Volume 5 - Issue 07
The Legend of Sai Geetha…
Unsurpassable and Eternal
As Swami said these poignant words in a private session to the students and staff of His University on June 7, 2007, the silence that dawned in the Institute auditorium was too deep and dense, absolutely impenetrable. “When I mention about Sai Geetha, do not think I am emotional,” said Swami, His voice unsteady, overpowered with intense feelings. Looking at the Lord’s eyes oozing with overwhelming emotions, everybody’s heart plunged; it was as if the fragile organ had become too heavy to beat and given away, creating a crater deep within that was subsuming every cell of their being into it.
As everyone expectantly awaited with bated breath the next diamond of divine revelation, Swami, in a very soft but steady tone, continued, “When I mention about Sai Geetha, I am not deeply grief-stricken. In fact, I have no sorrows. I am never worried. I am not remorseful at all. It is only Vatsalyam – Supreme Maternal Love.” It is the kind of spontaneous undiluted love that a mother has for her new one, who is so pure, so innocent, completely dependent only on her mother, seeking nothing but her lap and on whose face you can verily see the pristine image of God. As a child grows and becomes strong, and intelligent, the god-like purity slowly diminishes and diluted with reasoning love looses spontaneity, but with Sai Geetha it was exactly the opposite.
‘Sai Geetha’ is Born…Anew
When she first came to Prasanthi Nilayam, she was only a few weeks old. “Decades ago, when I was returning from Bangalore,” Swami said in the same discourse, “There was a Khedda operation in the nearby forest wherein they trap elephants by digging big pits and covering them superficially with grass. They beat drums and made loud noise to chase the pachyderms. The poor animals came in herds and many fell inside, but one survived. She was motherless, and crying. She stopped taking food. Utterly helpless, she did not know what to do.” The moment Swami came to know of her, He immediately accepted her.
The Divine Mother was as if waiting for Her precious child. “I applied honey to my finger,” Swami said, “and put it in her mouth and she went on sipping in the honey. Later, I fed her milk through a feeding bottle, and from then on she forgot about her mother…I christened her Sai Geetha.” The child was now baptized, so to say; she was reborn anew as the Divine’s most special child. She was hardly two-feet in height then and Swami recalls, “She used to follow me everywhere; be it the kitchen, dining hall, bhajan hall, living room or even the bathroom. She grew completely under my care.”
Truly, she was the young Swami’s bundle of joy. During the early sixties when Swami’s agility would baffle devotees and only one with athletic sinews could match step with Him when He walked, be it to the Chitravathi sands or a whirlwind tour inside the ashram, spending time with Sai Geetha was perhaps the Avatar’s favourite pastime those days.
The little one stayed under a big tree just next to Swami’s bedroom then and Swami could see her from His window all the time. Whenever she was hungry, she would just look up and shout, “Ahh!” and many times Swami would come down and do everything needed to make her comfortable.
“Every morning and evening, one would find Swami with her,” Sri Chidambaram recalls. “She would be highly obedient to Swami! When Swami would call her, she would immediately jump to Him and then He would be either standing beside or playing with her - waving her trunk, petting her and patting her, and on some days He would run, and then take great delight in seeing the little four-footed one take her tiny leaps and cutely jump and hop to catch up with Him. It was an enthralling sight undoubtedly; for the devotees, it was the most exciting part of their stay in Prasanthi."
Sai Geetha’s routine those days was tightly intertwined with Swami’s. A totality of nobility that she was right from childhood, the first thing the tiny elephant would do every morning was to go around the Mandir nine times! Next, she would prostrate in front of the shining white idol of Lord Ganesha (that used to be there those days) in front of Prasanthi Mandir and then wait for Swami. The moment the door opened and she saw Swami, she would kneel and offer salutations at His feet and then, more often than not, make a peculiar pleasant sound asking Swami to pat her – seeking His love and blessings.
Subsequently, Swami would feed her with plantains and other fruits, and then stand beside her and allow only children, not adults, to feed her. Many tiny-tots would be waiting for this opportunity and would be thrilled when she would accept their bananas under Swami’s constant supervision. Meals over with her Mom, now Sai Geetha would head towards River Chitravati to play in the sands and then jump into the river for a refreshing dip, accompanied by a young eight-year-old caretaker.
Love of Sand and Care of Sai
The elephant calf would joyfully play in the Chitravati sands, throwing mud all over her body. And soon a ‘ball game’ would begin with the young boy who was her trainer too. He would throw the ball and Sai Geetha would then run to bring the ball back in her trunk. But on occasions, when she would be in a sportive mood, instead of bringing the ball back she would run away with the ball! The young playmate-cum-trainer-cum-in-charge would have to chase a few yards to catch up with her. The ‘little warden’ instead of enjoying the game and the beauty of the moment, unfortunately, small that he was, would get upset with the ‘indiscipline’ of his ward and would punish her with a stick, sometimes even pulling and dragging her by her trunk. Sai Geetha then was very tiny and weighed only a few kilos.
But the story does not end here. Devotees who are witness to all this would come and report to the highest level. “Swami! That boy threw Sai Geetha inside the sand!” And then Swami would invariably say, “Go! Bring that boy here, he should be punished.” When the boy arrived seeking pardon says, “In future, I will not do this,” Swami would let him go. But notorious that he was, he would again beat Sai Geetha some other day. And then Sai Geetha would come running to Mandir and seek out for Swami wherever He was, be it interview room or Bhajan Hall or living room. The mahout running behind her would soon appear there and without asking start complaining about Sai Geetha’s ‘indiscipline’. Swami, the all-knowing Mother, would reprimand him for his mistake and then comfort His darling daughter.
Sai Geetha, even after she was few years old and could retaliate to any ill-treatment meted to her irresponsibly by her caretaker, would never do so. All she would do is to go to her Sai Maa to seek shelter.
Geetha – Sai’s All Time Favourite
“Those were golden days,” recalls Sri Chidambaram. “There was no ‘Darshan’; it was only interviews! Swami would give interviews to each and everyone. On non-festival days devotees would be very few – sometimes not even ten! – and whoever came early and sat first, would be called in first and then all would go in, one after another, in the serial order of their sitting. Sometimes, the same person would get continuous interviews for days; at the same time, if Swami wanted to avoid it, He would skip a person too. But during festival occasions, when hundreds would gather, Swami would call everyone in. In fact, if anyone did not get interview on the normal days, he would show up in a festival day and sure enough he would get an interview.” Devotees those days indeed were extremely lucky, but the luckiest of all was Swami’s favourite pet; because Swami gave her every little spare time He had. Just like in the morning, He would pet and feed her again in the afternoon and she would be waiting to touch His feet and be fondled by Him. It was like she got two special interviews everyday apart from many other personal sessions with Swami.
For the ashramites then, Sai Geetha was an eternal source of joy. Being the cutest kid of the ashram, everyone wanted to pet and fondle her. “In fact, in her first six months,” says Sri Chidambaram, “anybody could take her out and play with her. She never would harm anyone. And Swami too allowed others to touch and caress her. She was for everyone and Swami too those days, was so accessible. We could sleep in the Mandir portico itself and sometimes even inside the interview room too! I cannot ever forget those halcyon days.”
At the same time, living in the Ashram those days was no walk in the park; it was easily most challenging. There was no water; a family would have to stay under the shade of a tree and get not more than three to four buckets of water for the whole day. There were very few houses, in fact, they were actually just rooms – one single room without a bathroom and a hole in the wall for a window – and to add to this, there was no electricity. After dusk, everywhere it would just be dark. Sometimes, even snakes would enter to sleep under the mudpot in the room, however would never do any harm. “But whatever it may be, Swami was very loving,” recalls Sri Chidambaram. “Anybody could go and shout out to Swami in front of His room. ‘Swami, I want to go home. Please bless me’. And Swami would more often than not oblige and speak very softly too. It is purely because of His love that in spite of so many hardships people would love to come and stay in Puttaparthi. We used to walk inside the ashram without slippers on and would be pricked many times with thorns. On one occasion even Sai Geetha was hurt by a thorn. Being a baby, her feet then were still tender and she cried out in pain. A devotee nearby went and removed the painful prickle from her feet and she cooperated with him completely. She was like family in the ashram. Everybody loved her and wanted to play with her.” While all this is true, Sai Geetha belonged only to her Swami and was at her best only when she was with Him. She would love the festival days, not because she would be adorned on those occasions with ornaments, instead her heart would be leaping with joy with the thought that she will get more time of her Swami that day.
Sai Geetha – Destined to Dazzle Divine Processions
In fact, only after Sai Geetha came, did Puttaparthi processions really acquire their charismatic character. Sri Chidambaram recalls that in the late fifties and early sixties before Sai Geetha arrived, whenever Swami used to see elephants being part of the welcome ceremonies during His visits to many towns in Tamil Nadu, He used to be delighted. So much so that in December 10, 1958, ten days before visiting Surandai, (a vibrant town in Western Tamil Nadu in the district of Tirunelveli) Swami, describing to select devotees the grand welcome awaiting Him, said, “The people of Surandai are very devout. Though it is a small village, they have arranged for an elephant ride!” Sri Venkatraman, who along with his cousin, had invited Swami to make the visit, says, “It was such a magnificent welcome in my native village…it remains as the most memorable day of my life.” Again, two years later, when Swami visited Udumalapet (a lively town in the Coimbatore district, Western Tamil Nadu), the reception there was one of unparalleled grandeur and gaiety, because there were three elephants in the procession.
Swami was seated blissfully on the elephant in the middle and on either side there was one elephant on whom were seated two persons holding richly decorated umbrellas. Sri Bala Pattabi, who had only dreamt of offering such a rousing welcome to Swami in his home town, was too overcome with emotion and speechless when Swami descended from the elephant, patted him affectionately and asked, “Are you happy now that your long cherished desire has come true?” Few months later, when Swami visited Nilgiris, the sylvan town located amidst the eponymous mountain range, tens of thousands villagers had gathered there, and Swami sitting gracefully on an elegant elephant was a darshan that simply sent devotees to ecstasy. Swami, smiling all the time, was accepting garlands from people and the whole session with mellifluous bhajans going on in the background went on for two hours. Every act of the divine is according to a definite plan and His sudden fascination for elephants in that period was no ordinary event; it was truly a patent precursor, an amazing antecedent of events that were to unfold in His Master plan.
And once Sai Geetha arrived, Swami wanted none else for His procession. Even when she was a little baby she was the one who always led the procession in Prasanthi Nilayam. She was marching, as early as in 1964! The pundits during Dasara celebrations that year walked behind the ‘little champion’. And from then on, she became the permanent fixture of all major celebrations in the divine presence. The very sight of her, be it during Birthday or Shivarathri or Krishnastami or the Sportsmeet, would gladden the hearts of devotees. Faces would light up, smiles bloom instantaneously and some would even burst into a song. This is what came out of the heart of Mr. David Gersten during Krishna Janmastami in 1989.
Her Only Medicine – His Word and Love
Purely it was because of such perfect love in her heart, that Swami was most concerned about her all the time. When she was 15 years old and on one occasion was bed-ridden because of fever and pain in her thigh, Swami appointed a veterinary doctor to look after her. But when the doctor’s administrations did no good, Swami stopped all medications and said, “She will get better. She will get up.” And sure enough, slowly she started regaining strength and was back to her lively self again. For all the festivals that fell during those months, the procession went on sans Sai Geetha; Swami wanted no other elephant to take her place in her absence.
Similarly in 1996, when her eye ball became red without any apparent injury, her caretaker Sri Pedda Reddy was a worried man. “I was very scared,” he recalls. “I took her immediately to the Poornachandra Auditorium where Swami was residing then. Swami asked the Pathology Department of the Super Specialty Hospital to do relevant tests. It was disturbing to see her like that. I could not contain myself. I was crying in front of Swami and He continuously was consoling me, ‘Do not cry.’ Later, an ophthalmic Surgeon prescribed some eye drops but it had no immediate results, and then Swami asked for all the medicines to be stopped. He said, ‘She will be alright’ and just by His word she was cured. She was able to see clearly again with both her eyes.”
Swami and Sai Geetha – An Intimate Inner Bond
Swami’s care for Sai Geetha was always comprehensive and complete. During the days when Swami used to feed her morning and evening, He used to allow devotees to offer her plantains only; He alone would feed her with rice and chakrapongal (a sweet delicacy made of rice and jaggery) which would be cooked in His interior kitchen. Sai Geetha always wanted Swami to feed her in her mouth, while from others she would accept only in her trunk. And everybody was witness to this just the previous year (2006) during Dasara celebrations. Sai Charan, a MBA student of Swami’s University, recalls:
“I vividly remember that day. It was Vijaya Dasami Day, the last day of Dasara 2006. I had the opportunity to accompany Sai Geetha along with Sri Pedda Reddy to Mandir. Once we reached Sai Kulwant Hall, Sai Geetha’s eyes were always focused on Swami’s residence. When Swami finally came near her in His wheel-sofa and was about to feed her with some fruits, I noticed some saliva dripping from her trunk. I immediately took two white napkins and covered Swami’s feet and robe. But no sooner had I done that, Swami commanded me to take the napkins away. And the moment I did that, I saw Sai Geetha’s trunk gently caressing Swami’s feet. The saliva dropping from her mouth did not bother Swami one bit. She was hungry for His love. It was so palpable. Later, when Swami held out fruits for her and asked her to take them in her trunk as He was sitting on the sofa, she refused flatly every time. Swami, then, looked at me and said, ‘She will take fruits from me, only when I feed her in the mouth.’ And then, He got up! And you could see Sai Geetha was in ecstasy; her huge ears were flapping excitedly and her eyes were overcome with emotion as Swami stood right beside her and fed her with apples and bananas right inside her mouth, just like a mother would do for her dear child. It was a perfect mother-child relationship.”
Which is Bigger – One or Twenty-five?
It is this unmatched love that existed between them and the utmost care that Swami took while raising her right from when she was a baby of only few weeks that Sai Geetha grew to become a strong and majestic being. Sri N Siva Kumar, a lecturer at Swami’s University and a former student, recalls that years ago when two professional circus elephants had been brought to Prasanthi Nilayam for the Annual Sportsmeet of the Institute, the two pachyderms looked so puny and pitiable compared to Sai Geetha who was standing majestically next to them. A fascinating incident that happened in 1988, in the words of Sri N Siva Kumar is this:
“I was studying for my MBA degree at Prasanthi Nilayam then. We used to have evening games on specified days during the week, and whenever we went to the ground we used to regularly see Sai Geetha. We were informed by the person in-charge that Swami had instructed to take Sai Geetha to the ground for walks everyday so that she may have some exercise. On earlier occasions, the caretaker would have a tyre with him and sometimes would roll it on the ground and Sai Geetha would run to fetch it. This was how he gave her exercise. But that particular day, it was something very different. Her caretaker had come to the stadium with a huge rope in his hand. When we went near him he informed us that on Swami’s instructions he has planned for a tug of war exercise between Sai Geetha and the students.
We were all excited! While about 25 of us lined up on one side, the other end of the rope was tied to Sai Geetha’s leg. Standing behind her colossal form, we held the rope, tightly. Our job was to stop Sai Geetha from walking away from us. Once we were in position, and said, ‘Yes, ready’, her caretaker prompted Sai Geetha to move forward, and she started moving! We tried our best to restrain her by pulling the rope, but Sai Geetha continued to walk! It was as if she were taking a stroll in the park, effortlessly pulling all of us with her. It seemed like she did not feel that 25 students were actually pulling her in the opposite direction. It was a great revelation to us of her strength. Similarly, on another occasion, when she had come to Mandir and Swami was feeding her with fruits, we saw that He was giving her whole coconuts – along with the outer shell and not the white core alone. We were befuddled. Swami then turned towards us and said, ‘Her teeth are so strong. She can break the coconuts inside her mouth and eat only the kernel. The shells will be thrown out later’”.
Sports and Students – Sai Geetha’s Other Joys
Such was the physical prowess of Sai Geetha. But the conscientious Geetha would never make a careless display of her strength, though aware of it all the time. And when she was with Swami’s students, especially on the ground, she would behave like she was one among them. Sri Pedda Reddy says, “She would be really excited when I would take her to the primary school. She loved being surrounded by the little kids and would give herself to them. She would begin to play joyfully with the little ones.” Arnab, Prithvee and Kannan, three Higher Secondary School students, who were eye-witness to this during their primary school days, going down the memory lane say, “It was a bright Sunday morning. We had just finished our breakfast and were on our way to the playground to start a glorious day, and what a pleasant surprise it was to see Sai Geetha there. Soon everybody gathered around her including our headmistress and warden. She was so free and playful with us.
Our fears vanished after we spent few seconds with her. We started petting and feeding her juicy fruits. And while this was going on, a few of us moved away and started our game of football. Arnab kicked the ball hard and it landed right in front of her feet. The ball was now under her control, she was staring at it, and we were worried about our fate if she decided to stamp on the ball. But no, she did not trample it, but started picking it up with her trunk…it looked as if she was trying to put it in her mouth. Perturbed, we started screaming. But to our excitement, Sai Geetha next put the ball down and gave it a mild kick. The ball landed right in front of us. We now knew for sure she wanted to play. And thus, the game began. We would pass the ball to her and she would thrust it back to us or kick it high or sometimes even would lift it with her trunk and fling it in the air. It was so amazing. She was like one among us and we played for a full five minutes. We loved her so much.”
If this was fascinating football with Sai Geetha, here’s how she reveled in basketball too. Ms. Lene Sanchez Crispin from Denmark recalls,
“It was my first trip to Swami for Christmas in 1995 and I went to see Sai Geetha one evening. There were 5-6 people like me who waited to join her on her walk. Once out of her premises, Sai Geetha crossed the street and went to the stadium where few students were busy on the basketball court. Sai Geetha went near them, grabbed the ball and threw it into the basket. Next, she caught hold of the ball, pushed it to the nearest student and lo, the game began. It ended up with Sai Geetha scoring and grabbing the ball. Now, the ball again in her possession, she motioned as if she was about to toss the ball, but instead of throwing the ball she placed it in her ‘armpit’ between her foreleg and her body and started walking around as if pretending to look for the ball! So amusing she was. We all laughed our heart out. It was so sweet; the sun was shining in her eyes. After a few rounds, she placed it down and gave a nice kick. And then, it was a game of football that began. She was absolutely captivating, but the salient trait that I noticed about her was this: she was constantly aware of her power and was careful when she moved her body or tossed the ball. She made us run for the ball, but never kicked or threw the ball directly at us. My fear for these big animals disappeared; I saw only love and truly fell in love with her.”
“On another occasion,” recalls Sri N Siva Kumar, “the students of Alike and Muddenahalli (Swami’s schools in Karnataka) had come to Puttaparthi for a function. Oranges had been distributed as prasadam and each student had received the juicy fruit. Few minutes later, Sai Geetha came to Mandir and Swami blessed her too and then went into the interview room. The students of Alike and Muddenahalli, who were seated close to Sai Geetha, were at a slightly higher plane, and by mistake one of the oranges of a student slipped out of his hand and rolled towards Sai Geetha. She immediately lapped up the orange by her trunk and put it in her mouth. Watching this, other students got excited. They wanted to have fun. So, they started intentionally rolling their oranges towards her, and she too played game and accepted one after another. It went on for sometime till it became uncontrollable when several students started simultaneously rolling their oranges towards Geetha. Then a teacher appeared on the scene and the whole drama stopped. Sai Geetha was too happy to see the kids excited and the students of course had their fun to the fill.”
In Sync with Sai – Every Moment
Yes, Sai Geetha was playful; no one who spent time with her ever returned without a smile on their face or a pleasant feeling in their heart. She spread happiness naturally and was physically very powerful too. But these were only additional facets of her magnificent personality; they were not what distinguished her from other members in her genre. What was unique about her, in the words of a devotee, Sri Subhas Malghan, is that “she simply returned in abundance all the love that Swami gave her.” Her focus on Swami was absolute and all times. In fact, “She was our ‘alarm clock’,” says Sri Abhimanyu Kaul, a former student of Swami’s Institute. “It remains a mystery how she would come to know about Bhagavan’s presence each and every time. Whenever we heard her trumpet we would run out of the hostel, and for almost every time we would find Bhagavan. One incident which happened in the mid-eighties is very vivid in my mind.
Bhagavan was in Brindavan in those days and in His physical absence we would have compulsory sports time in the evenings. It was during that time when Sai Geetha also would come to the stadium for her evening walks. We would normally go and say ‘sai ram’ and she would lovingly respond by raising her trunk.
One such evening when we were playing and she was also busy taking her stroll, suddenly came the news that Bhagavan was coming! It was absolutely unexpected. We did not know where and how far Bhagavan was from Puttaparthi. But before we realized, we saw His car entering the stadium from the Higher Secondary School gate. Sai Geetha then was on the other end at the crossing of primary school building (in front of the present Chaitanya Jyothi museum). And as soon as she spotted the ‘car’, she gave out a loud trumpet! She was euphoric. It was tough for her care-taker to control or stop her. To our surprise she escaped and started running towards the car. What followed next just made me stand still and watch with wonder. There was Bhagavan’s car coming up the stadium and the mighty Sai Geetha was running from the opposite direction towards the car. The next instant I saw Swami’s vehicle stop and He rushed out of the car. Now Bhagavan was running from one side and Sai Geetha from another. Even today when I recall that moment I get goose bumps. They met and what a sight it was to watch! Her expressions were uncontrollable. She literally hugged Bhagavan. Her trunk was all over Him, and Swami was actually standing in between her front two legs and the trunk and holding and caressing her. It took almost 10-15 minutes for Bhagavan to pacify her. Slowly we students too came close to the scene, and we heard that Swami was constantly saying something to her and patting her very lovingly. He also then fed her some fruits, and we saw her saliva all over Bhagavan’s robe; but He was least concerned. It was with lots of persuasion that Sai Geetha let Him go. What an episode of divine romance it was that I was blessed to watch!
“I remember, Bhagavan once asked us, ‘Do you know why I have kept Sai Geetha in front of your hostel?’ We just kept quiet and then Swami said, ‘so that you can learn what true devotion is. If you all can get even an iota of her love for Me your life would be sanctified.’”
How many devotees have we heard of Swami Himself exalting their devotion, except ideals from mythologies? In the last eighty years, thousands have enjoyed His love, His Grace and His proximity, but has Swami ever singled one particular person out and said, ‘Emulate him. I want you all to be like Him’? But when it came to Sai Geetha, on every occasion possible Swami would laud her supremely-focused love and goad others to take inspiration from her. On one occasion, when His robe was wet with Sai Geetha’s urine as she could not contain her emotions seeing Swami on the road and the boys were hesitant to go near because of the pool she had created around her, Swami looked at the boys and went to the extent of saying, “If you drink a cup of her urine, maybe you will get a fraction of her devotion.”
The Saint Called ‘Sai Geetha’
Another very salient fact which distinguished her not only from others in her species but also from general devotees is that she loved silence the most. “She always wanted her dwelling area to be quiet just like an ashram. If the sevadals waiting at her gate were making noise and indulging in loud talk, she would pluck small shrubs and throw at them, asking them in her own way to maintain silence. In fact, she was one who enforced discipline in the area,” recalls Sri Pedda Reddy. “And during processions, she was most disciplined. She would never be in a hurry or disturb anybody. Not even on one occasion, has she stepped on anybody inadvertently. Only when she sees Swami, she would be excited, but even then on formal occasions, she would behave very intelligently. Her eyes would only be searching for Swami while walking with all the paraphernalia.”
Sai Geetha’s goal was only one and just like an ascetic, she wanted no company except of her beloved. We know how when she was sent to the forest many years ago to bear a child, she just did not allow any male elephant to come near her. Narrating that revealing incident recently to the boys in the Institute Auditorium, Swami said, “She was taken forcefully in a lorry with chains tied to her feet. In the forest, if any male elephants came near her, she would shout. She wanted to get out of there and started running. With blood on her feet, she reached Brindavan and tapped on the door in the night. Mr. Ram Brahman, the care-taker of the Brindavan ashram, who was sleeping next to the door, was terrified. He came to me and said, ‘Swami, maybe some naxalites (miscreants) are here.’ But I told him, ‘No. There are no naxalites here and called out “Geetha!”’. The response came in the form of a big trumpet. Having come dragging herself on the road all alone the whole night from the forest, the poor soul had injuries all over her body. She was determined, strong-minded and always had one-pointed attention. That was her life. The kind of exalted life she led, no one has ever lived.” And then Swami made the profound declaration again, “She was a shuddha Brahmachari - a celibate to perfection.”
Conferring Comfort – Just by Her Presence
It is this purity of her personality that gave her all the beauty and bestowed peace and joy to anybody who was in her proximity. Ms Susan Hardwick, a devotee from England, says, “In 1998 I took my daughter Charlotte, who at the time was 17 years old, on her first visit to Swami. It was a magical time for Charlotte who although completely blind was aware of Swami's presence everywhere. I took her to visit Sai Geetha and Charlotte was completely overwhelmed by the love of Sai Geetha for Swami and His love for her. We were allowed into the compound and Charlotte fed Sai Geetha with a fruit and this beautiful animal gently took the fruit from her hand and nudged her with her trunk. This sweet act brought tears to Charlotte's eyes. She can never ever forget that experience.”
Mrs. Meera James, another devotee from London, says, “During my short trip to Prasanthi in August 2006 which I made in memory of my eight-year old daughter who passed away unexpectedly, I used to take walks with Sai Geetha almost every other day. Not having come to terms with the sudden tragedy, these walks with her helped me find answers to her sudden death. In fact, it was one of the highlights of my stay in Prasanthi and I will treasure these walks forever in my heart.”
“One of the first times I visited the Ashram, the departure from the ashram was exceptionally hard,” recalls Ms. Anita Ricka, a devotee from New Mexico, USA. “I had just started my return journey and my heart was crushed having to leave Swami and the Ashram. Sitting in the taxi, I noticed Sai Geetha on her morning walk, and my heart sang when I saw her. I asked the cab driver to just slow down a little and I cried out in silent despair. I greeted her with folded palms, behind the car’s window-glass and turned to look at her for as long as I could, sending her all my love and longing. To my surprise and joy, the sweet Sai Geetha lifted her trunk in a greeting, and I felt as if she was saying to me: ‘Don't worry, He is always with you, and so am I. I greet you and love you too.’ So once again I cried, but this time it was tears of joy, and my journey home was just a bit easier. This may not seem much like a great experience to many, but to me it was huge. The way she responded to my love and longing was very special and stirring.”
Ms. Sally Kimball from Denver, Colorado, says, “This happened in 1985, during my second trip to Swami. I was walking back after listening to a discourse Swami gave to His students and on the way I stopped to see Sai Geetha. I touched her and felt such love radiating from her. I looked into her eyes and our eyes met. I remember thinking as if I was looking deep into a human’s eyes as I continued to look deep within her. Sri Reddy told us if we said ‘Sai Ram’, she would respond and she did too curling up her trunk. I was deeply moved by her presence and the gentleness of such a large elephant. And about the time I was to leave, I heard a commotion. Everybody was expecting Swami’s car to come that way. I waited for the chance and noticed Sai Geetha rocking back and forth in great anticipation – she knew He was coming. I hoped He would stop and visit Sai Geetha, unfortunately, that was not to happen nor did He even wave to her. As the car passed, He was actually looking the other way. And then when I turned to look at her, the disappointment that shadowed her being was heart-breaking. I watched tears roll down her radiant face and could feel how much she loved her Swami. She was focused on Him so intently. I realized she had more devotion in her heart than most of us present there. She taught me what unconditional love and devotion is.”
Her Every Cell and Every Second…Sai Suffused
When a new mahout came to assist Sri Pedda Reddy in serving Sai Geetha a few years ago, Sai Geetha refused to accept his service, till Swami personally blessed the new person in Mandir. Though she was not a witness to Swami creating Vibhuti and giving the new assistant during darshan, she somehow ‘knew’ when Swami blessed him. Just like Hanuman who did not want even one pearl from the beautiful necklace that Mother Sita gifted him because none of them were vibrating with the name of Lord Rama, she too wanted only those things to touch her which were filled with the blessings of Sai.
She ‘Knew’ What Was Coming!
So attuned she was to the Lord at any moment of time that she could ‘sense’ Swami’s arrival much before anyone else. Once when Swami started His car from Bangalore, Sai Geetha immediately ‘knew’ Her beloved was coming, says Pedda Reddy. It is for this reason that Sai Geetha was no pet elephant or just an ordinary devotee of the Lord; she was in fact, an enlightened soul. Who would believe that Sai Geetha actually foretold her death to Sri Pedda Reddy the previous evening? She, in fact, did and Swami Himself confirmed this in a recent discourse. On 21st evening itself, she had communicated to Sri Pedda Reddy that she wants to ‘go’. It is because of many such ‘moments of revelations’ that Sri Pedda Reddy was personally party too that he asserts, “Sai Geetha was actually a gyani – a being of all-knowing wisdom.” “She knew what was coming most of the time,” he continues. “When Swami left for Kodaikanal on April 26, she stopped the car on the road. Swami blessed her profusely but her happiness was very short-lived. The moment Swami’s car moved away, she trumpeted loudly 3-4 times lamenting Swami’s departure. She ‘knew’ Swami was going to Kodaikanal and will not be available surely for few weeks. It took me several minutes to console her. She kept on saying, ‘Swami is gone’. It was extremely difficult to get her out of depression. Though Swami had nicely blessed her while leaving for Kodaikanal, on the day He returned to Puttaparthi on May 18, He was not smiling at all. He was just staring at her. It was a look of concern and she was very subdued too. It was very unusual. I never understood the reason then.
"Previously, during the inauguration of her new and beautiful concrete building complete with ornate cravings and magnificent colours, (which happened few days before Swami’s Birthday in 2006), she was actually disinclined to go inside even though Swami was sitting inside, which is extremely unusual. She went in only when I goaded her into it. Even after that, everyday she would be uninterested to go into the new house. One would think that it was because she did not like the cement and concrete and would rather stay in the sand and grass, but the reality was she was completely aware of all the happenings, now and future, and therefore, was never comfortable in that structure which would be in future the site of her Samadhi.
In fact, she could communicate all her feelings to me," says Sri Pedda Reddy. And she did this only with Pedda Reddy and none else. With others she behaved just like an ordinary elephant, but when alone with her favourite caretaker whom she treated like her father, she would reveal her heart out. If a person assisting Pedda Reddy in taking care of Sai Geetha had harmed her, she would wait for a time when Pedda Reddy was alone and then would go near him and ‘tell’ him about the episode. “I would then enquire with the assistants and they would confess that they had beaten her. She was out-of-this-world, a very noble soul belonging to a higher plane,” Sri Pedda Reddy reveals.
Sai Geetha - Announcing Her ‘Freedom’
“For fifteen days before her death, she was as if on a vow. She didn’t care about food at all, and would want me by her side always,” says Sri Pedda Reddy. “And two days before her passing away, that is on May 20, she broke open the chain tied to her legs, and walked to the garden and started playing on the sands in the middle of the night. I welded the chain the next day and put around her legs again as was the usual practice in the nights, but she released herself out of it a second time on May 21. But this time, it was in the early morning at 5.30, perhaps she was trying to break open the whole night. When I came to see her around 8 o clock, she was on the sands again just like the previous day.
“It was surprising because she never did this before. She would go out and play only if I had forgotten to chain her in the evening. Moreover, she was weak as she had virtually stopped food for nearly two weeks except taking few ragi (finger millet) balls with lot of persuasion, and even prior to this for five months she was suffering from some kind of stomach disorder and would not eat well at all. Various expert vets tried many medications, including antibiotic injections. More than Rs. 50,000 was spent on her, still her problem remained and as days progressed she only ate less and less. In the last week, her intake was close to nothing.
“One day before her final crossover, I noticed that her front left leg was giving her pain and she was limping. I thought maybe some stone or twig accidentally was stuck in there which was hurting her. She was restless and not steady in one place like other days.
Sai Geetha …An Enigma till the End
“On May 22, the final fateful day, I came at 8:30 in the morning and took her for a bath. Even during bathing she was normal and I forgot about the stone in the leg as she didn’t complain of any discomfort. But suddenly as I was pouring water on her, she raised her front left leg showing signs of pain. I asked her to lift her leg - generally she would be able to hold the leg for sometime when she lifts - but on that day she was unable to hold the leg at all; immediately she kept it down. Keen to remove the cause of her pain on the foot, I asked her again to lift and hold her leg but her leg gave away immediately. This happened one more time and finally when she lifted her leg for the fourth time, she just sat down with a jerk. Now I could see the lower part of her leg but there was nothing visibly wrong there; no stick, or stone or mark of any injury. It is probably only internal pain, I said to myself.
“For one and half years Sai Geetha had not sat down, she was always on her legs day and night. Even during the night, she used to sleep standing on her legs or sometimes leaning on the wall. In this scenario, when she sat suddenly after more than eighteen months, her limbs refused to cooperate with her; she was unable to get up.
“I sent word for a crane to help her to stand. Unfortunately, none were near by, and it took some time for the poclain to arrive. We tied a rope to the rear side of Sai Geetha and tried to pull, but the machine was unable to lift the elephant. Sai Geetha was six tonnes and the tonnage of the hydraulic motor was only two. The higher capacity crane was 100 kms away; we telephoned them and asked then to start. They could not start immediately due to technical problems, so we asked for a crane from Bangalore and as it was coming it developed some problems, and lost some time in repair. Later, the vehicle’s tyre burst and by the time the crane finally arrived, it was very late.”
Superficially, one may wonder, why did the Divine not intervene? How could there be so many obstacles for His dear devotee? But the wise know that everything actually happens according to divine design, though it is very difficult to accept and understand at that particular point in time. But it becomes clear later when one goes over the whole event in a peaceful state of mind. Same it was with Sai Geetha too. Sri Pedda Reddy continues:
“Up to 12.30 in the afternoon she was trying to get up and by that time she was exhausted. The legs, which had not bent for over one and half years, were giving her lot of pain. I could see that she was silently tolerating the hardship; she did not want to shout. There were tears in her eyes. We started giving her calcium injections and saline for strength; about 10-12 bottles of the sterile solution went into her, but nothing seemed to help. She, then, slowly started to drop her head; it had become too heavy for her, she was unable to move it either. And then her breathing slowed down. She lay in this condition for an hour or so and then at about six she bid a peaceful adieu and immediately, Swami was informed.”
How did the Lord react that evening when He physically received this message, we do not know. But what we do know is that at about 8 pm, Swami sent a ball of payasam (a sweet dish) specially prepared in His kitchen to Sri Pedda Reddy with instructions that it be fed to Sai Geetha. The over 65-year old caretaker had never disobeyed Swami in his life but now he was in a critical dilemma. How to feed a dead elephant? The doctors had confirmed that her pulse has stopped. With prayer on his lips, and no other solution in sight, Sri Pedda Reddy poured the prasadam into her mouth and gently covered her face again with the white cloth. To this day, it remains a mystery to Sri Reddy how the semi-solid offering went inside. There was no sign of it being dropped or slipped from her mouth onto the ground till the next morning.
On Swami’s instructions, the whole night was spent digging a huge pit in the centre of the new building that Swami had built for her six months ago. Cranes and earthmovers worked continuously, and by early morning the massive 20 by 16 feet hole was ready.
“When Swami arrived at 7:30 in the morning to the site, I could not contain myself. I was crying,” says an emotional Pedda Reddy. “And Swami lowered the window-glass and caught hold of my hand. He was very emotional too. It was like we both shared the same intensity of feeling. Then He told me to open the car door and His chair came down. He went as close as possible to Sai Geetha, took Vibhuti and smeared all over her head. For a couple of minutes, He was there, pressing her head with His fingers, stroking her trunk, applying vibhuti on her face and limbs. He lovingly then moved His fingers over her eyes. In fact, He asked me to open her eyes which I did. Though it was fifteen hours since she had passed away ‘clinically’, her body was still supple and flexible. It was like she was sleeping. Normally, two hours after life passes away, a dead body would become very stiff, but Sai Geetha that morning had no stiffness, the trunk was bending easily and her eye seemed to be looking at Swami.”
“Go happily, peacefully”
In fact, Swami confirmed this in His discourse to the students a few days later. He said, “The other day Sai Geetha discarded her body. But I pointed out to her, “Geetha, look here. I am constructing a Mandir for you. She opened her eyes and saw me, but she was very weak. What else she could do? She only shed tears. When the end came and she was going, I said, “So, you are going. Ok, go happily, peacefully.” One cannot but recollect at this point the final moments of Swami’s foster mother Mrs. Subbamma. Though medically she was declared ‘dead’, a peculiar glow on her face made everybody nervous to take her to the cremation ground and the wise men of Bukkapatnam said, “The bird has not flown yet!” Three full days had passed since the first announcement of her death by the time Swami came to her deathbed after attending a function in Tirupati. But the moment Swami called out, “Subbamma”, “Subbamma”, just twice, she opened her eyes! And her hand was next stroking Swami’s hand lovingly. Swami then put His fingers to her lips and she opened her mouth a little, and from the cupped palm of Swami next flowed holy water into her mouth and she joined the ranks of the Released! Sai Geetha’s merger was no different, though everything was not so apparent to the ordinary onlooker. After Sai Geetha was satisfied completely and Swami had bid her final farewell, He turned His attention to the huge pit dug inside her new building. Sri Pedda Reddy recalls,
A Splendid Farewell by the Divine Himself
According to His directions, the bottom of the pit was first covered with sand. This was followed by coconut leaves, then Banana leaves, other small plants that Sai Geetha used to relish and finally fresh green grass that she loved the most. It was a multi-layered huge bed with all that Sai Geetha relished. But that was not all. On top of this was poured rice – many bags of them -, followed by flowers, turmeric powder and vermillion. Once everything was completed as per His divine direction, Sri Pedda Reddy returned to the Mandir and Swami then asked him to open the jewels of Sai Geetha that He always kept in His residence. Along with the dress, Swami also selected some of the jewels that she should be adorned with while putting her to rest at her Samadhi site. And then handing over a pair of silk clothes to Sri Pedda Reddy, He said, “You should do all these tasks. Shower and then wear this new silk dress and be ready, I will come there.”
Just as He had promised, Swami was at the site at 10.45 am. Efforts were on with the help of a crane to lift the 6000 kg body of Sai Geetha and move it to the other end of the compound where the pit was dug. Swami followed the progress of the job every second sitting in His car. The crane was big and could not enter the building. It was nearly one hour since Swami had arrived and the scorching summer heat was draining everyone’s energy. Sri Pedda Reddy went to Swami and said, “Swami, it is very hot here and moving her is taking lot of time too. You may please return to Mandir.” But Swami’s reply was an instantaneous, “No.” “I will wait till the end,” He said. After 90 minutes of tough maneuvering with the machine, Sai Geetha was finally placed on the bed specially created and Swami, whose eyes were overcome with emotion as He saw His most precious devotee for the last time, blessed her again. More turmeric and vermillion was offered. Lots of garlands were spread on her body including a big one which Swami asked senior members of the Trust to place on her, and finally she was covered with mud. Only then, did Swami return to His residence.
The beautiful building that was her home six months ago was now her Samadhi. When we asked Sri Pedda Reddy, “Did you think that the eye-catching elegant structure that Swami built for her would be her Samadhi one day?” He said, “Yes, even while this new building was being constructed, given the carvings and ornamentation that went into making it, I thought maybe one day this would be her Samadhi. I remember, after her old shed was demolished, Swami one day came to me with a plan, called me near and said, ‘See this, we will make a beautiful, big and permanent building for her.’ Still, I never realized at that point that ‘permanent’ actually meant ‘Samadhi’; I only thought of it as her final house from where she will never have to shift again in the future.”
Sai Geetha – Ever-fresh in Sai’s Heart
Swami had planned every little detail meticulously much in advance for His dearest devotee. And this year, the Lord suddenly changed his plans to return to Puttaparthi from Kodaikanal on May 18, instead of going to Brindavan as was his usual practice every year, and everyone wondered the reason behind the unexpected divine decision until it all became very clear in a matter of four days. For Swami, Sai Geetha was more important than all the hundreds of devotees that prayed to Him to extend His stay in Kodaikanal for few more days or the thousands of devotees from Bangalore who pleaded with Him repeatedly to visit Brindavan at least for a few weeks. In the 108 names of the Lord, one line exalts him as “Om Sri Sai Bhaktha Paradheenaya Namah” which means, “We salute the Lord who is actually under the control of His devotee.” Just like Hanuman was one, Meerabai was one, Sai Geetha was one – demonstrating to man the power and the pinnacle of pure love. And as Lord Rama laid the dedicated Jatayu to rest on His lap and Himself performed all the funeral rites, Swami too treated Sai Geetha just as His very own. He was there every second directing every act in her last moments. Not only that, on the 11th day after her burial, He visited the site again and asked Sri Pedda Reddy to place bananas, apples, ragi balls and sweets on the Samadhi and then directed for all these to be distributed to few poor people and also to feed all the cows in the Gokulam. It is a tradition in many houses in India to serve the poor in the name of the deceased on the 11th day after death and here Swami was Himself doing this for Sai Geetha. Truly, no other being ever captured Swami’s heart to the extent this elephant-devotee did. “If Swami is ‘Love in Action’,” says Sri Raja Reddy, a very senior Sai devotee, “Sai Geetha was ‘Devotion in Action.’” As one who had seen Sai Geetha when she arrived at the Ashram as a tiny infant nearly five decades ago and observed her grow into a majestic and magnificent devotee, Sri Raja Reddy in his ‘Ode to Sai Geetha’ says:
Sai Geetha - A Monumental Ideal and Inspiration
Ms. Smruti Rath, a devotee from Bangalore, says, “ Love neither dies, nor it ends, and Sai Geetha taught us how true love lives, even when life comes to an end.” The homage the Sai community paid to Sai Geetha world over, be it special Sai spiritual meetings from Kerala to Kashmir in India or special programs complete with powerpoint presentations and performances by small kids in Malaysia; or the poor feeding done on the 11th day of her passing by the Sai Youth in Hyderabad; or a big card created by the Bal Vikas children of Qatar honouring her or the several cute drawings that the small kids of the Sathya Sai School of Canada sketched in her memory or for that matter, the innumerable ways each Sai devotee remembered in reverence this exalted devotee of the Lord – every act, small or big, only went to show the indelible impact this elephant-devotee of the Lord had made in the hearts and minds of thousands of devotees from California to Canberra without ever speaking a word.
Paying her own special tribute to Sai Geetha, Ms. Jullie Chaudhuri, a devotee from Pune, India, writes:
Towards the end of His discourse to the students in the first moral class session of the Institute, Swami, after speaking for nearly 15 minutes on Sai Geetha said, “If you can only remember and ruminate on the intense love that Sai Geetha had for Swami and develop such sacred and noble thoughts, I will Myself take you close to My heart. You do not have to do anything else.”
Just like every act of Swami, be it the Hospitals or the Water Projects or the Institute, are models for the whole world to replicate, the Legend of Sai Geetha too is the unfolding of yet another powerful and profound mission manifested by the Will of the Divine to help and guide mankind to scale blissful heights in the spiritual realm, which are very much attainable, and to discover the heaven of lasting peace, joy and happiness.
- Bishu Prusty
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Vol 5 Issue 07 - JULY 2007
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