March 27, 2009 – Ugadi Celebrations in Prasanthi
Another eventful year was to meet fruition, in order to welcome the arrival of Virodhi, the New Year in the 60-year cycle followed in India, especially in South India. It was time to bid the year Sarvadharin goodbye after thanking it for all the wonderful boons and blessings conferred. Ugadi or Yugadi means ‘the beginning of a new era’. It is that time of the year when people eagerly and anxiously consult astrologers and fortune tellers as to what the year holds for them according to the Panchanga (a manuscript). But as Swami says, the fears and joys are unfounded. When the Divine Anugraha (Grace) has been showered on anyone, the Navagraha (nine planets) can do no harm! Virodhi means ‘opposition’. But again, it’s after all a name. The attitudes and mindsets of people are what matter really. People think that the nature of people and circumstances depend on the times they are living in. "These are bad times", they say and thus bad seems to happen to them. It is the character of man and his attitudes that determine the goodness or badness of the times as Swami puts it in His Dharma Vahini, "The Yugas change only with the change in Dharma, not with the mere passage of time. The wicked Hiranyakasipu and the pure-hearted Prahlada, both lived in the selfsame chronological Yuga; the same era saw Dharmaja, the personification of Righteousness, and Santhi (peace), as well as the arch-cheat, Duryodhana. So, Dharma is what makes the Yuga for each; one can always be in the Kritha Yuga, if only one has all the four qualities of Dharma. It is the conduct of man that makes or mars history and changes the Golden Age to the Iron Age."
On March 27, at about 9:25 am, as the bhajans were on, Swami arrived for the Ugadi morning darshan. Sai Kulwant Hall was like the bride awaiting her groom! Decorated in flowing blues and yellows, the hall looked like a picture out of a fairytale! The traditional holy items from coconut trees and mango leaves were placed at various places, and the steps leading to the stage were filled with a myriad range of colourful items. The atmosphere was festive and cheerful. The hall was filled with thousands of people, all desirous of beginning the New Year with His darshan.
Swami went around for a complete round as the bhajans were on. He sat in the centre stage and enquired from the students as to whether they were well prepared for a music programme in the evening. One of the members of the bhajan group went up to Swami and told Him about all the songs that had been prepared. Swami directed that they should sing a lot of swaras (the notes of music) in the songs. After a few bhajans, Swami called a senior member of the faculty of Sri Sathya Sai University and gave instructions about an announcement to be made. Accordingly, it was announced that in the evening, after 4:00 p.m., there would be a music programme by the students of the University and the College of Music. Swami seemed pleased even as the announcement was made. A few boys moved to the stage and showed Swami the cards they had made for Ugadi. The Ugadi Pachchadi, which is a mixture of all the six tastes and is partaken as symbolic of accepting everything that comes as the Lord's prasadam, was also blessed by Swami. He soon received aarthi and left.
In the evening, a huge mat had been spread and the students who were to sing, were seated by 3:30 p.m. The array of instruments presented a wonderful sight. At about a few minutes before 5 p.m., Swami arrived. He came on the special raised golden throne. The hall was truly packed now and Swami gently made His way through the surging crowds of devotees. Completing a round of the hall, He moved through the veranda and then arrived onstage. As soon as He saw the students, He asked for them to begin the programme. The lead singers moved on to the stage and offered flowers to Him. The introduction was beautiful. It stated that the New Year was one in which we have to be Virodhi (opposed) to the six Virodhi (enemies) within. The first song was the Yugadi song in Telugu which was so poignantly rendered. The second song was a Thyagaraja kirtan that extolled the might of Lord Rama. The pair that sang the song excelled in the rendering of the swaras in the beginning, and as they performed, scaled new heights in the pitch and undulated their voice rapidly with great ease. The crowd could not help but burst into an appreciative applause. From the wonder of technique, the duo shifted to the beauty of feelings as everyone soaked in the Love of Rama. Swami seemed very happy and even proud at their rendering. The third song was "Maula Maula" which had been suitably altered and modified to fit the theme. Again, another pair reveled in high scales as they melodiously pleaded to their Lord. Then, there was a Hindustani classic that brought out the richness of feelings and of the sonority that the voices of the boys exhibited. Another song in Telugu thrilled at the prospects of being in the divine presence. The next song was, "Gopi Gopala Bala" and it described the divine sport of Krishna with the gopikas. It also projected the masterful control and the expertise of the singers. Finally, there was a Namavali song on Lord Hari which was sung by a trio of singers.
Though only seven songs were sung, the programme lasted a full 75 minutes! Time passed quickly as it does when one is lost in something. In between Swami went to the interview room for a short while but He sat through for almost the entire programme. It was a beautiful and musical way to begin the New Year. More than anything else, Swami seemed very happy with the programme. He blessed prasadam to be distributed to all and then received aarthi. Two students moved up to Him and thanked Him for the wonderful opportunity, and also prayed to Him to forgive any mistakes that might have crept in. Swami blessed them and then moving to the car, retired for the day.
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