November 17, 2010 – Mass Marriage and Concerts by Pandit Ranu Majumdar and Sri Sikkil Gurucharan

This auspicious day was selected for the performance of 85 marriages. Swami had blessed this ceremony and had presented clothes to all the couples the previous day. There were some alumni too, both from the girls’ and boys’ side who were tying the knot today. At 11:15 a.m., Swami arrived from the Yajur Mandir. The central portions of Sai Kulwant Hall had been kept empty and all the items necessary for the rituals in taking the holy vows had been arranged for all the 85 couples. Swami moved into the hall. The procession of the couples with their parents had arrived and it awaited Divine instructions at the Northern gate of the Mandir. The naadaswaram filled the air with sanctifying vibrations.

Swami took a detour and moved up the central ramp to the stage. He blessed the ceremonies to begin and the procession now moved into the hall and all the couples took their allocated places. Within minutes the mass marriage function began and Swami was the witness that He always is. In the Indian weddings, people consider the agni (fire) as the Saakshi (witness) while taking the conjugal vows. It was the blessed privilege of these couples that they were taking their vows with Sai as the Saakshi! Small and mobile Yajnakundams had been provided for all and using camphor and other sacred materials, a fire too was ignited. As the priest recited the sacred chants, he also advised everyone as to what had to be done.

Most of the couples were from poor economic backgrounds from the various neighbouring villages. And Swami blessed them like a loving parent would. Not only were their marriages being conducted in a completely ritualistic and spiritual manner, but also Swami was gifting to all of them jewelry, clothes and necessary items to begin their new life! A travel bag full of gifts of grace were presented to each couple. The holy ceremonies took about an hour to reach completion.

It was a beautiful spectacle when the Mangalasutra was tied around the neck of the girl by the boy as a mark of their union - a promise to take equal share in the joys and sorrows of life. The Mangalavadyam played by the troupe heralded the beginning of a new life for the couples and all in the audience cheered and clapped in joy. Swami inspected all the items for distribution and thus personally supervised it.

The most memorable part of the morning came when Swami asked for the bowl full of akshatha grains. He then said that He would go around and bless all the couples. The time was past 12:30 p.m. and one could not help but wonder as to how Swami would bless all the 85 couples spread over such a large area. But, those who know Swami, know that once His mind is made, there is no stopping Him! Swami moved down the rows of assembled people, blessing not only the couples but also their respective families with a shower of Akshatha grains and padanamaskar. He first blessed all those who were seated on the central marbled blocks. Then, He said, “Let us go to that (western) side.”

As is the case, outpourings of devotion overwhelm a person and everyone began to fall at His feet, placing their heads, seeking blessings. Fearing that some sort of indiscipline may creep in, the security guards were brought in. Swami immediately looked at them and said that they were not necessary now! He was simply giving Himself completely to the devotees and they seemed to be loving every moment of it. Swami went around the long lines and when He emerged, the first statement He spoke was, “We also have to go to the other (eastern) side!” And so it was that the shower of Love continued.

When some of the students, out of concern, told the devotees, “Do not place your head on His feet, just touch with your hands”, Swami told them not to instruct so. Ah! Who but the Lord can understand the hearts of His devotees. Swami says that He is a “Man among men, woman among women, child among children and God when alone.” His devotion towards His devotees only amplified the import of that statement!

It was nearly 1 p.m. when Swami finished blessing all and moved up the stage. He called Prof. Anil Kumar and advised him on several announcements. Soon it was declared that a banquet had been arranged for the couples and their parties. It was also said that the newly weds must present themselves for evening darshan in the new clothes that had been presented to them. A joyous round of applause punctuated the announcements. Swami then received aarthi. Prasadam had already been distributed. It was 1:15 p.m. when Swami retired to the Residence.

The evening was to be another unforgettable one. There were two musical treats scheduled. The first by Pandit Ronu Majumdar. He is India’s ace flutist whose name has become virtually synonymous with the flute or the bansuri. A major innovator with the medium of New-age Music, Pandit Ronu Mazumdar has been musically associated with international greats such as Pandit Ravi Shankar, ex-Beatle George Harrison, ace guitarist Ry Cooder and several other legends. His incredible range of achievements includes innumerable performances in the world’s most prestigious venues such as The Kremlin, Moscow; The Palais de Beaux Arts, Brussels and so on.

The second was to be by Sri Sikkil Gurucharan. An extremely talented carnatic vocalist hailing from a family of musicians, he is the grandson of Sikkil Kunjumani, eldest of the internationally acclaimed flutists Sikkil Sisters. Having won a plethora of Indian and international awards, it was to be Sikkil’s first opportunity before Bhagavan Baba in Prasanthi Nilayam.

It was shortly after 6:30 p.m. that Swami arrived for darshan. The crowds in Prashanti Nilayam in the last few days had been on a steady rise and the Mandir was already very crowded that day. Swami took a complete darshan round and blessed once again the students who had wedded that morning and as He had told, they had come dressed in new clothes.

Swami then completed the rounds and went into the Bhajan Hall. There He had a look at the idols that would constitute the deities during the next day’s Rathotsavam. He also blessed the kalashams. He came out and needless to say, the bhajans gained tempo and enthusiasm. Swami sat listening to the bhajans. He looked at the singers of the bhajan group and told them that two pairs must sing at a time. He wanted group bhajans!

Even as four singers began to sing at a time, Swami asked to be moved to the eastern end of the stage - on the gents’ side. That was done and now Swami seemed to make it His personal effort to make the enthusiasm in the bhajans rocket sky high! He looked at the boys and teased, “I cannot even hear your voice. Are you singing?” Naturally the decibel level and clapping speed went up. He Himself prodded the clapping by vigorously keeping beat. The giant screens portrayed this to even those who were seated far off and the energy and enthusiasm caught on. Bhajans now began to progress to the third speed as well! The whole hall thundered and resounded with bhajans that went on till 7:30 p.m. That is what Swami has been doing from His school days - enthusing people to chant the name of the Lord! He was completely lost in the bhajans and when He was asked about the concerts for the evening, He asked for the announcement mike to be brought.

Pandit Ronu Majumdar came forward and offered a flower to Swami and he seemed overwhelmed at the mere sight of Him. The announcement for the second performer was on and Swami said, “Announce loudly”. Soon, the concert began. He began with an alaap that was mind blowing to say the least. With great control and finesse, he blew out notes that blew everyone off their feet! Swami seemed to get very moved with his rendering. He must have remembered His Krishna days when He had enchanted everyone with His flute! Swami went into the interview room to choose the gifts He wanted to shower on the flutist as he began the second piece - Payoji Maine. Sri Majumdar also sang the song as he played it like a maestro on the flute and the whole audience joined him in the singing. Swami returned soon and the third piece was the famous Vaishnava Jana To. As he completed that piece, Swami called him.

He moved towards Swami in leaps and bounds. Swami decorated him with a shawl and blessed him with the picture clock. The artist was so happy and thrilled and he offered all his flutes to Him. There was a little one, a medium sized one and a really huge base flute. Swami blessed them and him. Soon his accompanying artists too were blessed by Swami and decorated with a shawl. It was a sweet scene as Swami took the flute from the accompanying artist and had a look at it. Swami also released a book that the tablist- a teacher from Swami’s Music College - offered to Him. Soon the next artist came on stage.

Sikkil Gurucharan offered his salutations to Swami along with his whole troupe. He began with the famous Thyagaraja kirtan “Mokshamu Galada”. Even as he began the alaap, the devotion and love in the song and the singing could be felt. Some were moved into tears too. The beauty of devotion is that like a flame, it catches on very fast and soon there is a great conflagration! Another Kannada song followed after which he sang the song of the evening.

Beginning with a slow and beautiful alaap which spoke of the different facets of Swami, he began to sing the Jhoola song - a song that is sung while singing a lullaby for a baby in a cradle. The lilting tunes were so beautiful and one could picture Swami in the jhoola, swinging gently! Swami was also very moved with the singing. In fact, even as he finished singing, Swami called him and lovingly patted his cheek. He decorated him with a shawl and gifted him the picture clock too. Swami spoke to him for quite some time and then blessed the accompanying artists.

The aarthi was then taken. Prasadam was also blessed for distribution. The priest confirmed the timings for the Rathotsavam the next day and Swami told the students, “Tomorrow, there is Rathotsavam. Sing bhajans and chant Vedas leading the procession.” Everyone eagerly nodded as Swami moved into the interview room for a brief while en route to the Residence at 8:45 p.m.

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