August 31, 2009 – Onam Celebrations: “Shankara Digvijayam” Drama

The devotees from Kerala were in large numbers to celebrate Onam with their beloved Swami on the last day of August. A three day programme schedule has been blessed by Swami and August 31 was the opening day. The Onam legend has it that the emperor Bali visits His people in Kerala and gets thrilled. But in the present scenario, there is a slight reversal!

The people of Kerala come to "God's Own Country", Puttaparthi, to visit their emperor, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai! Surely when Bali visits His kingdom, he would find many empty homes and would be inspired to make the pilgrimage to Puttaparthi! And Swami too seemed very eager to meet His people for He arrived at 4:30 p.m., quite early by current trends.

The big backdrop for the drama had been placed in the marbled block and as Swami came for the darshan rounds, all the children were seated in front of it and it was a beautiful sight. He completed the darshan rounds and arrived straight on the stage. He called the State President and enquired into the details of the drama. In the meanwhile three kids in costumes came up to Swami. He was very happy and asked them about the drama. Each of them replied separately to Him, "Shankara Digvijayam." Swami's eyes seemed to light up.

He called the State President again and told him to make an announcement about the drama. As he announced the name of the drama as Sri Shankara digvijayam, Swami corrected him saying, "It’s only Shankara Digvijayam. Announce once more!" The appropriate correction was made and then the drama began.

The drama begins with a little child wanting to be a sanyasi (renunciant). A guru commends him on such a noble ambition and inspires him with the story of Shankaracharya. Shankara was born in Kaladi in Kerala after Lord Shiva promised his parents that He would himself come to them as a son.

The astrological signs show that Shankara is destined to be a Sanyasi and when his mother tries to prevent him from becoming one, he is caught in the jaws of a crocodile while bathing. The croc does not release him till the mother says, "Oh Lord! Let him live for the sake of being a sanyasi at least!" The croc immediately leaves him and thus he fulfills his divine destiny.

Swami was entirely gripped as Shankara was in the grips of the reptile's jaws! The whole episode moved Swami so much and He seemed to admire the creative manner in which it was portrayed.

In fact, when the "river" was created by innovative waving of plastic sheets held at two ends, Swami explained, "These are the waves of water!" In between the drama, Swami made a brief visit to the interview room and on His way back, blessed the wedding card of one of the student's brother.

The drama also depicted the famous episode where an "untouchable" enlightens Shankara by asking, "Are you asking this body to move out of your way? It is made the same way of yours. If you are asking the soul to move out, it is immovable."

The acharya fulfills the word given to his mother when he arrives in time to complete her last rites. Swami was very moved with this too and it was a perfect example to show that detachment does not mean indifference and Love does not imply attachment!

The drama had narrators coming up in between in formations, providing valuable connections to the various episodes. A few dances sprinkled here and there added to the flavour of the drama.

A mention must be made about the excellent music and songs that pervaded the drama. They were so inspiring in the fact that even though one did not understand Sanskrit, one could almost 'feel' the meaning as the song progressed.

The drama concluded with the mahasamadhi of Shankaracharya at the age of 32 and his guidance to his disciples to carry the message of Advaitha to all the four corners of the country. As the drama concluded and all the children came together in the final formation, Swami told them to group closer together.

Bhajans began as per His command and amidst the singing, Swami had clothes distributed to all the children. He also blessed prasadam to be distributed to all. Then, He called for the boy who had acted as Shankaracharya. Waving His hand, He created a beautiful golden chain for him.

The grandeur of the costumes was seen by Swami when as He was trying to put the chain around, the saffron cloth covering the head dropped down. The make up and costume under the hood was also perfect and no compromise had been made in spite of the fact that this part was not to be visible to anyone at all! Swami too on His part did something very sweet. He put the chain around the boy’s neck and then lifted the hood and put the cloth back on the head. Everyone rejoiced and clapped.

Swami then sent back the boy and sat enjoying the bhajans. After sometime, He received aarthi. The photo of Swami gifting the chain to Shankara was given to Swami and He presented it joyously to the boy. As the aarthi was complete, Swami stated emphatically, "The drama was very good and nice. Swami is very very happy." He raised His hands half a dozen times to bless everyone assembled. With that smile still adorning His face, He retired to Yajur Mandir at about 6:00 p.m.

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