March 2, 2010 – Holi in the Divine Presence

Red letter days arrive once in a while in the lifetime of a person. But there are those special days which get etched in gold and if they happen to fall in the lifetime of a person, they create a memory which gets transmitted for generations to come and savour.

It was one such day, the second day in the month of March 2010, specially so for the devotees from Bihar and in general for every devotee who was fortunate enough to be present in the Sai Kulwant Hall at Prasanthi Nilayam. Though it is very tempting to fast forward and rush to the Divine delight that drenched the devotees, it is only fair that everyone be allowed to participate in the day as it unfolded. And so, we begin from the start.

In the beginning, there was nothing! Literally! The previous day, the devotees from Bihar and Jharkhand had arrived to the Sai Kulwant Hall, fully prepared to make a presentation in the Divine Presence. Swami had also permitted them to put up the programme. The schedule in Puttaparthi had undergone a slight metamorphosis.

From the past 5 days, Swami had been coming both in the mornings and the evenings, to the great delight of all the devotees. By 7:40 a.m., He would arrive from the Residence and the glorious old days would get recreated even as the elders reminisced about them. As the golden rays of the summer sun fell on all, the glorious rays of His Grace touched every heart as it showered with divine excitement! Life with God is Nitya Nootana (ever fresh and ever new).

But on the 1st, even as the devotees waited to begin the Holi programme, bhajans had begun at 6:00 p.m., culminating in aarthi at 6:30 p.m. without Swami coming out! The Lord has His reasons and those are beyond the comprehension of mortals. And so when Swami told them in the morning that He would see their programme in the evening, the devotees from Bihar and Jharkhand got ready with sincere prayers and presentation.

The backdrop was in place and the Veda chanting concluded at 5:00 p.m. But well, as we said earlier, in the beginning there was nothing! Nothing in terms of signals of Swami's arrival. Then there was the Word! It was at 6:30 p.m. that there was word of Swami's arrival. And then came God! There were little girls on either side of the pathway welcoming Swami into the hall with earthen lamps in their hands. Swami moved through them and as He reached the centre, He turned to the right and moved straight up the stage.

The chanting had restarted and Swami sat listening to the chants for a while. Then He asked for them to stop and asked for the programme to begin. A row of gents and ladies made a beeline to Swami to make the initial offerings and then the participant children moved up the stage. Swami smiled broadly at them as He received the roses and blessed them with a few words too. The programme then began.

There was a garland of dances in celebration of the colorful festival of Holi. It began with a traditional dance by little girls seeking Swami's blessings by way of a visit to Bihar! The next one was by the boys and was tuned to a popular song, "Maula Mere Le Le Meri Jaan." The boys sought Swami with all their heart as the lilting melody filled the air. As Swami started keeping rhythm to the song, one could not help but think of the good fortune of the singer and composer.

It was a song to the Lord and it had found fulfillment that day, even though the singers and composer were maybe unaware, as it was played in the Divine Presence. This goes to show that anything in God's name done with the heart ultimately reaches Him - in one way or the other. The next dance was done by girls dressed in multicoloured lehangas as they brought out the various hues of feelings on the Holi day.

The fourth dance was a piece in Bhangra and the song had been specially composed for the occasion of Holi. The culminating dance depicted the Holi celebrations in Brij, the childhood place of Lord Sri Krishna. It was a beautiful sight to imagine the Lord playing with water and colours with His beloved devotees, the gopikas and the gopalas.

As the dances concluded, the next part of the programme - a drama entitled "Sita Kalyanam"- was announced. Swami's eyes seemed to light up even as the drama was announced. The main characters came up to Swami and sought His blessings before commencing the presentation. The drama opens at the hermitage of sage Vishwamitra whose sacrifice has been protected by the brothers Rama and Lakshmana.

The invitation to attend the Svayamvara of Sita comes and the brothers with sage Vishwamitra head towards Mithila. There, Lord Rama breaks the great Shivadhanush (bow of Lord Shiva) and then wins Sita's hand in marriage. Swami was absorbed in the drama which had dialogues delivered very slowly so as to ensure each word sinks into the audience's consciousness. Just before Rama broke the bow, Swami moved into the interview room.

By the time He came out, the drama had been completed. As soon as He arrived on the stage, Swami asked the State President, "Did Rama and Sita garland each other?" When he told Swami that the drama was over and Rama and Sita had been wed, Swami seemed to beg to differ! He said that there is a manner in which Sita Kalyanam is done. And then began a most unforgettable night!

First Swami asked the Vedam group to start chanting. Swami now began to issue a series of instructions through the state president and two different students. He first asked all the children to stand up. The box on which the bow of Shiva lay was brought back into position. Swami said that He would now direct the Sita Kalyanam!

King Janaka was told to fetch his daughter from the left side. Rama and the others were told to stand on the opposite side. Swami asked for the chairs to be brought and placed for all the "elders" in the scene. They were all seated and then Swami told Janaka to offer his daughter to Rama. Even as Rama and Sita came face to face, Swami told them to exchange garlands.

As the pair placed the garlands on each other, thunderous applause filled the air and Swami broke into a sweet smile. Then, He asked both of them to sit next to each other on chairs. Rama sat on Sita's right but Swami asked him to shift to her left side. Then, Swami asked for akshatha grains to be brought and had it showered on the 'couple' by the elders.

He told all the members of this new "drama" also to participate and shower grains. Holding fistfuls of these grains, Rama and Sita poured them on each others head as per the custom. Then, Swami asked for one end of Sita's saree to be tied to one end of Rama's dhoti. That was done and then the couple was asked to move thrice around the bow of Lord Shiva which seemed to take the place of the holy fire! The whole hall watched in spiritual rapture as this grand spectacle was conducted by Swami.

Swami then asked the Vedam group to chant the "Mangalyam" - the holy chants which are sung during the marriages. The Sita Kalyanam is the reminiscence of a sacred event of the distant past which celebrates the day Sri Rama and Sita entered into matrimony. It is considered highly auspicious and one need hardly say that the auspiciousness had been multiplied infinitely once Swami took charge.

Swami asked for the thrones to be placed in the center and asked Rama and Sita to be seated. Swami now asked for the bhajans to begin and songs celebrating the union of Rama and Sita, of Prakruti and Paramatma, the individual soul and the Supreme soul, were sung. At this point, Swami moved down from the stage and then posed for photographs with Rama and Sita.

He delighted in rearranging the various members at the 'wedding' to ensure various good snaps. Finally He called the State President also to pose alongside Him. He then spoke to all the members. In the same vein, He also granted group pictures to all the various dance troupes that had performed earlier. Then He gave padanamaskar to all the members of all teams. Blessing them thus, Swami moved back onto the stage.

He was still not satisfied! He put all the 'ladies' to one side and the 'gents' to the other. Right in the front, He placed Rama and Sita. Then He called the photographer and videocameraman and asked them to shoot! It was like the coverage of a marriage event! And what a Divine marriage it was! The photographer turned around his camera to show the picture to Swami and Bhagavan gazed at it for a while. Swami then got sarees and white cloth pieces to be distributed to all.

As the distribution went on, Swami blessed prasadam too to be distributed to all. The children were all in a daze and they would scarcely be able to realize the great good fortune that had been conferred on them. It was 8:45 p.m. when Swami received aarthi and it was almost nearing nine when He finally moved into His residence.

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