August 23, 2010 – The Holy Day of Onam in Prasanthi

Onam is the day the people from Kerala await and welcome their emperor Mahabali. Accordingly, a welcome was ready for the Emperor of Emperors. A long line of participants in the welcome parade at Yajur Mandir was constituted by the band girls of the Sri Sathya Sai Vidyapeeth, Sri Sailam, a Panchavadyam team from Kerala and a huge Veda chanting contingent. At 5:10 p.m., Swami arrived and simultaneously the various groups swung into action. All these were along with the music and the Veda chanting that filled the hall through the PA system.

As Swami moved down the slope in the ladies’ side, both sides of the pathway were lined by little girls holding lamps in welcome. It was a wonderful sight - Swami in the centre, a banner announcing “Happy Onam” on top and little ones with lighted lamps and lighted faces on either sides - a picture perfect indeed.

Swami arrived at the centre where at least a hundred children were seated in costumes in front of a revolving backdrop. Swami moved through them into the gents’ side where  ‘waves’ of devotion rose up to offer salutations to the Ocean. Completing the gents’ side, Swami moved towards the students where a plethora of cards awaited His viewing and blessings. Lovingly Swami blessed all these heartfelt creations.

Students belonging to Kerala from the various campuses of the Institute had also arrived to celebrate Onam with Swami. The Mandir had been decorated very grandly. Flowers and gold hangings made it look like a palace. Two arches had been placed at either ends of the stage and it was through the arch on the gents’ side that Swami arrived on the stage.

The Kerala State President, Mr. Mukundan, then sought Swami’s blessings to make an announcement. He declared the names of the winners of the Inter Collegiate and School Level Essay Writing Competition held in Kerala which had over 15,000 participants. Ms. Anjani Hariharan and Ms. Sukanya were the winners in each of the categories. Swami said that He would award them the medal and they were thus invited to the stage! They must have been thrilled at this unexpected bounty.

Swami took gold medals and put it round their necks, blessing them with padanamaskar. Doing their best to contain the surging joy, the girls returned to their place. Then the programme was announced and it began with tiny tots moving to the stage to make offerings of the card and roses.

The programme was entitled “Keraleeyam.” It was a bouquet of dances and songs. The colourfully attired children danced to depict stories of the glories of Adi Shankara,  Parashurama, Prahalada and the Narasimha Avatar leading to the 'home coming' of Emperor Mahabali. Singing Onam folk songs they danced heralding the arrival of the harvest and the festival of Onam. Depicting scenes from the minority Christian and Muslim population of the state, the presentatiion culminated with a song hailing the glory of the Avatar of the Age, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Popular art forms, namely, Kathakali, Ottanthullal, Oppana, Kavadiattam, Vanchippattu, etc. were also depicted illustrating the culturally-rich state.

There was a point during the dance when the various avatars of Lord Vishnu were depicted. When “Vamana” arrived on the scene, he was so tiny and Swami burst out laughing. The child was so little and must have been barely two feet in height. It was so nice to see Swami laughing so heartily. Blessed indeed is that child! It must also be said that the dances were so many in number and they were done in such quick succession, that both Swami and the audience sat riveted watching the children perform.

When they concluded, there were almost audible whispers, “Is it over already?” Swami also turned to the state president and asked, “Is it over?” He replied, “Swami, this programme is over. There is another drama on Dhruva.” Swami blessed the children with Abhayahastha and asked for the next programme to begin.

The next was a drama entitled “Margadhara” and it was based on the story of Dhruva. The children came forward and made initial offerings to Swami and He blessed all of them. The drama then started. It began with a scene from the Kailasa mountains where a woman has arrived seeking her place there. The all knowing Lord Shiva, with His cosmic dance, narrates the story of the woman, Suniti.

The two wives of King Uttanapaada, Suruchi and Suniti, are constantly fighting for the attention of the king. The elder queen Suniti is righteous but the younger, more beautiful Suruchi is consumed by jealousy and hatred. As the quarrel went on, Swami looked at the students and remarked, “See what happens if you have two wives! Don’t have two wives!” All the students smiled.

The two princes, Dhruva, the son of Suniti, and Uttama, the child of Suruchi, meanwhile live in great love and amity. The scenes between these two children were so innocent, beautiful and above all very funny in a cute and sweet manner. On many occasions, Swami would burst out into laughter, seeing their childlike curiosity and listening to their child talk. But all their efforts to stop the bickering fights between their mothers are in vain when Suruchi tells Dhruva, “You have no right of place on your father’s lap. If you want to sit there pray to Lord Narayana that you be born out of my womb!” She then banishes him to the forests.

Dhruva is determined to win his father’s love and he sets out seeking the Lord after taking his mother’s blessings.  He is guided by the celestial sage Narada to chant “Om Namo Bhagawathe Vasudevaya” as the mantra to reach Lord Vishnu. The penance he does is so intense that when he stops drinking water, the three worlds dry up. When he stops breathing, lost in the divine name, the three worlds are choked and they pray to Lord Vishnu for refuge.

When Dhruva sees the beautiful form of the Lord, he forgets everything and asks to be with the Lord forever. The Lord blesses him with Himself and also the right to rule the kingdom for the next 36,000 years after which Dhruva becomes the pole star. The story of Dhruva is so much like all our lives. We set out to seek God to attain some goals and desires. But the journey to the lord is so enlightening, that we end up asking for the Lord. What else is sweeter and greater in life?

Swami went briefly into the interview room and got safari cloth pieces and sarees for all the participants. The drama had lasted almost one full hour and at the end of it, Swami said again, “Do not have two wives. All this drama happens if you have two wives!” There was laughter near Him once again. Once the drama concluded and the children came forward in the final formation, Swami nodded approvingly and said that the drama was very good. He blessed prasadam for distribution and blessed the clothes also to be distributed to all the participants.

Swami then asked the children backstage, who had performed the dances, to also come forward. They too were presented with the clothes. In the meanwhile, the students who had made the cards came in the front. Swami smiled and beckoned to them. He saw and blessed each and every card. After that, He asked for aarthi.

After this, Swami moved down the ramp and sat amidst the children for a group photograph. Swami then materialised vibhuti and called the children towards Him. Dozens of hands stretched out towards Him and He lovingly distributed the holy ash. Moving back, Swami created vibhuti once more and blessed the people backstage with it.


Now moving towards the ladies’ side, Swami created vibhuti for the third time and gave it to the ladies. It was a shower of Love and Grace. Satisfied, Swami then moved back up the stage. He asked the priest whether aarthi had been done and when the priest said ‘yes’ Swami stopped him from lighting the camphor for the second time. Swami then told the students to chant the “Samastha Loka” chant again. After that was done, He raised both His hands in blessings to both the ladies’ and gents’ side before moving towards the residence at 7:30 p.m.

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