November 18, 2010 – Rathotsavam and ‘Sai Avataram’ Drama by Primary School Students

November 18 every year is celebrated as the day of the Rathotsavam. The idols of the Rama Avatar and also of Lord Krishna are taken out in a procession through the village of Puttaparthi and the neighbouring hamlets before returning to the Mandir. And every year it is flagged off by Swami. This year, Swami had blessed the procession the previous day itself and had also instructed the students to be part of the procession, by chanting Vedas and singing bhajans. As per His instructions, at 10:00 a.m., the statues were taken out of the Gopuram gate in palanquins.

A huge crowd had gathered on the road to witness this. All the buildings were filled with people and the balconies were bursting at their seams. The rites and rituals were performed as the idols took their place in the chariot. An added attraction this year was a lad, dressed as Hanuman, who had suspended himself from a height. With great devotion and fervour, the procession began. There was chanting, singing, dancing and celebration for the Lord was parading through the streets. The Rathotsavam in Puttaparthi is slowly growing like the chariot festival at Puri that is held annually. It was a wonderful success by the fact that it gave so much joy to so many. It is very symbolic that when you pine for the Lord, He Himsef comes to your doorstep and you don’t even have to move out of your homes!

The evening slot had been allocated to the children of the Sri Sathya Sai Primary School for their drama entitled “Sai Avataram”. At 6:40 p.m., Swami arrived from Yajur Mandiram.  A song rejoicing at the beautiful bond of Love between Swami and His children filled the air. It was a harmonious blend of Veda chanting, bhangra, music and song! The beat was so lively that people immediately began to clap. An elaborate procession had been planned and arranged by the teachers of the Primary school. Thus it was that the Children’s band welcomed Swami into the Sai Kulwant Hall. They were followed by children vociferously chanting the Vedas.

The path that Swami would move through had been lined with boys in the traditional attire of a kurta and a turban and they held the sacred kalasham in their hands. Swami moved through this wonderful passageway and He seemed to study each face as He moved by. Arriving at the centre, His attention was fully on the giant screen that was to act as the backdrop for the drama. This was a creative idea of a ‘moving’ backdrop. Videos on the screen would become the backdrop for the different scenes.

Throughout the rounds, Swami was escorted by two students who held aloft umbrellas, adding regalia to the colourful scene. Swami called one of the students holding the umbrella and spoke something to him before continuing on the rounds. Via the portico, Swami arrived onto the stage. The backdrop for the drama also served as a screen and Swami began to look at Himself on the screen! Within minutes, the representative children came up to Him holding cards and bouquets.

Swami’s face lit up with a beautiful smile as soon as He saw them, and then He blessed them. Even as He was blessing them and granting padanamaskar, His attention was partly on the screen and He seemed to get a new perspective of the action that was happening on the stage.

Immediately, the drama began. The opening was about the various prophets of God who had walked the earth to show mankind The Way. So it was that Adi Sankaracharya, Mohammed the Prophet, blessed be his name, Buddha and Jesus arrived on the stage to proclaim the unifying spirit behind the diverse names and forms of God. Very soon, all these saints and prophets sang out the glory of the Sai Avatar. Referring to the wonderful children, the pillars of the world’s future, being moulded at Puttaparthi, the story of Upamanyu was depicted.

Upamanyu is lost in thought about the impermanence of life. His mother advises him to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. So determined he is on this goal that even when Lord Indra - representative of the senses - offers him the best a man could get, he refuses saying, “What I seek is much beyond your reach! I seek the Lord!” Indian mythology is rich in its metaphors and allegories. Lord Shiva apparently is poor with no material possessions. Yet He is the ultimate blessing anyone could ever seek. The boy achieves his ultimate dream finally. Swami was very impressed and moved with the boy acting as Upamanyu. He looked at the students seated nearby and said that the boy was little but his aspirations were so high and noble.

The next episode depicted was a classic battle between two paths to God - the path of wisdom and the path of love - Jnana Marga vs Bhakti Marga. Uddhave, a dear friend of Lord Krishna, undertakes a journey to Brindavan to teach the gopikas the fastest way to God - the path of wisdom. However, what happens there is a totally different thing! He tries his level best to convince the gopikas or the cowherd girls to give up their attachment, pining and therefore suffering for Lord Krishna and turn towards wisdom for solace.

But even as they pour out their love and devotion to Krishna, he realizes that the gopikas are already in the highest state of wisdom where nothing exists but the One - Lord Krishna! The devotion of these cowherd girls gives Uddhava a lesson or two in the path of wisdom and he witnesses the beautiful Raasa dance.

The scene of the conversation between the gopikas and Uddhava has been narrated many times by Swami. He was so involved in the scene and He did not seem to find time even to bat an eyelid. The pining of the gopikas moved Him and as everyone watched Him on the giant screen, a prayer would have surely escaped from every heart and lips, “Oh Swami! Grant us too, devotion like that of the gopikas!”

The drama came to a close with all the children coming forward for a final formation. Even as the song was on, all the children waved battery operated lights and presented a colourful and grand spectacle. Swami’s eyes rapidly scanned the colourful treat that was being waved in front of Him. The whole crowd got energised and began to clap enthusiastically.

Swami told the children in the final formation to group closer so that He would come down. Then He moved down the stage. Once Swami was amidst the children, they came to Him in small groups in a highly disciplined manner. Posing for a photograph with Him, they gently took namaskar and made their way to the behind. The coordination, speed, finesse and discipline with which these little kids conducted was exemplary to say the least.

Swami called one of the photographers and asked, “How many boys?” All the children were boys and the number was told to Swami. When the ‘gopikas’ posed with Him, He posed them a question, “Are you all boys?” There were smiles as they affirmed that they were indeed boys! Within ten minutes, everyone, including the Veda chanting boys and the band boys had got their photo opportunity with Swami.

Swami then moved up the stage and asked for shirt and pant pieces. He had them distributed to all the children and also told them, “Get shirt and pant stitched!” He also blessed prasadam for distribution. Then, looking at the children He said, “Sing a bhajan”. The children responded with “Ganesha Sharanam Parama Paavanam” and everyone followed enthusiastically. Once that bhajan was complete, Swami asked for aarthi. After this, Swami told the students nearby, “They have been here since 3 p.m.! They all are feeling very hungry.” When this was told to them, they all said, “Swami we do not feel hungry when we work for You!” Swami smiled and blessing them, retired to the Residence. The time was 8:25 p.m.

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