November 23, 2010 – The Resplendent and Riveting 85th Birthday of Bhagavan

There come times when one feels that a day ought to be etched in gold in the pages of history. Such times become a regular feature when in the Presence of an Avatar. But even then, some days stand out sheerly due to the myriad ways in which divinity is celebrated and cherished. The celebration of the 85th Advent of the Sai Avatar was definitely one such day!

The announcement on the previous evening that Swami would arrive to the Hill View Stadium in the Golden Chariot had thrilled everyone and that alone was enough to give a sleepless night to many. All one had to do was to take a walk in the wee hours of the morning, at 1 a.m., and the Love and Devotion that Swami inspires would become more than clear. A bus stand is commonly defined as a place where buses halt! That was not the case that day in Puttaparthi.

The complete road surface of the bus stand was populated with people who had made it their bed for the night. These were people who had streamed in large numbers to witness the Divine glory on the following morning. The pavements, patios of the shops, corridors of the buildings - any piece of real estate – was filled with this surging mass of humanity who had come to pay obeisance to their Lord. The elaborate temporary shelters had already been filled and were bursting at the seams by then.

It had been announced that people would be let into the stadium from 9 a.m. onwards as Swami would be arriving only after 10. At 1 a.m., the serpentine lines had already begun. Hearing of the announcement, people had rushed out, grabbed some grub to satiate their hunger and had prepared themselves for a night long vigil in order to be the first ones to get into the stadium.

The devotees were sleeping in the waiting lines - the earth below as their cushion with the sky above as their sheet! By 3 a.m., the March had begun. Streams of people coursed in from all directions to the main road leading to the stadium. The young and the old, the prince and the pauper - everyone without exception headed towards a single goal. Motor traffic had been severely restricted on the road and only those who had pre-approved passes were allowed to ply.

Elaborate arrangements had been made in the venue itself. The organizers were also well aware that no announcement would ever hold back the crowds from coming in early and so they had made arrangements for tea, coffee and snacks to be served at the venue for one and all. Eager to be part of the Birthday in some way or the other, volunteers moved around with mini water tanks on their backs slaking the thirst of the thousands that had gathered. Some others occupied themselves with distributing caps to everyone in view of the hot sun that would soon rise over the horizon - it too was eager to see the Lord on this occasion and the sunrise was early!

A medical tent had been set up in case of emergencies. The barricading had been thoughtfully done so as to prevent crowding and yet at the same time in a manner that would not obstruct the view when the ‘Golden’ moment came. Huge LED screens had been put up in various parts of the stadium to facilitate darshan. The decorations were so wonderful and beautiful that it is best seen to be understood.

People started filing in great numbers to the hill view stadium. They came in all kinds of ways - by foot, in motor vehicles, in cycle rickshaws, on crutches, in wheelchairs - you name it and it was there. From all directions, people were headed towards the ground. The name "Sairam" continously emanated from the lips and hearts of everyone. The stands were full and people were just flowing in. One just had to move through the crowds and the pulsating energy and vibrating excitement could be felt. There was an anticipative joy everywhere and everyone was aware that they were about to witness something that would be passed down generations as a legend. Generations to come would surely say, "My (great) grandfather/grandmother/uncle/aunt saw the Lord on the Golden Chariot!" Now the wait for Swami began.

The stadium was full and the sun was out in complete splendour. There was no cloud cover and soon the sun was mercilessly beating down upon the people gathered. And yet, not a single soul stirred out of the stadium. The clock ticked past 11 a.m. and still there was no sign of Swami. But that hardly mattered for the people. Nothing would even swerve their determination in the least. Some people fainted, unable to bear the sheer exhaustion of the 7-8 hour wait. But their first words on recovery were, “Take me back to the stadium. I have to see my Lord.” And thus it was that everyone waited for Swami’s arrival, graciously accepting the snacks and drinks that were being offered by the seemingly tireless volunteers!

It was after 11 a.m. that Swami arrived to the Primary School premises in the Porte car and as He came out, everyone in the proximity let out gasps of joy as the Lord was dressed in resplendent golden yellow. A mere sight of Him moistened the eyes nearby and like a flash of lightning, news spread in the stadium that the Lord was in a beautiful cream coloured silken robe. The traditional "control rod" of the chariot was presented to Swami and He accepted and blessed it. This meant that He had granted His permission for the chariot to move.

A beautiful wooden lift got its own line in this glorious page of history as it conveyed the Lord up the chariot. Once Swami was seated, the gates were thrown open and the chariot began to move. A wonderful song struck up the melody and everyone watched with gaping mouths as Swami came out into the sun from the shade. The song was based on Krishna’s promise about His advent!  The sight of Swami on the Suvarna Ratham erupted goosebumps on the skin. It is not even the slightest exaggeration to say that even the sun seemed to pale in front of that majesty.

People began to cry; there were tears flowing generously everywhere. Everyone rose up and stretched out their hands with palms facing Swami in order to grasp some of that splendorous glory. No one seemed to know how to react. Mothers and fathers burst out in tears. The children too were weeping. And at the same time, all were beaming their best smiles. Many old people strained their eyes and exuded feelings that their lives had been sanctified. A peaceful smile lit up their faces.

Oh! What a sight it was, a sight for all mankind. The crowd burst into raptures at so marvelous a scene. There were two Suns out there; one up in the heavens and another upon the earth. Decked in pleasing cream, Bhagawan had made His appearance upon a Golden Chariot. Dazzling and soothing alike, unmoved yet propelling, aloof but alluring, a tender sunflower and a diamond studded in gold, grand and godly the King arrived upon a hill of gold. The devotees gaped openhearted, drinking every moment, to slake the thirst of their souls, to imprint in their hearts a golden moment when the Lord arrived gliding in gold. There were two Suns that day, nay there were thousands; in the glistening eyes of every devotee there was embossed the flame of gold. Oh! What a sight it was, a sight for the gods!

In the villages it is said that if one wants to watch the sun one has to prepare a lot for the eye cannot stand that glare. So one is advised to mix cow dung in water and look at the reflection of the sun in that blackened water. That way, one can watch the sun and also be safe. Looking at Swami, the joy that would burst through one’s being would make one just drop down in sheer ecstasy. Like looking at the sun through its reflection, it was enough to see the reflection of that sheer joy in the faces of the devotees. They were absolutely crazed with joy.

As it was told by many later on, everyone felt that Swami granted them a special glance. The omnifelicity of our Lord has to be added to the list of His attributes of omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience. The people pulling the chariot tugged it so very gently and slowly and won the blessings of thousands who were blessed with that beautiful darshan. How much ever is written, the feelings, emotions and spiritual ecstasy that coursed through all cannot be captured. It was like being transported into another surreal world completely devoid of worries of any kind with only sheer joy to be offered to all.

On November 17, 2008, Swami had made an appearance in the stadium on the Golden Chariot, dressed in gold. On that occasion we wrote, “Personally, the writer feels that he has not seen anything grander in his life nor would he ever see it again, unless of course Swami repeats History or His Story as He refers to it!” History repeated itself and that day the writer has no idea as to which was grander! Sitting atop the chariot, Swami too was moved and seemed to break down for a moment. Love is such a magic. It moves the one who gives as much as it moves the one who receives. And that day in the Hill View Stadium, one witnessed the torrential transfer of Love.

There was Love in the air as it was in the dust and the grass and the tarpaulins and in everything that was in the stadium! The devotees were simply stretching out towards the chariot and Swami. They seemed to be grabbing at the air. They were crazed with love and devotion and they had completely forgotten themselves! Nobody seemed to have the least bit of body consciousness - and they say that it takes years of austere penance to learn how to rid oneself of body consciousness!

In the jubilation of describing Swami on the chariot, we completely forgot to mention of the elaborate procession that led the chariot - but that was the case with everyone who witnessed the event! Bhangra dancers reveling in the festival atmosphere, the band playing lively tunes and the huge contingent of Veda chanting students constituted the impressive procession up front. It was the most beautiful 15 minutes as Swami proceeded to the stage.

The sun was at its blazing best and the devotees would have certainly been ravenous and tired, but not for those 15 minutes when the Divine refreshed them. Swami was transported to the stage via a wooden lift. There was a wonderful and heart rending Birthday song sung on stage by Sri Shankar Mahadevan and Sri Suresh Wadekar, it was a beautiful piece composed by Sri Anup Jalota. After the Song, the Sai Anthem was played. Aaj Tumhara Janamdin Hai Parabrahma Avatari… (Today is the Avatar’s Birthday…) was the Birthday song sung by all the artists. Sakala Jagat Ke Rakhwale Sathya Sai… (Sathya Sai takes care of the entire world…) was the next.

As this song was sung, a helicopter hovered above showering rose petals on the audience. It was indeed unique that the devotees received a shower on the Lord’s birthday! Then Sri Shankar Mahadevan sang the famous song, Mahaprana Deepam Sivam Swami saw the sweltering heat and immediately wanted the morning programme to be over as soon as possible. He pointed out towards the devotees and said that the sun was blazing. The songs were stopped and the programme proceeded to the next stage.

As introduced by the All India President, Sri. V. Srinivasan, there were speeches by Sri. S. M. Krishna, the Union Minister for External Affairs, Sri. E. L. Narasimhan, the Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Sri Subramaniam, the Mayor of Chennai and Sri. S.V.Giri, Member of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and former Vice Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.

Sri S.M. Krishna began his speech by saying that thousands had gathered that day and including them there were millions around the world who were offering their salutations to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba that day who has been making great contributions in the field of spirituality, social uplift and education for the last six decades and more. “The thirst of the people of Anantapur and Chennai had been quenched, the health of millions restored, and the spiritual longing of people around the world fulfilled by Swami who has a huge contingent of devotees in Latin America, Europe, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and all round the world. Our lives have been enriched by sitting at Your Lotus Feet,” said the erudite speaker. Sri S.M. Krishna concluded His speech by extending his heartfelt greetings on behalf of Government of India.

Sri E.S.L. Narasimhan, Governor of Andhra Pradesh was the next speaker who spoke in Telugu. Referring to Bhagawan, Sri Narasimhan said, “Twameva Matha, Twameva Pitha (You are our mother, You are our father). Today we are in great company. We are in the company of Sathya, Dharma, Santhi, Prema and Ahimsa. I consider it a great privilege to be here.” The 7 crore people of Andhra Pradesh require Your blessings, he prayed to Bhagawan. Concluding his speech, Sri Narasimhan said that for ordinary people, we wish happy birthday, but for Swami, it should be Pallandu Pallandu Pallayirathandu, Pala Koti Nurayiram (Very many years! Many thousands of years! Many crores of hundreds of thousands years!).

Dr. Subramaniam, the Mayor of Chennai was the next speaker. Stating that it was his privilege to be here, he said that even with the Telugu Ganga Canal, no appreciable water reached Chennai due to seepage losses. Swami announced in the year 2002 that He would provide water to the people of Chennai and the canal was re-laid with great cost using the latest technology. Now the water from the Kandaleru canal reaches Chennai in four days and so when Bhagawan visited Chennai, Dr. M. Karunanidhi offered his profuse gratitude. He continued saying that 2,000 teachers of Chennai Corporation schools were trained in human values by Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation of Tamil Nadu and Sai volunteers also provide medical services. 109 villages were adopted by the Organisation under the Sri Sathya Sai Village Integrated Programme (SSSVIP) and they have all transformed into model villages. Dr. Subramaniam concluded his speech by offering his sincere gratitude on behalf of the people of Chennai and Tamil Nadu.

Sri S.V. Giri, the former Vice Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning was the next speaker. Sri Giri said that we were at the threshold of an education revolution. There is lack of equity and access in education as only 20% of the populace has good access to education. He said that true education was qualitative in nature and learning was a joyous experience. And so Swami was launching the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini project through which the experience of Sathya Sai Schools would be shared with other schools.

It is a unique programme imbibing the best practices of education and Sai teachings and it would be initially implemented in around 90 Schools and later it would be an integral part of every school in the country. The software for this most unique programme was developed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Then the software was formally presented to Bhagawan by Mr. Ratan Tata and Sri Chandrasekaran. Swami was so moved at this that He patted Sri Ratan Tata on his cheeks. The great humble man went on his knees and smiled at Swami! Blessed indeed is he for he has given such joy to the Lord. A short video made specially for the occasion was played and for the next four minutes everyone watched it on the screens. Swami then pressed a button which unveiled a plaque of the Vidya Vahini project.

Then the most wonderful part of the programme took place wherein people who have been benefited by Swami's wonderful projects came on stage to speak. The first speaker was Sri P. Narasimha Reddy from Pothipadu village of Anantapur District. He began his speech by offering his humble salutations to Bhagawan. Rayalaseema receives very less rain. People had to walk long distances to fetch water. It was because of the compassion of Bhagawan that 731 villages in Anantapur District received supply of pure drinking water in 1995. To an ovation from the audience, Sri Reddy said, after Bhagawan gave us water, we have been receiving copious rains. It is because of the Super Specialty Hospital that people of this district receive good medical treatment for chronic diseases. Read more about this miracle of love here.

The next speaker was Sri Suryanarayana Reddy from Kutrawada village of the East Godavari district. “We had no proper drinking water system, as a result of which, people were consuming polluted water and that was the cause of diseases. Swami spent crores of rupees to lay pipelines and construct tanks. We also receive medical care regularly from Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation. They construct schools, have built Bhajan centres and hold medical camps,” he said. For the project miracle, please go to Cover Story THE COPIOUS STREAM OF PURE LOVE, Part 01 and part 02.

Lakshman Bhai from Rajkot, Gujarat was the next one to address. He said that the massive earthquake which shook Gujarat in 2001 brought down many buildings. The members of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation were to first to rush and help. Bhagawan sent truckloads of relief material containing food, medicines, clothes and articles of daily need under the leadership of Sri Chiranjeevi Rao. He thus expressed his gratitude to Swami. For more details of this project, please go here.

Sri R.M.P. Rajendran Nadar from Keechan Kuppam village was the next speaker. When affected by the massive tsunami, under the stewardship of Sri K. Chakravarthi, relief materials were sent from Prasanthi Nilayam by Swami. “The government relief material could not reach us. When people were crying for help, it was Sai’s white army that came forward. They first helped to dispose the putrefied bodies and then gave medical help to the injured. Now we have got another life,” he said. To read the heart rending details of this seva miracle please go here.

In 2008, the State of Orissa was affected by flash floods. Many thousands were affected. Then Bhagawan sent Sri A. Ramakrishna, Sri Kondal Rao and Sri V. Srinivasan to estimate the damage. 700 homes were constructed. “First the Sevadals came and helped us with temporary shelters and food. Then Bhagawan gave us succour by constructing permanent houses for us,” said Sri Ravindranath Sahu from Orissa. This is an awe-inspiring miracle of Swami’s never ending love and grace. Read more

Ijaz Ahmed, a taxi driver from Bengaluru city spoke on the treatment he received from Super Specialty Hospital at Whitefield, Bengaluru. Another hospital in Bengaluru had declared that he cannot survive longer than 3 days. In Bhagawan’s Super Specialty Hospital an angiogram was done and an open heart surgery performed on him. He was completely cured. Swami visited the hospital at that time and he made best use of the chance to prostrate to the Lord at that time. Sri Ijaz Ahmed said that the hospital offers treatment completely free of cost which does happen anywhere in India or maybe the world too. Read about Swami’s hospital miracles.

The last speaker was Sri Rangappa from Nedumamidi village of Anantapur district. Sri Rangappa used to smoke beedi, cigarette and drink brandy. A doctor diagnosed that he had gastric problem. It was then that the mobile hospital under the leadership of Sri Narasimhan came to his village, at his doorstep. He took an X-ray and diagnosed it as a heart problem. He was sent to the Super Specialty Hospital at Prasanthigram where he was completely cured without a trace. Read more about this ‘moving’ miracle marvel.

This part of the programme was so beautiful and as each speaker moved to Swami, He profusely blessed them and accepted a rose from them. It was very touching. As a student who was seated in the stands said later on,

“One thing about all the speakers was that all of them were people who were simple, lived each day as it came to them. Having Swami introduced into their lives and getting a glimpse of His love, made them feel redeemed. Their talk wasn't something that had been proof read or re-run in front of wise experienced speakers, but there was such a genuine sincerity and grateful feeling that rang through it all. Listening to all that made me feel so special that we have had so many years to bask in that Love, and have seen, felt and been a part of that wonderful saga and how much of a responsibility we all have.”

Two other major Initiatives were announced by Mr. V Srinivasan on behalf of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust:

1. Sai Net where in all the Volunteers of the Sri Sathya Sai Organisations would be under one portal.

2. Sai Digital Archives wherein all works with regards to Swami and the Sai Movement would be recorded and kept for posterity.

On this auspicious day, Bhagawan launched another project of distributing food free to villages where the Sri Sathya Sai Mobile Hospital was conducting the check up camps. This was another sign of Swami’s compassion, said Sri V.Srinivasan. All the VVIPs on stage now moved to Swami and fell prostrate at His feet. Swami said that the sun was very scorching and it was already time. Aarthi was done and everyone joined in the singing. Swami left the stadium at 1:10 p.m.

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