially for the concluding day. If one has the chance to go through reservations archive of the roadways and railways to Puttaparthi and Bangalore, and the Airways to Bangalore during this season, one would notice a waiting list that was only the tip of the iceberg of the "waiting list" of people wanting to be here for the occasion. And all this is only because of the interest that Swami has taken up for this Yagnam. And He has involved Himself so much because this Yagnam is for the welfare of humanity. It is a self-reinforcing circle of Love - the Lord jumps in whenever and wherever the devotees' welfare is concerned, and for the devotee, welfare lies wherever and whenever the Lord jumps into any activity!

Apart from the arrangements for food and shelter for the inflow of devotees at the Mandir, massive preparations had been made for the devotees at the venue – the Vidyagiri stadium - itself. Huge screens had been erected which could be seen easily and clearly even in broad daylight so that the activities of the Lord could be "magnified" to the "correct scale" for all to see! The sound systems were in place and seating arrangements were elaborate. The entire ground had been covered with waterproofing polymer material and it looked like a giant and neatly trimmed lawn. There was a temporary medical centre with qualified doctors to attend over any small illnesses like nausea and headaches. It had only basic medicines but the general hospital and Super Specialties hospital nearby continued to work with the staff sacrificing the joys of seeing Swami for the joy of serving Him in devotees, and that more than made up the elaborate and wholesome complete medical attention that the devotees might have needed. All gates were thrown open and "welcome all" was the body language of the never tiring and ceaselessly working sevadals. The arrangements for the residence, food and rest for the priests themselves were complete and more on the gratifying than a satisfying note!

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The stadium starts filling...
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Coming to the actual proceedings of the day itself, Swami arrived into the Vidyagiri stadium shortly after 9 a.m. in the Porte car. The energy and enthusiasm levels just shot up. With the mere sight of the gray of Swami's car, all the grayness of the morning got replaced with the vibrant colours of love and adulation for the Lord. Swami's car slowly moved on the road alongside the ladies’ galleries and reached the lift on the western end of the stage. As Swami came out, an orange dot in the huge stadium, all the giant screens came alive with His form and the crowd rejoiced. In fact, it was a beautiful sight to see the car on the road and the car in the screen too as the car actually passed by the screen. Swami slowly came onto the lift and soon was on the stage. Simultaneously crackers went off at the Hanuman statue in celebration of His arrival.

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Swami's arrival raised the crowd to their feet
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The giant screens ensured that none miss the action
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A smile and blessing as He moves out of the car
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The stage awaited for the touch of His feet
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The stage setting too was something so grand and divine that any description would not be able to give the complete idea. The eyes would have to see the myriad colours of the flowers and the beautiful form of Lord Venkateshwara completely bedecked with flowers and jeweled finery right in the centre stage.

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The Lord of the Seven hills to preside over!
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It is said that whenever there is the Sahasra Chandra Darshanam celebrated, an elder blesses the one completing the "thousand moon sighting." It was as if the Lord of the seven hills had come to bless Swami for the occasion for who else can confer blessings upon the Lord other than the Lord Himself? The ears would have to hear the chants of the priests and Swami's beloved students who were rightly charged up from the minute one! That combined with the music and the naadaswaram seemed to conjure some celestial harmony. The nose would have to breathe in the wafting fragrance of the incense and the fresh fruits and flowers. The tongue would have to taste the sweetness of the name that pervaded the entire stage and the skin would have to sense the powerful vibrations that seemed to resound and resonate with the gently twirling of Swami's hands. And now, to get an idea of what it felt on the stage, all of the above would have to be combined and felt in an instant!

Swami was welcomed onstage with the Poorna Kumbham amidst chanting by the priests and the students. Swami moved through the stage blessing all the ritwiks who had gathered there. As He neared the students, He had a tiny smile that escaped the corner of His lips – He was proud, and that pride stemmed from the fact that His students had mastered the Vedic hymns and were today chanting on the same level alongside the ritwiks from all over the country.

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A traditional welcome
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He has a special place for His students there too
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Once He reached the shrine in the centre of the stage, He gave permission for the Yagnam to begin. Morning rituals included the chanting of the names of Lord Ganesha, the Lord who removes obstacles, a hundred thousand times followed by Sahasra Modaka Ganapathi Homam by 62 rithwiks from the Sringeri Sharada Peetham. This was followed by Shatha Rudra Abhishekam and Navagraha Japam — chanting of 10,000 names for each of the nine grahas, which was to continue till evening. Of the 12 homa kundas, only three were lit for the day, one each for Maha Ganapathi Homam, Sudarshana Homam and Maha Mruthyunjaya Homam. Lakshmi Narayana Puja was performed to the main deity of Sahasra Poorna Chandra Darshanam. Now, the rituals performed on the stage are so vast in their content and significance that one can go on writing volumes about them. Let us concentrate on Swami's reactions and actions instead.

After a few minutes in the center, Swami wanted to grant darshan to all the devotees who had gathered there braving the heat of the Sun and tedium of waiting for hours to see their sweet Lord. Forgive the inappropriate language! For the devotee, waiting for the Lord is never tedious. The very thought of the sight of the Lord seems to tingle energy into the enervated nerves and muscles. Swami moved till the very end of the stage and as He saw His beloved devotees sitting, His eyes lit up. There was such a joyous response on the devotees' side too. The Lord and His devotees seem to become one, lost in the bliss of seeing each other. Swami was the Sun from whom the green lawns of the devotees derived their life from! After a while, Swami moved slowly on the stage. Everywhere, some activity was on and those chanting were lost in their own worlds.

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No mega screen matches the
joy of seeing Him directly...
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...And they will surely
vouch for that!
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The time then came for the sacred fire to be lit. The priests came together and the ceremonial churning and rubbing of wooden blocks to produce fire in the most natural way began. The experience during the yagnam at Dusshera is that the fire springs to life in a minute or two. But this day, the "spark" seemed to be missing! After the sweaty efforts of half a dozen or so priests, the sweet Lord volunteered, "Shall I bless?" It was then that the to-be embers were brought up for His blessings. The touch of that Hand that has lighted up many lives brought life into the embers too and in a few moments after that, the "spark" seemed to have arrived! The wisps of smoke came and the fledgling fire was held up for all to see. Finally, the Yagna kundam was roaring and alive.

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Waiting for that "elusive spark"!
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The sacred fire is lit and offerings begin!
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Swami then continued His rounds to various corners of the stage. His sole concern seemed to be for those souls seated in the stadium pining to see Him. He moved through the priests and along the students who were chanting the Vedas. Then, cutting through them, He arrived at the east side of the stage and sitting by the receptacles holding waters of all the holy rivers, He became the ocean into which all the rivers of devotion from the gents’ side merged into. He then moved to the western side of the extended Shanti Vedika and mirrored the actions performed at the other side. He blessed the ladies this time and they were so happy.

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Granting darshan to those in the gents' galleries...
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...and then to those on the ladies' side
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Just there, there were priests who were performing the sashtang namaskars (lying fully prostrate). Swami sat for a while watching them as they went about religiously and athletically performing it. They stood on one leg and revolved around 360 degrees many times. Then they did what can be called as the religious equivalent of the athletic pushups. Seeing the rigour they were going through, one could not help but well in gratitude for the simple ways of pleasing the Lord that Swami has prescribed for all of us. Swami continued moving around and spoke to some of the ritwiks. All of them were vying for a picture with Him and it was indeed an amusing sight to see the Vedic ritwiks take out mobile phones to take His picture! Anything done to capture God is justified! Swami similarly moved to the back side of the stage where more rituals were in progress. He cast His gracing glance on all and it was indeed a very fulfilling feeling for everyone.

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The rigours of the ritwiks!
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The Poornahuthi for the day is performed
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The Poornahuthi or complete offering to the sacrificial fire was done. Each day, different Homams were scheduled and their respective poornahuthis would be done on that day itself. The priest came with the bundle of offerings to Swami and the Lord blessed it to be lowered into the fire. After spending more than 90 minutes going around the different parts of the stage and blessing the entire congregation, Swami accepted arati at 10:25 a.m. before retiring to His Divine Abode. The Navagraha Japam continued till 12:30 p.m. In the afternoon, Sudarshana Japam has been scheduled to be from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., and Sundarshana Homam from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

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Mangala Aarthi in full public view
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Its goodbye and Sairam for the day
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In the afternoon, Swami arrived at Sai Kulwant Hall at 5.20 p.m. He moved through the ladies’ side and it was the detour through the Primary children then. It was the penultimate day of the Bhagawatha Saptaham and the decoration of Govardhanagiri (the hill Lord Krishna lifted to save the cowherds of Vrindavan from prosecution by Indra, the king of devas and rain) was done on the idol of Venugopala Swami. The idol was beautifully placed on a swing, with priests continuously swaying the Lord. After 15 minutes, the speaker for the day was introduced. Dr. Rajagopala Chakravarthy spoke for an hour on the stories of Ambareesa and Kuchela, with references to nuances from other Shastras. King Ambarisha’s story is another powerful reminder of the fact that the Lord can be won only by love and devotion and that only the devotee is stronger than the Lord! Sage Durvasa, famous for his anger, loses temper when the king breaks his fast, so the auspicious time is not past by sipping a few drops of water before the sage has eaten.

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The decked 'Govardhanagiridhaari' idol
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Dr. Rajagopala Chakravarthy
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When he creates a demon to kill the king, the chakra of Lord Vishnu appears and annihilates the demon and almost does the same to sage Durvasa too but he is saved as he falls at Ambarisha's feet. Kuchela or Sudhama was Krishna's poor friend whom the Lord remembered and redeemed. The Lord never forgets anyone. As the speaker concluded, Swami created a gold chain for him. As he gratefully fell at Swami's feet and accepted the chain, Swami showered him with clothes and blessed him.

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Thrilled to recieve from the divine hands...
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He has only smiles to speak of his joy
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The next programme was a classical Carnatic concert by the Priya sisters - Shanmukha Priya and Hari Priya. The Priya sisters began their concert at 6.30 p.m. and sang for nearly an hour. The first song was an invocation to Lord Ganesh in Raga Naatai – Mahaganapatim Manasasmarami. That seemed only like a warm up for what was to come. They sang many popular songs and to name a few - Bantureeti Koluviyyavayya Rama… sung in Hamsa Nada Raga, Mudakarata Modakam Sadavimukti Sadhakam… in Yamuna Kalyani Raga, Jo Achyuthananda Jo Jo Mukunda… in Neelambari Raga. This song, which is specifically sung as a lullaby song, had a special significance on the evening of this day’s programme because Lord Venugopala Swami was being continuously swayed in the swing. The highlight song however was a bhajan - Jai Maa Jai Maa Jagadeeshwari Sai Maa. The timing of that bhajan was such a divine drama. 

As the sisters sat on that part of the stage which had the rods in front blocking the view, the cameraman giving the live feed into the huge display screen in Sai Kulwant Hall seemed to struggle to get a good view to be screened for all to see. At precisely that moment, Swami said that He wanted to go into the interview room. Taking this break, the cameraman readjusted and within minutes there was a good view on the screen. All were happy to witness on the big screen what they could never see with their eyes. And exactly then, Swami came out of the interview room and the sisters began that bhajan. Swami had a sweet smile on His face and that was picture perfect for the outpouring of devotion and emotions that the raga of that bhajan elicits from the listeners and singers alike! As they completed their concert, Swami blessed them with sarees and photos. It was 7:30 p.m. as Swami retired to the Yajur Mandir.

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The wonderful efforts of the Priya sisters...
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...and their apt reward!
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November 16, 2008 – The Second Day of Sahasra Chandra Darshana Mahayagna

The second day of the Yagna had a different kind of start. If it was the Sun that came out early to see Him the previous day, it was the turn of the clouds and rain to do so this day. The day was a ‘Sun’day but it stopped at that! From early in the morning, what began as heavy showers reduced to a gentle drizzle that went on and on. But that could not dampen in the least the spirits of the devotees. In this context, it is important that we flashback to a few weeks earlier when Swami was inspecting the stage being constructed. At that time, Swami had suddenly asked about what would be the case if it happened to rain during the yagnam. People were taken aback a bit because rains in the heart of winter at Puttaparthi are something that are rare if not absent. And even if it would rain, it would be so less that a least bit of protection would suffice. Here it is pertinent to recollect what Swami Himself declared during His Vijayadashami discourse, "Sathyanarayana does not speak even one word lightly. It is always Truth, Truth and Truth." He knew that the heavens would open out for even the gods above would have loved to be a part of this grand event!

As stated before, the rains could do nothing to wash away the enthusiasm of the devotees pouring down on Puttaparthi. In fact, greater than the rains were the flocks of devotees as it was the weekend too. Anything that could afford some protection from the rains was used by the devotees. Umbrellas, raincoats, plastic bags and even kerchiefs were used as defense against the rain. The downpour also induced camaraderie and unity as dozens of people spread huge plastic sheets above them and held them that way as they moved about in herds. Umbrellas dotted the huge stands and it was so amazing to see that people still wanted to catch the front seats and await the Lord. Meanwhile, the huge screens in Sai Kulwant Hall too were active in case anybody wanted to sit in the shelter there and have a look at the proceedings going on. The proceedings on the stage were different from the ones the previous day.

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The heavy downpour fizzled at their devotion...
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Waiting eagerly for His arrival
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Two main rituals for the second day of the Yagna were Satharudra Abhishekam and Maha Mrithyunjaya Homam. Satharudra Abhishekham was performed to the Sayeeshwara Lingam that was consecrated during the Ati Rudra Maha Yagna held in the year 2006. Abhishekham was done to the Lingam with milk, curds, clarified butter, turmeric paste, sugar, vibhuthi (holy ash), coconut water, etc. Maha Rudrabhishekam is performed invoking greater benediction from Lord Rudra. As each of these items were offered under strict religious discipline with accompaniment of vedic mantras, the Linga that was charged by the Divine hands during the Atirudra Ceremony was shining in splendour evoking nostalgic memories. The Sarva Veda Shaka parayanam (where all the branches of the Vedas come together) was also on.

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A new occupant on stage!
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It was about 9:30 a.m. as Swami arrived and there were two huge tuskers waiting to welcome Him. The pachyderms, procured from Kerala, were well trained and they stood in all their might and glory on either side of the Vedika (dais). As Swami came out of the car, a colourful and wide umbrella was held above Him denying Varuna devata (the God of water) His chance of sparshan with the Lord! But He satisfied him too as He took on the fine micro-droplets that fell on Him, bouncing off the nearby surfaces. Swami then came on stage and everything seemed to gather life and momentum. Especially the students chanting Vedam became so charged and they drowned all other chanting on the stage. Very soon Swami was at the centre of things and the stage when his holiness Parama Pujya Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, the Pontiff of Avadhoota Datta Peetham at Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Ashrama in Mysore, came on stage paying obeisance to Swami. He was escorted to Swami and the Lord blessed him with a smile. He enjoyed the rare honour and privilege of sitting on a chair beside Swami and was also blessed with a few words from Him.

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Man and beast alike rejoiced as He came
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Watching the lingabhishekam from up close
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The "orange" of "sacrifice" seemed all pervasive
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Sri Ganapati Sachidananda Swamiji is blessed!
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As is the case always, Swami's heart was with His devotees. And the fact that they were enduring the rain to just glimpse Him made Him get irresistibly attracted to the front of the stage. It was a sight to see. As Swami reached there, all the umbrellas rose higher and plastic sheets got dropped as people prostrated from their places to Him. Swami was saying, "Paapam" (poor ones) seeing that the people were getting wet. A few minutes after this the drizzle also subsided. The tuskers, trained in the temple traditions, raised their trunks in salute to Swami and the crowd cheered this act of the huge tusked mammoths. Swami seemed amused as He saw them perform the pranam without even being aware of what they were doing (or maybe they were aware and it is we who think that it was their training that made them do so!). Whatever be the case, it was a wonderful sight. The stage atmosphere was magnificent what with 150 priests sitting around chanting Vedic mantras and performing rituals along with 150 boys chanting the powerful Rudram. Once again, like the previous day, Swami moved to various sides and corners of the stage, blessing devotees gathered there and having a look at the rituals being performed.

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Swami watches on...
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...as the tusker salutes
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The Maha Mrithyunjaya Homam was done, invoking immortality for all the living beings. The two hour long homam was done by the Chief Priest for the Yagnam. With the accompaniment of holy chants and with Swami presiding over, Poornahuthi was offered to the Yagna Purusha. This whole Yagna had been called the "Vishwa Prapancha Maha Yagna" as it is being done for the welfare of all humanity. It was 10:30 a.m. when Swami retired to Yajur Mandir.

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The day's Poornahuthi is performed
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Face to Face with The Lord!
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The evening saw Swami entering the swelled up Sai Kulwant Hall at 4:40 p.m. As Swami came to the dais, the priests started abhishekam (ceremonial sacred bath) of the idols of Lord Krishna, and also Rukmini and Sathyabhama (the consorts of Lord Krishna). The abhishekam was done with religious fervour accompanied by the chanting of Vedas by students and priests. As the ceremonial bathing of the idols with milk, curd, honey, diluted sandal paste, tender coconut and Kumkum continued in the traditional way, the students chanted Sri Rudram, Purusha Suktam, Sri Suktam, Bhu Suktam and Narayana Upanishad from the Vedas. After each ceremonial bathing with water, the idols were dried with soft cloth and arati was offered to the Lord. Lord Krishna with His consorts was garlanded with different types of garlands. If it was Tulasi (basil) garland one time, it was a fragrant rose garland next time. The entire ritual was performed with such scrupulousness and devotion. An LED screen placed at the eastern side of the Hall, gave a view of the entire landscape of the proceedings. After completing the abhishekams, elaborate decoration was done on the idols. It was a sight to watch the Lord and His consorts adorned with jewels and gems of exquisite beauty and diadems on the head. After this, it was the turn of Sahasraavadhani Medasani Mohan, another erudite scholar to conclude the proceedings of the Bhagavata Saptaham. He dilated at length on Sri Krishna Leela, right from the Lord's birth to His killing of demons and His childhood pranks.

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The bath with milk...
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...and the one with honey
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Scented water as a grand finale
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Beautifully decked and ready for the evening
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If it was the mellifluous rendition of Priya sisters the previous day, it was the beautiful compositions and their singing in ornate style by Malladi Brothers from Vijayawada this day. All their songs were sung in Carnatic classical style. Bhagawan released a DVD "Sai Naada Jhari" sung by the brothers. As it was being released, a song from the album, Sai Namasmaranam Sada Rupa Dhyanam was played on the public address system. Their father, who also happens to be their Guru, gave a lead to the songs in the form of a verse melodiously. They sang out many renditions of the poems composed on Swami by the devotee poet Santhisri Jandhyala Papayya Shastri. Ramadas and Thyagaraja kirtans adorned their presentations. One beautiful composition that won many accolades was one which said, "Swami, I have taken Your Grace and blessings in times of misery without Your knowledge. I am thus a thief and so please hold me and never let me go!" Among other songs, the song for the occasion was Sathya Paritraana, Dharma Paala, Santhi Varada, Prema Swarupa Sai… This raga "Sai Chandrika" needs special mention here as it was invented by Malladi Brothers themselves. Sai Chandrika is the derivative of Kokila Priya Raga, which is the 11th raga in the list of 72 Mela Kartha Ragas (fundamental ragas) in the Carnatic School of Music. Since it was the 83rd Birthday of Bhagawan, the 11th raga in Carnatic music, i.e., 83 subtracted by 72 Mela Kartha Ragas was chosen as the raga for this song.

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"Sai Naada Jhari" is released
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Lost in the joy of singing His glories
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As they concluded their concert, Swami blessed them with silk clothes. He also blessed prasadam to be distributed to all before receiving aarthi and leaving for Yajur Mandir.

November 17, 2008 – The Glorious Final Day of the Sahasra Chandra Darshana Mahayagna

On November 17, the wonderful day dawned. A day for which everyone had eagerly waited for and had borne with many hardships as though they were great pleasures, a day which would get etched in the hearts of people and humanity for times to come as a sample of the glory and grandeur of God on earth. In an act of great Love and kindness, Swami had agreed to arrive into the Yagnashala in the golden chariot! More often than not when History is made, those that are part of it scarcely realize its worth and magnitude. But that was not the case when History ("His Story, God's Story") was etched in Gold on November, the 17 th 2008 at Prasanthi Nilayam. The significance of the occasion was not lost to the thousands of devotees who had thronged to the Hill View Stadium. In the wee hours of a chill November morning they waited for the Sun of their lives to arrive. They yearned to celebrate His life that had presided over a thousand moons, the thousand moons being a metaphor. They had gathered to celebrate His presiding over the minds (the mind is compared to the moon) of men, directing the thought of the world towards goodness and godliness.

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Waiting for the Sanathana Sarathi
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People started filing in great numbers to the Hill View stadium. They came in various modes - by foot, on motor vehicles, cycle rickshaws, on crutches, in wheelchairs - you name it and it was there. From all directions, people were headed towards the ground. The name "Sairam" continuously emanated from the lips and hearts of everyone. The charging in the atmosphere must have been felt and one could relive it throughout one’s life. The speakers in the stadium were pouring out songs specially recorded for the occasion by top artists of India - Shankar Mahadevan, S.P.Balasubramanyam and Hariharan. The stands were full and people were just flowing in. Surely, there would be many absentees on this Monday in offices everywhere for though not a holiday, it was a holy-day of unprecedented proportions. The golden chariot was waiting in the Primary School premises. It surely would have known the great privilege it was being granted this day. It seemed to be sparkling with even greater shine and one felt that a smile could be noticed on the faces of the golden horses that were drawing the chariot. One just had to move through the crowds and the pulsating energy and vibrating excitement could easily be felt. There was an anticipative joy everywhere and everyone was aware that they were about to witness something that would be passed down generations as a legend. Generations to come would surely say, "My (great) grandfather/grandmother/uncle/aunt saw the Lord on the golden chariot!"

Swami arrived to the Primary School premises in the Porte car and as He came out, everyone in the proximity let out gasps of joy as the Lord was dressed in resplendent golden yellow. A mere sight of Him moistened the eyes nearby and like a flash of lightning, news spread in the stadium that the Lord was in the pitambara. The traditional "control rod" of the chariot was presented to Swami and He accepted and blessed it.

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The "golden" surprise that He had planned!
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Mr. Chettiar presents the sceptre
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This meant that He had granted His permission for the chariot to move. A beautiful wooden lift got its own line in this glorious page of history as it conveyed the Lord up the chariot. Once Swami was seated, the gates were thrown open and the chariot began to move. A wonderful song struck up the melody and everyone watched with gaping mouths as Swami came out into the Sun from the shade. The sight of Swami on the “Suvarna Ratham” erupted goose bumps on the skin. It is not even the slightest exaggeration to say that even the Sun seemed to pale in front of that majesty. People began to spontaneously cry and there were tears flowing generously everywhere. Everyone rose up and stretched out their hands with palms facing Swami in order to grasp some of that splendorous glory.

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Ah! The glory.....
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....spontaneous and moving expressions
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No one seemed to know how to react. Mothers and fathers burst out in tears. The children too were crying. And at the same time, all were beaming their best smiles. Many old people strained their eyes and exuded feelings that their lives had been sanctified. A peaceful smile lit up their faces. But that was the case even with the youngsters...and the women ....and the priests - with just everyone who were witnessing it. It was a conglomeration of powerful positive emotions.  And amidst that powerful storm of emotions, Swami sat so serene and beautiful, gently swaying His hands and a lovely smile dancing on His lips. The sight in itself was maddeningly beautiful and is one of those for which souls wait for births together to view. A huge procession led the chariot. The Institute brass band and the students of the Vedam chanting were followed by the huge tuskers and finally the baby Gita who also seemed to realize the magnificence of the event.

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The regal procession moves gently...
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...led by the little Gita
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Oh! What a sight it was, a sight for all mankind. The crowd burst into raptures at so marvelous a scene. There were two Suns out there; one up in the heavens and another upon the earth. Dazzling and soothing alike, unmoved yet propelling, aloof but alluring, a tender sunflower and a diamond studded in gold, grand and godly, the King arrived upon a hill of gold. The devotees gaped openhearted, drinking every moment, to slake the thirst of their souls, to imprint in their hearts a golden moment when the Lord arrived gliding in gold. There were two Suns nay there were thousands; in the glistening eyes of every devotee there was embossed the flame of gold. Oh! What a sight it was, a sight for the gods.

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The unforgettable experience nears culmination
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In the villages it is said that if one wants to watch the Sun one gets ready to get ones eyes burnt. So one is advised to mix cow dung in water and look at the reflection of the Sun in that blackened water. That way, one can watch the Sun and also be safe. Looking at Swami, the joy that would burst through one’s being would make one just drop down in sheer ecstasy. Like looking at the Sun through its reflection, it was enough to see the reflection of that sheer joy in the faces of the devotees. They were absolutely crazed with joy. As it was told by many later on, everyone felt that Swami granted them a special glance.

The omnifelicity that our Lord has to be added to the list of His attributes of omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience. The people who pulled the chariot, on their part, tugged it so very gently and slowly, and won the blessings of thousands who were blessed with that beautiful darshan. How much ever is written, the feelings, emotions and spiritual ecstasy that coursed through all cannot be captured. It was like being transported into another surreal world completely devoid of worries of any kind with only sheer joy to be offered to all.

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An ocean of humanity pays homage
to the ocean of compassion
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As the procession moved on, Swami gently blessed the devotees assembled everywhere. And His upraised hand on this day seemed to be conferring special blessings if one were to read the reactions on the faces of those in whose direction Swami blessed. Explosions went off at the Hanuman statue but they were reduced to a miniscule in effect compared to the explosions of joy in hearts. It was definitely one of those times when the Lord out of His infinite Love decides to confer on all, irrespective of all distinctions, a blessing that would transform them for times to come - a blessing that has no reason or rationale, for that is the nature of Divine Love. Personally, we feel that we have not seen anything grander in our lives nor would we ever see it again, unless of course Swami repeats History or ‘His Story’ as He refers to it! The Sanathana Sarathi was in His chariot and what else is there to be said?

18 Divine minutes of some of the most beautiful times since the Big Bang later, Swami reached the stage. There, before moving onto the stage, Swami sat on the chariot watching the thousands and spreading that aura of uncontrollable joy to all. Then He slowly moved onto the stage where He was welcomed by the traditional Poornakumbham. Earlier the proceedings for the final day began at 6:30 a.m. with Ganapathi pooja and special sankalpa for the homam.

The priests, in groups, gathered around the 10 homa kundas offering ghee and boiled rice with the accompaniment of Vedic chanting, that went on for almost 2 hours. After Swami entered the Yagna Vedika, this being the concluding day, the Lakshminarayana Poornahuti was performed for the Yagna. The priests chanted sacred Vedic Mantras in unison, Veda chanting students chanted Sri Rudra Prasna, Purusha Suktam, Sri Suktam and Durga Suktam as Swami was giving darshan to devotees from the Vedika (dais). And Swami was just the same sweet self moving to all corners and sides of the Vedika granting darshan.  Another feature on this day was the wide array of Mathadipathis (heads of Maths) from different Maths of India. These luminaries are the heads of prominent Maths in India. They had come to share in the joy of this auspicious function and were also privileged to share the dais with Swami. They were: Sri Sri Sri Dr. Shivakumara Swamigalu, Head of Sri Siddaganga Math, Tumkur - a nonagenarian who also spoke a few words in Kannada on this occasion, Sri Jagadguru Madhwacharya, Mahasamsthana Pejawara Mathadeesha H.H. Sri Vishwesha Tirtha of the Dwaitha Matha, Sri Sri Sri 1008 Sri Sushameendra Thirtha from the Mantralayam Peetham, Sri Jagadguru Kanchi Kamakoti Peetadhipathi Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal. Also was present Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra who had the privilege of sharing the dais with Bhagawan and receiving His blessings.

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Greeted by spiritual personages
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Blessing them by mere sight
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The proceedings proceed towards fruition
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The head priest then came forward to seek Bhagavan's blessings to go ahead with the poornahuti (final offering marking the end of the holy sacrifice). Bhagavan consented and then proceeded to each of the 12 fire pits to personally supervise the poornahuti. Flowers, fruits, cereal, clothes along with copious amounts of ghee were offered to the presiding deities accompanied by holy chants. With Bhagavan going around to each of the pits, it appeared as if He personally arrived to accept the offerings being made to Him. He would sit sweetly braving the smoke. And then He materialised a golden chain for the priest at the end of the whole exercise. The poornahuti done, Bhagavan went about inspecting the Sooryanamaskars (prostrations to the Sun God), Sundarakanda parayana (Recital of the glory of Hanuman from The Valmiki Ramanaya) that had been diligently conducted for over three days. Having profusely blessed all the participants and satiated all, He went and seated Himself at the front of the stage from where He could be viewed by the thousands that had thronged to the Hill View stadium.

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The final Poornahuthi....
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Swami blessed one of the ritwiks with a gold chain
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And all the others with beautiful darshan
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The seers seated at the rear end of the stage followed and the front of the stage was now decorated with revered pontiffs with the Lord in their midst. It was so wonderful to see the bright yellow amidst the row of saffron. The various seers proceeded to personally pay their respects to Bhagavan and offer Him gifts on behalf of their sects. The TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam) Trust offered a Bhagavad Geeta. This most auspicious and holy function concluded with Jaikars “Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ki Jai” and the offering of aarati to Bhagavan at 11.00 a.m. Simultaneously, a helicopter came hovering above dropping confetti and paper-stars to add to the colour of the occasion. The teertham from the occasion was also dropped on all the devotees from the helicopter.

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The Glorious Golden God!
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The afternoon program was scheduled at 5:00 p.m. in the Sai Kulwant Hall. Bhagavan arrived at 4:30 p.m. in a chair. He proceeded to take a complete round through the devotees on both the sides before seating Himself on the stage. On the stage was set the resplendent idol of Lord Sri Krishna and Rukmini. The afternoon's proceeding was the symbolic and ceremonial marriage of Lord Sri Krishna and Rukmini. Bhagavan watched intently as the priest conducting the nuptial ceremony went through the proceedings in accordance with the Hindu marriage ritual. The significance of the event was to proclaim the union of Prakrithi (Mother Nature) and Paramathma (God). After the elaborate ceremony Bhagavan proceeded to give away gifts to the priests who had conducted the entire ritual.

The Mangalasutrams (‘Mangalasutram’ means an auspicious thread or cord or gold necklace) for the celestial wedding was first shown by a priest to the entire audience on either side. Then the gold necklaces were placed on the arm of Lord Krishna. After some time, the necklaces were removed and worn round the neck of Rukmini and Sathyabhama.

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The mangala sutram is blessed by Swami
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The Rukmini Kalyanam is performed
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Thus, the ceremonial wedding was performed to the thunderous applause of devotees. Flower garlands were exchanged between the idols of Sri Krishna and Rukmini and Sathyabhama. After this, there was a brief period of chanting of Sama Veda by the priests. Mahamangala arati was offered to the idols at the end of this ceremony. The priests chanted Vedic Mantras religiously standing in front of Sai Krishna. Bhagavan blessed the priests with mementoes. He then materialised a gold chain for the head priest of the Yagna, Sri Lakshminarayana Somayaji. Bhagawan then went amidst the priests of the Yagna. Then, as is His wont, (He can never stop giving) He went around giving a bonus round of darshan to the priests and then to all the devotees too.

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The sacred bond sworn in by fire
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The multiple lamps Aarthi for Krishna
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After the Rukmini Kalyanam, there was a concert by Ms. Mahalakshmi Iyer and party. She began her performance with a Marathi song, which was dedicated to Lord Ganesha and Guru (preceptor). Her second song was a Mira Bhajan and the third was a composition for the occasion, Sahasra Poorna Chandra Darshana Mahotsavam, the meaning of which was, "As long as there is water in the Ganges, may the Lord Sathya Sai live (!). Whatever the world may say, I should always love and worship You. I should always cling on to Your Lotus Feet." Some more popular songs followed culminating with the song, "Damadam Mast Kalandar …" which enlivened interest in the audience. One could see the audience joyfully clapping to the song. Swami then called the Malladi brothers to come and occupy the stage. They were quick to follow His instructions. Starting their performance with "Radha Sameta Krishna …” they followed it up with a livelier song, "Shambo Mahadeva ..." in Panthuvarali raga.

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Ms. Mahalakshmi Iyer and party
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The Malladi brothers join in the "party"
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And then, the master plan of the Lord became evident as all the pundits and scholars seated in the front began to sway and sing alongside the brothers as these were all songs that they knew well by heart! The brothers' concert of just 15 minutes met with vociferous following and the fact that they were in Telugu only added to their popular appeal. As they concluded, Swami gifted sarees and clothes to the first performers, and then to the latter performers too. Prasadam was distributed to all the devotees in the end. The arati for this memorable day was offered at 8.10 p.m. Thus, concluded the grand and glorious Sahasra Poorna Chandra Darshana Mahotsavam festival which will ever remain etched in the hearts of everyone who was present physically or emotionally at Prasanthi Nilayam.  

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Chaala Santosham - Very Happy!
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Dear reader, how do you like this section? Does it help or inspire you in anyway? Please share your reflections with us by writing to [email protected]g mentioning your name and country. Thank you for your time.

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- Heart2Heart Team

 

 
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Vol 6 Issue 12 - DECEMBER 2008
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