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The En-chanting Festival
(Dussera at Prasanthi Nilayam)

The legends are many…and all have their reasons to celebrate the Festival, in myriad ways.
From the Ghats of Hoogly, to the Maths at Kanchi…a billion bow in reverence to the Mother. It's the festival of the nine nights…the Navaratri. A legend says that the Mother fought the dark forces for nine nights to give mankind goodness and godliness on the tenth morn and for eternity.
Elsewhere, a Prince from Ayodhya battled a demon for 10 days to slay him, achieved an Incarnaztion's purpose and gave mankind a reason to celebrate…Dussera. People, nation over, sing the praise of Rama, enact the story of His life, burn effigies of evil, and dance for the good upon the earth.
At Prasanthi Nilayam, the thousands who throng at the Lotus Feet have all the above reasons to rejoice. And even more…

Here, Dussera marks the commencement of a glorious sacrifice, the VEDA PURUSHA SAPTAAHA GNANA YAGNA. Vedic chants reverberate and charge the air during this weeklong propitiation of the Vedic Persona-God, presided by the Persona Himself- Bhagwan Sri Satya Sai Baba! On the 6th October 1961, the first Veda Purusha Saptaha Gnana Yagna was conducted at Prasanthi Nilayam with the sole purpose of bringing about the welfare of all humanity. Since then the festival of Dussera has regularly witnessed this celebrated event.

Heart to Heart takes you on a journey through this enchanting festival…

They come resplendent, both their silken ochre garb and in their knowledge of the Vedic Lore. These venerated priests consider the participation in this Yagna a boon from God! The Chief Priest, called the Brahma of the Yagna, leads them on the first day of the Yagna, chanting mantras in the procession, to the Poornachandra Hall.

Trumpets and drums herald the start of the procession for the Yagna, from the Mandir to the Auditorium. A richly caparisoned Sai Geeta leads the procession, followed by various musicians and priest chanting hymns. Of course, the students from Sai Institutions join the priests in the Chanting.

Meanwhile, the throng of thousands is already in raptures, for, the Lord has come on the stage, to Bless them with His Darshan.

The Yagna proper begins with the ceremonial lighting of the Sacred Fire, amidst the chanting of the Vedas. In keeping with tradition, two priests rotate one piece of wood to and fro against a stationary block of wood, while a third one exerts necessary pressure to generate the heat required to igniting the friction area. The small spark is nursed with expert care, and very soon the sacrificial pit is transformed into a merrily blazing fire.

Swami, seated on a chair atop the stage, watches all this with the air of an uninvolved spectator, the Witness, the Purusha!

Around the altar, sit three or four priests, reciting Vedic Hymns as they pour libations of clarified butter, into the flames. This is the Rudra Homam, an invocation to Lord Shiva, the Destroyer of Evil.

The central altar is flanked on one side by a group of students chanting Vedam, and on the other side, by a group of distinguished experts who have attained mastery over the Veda. They recite the Yajur Veda, a treatise on Yagnas and ceremonial acts. Both these groups simultaneously chant the Hymns so loud and clear that the atmosphere of Prasanthi Nilayam resounds to their vibrations.

A priest with an athletic build performs Suryanamaskar or worship of the Sun as a visible symbol of the Supreme, to the left of the sacrificial pit. He circumambulates around the offerings chanting Hymns and then prostrates, more than a hundred times a day. But when Swami is present, the priest never misses the chance of going around Him, the source of all Energy, and prostrates at the Lotus Feet.

Meanwhile the other priests recite sacred epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavatam and even the Devi Bhagavatam, during the period of the entire Yagna. Yet another priest worships the Sri Chakra, a mystic drawing representing the Supreme Mother.


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Volume 01: PDS / 03 Date : OCT 01 2003