Volume 6 - Issue 06
JUNE - 2008
THE SPECTACULAR SAGA OF SAI IN KASHMIR
Kashmir, the confluence of Truth, Beauty and Goodness
Imagine being enveloped in pristine Nature! A fresh, cool breeze, soothing and reviving every pore of your being - you breathe-in a lung full and it feels like your body is renewed with new and pure cells. You are sitting, absolutely relaxed, on earth that is lush, green and unending; an unknown serenity pervades your senses. Majestic snow-capped mountains fill your vision – so white and pristine that they mesmerize you. As you stare at the tiny streams and springs that gleefully glide down the peaks through small mounds and little valleys, like a happy kid on a new bicycle, you are speechless at the innocent play of Nature. And then, you see the emerald green fields merging into a dense flora of blooming fruit, pine and chinar trees. The sky above, of course, is a clear canopy of soft blue – so beautiful that it feels ethereal.
Senses Subdued by the Serene Scenery
Wherever your eyes fall, it is a celebration of Nature – breathtakingly beautiful and picturesque landscapes, captivating forests, clear rivers, gorgeous streams, enchanting flowers, and the air – so clean, refreshing, relaxing, rich and rejuvenating. Effortlessly, your mind slips into a state of never-before calmness; the soul, after long, feels so much at peace. The overpowering aesthetics confer a spiritual high unasked. So much beautify, such perfections that it numbs the senses as they grapple to soak in the vision. You feel you are in paradise!
Projector and the Projection Blend into One
Yes, you are surrounded by the best and purest of creation. But what if we add another elevating element to this enthralling picture? Imagine the Creator Himself in the midst of this most magnificent creation of His! Imagine the gentle breeze wafting through the green meadows playing with His hair and caressing His cheeks! And on the Divine lips sprouts a lovely smile! The Lord looks so radiant, bubbly and full of charm; He is just joyful, relishing each moment with every brook and bower, flower and forest, twig and tree – He is lost, completely at one with His reflection; the façade of duality there is none.
The creation and the Creator blend as perfect partners, one as an extension of the other! To this picture of perfection, add a sound card. Now imagine His Voice reverberating in that ethereal valley! It is as if the Creator communicates, and the Creation responds, reflects and rejoices. Anyone fortunate enough to witness this Divine sport, is simply in raptures of bliss!
But this is not all.
Now, there is a third dimension. This sight worthy to beheld by Gods in high heavens is not for just a few celestial beings. There are thousands of blessed souls who witness this divine spectacle! One sighting of the Lord in this idyllic setting and the crowd is ecstatic.
They are dancing in joy and crying in Love for Him. They want to treasure every second, savouring it deep into their souls. They are pining to be near Him, to behold Him up close. They are from every region and religion but their reactions to the moment of bliss is one of indescribable joy.
There is a Muslim from whose eyes tears roll down copiously, a Hindu with his hands folded, obsequiously prostrates on the ground in prayer, and the third, a lady – something mysterious happens to her the moment she catches one glimpse. She starts dancing as if possessed and moves away. One precious glance is enough to last her a life time.
It looks like now she only wants to zealously safeguard that one image in her heart, and just relive that moment till the end of eternity. To watch the reaction of the thousands to His presence in this virtual paradise is simply electrifying, uplifting … beyond words indeed!
It is an unparalleled play of pure love by the Pure Love in the purest of places on earth. The moment is indescribable for the synchronity of mysterious forces at play. It marks an amazingly fascinating confluence of the best of creation, the finest of sublime emotions, and the Source of all manifestation that is this beautiful creation. It almost seems like a divine fairy tale, a fantasy spun by a wishful mind; but is as real as the fresh dew drops on an early spring morning.
The incredible story of Swami’s visit, in 1980, to the vale of Kashmir, in northern most India, once described by the Moghuls as “Paradise on Earth”, is the stuff that legends are usually made of. Yet, some blessed souls live among us to tell the tale.
Spontaneous Surge of Devotion
“I came to Swami as a boy of eight in 1962, but had never before seen such ecstasy and longing for the Lord,” says Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy, one of the fortunate members of Swami’s entourage. “Wherever Swami went, people were just euphoric; they shouted ‘Baba! Baba!..’ with their arms, either raised or folded, or wide open, beckoning their Beloved to cast one glimpse at them.
Their eyes were overflowing, cheeks wet and at every available opportunity, they just rushed forward to His Lotus Feet. When Swami’s car passed by on the roads, I used to look behind, and what a sight it was! Excitement is too small a word; they just jumped in joy! They were so thrilled to have seen just the Red Robe or a little of His face or hair. ‘Oh my God! Did you see Him!’ each one seemed to say to the other.
"They somehow came to know of Swami's whereabouts whenever He traveled to places nearby Kashmir, and for me, truly, they were a revelation. In fact, it reminded me of the Bhagavatha which describes the mad-like devotion of the Gopikas to Lord Krishna, and I, for one, was very skeptical of these mythological accounts. But here, it was live in front of my eyes!
I was convinced beyond doubt that the narrations of ecstatic devotion I have read were not just poetic creations, but manifestations of pure love. And as this thought crossed my mind, Swami, in that instant, threw a glance at me as if chiding me for my disbelief, and at the same time, confirming my new realization. This trip was so special…I cannot describe it in words - the unmatched beauty of the valley, the unparalleled devotion of the Kashmiris, and Swami, so beautiful…”
So, that was just a glimpse of this glorious odyssey of Sai into the lap of the Himalayas. For those who were part of this divine adventure, it was an incomparable boon, and even now, those memories are as fresh and green in their minds as are the hills and dales in the Valley of Kashmir, often referred to as the ‘Switzerland of the East’, only richer due to its deep spiritual history.
So, how did this sublime excursion with the Divine take shape? What motivated Swami to journey to the State of Jammu and Kashmir in North India in the summer of 1980?
They Pray…and Plan
“Swami had been to Kashmir for the first time in 1957, but that was a big group and the trip was very short. Then, Swami hardly saw any of the captivating scenery of Kashmir,” says Mrs. Ratanlal, who came to Swami nearly half a century ago and since then has been blessed with the Lord’s close proximity. “So, around 1979, we started praying to Swami again. ‘Swami, let us go to Kashmir. Please, let us go to Kashmir.’ But Swami did not relent. Still, we persisted and were hopeful. So I asked Mr. Sohanlal to do all the ground work before we prayed to Him again. Mr. Sohanlal personally visited Srinagar, the summer capital of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, to survey the place and select suitable accommodation for Swami.”
During this visit, Mr. Sohanlal met General Malhotra, who was the Army Commander of that region, and also a Sai Devotee. Swami had blessed the General and his wife, Prem Malhotra, way back in 1973 when He was on a visit to Ooty; the General, then was the Commandant of the Staff College, Wellington, which is near Ooty. The Malhotras had a spacious bungalow in Srinagar known as the Temporary Abode of the Army Commander.
This had enough space outside, ideal for Swami to grant darshan, while the inside could accommodate a group of 25-30. It was, therefore, the perfect place to serve as Swami’s residence, and the Malhotras said, ‘Yes, all of this place will be available for Swami’s visit’. Jubilantly Mr. Sohanlal returned to Bangalore, where Swami was then, and submitted to Him their prayers yet again. Now, Swami agreed, and then asked, “Is it the same General Malhotra whose wife attended the Summer Course?” The Omniscient Lord was now revealing a little of His Infinite Love. Mrs. Prem Malhotra had indeed attended the last Summer Course.
Trip to Heaven, in the Making for Decades
The Kashmir trip now seemed to be closer to reality than ever before. Apparently, it seems, the trip was going to materialize because of the sincere efforts of Mrs. Ratanlal and Mr. Sohanlal. But this was not even a quarter of the whole truth. Like all God’s Work, what could be seen and understood was only the tip of the iceberg; that it was, in reality, a Divine Master Plan that was unfolding was not obvious to many. The story of the Kashmir trip actually dated back to as early as 1970.
“I was in my XII grade, studying in Brindavan at that time,” recalls Mr. Ramkrishna Reddy, who has been a Teacher at the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School for more than 25 years now. “The year was 1970. We were all preparing to write the all-important public examination, and often Swami used to tell us to study well. The hostel at that time had 30-40 boys in all and Swami used to interact with us a lot, and I remember one day I noted down in my dairy that Swami has already told us 30 times to study well. And then, one evening, Swami came into the hostel and said: “Boys, study well and secure first class in the examination.
"If you secure first class, I will take you to Kashmir……” We were overjoyed, but at the same time did not believe it entirely. Swami just wants to motivate us, we said to ourselves. Swami then, moved a few steps, stopped and turned. “… not only in studies, but in Discipline and Devotion too you should secure a first class”. Our dreams now crumbled completely. Securing first class in all three – Duty, Devotion and Discipline – and matching up to His expectations was no mean task. This is just a ‘divine eyewash’ to enthuse us, we were convinced.”
Divine Promises Manifest in God’s Own Time
In fact, their conviction was apparently vindicated. Swami never talked about it for many years after that day. But suddenly one morning in 1975, ‘Kashmir’ seemed to be again on Bhagavan’s Lips. Mr. Kamal Sahwney, who was a student then, beautifully narrates that day thus:
“It was a bright Sunday morning. We had gathered near the portico for Bhagavan's Darshan. The air was filled with hushed expectancy as we eagerly awaited a flash of bright red signifying His Presence...The door opened and there stood the Lord — magnificent, radiant, majestic, and fresh as the morning dew. His Cosmic gaze surveyed His Creation. He smiled. There was a merry twinkle in His eyes.
‘When are the exams?’ He enquired.
‘Next week, Swami,’ we chorused.
Silence. Only the fading notes of a bhajan from the distant filled the air.
Secure First Class, Earn Boarding Pass: Baba
‘Those of you who get a first class in the forthcoming exams will be rewarded. I shall take you to Kashmir – only first class boys. Arrangements are being made already. We will go by plane and sing bhajans all along the way.’
With these words He proceeded down the avenue lined by boys and trees alike towards the devotees gathered near the 'Sairam shed'; and as He walked along He kept reminding the boys —‘First Class - Kashmir - First class - Kashmir’.
‘Did you hear?’ I asked one of the senior students. ‘Swami has promised to take us to Kashmir if we get a First class. Great isn't it?’
‘Aah!’ he said with a voice that echoed his imminent incumbency to a second class. ‘That promise was made four years ago in 1971 when we had gathered under the shade of a tree during the opening of the Anantapur College.’
‘Oh!’ I said, still keeping my hopes alive, ‘perhaps you boys didn't manage a first class.’
‘We did!’ he retorted. ‘But there were other complications. You know how it is!’ All I could say was, ‘Anyway, wish you the best this time.’
How many of you will come?’
We all put up our hands.
‘Sure?’ He asked.
‘Yes’ we shouted.
‘Let's see — let’s see’. A promise had been made!”
And again, 1975 passed and many years after that rolled by too, Kashmir was elusive as ever, confirming the belief of the long-timers. It was only a divine ‘motivational tool’, the boys had concluded. Still, inside many, Kashmir remained a highly mental activity: a dream unrealised, a desire unfulfilled, a goal unattainable — that is, till 1980. Let us now return to Mr. Kamal Sahwney:
God’s Delays are not His Denials
‘Swami is calling you,’ called one of the students. It was May (1980). Swami had just returned from Bombay. I was ushered into the Divine Presence.
‘We are going to Kashmir on the 1st of June. Get yourself prepared with some warm clothing,’ said the Lord.
"Kashmir! A dead and buried concept was resurrected, revived, nay pulsating with life and the warm assurance of the Lord. He smiled the smile of Knowing All. ‘Top secret!’ I was advised not to divulge this information to anyone since the party fortunate enough to travel with Bhagavan was small (due to reasons of providing accommodation etc.,) and there were no prospects of enlarging it with people flocking the beautiful valley. Carefully protecting this treasured possession, I came out and stood most unassumingly amongst the rest.
‘When is Swami going to Kashmir? 1st of June, I hear?’ asked my neighbour. Oh, Lord! ‘Any idea?’ he further asked. 'Plenty' (I told myself)—but for the moment one would be sufficient. How is it that news of Bhagavan's arrival and departure reaches the devotees, in a most mysterious and strange fashion. Even the most heavily guarded secret is at best only a great assumption, for somehow—through some means — devotees know the itinerary of the Lord.
"Weeks rolled into days and days — with thunderous speed — into hours filled with anxiety. The visit could be canceled. The ubiquitous explanation "you know how things are" could crop up any moment. It was, as with a patient in the throes of the final end, a touch and miss chance. Finally, through the tension-packed days, through the latent gloom of a possible cancellation, through purchases and packing, the 1st of June arrived.
‘One, two, three… seventeen… plus Myself - eighteen members,’ counted the Lord on the morning of our departure. ‘18 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. 8+1=9, Divine Number. Very good!’ I could hardly believe it! What glories and wonders would we see? What marvels and mysteries would we witness? What leelas and mahimas would we observe? What grandeur and glory would be revealed? These were the thoughts that floated in our minds as it was announced: ‘Fasten your seat belts.’ The engines roared, the wheels rolled, the plane accelerated, and we were airborne — to Kashmir! A promise had been fulfilled.”
It was a Divine Word given not only to the students, but to a few devotees as well. For instance, Mrs. Asha Khanna of Delhi, who was extremely busy in the kitchen and in doing up His room during Bhagavan’s stay in Srinagar, says, “When Swami came to our home in Delhi in 1975, He had said, when I go to Kashmir Hum tum dono ko Kashmir leke jaata hai? (I will take both of you along). Therefore, when Mr. Sohanlal informed us about Swami’s visit and asked us to help in preparing for Swami’s visit to Delhi and Srinagar, my husband immediately recollected Bhagavan’s promise, made five years ago. We never expected that it would really happen and moreover, in this manner.”
Yes, it was quite sudden and very secretive too. In fact, some members of the chosen group like Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy did not know where they were headed until the morning of June 1! Only when Swami gave them pada namaskaram, and asked them to proceed to the airport, they were absolutely certain that it was indeed the much-promised Kashmir trip! Once the plane was air-borne, the sweet saga of Love started. “Always so concerned about His boys, Swami never fails to look after their every little need, especially when He has hand-picked and taken a few along with Him,” says Mr. Reddy.
Attention to Detail - Natural to Divinity
“To narrate a small instance, during those days, Swami used to take pan (beetle leaves with nuts), and therefore, a paan box, which had cloves inside among other things, would always be with Him. A few minutes after the taking off of the plane, Swami turned behind, cast a loving glance on all, and then gave a few cloves to one boy sitting near Him with instruction to pass it on to others who have never flown earlier, and are likely to develop nausea… Swami was just like a sweet mother and we were absolutely in bliss.
“His Love was not restricted to us alone, in fact, during the entire flight of two hours, the Benign Lord was busy granting pada namaskar and blessing each and every passenger (it was an Airbus and there were 250-300 people on board) as they made a beeline to Him. The crew, of course, crowded Swami and wanted to make best use of the golden opportunity. But Swami was most kind; He did not have a single moment of rest during the entire 90 minutes. Even when the plane had a brief stopover in Hyderabad, where the Sai devotees had made excellent arrangements for our lunch, Swami had no time for Himself. He put a spoonful or two in His mouth and rushed to the area where the devotees were passionately singing and praying for His Darshan.”
Humandrome Longs for Divine Glimpse
Somebody said, “It was not an aerodrome, but a ‘humandrone’” as devotees filled every inch of the airport in Hyderabad. But it was not so in Delhi, as Mr. Kamal Sawhney, writes, “Seeing a rather thin gathering this time we were delighted with the prospects of a quiet and peaceful visit. But as we approached 16 Golf Links, the residence where Bhagavan was to stay (in Delhi, the capital of India), promises of a quiet, peaceful visit evaporated with the terrifying heat. There were cars, and people, and still more people, and people again. It was amazing to see people waiting in the oppressing heat just to get a faint glimpse of the Lord.”
Delhi’s High and Mighty at the Feet of the Almighty
In fact, but for Swami, everybody else had to get down from their cars two kilometers away from the place of His residence in Delhi and walk through the crowd. “And that evening,” writes Mr. Kamal Sawhney, “Political history was re-written with a comforting touch. Members of Parliament belonging to different parties, opposing ideologies, varying principles, contrary view-points, sat together, amongst others like members of a united family — waiting to be served the meal of Love from the Mother Divine. ‘A glimpse of future India...?’ remarked somebody. It was a sight to behold!
"The Lord moved amongst the 'elite' crowd that consisted of cabinet ministers, ex-ministers, politicians, lawyers, top industrialists and foreign dignitaries with His usual charm and felicity. He blessed one, instructed the second, chided the third, enquired of another and cautioned yet another. It can never escape one's attention that the Power that Bhagavan Is, is clearly visible on such occasions. The tremendous capacity which He displays in dealing with such a wide variety of disunited human beings, in a manner that would humble the greatest diplomat, is truly amazing.”
On June 2, Swami sent the boys on a sight-seeing trip to the city of Delhi, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and the epicenter of India’s political theatre, while He was busy visiting houses, meeting people and gladdening hearts. He also inspected the site acquired to construct a Sai School in Delhi at devotees’ request. When the boys returned, Swami was all theirs again. Handing out sweaters to every student, Swami lovingly said, “It will be very cold in Kashmir….we are going there tomorrow…You need to get up early in the morning.” Recalling that evening, Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy says, “More than the article, the joy He would express in giving these things used to get imprinted in our minds.”
Preparations Behind the Scenes In Srinagar
While Swami prepared the boys for their Srinagar visit in Delhi the previous day; the couple, Mr. Rajesh and Asha Khanna from Delhi had traveled to Srinagar three weeks earlier and were working round-the-clock along with the Malhotras to welcome Swami in Srinagar. “We worked silently, even my family members did not know about our activities. From Delhi we carried everything including the groceries, beddings, utensils, carpets and so on,” recalls Mr. Rajesh Khanna. His wife, Asha, continues, “It was the peak of summer. There were Sevadal with us – only two old ladies – who worked silently, relentlessly.
"They sat on the terrace and cleaned all the groceries, washed, dried and packed them in different packets and finally neatly labeled them. This went on for days. Not only this, I had the privilege to do the curtains, bed covers, etc. of Swami’s room. In fact, we did the whole house up with Mrs. Ratanlal’s guidance and the Malhotras’ support, making it new for Swami’s arrival.”
Sai Charm in Chandigarh
Swami left Delhi for Srinagar on the morning of Jun 3, and on the way, the Indian Airlines carrier touched down at Chandigarh for a brief stopover. “As the plane drew to a halt,” Mr. Kamal Sawhney, narrates, “a most startling spectacle met our eyes. Devotees had gathered at the airport — men, women and children, gaily dressed — and were chanting bhajans with great fervour. They were praying to Bhagavan to alight and give His Benediction.
"The Lord, touched by this spontaneous flow of devotion, agreed. A ladder was arranged for, and as the sun rose up in the horizon at 7.30 a.m. that morning, Bhagavan got down from the plane and blessed the few hundreds that had collected for His Darshan. Needless to say, they were thrilled and shouted Jai! Jai! Jai! After blessing the devotees, Bhagavan held an interesting conversation with our pilot and officials of the airport.
"As He was discussing the intricacies of aerodynamics, I was again wonder-struck as to how devotees become knowledgeable of His programme? Who ever informed these people that Bhagavan would pass their way that day? Such incidents are always a remarkable scene to observe — but one that 'passeth all understanding'. Swami Karunyananda, who was seated beside me was moved to tears, ‘Do you observe’, he asked ‘the childlike innocent devotion of these people? Who says this is Kali Yuga. I tell you, this is Sathya Yuga — The Age of Truth.’”
Lofty Himalayas Greet Their Creator
The flight resumed, and as the members of Swami’s troupe tried to relive and cherish the Lord’s Glory magnificently unfolded in front of their eyes just then, they were witness to another of His majestic manifestations – the gorgeous Himalayas. From thousands of feet above they saw the serene Sutlej River, which has its source in Tibet near Mount Kailas, the Bhakra and Nangal dams constructed over it, and by the time the plane unlocked its wheels on the surface of Jammu – City of Temples, it was 9 a.m.
The airport resounded with full-throated “Jai Sai Ram! Jai Sai Ram!” General Malhotra, along with his staff officers, was on the tarmac. “As the door of the plane opened,” he recalls, “stood the Lord – magnificent, radiant, majestic and fresh, smiling at us, a twinkle in His eyes.” The General lay prostrate on the tarmac overcome with emotion and devotion. Swami was then driven by Colonel Beri, Staff Officer to the Army Commander who was also a devotee, to the Officers’ Mess in Jammu. As the boys had breakfast here, the Lord here too, was busy, blessing the army personnel who longed for a touch, a word, a pat or a gift of Grace.
Joyful Journey to Udhampur
The next destination was Udhampur, about 60-65 kms from Jammu, to be traveled by road. Whenever Swami saw people lined up next to the road, pining for His Darshan, the Compassionate Lord would direct Col. Beri to drive slow, and at places would even get down, talk to them, accept their flowers and fill the cups of their hearts to the brim.
“Finally, we arrived in Udhampur,” recalls Lt. General Malhotra. Here stood Tara Mount, the official residence of General Malhotra. “My wife received Him with Arati,” he continues. “She showed Him His room and then the whole house. We took Him to the Puja room too. Swami seemed so happy.”
That evening a public meeting was arranged in Udhampur. The entire town had gathered on the sprawling lawns of the army gymkhana. There was a stir of excitement as Bhagavan arrived and the locals beheld the Lord for the first time. An open air auditorium, aesthetic stage settings, surrounded by green mountains only added to the soothing ethereal vibrations. The party accompanying Bhagavan sang a few bhajans; Swami Karunyananda aged ninety was inspired and proved his versatility by playing on the tabla with youthful artistry.
The meeting then commenced. Lt. General S. P. Malhotra spoke first, congratulating the gathering on their good fortune to have Bhagavan in their midst. The Lord then imparted the highest spiritual truths in a lucid and simple manner. He spoke of the virtues of patience, truth and forbearance and exhorted the gathering — consisting largely of defence personnel — to perform their duty in a spirit of dedication to the Motherland. Later on, when the Swami sang a few bhajans, the audience went into raptures. Jawans, Majors, Colonels broke their barriers of shyness and clapped their hands in joy and sang aloud the Glory of the Lord.
In fact, Swami was so happy about that one-day halt in Udhampur that reminiscing that day, in an interview to General Malhotra in 2003 (23 years after His Kashmir visit), Swami said, “Udhampur is very clean, very neat, I was very happy.”
When God Becomes the Co-passenger…
This was only the beginning as the party had till now not reached the actual scene of all the magic and miracles – Srinagar. On June 4, at 7 a.m., Swami proceeded to Srinagar with General Malhotra beside Him and Col. Beri steering the wheel. The students followed behind in an air-conditioned bus. There was a brief halt at Patnitop, a tourist hill station, for tea and snacks, and then Swami proceeded on the national highway towards Srinagar.
Though Swami was in the car, the Loving Mother that He is, His constant thought and attention was on the bus behind. In fact, after a while, when He could not see the bus, He enquired with General Malhotra and asked Col. Beri to stop the car. And then, He did something beautiful. He alighted from His car and sweetly climbed into the bus! “The bus was energized!” the General says. “And Swami was Himself singing all the while! It was so beautiful; the whole situation had now reversed! It was the car now which was following the bus!”
“He was always the first to spot the snow-capped mountains or flowing streams,” narrates Mr. Kamal Sawhney. “The Jhelum River kept us company as it flowed swiftly and forcefully almost parallel to the road which was lined by blue and silver pines, deodar, cedar, maple, birch, oak and the famous walnut trees. It was a symphony of blue and green.”
For the boys, it was a treat they will treasure till eternity. They were traveling to the Himalayas along with Lord Shiva (Purusha) surrounded with splendorous signatures of His Creation (prakriti). Even as the Lord was lost in the luxuriant and authentic version of His workmanship, He never lost an opportunity to drive home important lessons in the hearts of His loved ones. As the bus approached Verinag, the picturesque little hamlet where the journey was to break for lunch, hundreds of Kashmirisa waited with bunches of roses in their hands.
As the party entered this beautiful village, the simple folk, in excitement threw hundreds and thousands of roses onto the car in reverence, devotion and joy. They failed to notice that Swami was actually behind, inside the bus. And then, Swami jokingly remarked, “See, because of My company, the car is receiving so much of adoration, but now I am with you and no one respects Me!…”
After imparting this lesson on the value of good company, Swami asked the bus door to be flung open and then, He gently alighted; the joy of the village-folk knew no bounds! “Believe me!” Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy says, “From the place where the bus stopped to the building where we were to have our lunch, we literally walked on the rose-petals! Their devotion and delight in having Bhagavan was to be seen to be believed. They laid a carpet of roses for us. It was absolutely overwhelming.”
Warm Welcome to Sai in Srinagar
It is filled with such sweet memories of the Divine journey with Sai – savouring the unmatched charm of Nature along with the Source of all beauty – that the group reached Srinagar. “Here again, my wife warmly welcomed Him with due rituals,” recalls General Malhotra. “We, then, showed Him His room in the first floor. He asked my wife, ‘Where are you staying?’ She turned around to me. So, I said, ‘Well, Swami, we are staying at a place which is about one km away from this house. We have kept the whole house for You, all the four bed rooms.’ Swami immediately said, ‘No! I want the host and the hostess to stay here itself.’ So, we stayed in Baba’s company. Honestly, we find it difficult to believe that! Here Swami is moving out of reach of the devotees, as far as His Physical Form is concerned, and there we had the good fortune of spending 12 days in His blessed company! And He was so very relaxed!”
The grounds of ‘Prasad Villa’, the residence of General Malhotra which had become the Lord’s temporary abode, were overcrowded overnight. Thousands – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and a few foreigners too – gathered to be blessed with the Prasad of His Darshan, Sparshan and Sambhashan (to behold Him, touch Him and speak with Him). The pathway was packed with people everywhere, jostling, struggling and vying with each other just to touch His Feet. Bhagavan moved amongst them, healing the sick, comforting the distressed, soothing the crying ones, embossing His Emblem of Divinity on each heart.
“We have all seen surging crowds before,” shares Mr. Kamal Sahwney, “but not of this kind. The very sight of the Red Robe was enough for people to cry — literally. Several cried aloud praying that He should bless them. Some persons, unable to withstand the Call of the Divine broke all human barriers and fell at His Feet, pouring forth their anguish to receive in return, Benediction and Vibhuthi. Word spread that God had come. The city was aflame with the Signet of Eternity—the Lord Himself.”
People Pine for Sai in Ecstasy
People braved the biting chill in the mornings and waited for Him to emerge, and the Benevolent Lord never disappointed them. Every morning He would go out and give Himself fully to the devotees. But the stream of visitors was unending. Army personnel, businessmen, villagers, hermits, sadhus, foreigners, children as well as the sick, the lame, the distressed — all representatives of humanity betook the generosity of Divinity. “The climax was reached on a Thursday when Bhagavan visited the Army auditorium,” writes Mr. Kamal Sahwney.
“The entire place was full of soldiers and officers. To be able to move a centimetre was indeed a luxury. Swami had to stand on the 'door-step' of the car to wave His Blessings to all the people and they responded back by filling the atmosphere with shouts of ‘Jai to Bhagavan’. Humanity was paying its tribute to the Divine Master.”
Such was the Glory of the Sai in the crest of India, which He had briefly visited only once before, 23 years ago. “And Swami was not the Godly figure that you see..,” says Mrs. Asha Khanna who had the chance of watching the Lord at close quarters. “He was so relaxed, agile and ever active. You could communicate with Him as if He was your closest one; He was just one of yourself, so close.”
Mrs. Ratanlal adds, “Some days, after breakfast, Swami would just walk into the garden, absolutely in leisure and play with the flowers and trees. He would pluck a berry here, touch a flower there and just be Himself – so carefree and happy. Later the boys would come and all would sit down in the garden in a nice circle.”
Every morning, after breakfast, General Malhotra would discuss with Swami and the day’s program would be chalked out. After the regular morning Darshan, it was a visit to a hill station or a mountain, garden or a guest house, resort or a river.
Shalimar Becomes Shangri-La… Briefly
On the day of Bhagavan’s arrival, the hosts and others requested Swami to visit Shalimar Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its sweeping vistas over gardens and lakes, and shallow terraces. But Swami refused, He said, “No, it is well-maintained and beautiful with natural springs. If I go there, there will be a mad rush of people; it will ruin the garden.” But the boys and others continued to plead, and Swami reluctantly agreed. The plan was to go there in the early hours of the morning, when the city was not fully awake.
At seven in the morning, Swami, along with the boys, was at the gates of Shalimar. Though the boys had sweaters and other add-ons to save themselves from the chill and the fog, the Lord was His usual self – no shawl or cover over His robe; in fact, Swami did not even use a pair of footwear.
As the huge gates were opened in the wee hours of the morning, especially for Swami, and the boys entered its vast premises, a thought crossed in some of their minds - ‘Swami said there will be lot of people, but here there is no other soul except us.’
The watchman was, in fact, still in sweet slumber. A few boys thought of waking him up and awakening him to the great opportunity that had come his way, but they dismissed the idea, not sure of Swami’s possible reaction.
So, as the group strolled with Swami, suddenly the watchman woke up, rubbed his eyes, watched the scene, hurried to a nearby rose bush, carefully broke a branch which had three beautiful roses, ran towards Swami, offered the flowers and fell at His Feet! The boys watched transfixed to the spot. “Huh! And we thought we will ‘educate’ him about Swami!” they seemed to say to each other through their glances, which were laden with bewilderment and bliss.
Swami continued to gently stride along as if nothing had happened, and now, after a few yards, from the opposite direction advanced two modern youngsters with long hairs, carefree attitude, et al. Intentionally or accidentally, they possibly had spent the night in the garden itself. A few seconds ticked by quickly and they were now approaching Swami from the front - no sign of reverence in their gait. The boys were getting ready to move them away once they came very close to the Lord, but all of sudden, the pair turned aside, broke two branches, threw the roses at Bhagavan’s Feet and fell flat on the ground! Every moment that morning was a roller coaster ride of shock and surprise, reverence and revelation. And it was not over yet.
After they had walked about 200 yards, noise of a slight commotion wafted from behind and when the boys turned around what did they see? Hundreds of eager folk jumping the gate, some even the parapet walls, and then, hastily plucking flowers and rushing towards Swami with loud shouts of “Baba! Babaji Darshan Devo!” It was a different kind of shock now! Swami turned to the boys and said, “Didn’t I tell you about this yesterday! You did not listen…now, if the garden is spoilt, people will say Sai Baba is responsible for it!” The next moment, Swami did a complete U-turn and returned immediately to Prasad Villa, but not before instructing the boys to get back only after seeing the beautiful mogul garden, which was spread over 2.4 hectares and nicknamed as ‘Garden of Love’.
But without their Sai, there was no love in their hearts or life in their bodies to sight-see the great garden. They went around placidly, only not to disobey Him again, and returned to His residence with their spirits soured and heads down. They had never expected such surging crowds, that too in the early hours of the morning when it was biting cold.
There was absolutely no publicity of Swami’s visit to the unique valley. In fact, the Chief Minister of Kashmir, Mr. Sheikh Abdullah pleaded with Swami to permit him to announce His Presence in the capital city of Srinagar, but Swami flatly refused. “As it is, there are thousands everywhere, do you realise what will happen if you broadcast this news!” Swami seemed to say.
To stimulate and restore the sunken hearts of the boys, Swami, in the evening, sent all of them to the Srinagar Bazaar. As they were all ‘men in whites’, the boys thought the shopkeepers would probably place them as a cricket team, and when somebody asked them, “Where do you come from?” they hesitantly said, “Puttaparthi”, not sure if the vendor would connect with the holy hamlet. But the trader exclaimed with joy writ large on his face.
“Oh Puttaparthi! Baba’s ashram! Come! Please come!” It was a continuous experience of overwhelming love as each shop owner obsequiously invited them to visit their shop. The boys where humbled, to say the least. The story of the Glory of their Lord was as infinite as the Lord Himself.
In the days to come, they were only left more delighted and dazed. On the morning of the next day, Swami, as usual, blessed the hungering crowd in front of Prasad Villa with His beatific smiles and benedictory acts of Grace. Once in a while, the ‘tiny brown hand’ would move in circles, and in a gentle stream, vibhuti would fill the cupped palms of a crying soul. The leelas and mahimas of the Lord(Divine sport and manifestations) of the Lord were ceaseless. “But, some incidents, however, were remarkable for their uniqueness, for they were reminiscent of those days when Bhagavan performed His leelas on the sands of Chitravathi, where wonders and wonders were witnessed,” writes Mr. Kamal Sawhney.
Delectable Leelas at Dachhigam
This particular reference was to Dachhigam, the most charming dale of Kashmir. Surrounded on all sides by emerald green grass, decorated with flowers growing everywhere, spotted with elegant trees, inhabited by a myriad varieties of colourful birds, Dachhigam is a sylvan resort of rare beauty. Once upon a time, it was the private entertainment estate of the King of Kashmir, Maharaj Hari Singh. After Kashmir became a part of independent India, the Chief Minister of the State controlled the area. General Malhotra had obtained special permission from the Chief Minister and given how sylvan the place was, he wanted Bhagavan to spend a couple of days in that exquisite resort. But the Lord said, “No. I am not going to stay there for 4-5 days, but I will definitely go there!”
Therefore, after the morning Darshan on June 6, Swami, along with His students, proceeded towards this slice of unsullied nature that was Dachigam, almost 30 kms away from Srinagar. “We passed through 20 kms of apple orchards,” recalls Mr. Ramkrishna Reddy jubilantly. “Once we reached the special guest house, we were really taken aback with the awesome scene. It was nestled literally in the lap of nature - mountains covered it on three sides, a tiny creek flowed down just beside the building and roses! They were everywhere, in all hues and colours, sizes and shades.
"You could not be in a better place on earth if Nature enchanted you. Even the walls of the rooms inside were laid with a special bark, just like it was done on the outside. But the special house did not excite the Lord, He relished being outside. A few minutes passed and Swami sat on a small chair placed under a China tree, this special flora apparently changed the colours of its leaves five times in a year.
“As we sat surrounding the Lord in that serene setting, Swami started speaking very casually to a few of us and then suddenly, as if struck with an idea, He asked General Malhotra. ‘Is there any sand here?’ ‘Yes, Swami. There is a small creek nearby; there is little sand on its bank, but not too much though.’ ‘Ok, that’s enough. You know… I used to do wonders on the sands of Chitravathi. I will show you how! Lets go!’ the Lord retorted.
“And when we reached that spot, Swami sat on the sand cross-legged and like a small child started playing with it. And as the group excitedly watched, the Lord made the sand even, made it into a mound, poured more sand, made it flat again…and then drew a small figure, a sketch with His tiny finger…plastered that with more sand on top it…and then dipped His fingers inside the minuscule mound just then created, and out came a golden plate with beautiful and exquisite images of Lord Badrinarayan and Goddess Lakshmi standing! Wet sands were still sticking onto it, He shook it mildly and then handing it over, said, “Pass it around” as if nothing had happened. As everyone with big eyes and open mouths, adored, touched and worshipped the fresh creation, the Lord sat with Divine contentment, as calm as ever.
“But this was not all. A few more blissful moments passed on the sands, and then the Lord enquired, ‘Does any one have a pen?’ Immediately somebody handed one to Him. He took it into His hands and now started using it as stylus. His ‘artwork’ on the sand started yet again - a round motion, a touch here, a finish there – and His little empty hands dug into His sketch on the sand again.
“What is it? Our hearts stopped beating! We craned our necks. Cameras were ready, we gazed with wide-eyed expectation. Out emerged a beautiful 2 inch crystal Linga – bigger than a duck’s egg, white, round and resplendent. He held it up with the sun as a background. Unspeakable delight!
“‘This is Amarnath Lingam,’ He shared. ‘This is the true one installed by Shankaracharya…what you see there on the outside is only ice. One has to walk 20 kms on snow to reach Amarnath…how can you go? I brought it for your sake…’ The Kind Lord then Himself showed it to all…we did not know how to thank the Lord. We just stared at Him with awe, love and gratitude.”
“According to me, this was the best day in the whole trip of Kashmir,” says General Malhotra. “The serenity of Dachigam and the superb leelas of the Lord made it an incredible day.”
His Concern for His Children Knows No Bounds
On the agenda for the next day, June 7, was Gulmarg, one of the most splendid resorts of India. Gul means ‘flower’, and just as the name suggests, it was literally a ‘valley of flowers’. Swami spent sometime lost in the maze of colours, and then Mr. Sohanlal suggested to Swami to visit Khilanmarg, located nearby on a higher altitude which is known for the beauty and majesty of its snow covered peaks. But for this, one had to take the ropeway. Swami and the group went to the rope station, but the Lord could not come out of the car! People thronged to His Presence! And so, Swami drove back, but asked the organizers to make arrangements for the boys to see the snow.
The boys took the flight on the heavenly ropes and were stunned with the snowy beauty. After passing through forests of snow-smeared-trees on horses, they reached a plain – miles and miles of clear snow. They could not resist the temptation to play and were lost in their ice-game. It was a never-before experience and they became oblivious to everything around, and even Swami. Soon 12 pm turned into 1 pm.
They had not had anything for lunch; that did not bother them, but it did bother someone else. Swami started getting concerned, He asked the General, “Where are the boys?” Frantic efforts were made to send message to the boys. Col. Beri who also there around Swami at this time, recalls, “Swami was so uneasy…actually, that gave me jitters. Swami always referred to the boys as ‘My children’ and I could, in this instant, see the Mother in Him so patently. He was like a mother hen pacing up and down, watching, waiting and looking out for her little ones.”
“Swami did not have His lunch that day,” recalls Mrs. Ratanlal. “He was all the time waiting.” When the boys returned, she asked the boys to come inside the other door and first have their lunch and only then see Swami. But while the boys were in front of their plates, Swami came in and expressed His unhappiness for being so careless about time. “There are many guests, therefore, I do not want to reprimand you,” He said and let them off.
“His concern for us was phenomenal,” says Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy. “He may talk to anybody or go anywhere, but His thoughts were always centered on us.” The next day, June 8, Swami sent all the boys to the visit the Sankarmath, the temple visited by Sri Shankaracharya centuries ago. This was located very close to Prasad Villa and even though Swami never visited the place, He saw it from far and talked about it, not only then but 23 years later too in an interview
He gave to General Malhotra in 2003. He asked, “Which was the temple located nearby the house we stayed?” Amusingly, the General could not recollect the name immediately, but did so just before he was about to come out of the interview room, and so, he blurted out “Shankaracharya!” Swami smiled and responded, ‘Right! Right! It was Shankaracharya!”
Heads of State Salute the Lord
Therefore, on June 8, Swami did not travel anywhere, but He was extremely busy in Prasad Villa. The Chief Minister, Mr. Sheik Abdullah and his wife had called on Him. When the boys returned, the interview had just concluded and they saw the tall and impressive Abdullah walk out of Swami’s residence. Swami introduced all the boys to the Chief Minister. “They are My students; all of them are now teachers.” And then, to the boys, He said, “I know Sheikh Abdullah since a long time; I met him in Hyderabad 20 years ago.” Swami then posed with the dignitary couple for pictures.
They were very grateful and in fact, Mr. Abdullah returned another day with his whole family. During one of these days, the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Mr. Jha and his wife too drove down to Prasad Villa seeking audience and blessings. And this was followed by the deputy chief minister and nearly 20 cabinet ministers. Swami was all giving, all the time.
Pahalgam - The Wonders Continue!
While June 8 was for distinguished personalities, for the students and other members of the group, there was something special awaiting the next day. On the schedule on June 9 was Pahalgam, a pristine hill station untouched by the ravages of progress. Known as the ‘village of shepherds’, it was abounding with pastures and lakes, tiny rivers and huge meadows.
“To reach our guest house for lunch, we had to cross a tiny rivulet,” recalls Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy. “And it was such a memorable scene! Swami alighted from the vehicle and began to walk. The waters of the tiny river were so pure, so clear; you could not see even a grain of sand, only the round and shining pebbles on its floor.
Swami was on the banks and next, He lifted His robe slightly and gently got into the water! He seemed to enjoy it so much! Slowly and happily, smiling and shining, the Lord moved; the Sun was as if peeping from above eagerly to savour every second. Swami even took a palm full of water and showing it to us, said, ‘See, how clear it is!’ We, actually, sipped one or two drops because this water was verily as sacred as the abhishekam tirtham (consecrated water after performing rituals on the Shiva linga).
“And then as we moved along, we entered a garden of roses and the Lord casually picked a tiny rose and transformed it immediately into a Shiva lingam. Col. Beri was the lucky recipient of this spontaneous gift of love. After a while, Swami settled down on a chair on a scenic spot very close to the Lidder River and more creations followed, now a ring for General Malhotra and also another one for a Major of the army.
Swami started discussing spirituality and soon the topic veered to Shankaracharya. ‘Shankara had installed a linga of great spiritual vibration at Chidamabaram,’ Swami said, ‘And now,’ the Lord continued, ‘I shall show you an exact replica of the Chidamabara linga.’ With a bewitching smile on His face and the enthusiasm of a school kid, the Lord flattened the sand in front of Him. He then, drew a circle…filled it with sand and then with excitement said, “It has come, see!” And lo and behold! Out of the silvery sands appeared a 3 inch round, black and glittering oval shaped linga. Swami then picked it up, wiped the wet sand sticking onto it with His white handkerchief and lovingly showed it to every one around. After all this was over, an enigmatic smile blossomed on His lips and He remarked, “This is all tamasha, fun!”
“For the Lord of the Universe, all this was a play, mere trifles, but to the fortunate few who were a witness to this, it was a ticket to instant bliss. But the story of sacred June 9 was not over yet. Next, out of the sands, in a similar fashion, came a small pendant on which was engraved the sacred Srichakra.
“The session on the sands went on, and was filled with signs and wonders as Swami talked about Indian culture and spirituality. But suddenly we were witness to a different kind of wonder. From nowhere, suddenly two busloads of people arrived near the sand bed where we were seated and jumping down from the buses they cried, “Babaji! Babaji! Babaji!” They fell at His Feet and sought His Blessings, which the Lord granted with much Love and Compassion. They were possibly pilgrims on the way to the Amarnath shrine and seeing the red robe at a distance diverted the route to hurry to His Presence.”
This intense pining for His Love and Touch, Grace and Blessings, in a land which was thousands of miles from Puttaparthi with no commonality with the South of India except for the fact that it was a part of India, is, in fact, the greatest spectacle of the Srinagar odyssey of Sai. And another glimpse of this phenomenon was present before all on Jun 10 when the hosts had arranged for a ‘shikara’ ride for Swami and the boys on the famous Dal Lake. Here again, there was no way Swami could get onto the boat; the crowd was enormous and at times uncontrollable. But Swami did not want the boys to miss out the experience, and therefore, asked them to do the ride on the waters, even though, without Swami, they were more than keen to skip the trip.
Swami’s Concern for the Dedicated Sohanlal
It was nearly a week in Srinagar now and 10 days since Swami arrived at Delhi. But it had passed like a breeze and Swami was so happy too – with the arrangements, the boys’ discipline, the devotees’ devotion and the hosts’ dedication. In fact, He had great plans. One day He called Col. Beri and said, “You look for a nice location which has sand. We will go there and I will ask every member of the army to put his hand into the sand, and each one could pull out whatever he desired.” Col. Beri was obviously excited and made all arrangements possible.
But, unfortunately, at that time, Mr. Sohanlal fell ill. When Swami did not find him during the dinner session, Swami enquired about him and was informed of his poor health. Swami said, “Alright” and asked Col. Beri to fetch a glass of water. And then He materialized two tablets and said, “Sohanlal ko dedo. Kal subhe Vo nachte breakfast pe ayega” (Give it to Sohanlal, and tomorrow morning he'll come dancing to the breakfast table).
And sure enough, Sohanlal was fine and was promptly there for breakfast. Still, Swami was concerned about Mr. Sohanlal’s health and never agreed for any major outing. Swami asked him to take rest and would go near his bed often and say: “You are working and worrying too much about everybody’s comforts and needs, not bothered about your health.” But Mr. Sohanlal wanted to do more work! Swami said, “No! You are very sick and you need to rest at least one full day.” Swami then created an akshayapatra (an inexhaustible vibhuti container) and gave it to him.
Before Swami retired to His room in the night, He went to see him one more time. But, Sohanlal would always say: “No Swami, it is a pleasure. I would like to serve You more.” When the boys went to meet him, he simply brushed all talk about his condition aside and said, “I am getting old; it’s natural that I have blood pressure…” He was just happy that Swami had indeed visited Kashmir and had chosen him to be an instrument. Later, Swami created a ring and a watch for him and his wife too.
Prasad Villa Hosts More Divine Sessions
Therefore, June 11 and 12 had little adventure with Swami outside Prasad Villa. Swami gave His Love and time to the dedicated souls who had made the Kashmir trip happen. In the evening was discourse and bhajans. One day, he asked General Malhotra to show his hand and then quietly placed a watch in his palm. He said, “Time! This will remind you of time!”
But General responded, “Swami! I don’t waste time!” “I know, that is not enough. You need to know a little bit more,” Swami said and explained, “What is spelling of Watch? W.A.T.C.H. Yes, this is the real meaning of the watch. So, watch your Words, Actions, Thoughts, Character and Heart. So it is not merely for keeping time, you have to remember all these things too. All this means spirituality.”
On other days, He would talk on the purpose of life, on the disasters we meet with if we pursue materialism. There were some days when He would sing, in His resonant voice, bhajans. Oh! what limpid delight! We wore the Shroud of His Delight. Bliss! Absolute Bliss!”
Sai Soothes Even Animal's Hearts
On the morning of June 13, Swami created another akshaya patra (inexhaustible Vibhuti container) this time for Col. Beri and his wife. In the afternoon, He took the group to the banks of the Sindhu River. And here, once again, to everybody’s joy, Swami went into the water holding the robe in both of His hands and walked gently wading and playing with the waters. At some spots, He just stood and looked intently down at the placid movement of the cool river. Later, Swami went to a guest house nearby and here, a very strange scene occurred. “It was drizzling that day,” Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy narrates, “And suddenly about 15 dogs appeared and started barking continuously facing the guest house."
"The next moment, Swami came out smilingly as if a few guests were calling Him! He started waving His hand, and the canines, though ferocious, responded with love wagging their tails. The whole bunch kept staring at Swami in one-pointed attention."
"Swami then asked us to get some food. So we brought biscuits from inside, and Swami lovingly threw the pieces at them. After they had their fill, they silently left. The Lord seemed to ‘know’ them and ‘understand’ them; we just enjoyed the Divine drama."
Perhaps, every element of nature – flora and fauna – wanted to have their share of His Love and Grace, and the Lord was always most willing. Apart from the beautiful sites already mentioned, Swami visited many other splendid mogul gardens too like Chashm-e-shahi, Nishat and Nagin. And thousands were recipients of His Love.
The most blessed, of course were the students. Their day started with touching the Feet of the Lord every morning and they prostrated again for the last time in the day when Swami retired after dinner. There was nothing more they could ask for.
In fact, one day Swami forced all the boys to ask for a gift and they were all silent. “What could we ask?” says Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy. “The very fact that He had brought us along was the greatest gift. In fact, many times during the day, looking at the devotees outside, I used to ask myself ‘Do I really deserve this great chance?’” They knew that they could not possibly have accumulated so much merit to be blessed so profusely, it was just His Infinite Love. That is the greatest boon when the Lord comes in Human Form. He simply showers!”
Swami Gave and Gave…
It was the same experience of all the organizers and hosts too. No one was left out of His overwhelming Grace. In fact, in an interview that Swami gave to Col. Beri, Swami forewarned Mrs. Beri about an impending illness and when the deadly cancer finally did affect her health, He cancelled it in His own mysterious way. Swami blessed Mrs. Ratanlal too, profusely.
He, in fact, gave her the Amarnath Lingam materialized by Him to keep, apart from other gifts. She was the one who worked tirelessly in the kitchen, and whenever Swami went out of Prasad Villa, she followed later in another vehicle with lunch and snacks for all the members of the group, and of course, Swami. The Lord, till this day, has graced her with innumerable opportunities to serve Him.
With the Lord in a giving spree, everybody knew that the dream trip was about to end. The very thought enveloped their hearts with intense sadness. “We were almost in tears!” says Mr. Ramakrishna Reddy. “General Malhotra, though a military man, became very emotional.
"Talking to us, he said, ‘You are all Swami’s special students; it is my good fortune to serve you all....This was my first experience and I am lost in divine thoughts. I don’t know what I have done; I am not yet been able to digest all that Swami has given. I am still not able to imagine that an Avatar is staying in my own house!’
“Even on the final day (June 14), when we had to leave at 10 o ’clock, the General became very hesitant in letting us go and taking us to the airport! Swami said: ‘We have to go! Come on, we are getting late!’ but he drove us very reluctantly. And as we got into the plane, he waved to each and every person; it was such a touching scene! Swami was looking at all of us! Rarely have I seen emotions as high as that morning. It was too difficult to accept the inevitable.”
The Final Blessing
Once Swami was in the plane, General Malhotra and Col. Beri lay prostrate on the tarmac offering their gratitude and reverence. The start of the Indian Airlines carrier was delayed because of inclement weather and devotees gathered at the airport, started shouting out to the Lord, and Swami did open the door of the plane and bless everyone with His last beatific Darshan in the beautiful valley. The General stayed put in the airport for the next 40 minutes till he received the news from Delhi that Swami had landed safely. Swami, along with His boys spent a day in the capital city and then returned to Bangalore on June 17 after a day’s halt in Mumbai. Thus, the curtains came down on one of the most spectacular chapters of the Sai Saga.
After the trip, one of the students remarked, “We accompanied the Lord to experience the spell of His Nature's Beauty. Little did we realize that He would make us meet reflections of His Gospel. What devotion, humility, patience, concern and genuine love did we see!” For all the members of the party, every moment with Sai in Srinagar was a revelation. They were stuck with the Glory of their God. They saw a powerful positive wave surging everywhere and taking the world by its sweep and on the crest of this wave was their own Lord – the Redeemer, the unmatched Unifier, and God of all. They saw the irrepressible power of pure love that could one day overpower the whole world.
Kashmir – The Holy Land of Yore Divinely Recharged
Now, 28 years later, in hindsight, the historic trip by the Living Divinity to the Kashmir region acquires even deeper significance. The land named after the venerable Sage Kashyap, known as the abode of the rishis (sages), and an ancient seat of sacred learning was sanctified by the Divine Touch of the Avatar’s visit.
Perhaps to assuage the spiritual thirst of the aspirants or to recharge the divine energy of the various centres of esoteric importance that are found in the mosques, temples, gurudwaras, churches…in the hills, valleys, mountains, caves and the hearts of its people … Kashmir welcomed the Supreme Lord with ecstasy and élan, before the political disturbances and turmoil marred its peace. As though to bless the noble people and endow them with the strength to deal with the hardships that came to them in later years, His visit left their cup of joy overflowing with unsurpassable sweetness.
When the Lord descends in human form, He walks and talks, lives and laughs, eats and acts just like any other human being so that humanity feels kinship with Him; but on rare occasions, to awaken and enlighten, to inspire and reinvigorate the slipping and sleeping humanity, He suddenly executes something that is supremely extraordinary, so that every man and woman may realize the importance of the immense opportunity that has come their way, and live up to it to redeem their lives, as well as that of their fellow brethren.
This spiritual voyage to the state of Jammu and Kashmir (often in the media for news that is disheartening), was one such ‘Divine performance’ to demonstrate to erring mankind what could be possible, if only they believed in the wisdom that has existed since the time of the Himalayas. It was a story of Love, of divine unity, of peace, of togetherness, of beauty, of serenity, of being One with the Sublime, of being One with Sathyam, Shivam and Sundaram – Truth, Goodness and Divine Beauty!
- Bishu Prusty
Vol 6 Issue 06 - JUNE 2008
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