August 23, 2009 – Ganesh Chaturthi in the Divine Presence

The day of Ganesha Chaturthi brought a pleasant surprise when a message arrived from Yajur Mandir at 4.30 p.m. asking whether the students were ready with their programme! There were two reasons for this happiness, one was that Swami was keen about the programme, secondly it was only half past four (Swami came only after 5 p.m. on most days since July 2009).

It made everyone feel that there is something really special about that day and why not? Lord Ganesha is a popular deity all over India and, in this age of globalization, the world too. Celebrated as Ganesha's birthday, Ganesh Chaturthi apart from its profound spiritual and ritual impact, gained prominence as a political strategy too during the pre-Independence days when Bal Gangadhar Tilak used it as a medium to unify the masses. From then on, the celebrations have only grown and become more popular.

Puttaparthi too has a long and fulfilling history of celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi and Swami takes active interest in the celebrations. Having been blessed with the statues the previous day, the students assembled in the Mandir for the evening programme. They had completed the idol installation and worship in the morning.

Shortly after 5 p.m., Swami arrived in the elegant white chair which He seems to reserve for special occasions. He had a beautiful smile playing on His face and seemed so exuberant right from the start. Considering the fact that He is the Shiva-Shakti Swaroopa, it was the "joyful parents" arriving for the "birthday party" of their son - Ganesha! Swami moved for a complete round and as He neared the students, there were many cards that they had made for the occasion.

Swami went through the offerings and when the students from the music group requested permission to sing songs, He agreed whole heartedly. The Primary school section of the hall was a pandora's box of cards! And Swami seemed delighted at seeing so many cards. He carefully went through each and every one of them and spoke to many of the tiny tots.

Many of the children seemed too awed to speak but the moment He would break into a smile and ask something, words came flowing out. The most common question was, "Which class are you in?" and that too seemed like an expression of admiration of their 'class' rather than a question to determine their academic level!

Completing the round, Swami moved into the Bhajan Hall where a clay idol of Lord Ganesha had been installed for the period of three days. He looked at the altar and the priest explained something to Him. Swami then had a look at the other idols too - Shirdi Baba, the Shiva Lingas and the golden Krishna. He moved out and took a round through the portico too.

A long standing devotee, Mr. Ramana Rao, requested Swami for prasadam for some people who were in need of Divine help. Swami nodded to him. As soon as He came to the centre of the dais, Swami told the student next to Him, "Go inside and get some packets of prasadam." When the vibhuti packets were brought, Swami sent for Mr. Rao and gave the vibhuti packets to him. Swami then looked at the students and said, "Sing your songs!" The programme began.

Starting with the Ganaashtakam which was sung with a lot of vigour by all the students (and many devotees too for it is a popular stotram), the singing moved on to the Sankata Nashana stotram. The Primary School children added vociferously to the volume and Swami seemed to be in such a jolly mood. An interesting fact was that Swami was hiccupping! The student by His side offered water, but Swami did not want it! He continued to hiccup slightly! It is said that if someone is thinking of you, you begin to hiccup. If that were really true, Swami would be in eternal bouts of hiccups! But being Ganesh Chaturthi, it seemed to "make sense" that a lot of people were thinking of Him that day!

The songs went on and now there were trios singing special songs. Swami kept complimenting or commenting about the songs and was actively involved in the presentation. There was another small episode where a fly alighted on His face. He gently brushed it but it kept coming back over and over again. One of the students moved to the front and raised the fan upwards in an attempt to blow the fly away. Swami seemed amused and said, "Move away the fan." The student said, "That fly keeps hovering at Your face." Swami smiled and let it be (The conversation between Swami and the student took place in sign language).

After a few songs, Swami moved to the interview room for a brief interval. The Carnatic classical "Maha Ganapatim" was on and when Swami returned, the song was moving towards its climax. The two boys singing it did a lot of vocal gymnastics with the swaras (notes) of the songs and Swami was visibly impressed.

As the song concluded He called one of them and asked, "One more?" Another song followed soon and the icing on the cake came with the "Tillana" song. Only one of the singers knew this song and Swami asked the other, "Don't you know this?" The boy nodded “no” with a kind of apologetic face. Swami immediately smiled at him as if to say, "It is okay!" The Carnatic songs were the highlight of the evening as the boys scaled great heights of pitch and rendering excellence. The audience was clapping and seemed thrilled.

Swami's face glowed with pride! After that, He asked for aarthi. He said (by signs) "Too many songs will strain the throats!" After the aarthi, Swami spoke to the lead singers. One of them said, "Swami, were the songs good? If they were not, please forgive us." Swami patted him and said that all songs were good. He called another singer and told him to get ready for a Burrakatha on the Ramayana. Then Swami moved towards Yajur Mandir.

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