Volume 16 - Issue 04
April 2018
Other Articles
'Like' us on Facebook Follow us: facebook twitter vimeo youtube

Posted on: Apr 04, 2018

How to start a Sathya Sai school?

The 'Emergency Instrument'

It was possibly one of the toughest times India was going through post-independence, politically, socially, administratively and, most importantly, democratically. A state of Emergency had been declared whereby the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution were suspended. Dissenting voices in politics, media and civil society were also systematically suppressed. It was in this critical period (that lasted for 21 months between 1975 and 1977), that Mr. Parashuram Sahu arrived as the police officer-in-charge in Rayagada in the state of Odisha.

He had his task cut out. There was widespread discontent and even protests against the government and being a police officer, an instrument in the hands of the government, was a very challenging and dangerous profession. But still, he carried out his duties with all honesty and sincerity. He came to know of a plot to blow up a factory in nearby Theruvali. Alerting his units there, he decided to himself take a train to Theruvali to monitor the situation. He wasn’t aware of the 'welcome committee' that had been planned for him at the railway station.

As he alighted from the train, he was mobbed by a dozen masked men. They grabbed him and began dragging him away. In a daze Parashuram screamed out,

“Don’t think you can get away! My units are waiting in jeeps just outside the railway station. They will catch and imprison all of you...”

The mob hesitated for a moment but continued to drag him away. Living up to his name, the warrior incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Parashuram put up a fight but he was badly outnumbered. He saw a pyre set up at a distance and realized that the mob wanted to burn alive the police officer-in-charge who had come to thwart their plans! He prepared himself for the inevitable end. That was when, out of nowhere, a couple of burly men dressed in purple and red appeared and began to shout at the mob.

Arey! This is the police inspector! What are you doing to him? Let him go... LET HIM GO!”

The shouts unnerved the mob. The masked men possibly thought that there were more people coming to rescue the police officer. In a hurry, they threw Parashuram and ran away. The two men rushed to him and ensured that he was okay. They raised him up and Parashuram could see the policemen from his unit coming towards him at a distance.

“God is with you sir. Don’t worry about anything.”

“Thank you, gentlemen”, Parashuram said, “You saved me! Who are you two?”

“We are devotees of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He has protected and saved you. Sairam.”

Saying so, the two men left as suddenly as they had come.

Parashuram’s interest in the name of Sri Sathya Sai outlasted the Emergency and he began to make enquiries about the same. Destiny made him come face to face with Mr. Brahmananda Panda during a meeting in the Inspection Bungalow. Brahmananda Panda was the state president of the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation in Odisha! Parashuram expressed his interest in Sri Sathya Sai Baba and Mr. Panda whetted his appetite by narrating the glories and stories of Baba. By the end of the conversation Parashuram felt himself falling in love with this Baba who practiced and preached human values and universal love. He still remembers the parting statement of Brahmananda Panda that sealed the deal for him:

Arey Inspector sab! Ap tho ab tak chor pakadte aye ho. Ab se, chor nahi chitta chor ko pakdo. (Oh Inspector! Till now you have been catching thieves. From now on, instead of the thief, catch the ‘stealer of hearts’.)”

Sri Brahmananda Panda was both 'near and dear' as Swami would say. He was the pioneer of Sai Seva in Odisha.

That was the beginning of Parashuram’s association with his Swami. (Beginning in this birth of course because our association with God spans several lifetimes.) He purchased a large photograph of Sri Sathya Sai Baba and installed it at his home. Soon, vibhuti and kumkum began to pour profusely out of the picture, and it went on like this for six months. Even without seeing Swami, Parashuram accepted Him as his God and by early 1980s, became the convenor of the first Samithi (the smallest administrative unit of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation in India) in the Kalahandi district of Odisha at Bhawanipatna.

From Despair to Faith

In the meanwhile, in the same Bhawanipatna, another story was unfolding. Mr. Prasanna Naik, having completed his schooling in Braja Mohan High School, was in search of a job. He was the eldest son, the second among eleven siblings in his family. Even before he could get a job, tragedy struck his family. Having battled valiantly for a while, his father succumbed to cancer. The mother was in deep sorrow and, soon, in deep debt as well. Taking care of eleven children was not easy and the family was almost on the streets, having sold off all the gold and jewels at home.

Prasanna knew that the responsibility of the family was now on his young shoulders but was he still too raw to take on such a responsibility? He spent sleepless nights worrying about what would happen and kept trying to get himself employed. He began to do little odd jobs to support his family. He had a colleague who was a devotee of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He encouraged Prasanna to attend bhajans. In those dark days, Prasanna found solace and comfort in attending bhajans at the newly started Samithi which was being headed by Parashuram. The happiest time of the day for him was when he sat in front of the photograph of Sathya Sai Baba, singing the glory of God. It also gave him the necessary strength and courage during the rest of the day.

As his acquaintance with Swami grew, so did his desire to see Him face to face. Convinced that having a darshan of Swami would provide the relief and joy his family lacked, Prasanna decided to travel to Puttaparthi. This was a brave decision for someone who had never ventured out far from his district, let alone the state! His colleague too joined him in his decision after which a couple of others too came along. The quartet set out of Odisha into Andhra Pradesh.

At Vishakapatnam, they were in for a rude shock. A devastating cyclone had struck Andhra Pradesh and the rail transport in several areas had shut down. There was no way to travel beyond the coastal city! (It has been estimated that the cyclone left 134 people and 43,000 livestock animals dead in its wake.) It was a divine coincidence that the quartet came across a marriage party which was headed via buses to precisely Puttaparthi! The marriage was to be performed there with Swami’s blessings.

That was how Prasanna landed in Puttaparthi and had his first darshan of Swami. It was love at first sight for him. Then and there he decided to do something as service to the One who had been his totem of strength and solace in the dark times. It was the time of the Dasara festival and Prasanna saw that there was a band of about 200 people who did service to the devotees in different parts of the Ashram. This was the PS (Prasanthi Seva) brigade. Prasanna saw that Swami was very happy with the services rendered by the PS and He granted them padanamaskar and vibhuti prasadam at the end of the festivities. Prasanna immediately went and enlisted in the PS. He promised to visit Prasanthi Nilayam multiple times a year and render service. Satisfied and happy, he returned to Odisha.

True to his faith, the visit indeed solved his problems because he got a secure and well-paying job in the State Bank of India (SBI) immediately on his return from Puttaparthi. Expressing gratitude to Swami in his heart, he took up the job and also plunged himself into the activities of the Samithi. Seeing his love and dedication for Swami, Parashuram agreed to him staying in the Samithi building itself.

A Pure Thought from a Pure Heart is More Powerful than a Mantra


There were many others like Prasanna in Bhawanipatna who were magically pulled towards Bhagawan. It is simply the lack of opportunity to interview many others that only Prasanna’s story has been presented as an example and a sample.

The Samithi in Bhawanipatna grew and embraced many people in its welcoming arms, including the king of Kalahandi, Sri Pratap Kesri Dev. In fact, the royal family let out its own darbar hall for bhajans and other activities of the Samithi! After years of successfully running the Samithi in this manner, Parashuram had a noble thought. Bhawanipatna did not have a good school. Inspired by Swami’s philosophy of educare, he wanted to start a school for the children of Kalahandi district.

Armed with this inspired thought, Parashuram approached the state-president of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, Odisha. It was the revered Sri Brahmananda Panda. He shared his idea and sought approval for the same.

“Are you crazy? How do you intend to get funds for building the school? What about the land? Where are the buildings? Where are the teachers?”

“Sir, the One who has provided the inspiration for the school will provide for all that the school needs too”, was Parashuram’s confident reply.

“It will be difficult to give you an official go-ahead with no proper plans in place. However, I shall give you the unofficial permission. May Swami guide you and bless you.” Mr. Brahmananda Panda knew the mysterious and magical way. After all, he had been blessed to be near and dear to Bhagawan for many years during which time he enjoyed hundreds of his own personal experiences.

Man’s adversities become God’s opportunities and man’s problems become God’s miracles. The devotees at Bhawanipatna were to soon witness the reality of this statement.

You Do Your Best and God Will Do The Rest

Here comes step 1 in building a 'Sai School' - the seed of selfless sacrifice.

There was no fund-collection drive or appeals for donations. Parashuram gathered about Rs. 25,000 (equivalent of about Rs. 2.8 lacs in 2018) and deposited it with the Sri Sathya Sai Trust of the state as surety of finances to start and run a school. That was hardly a sufficient amount but it was a good start. He did not spare a thought about how he would recover his savings.

Then came the problem of getting a suitable piece of land at an affordable price. Nothing seemed to be available at Bhawanipatna at an economical rate. The affordable lands were all very far off. That was when the devotees came up with a plan - an audacious one at that.

Right next to the Samithi building was a large pond. The place was often the home to snakes and other creepies and crawlies. It was actually a Government-owned land which was supposedly meant for the construction of the DRCS (Deputy Registrar of Cooperative Societies) office. However, the land was always water-logged and was thus unused. Why not take over the pond and convert it into the land for building the school?

Children, adults and animals alike laboured with love to convert a lake bed into a Sathya Sai Centre in the seventies (pics above).
In the nineties another part of this marshy area was transformed into the Sathya Sai School.

That is step 2 in building a 'Sai School' - not allowing any problem to dishearten or discourage the inspiration.

The district collector, Mrs Meena Gupta, was approached for permission to buy the ‘pond’ at a low price. The district collector was positively inclined towards the Sathya Sai organisation because she had seen the excellent service it had rendered over a decade. In fact, the organisation had adopted a nearby village, Gananathpur, and had transformed it into a model village worthy of emulation all over India. She had also been impressed with the health camps, particularly the eye-camps that the SSSO there had been organising under the able leadership of Parashuram. She decided to wholeheartedly help and, within a few weeks, the pond belonged to the Bhawanipatna Samithi of the SSSO!

A glimpse of the service activities at Gananatpur which continue to this day

(It must be mentioned here that Gananatpur was recognised as the ideal ‘model village’ in the divine presence of Bhagawan Baba during His 60th Birthday Celebrations in Prasanthi Nilayam.)

Power of Samashti

Step 3 in building a 'Sai School' lies in harnessing the divine power of Samashti or the Divinity in unity. When there is purity and unity, Divinity manifests. With Divinity come miracles. The devotees in Bhawanipatna decided to perform Shramadan (charity of one’s untiring efforts) towards building the school. They would come to the pond beside the Samithi building and start digging with tools and implements that they fetched from home. Their goal was to drain the pond and level the ground to make it suitable for construction!

The great Karma Yajna began and it was indeed a sight to witness as hundreds of sincere devotees of all ages toiled hard to build a temple of learning. Any free time that anyone found during the day, they would appear at the site and work. Such sacrifice inspired many other ‘non-devotees’ also to join in the efforts rather than be passive bystanders. A certain Sri Raghunath Senapati offered his trucks free of charge for the use of the volunteers. Thus, human muscles and mechanical muscles worked in harmony for the love of God and the work went on for months. That was how the foundation of the school was dug without spending even a single pie! Then came gifts from society - truckloads of cement! Inspired by the continuous service activity they were witnessing; some contractors and builders spontaneously came forward and offered cement for the construction of the school.

The devotees were thrilled as if the school building had already been erected. Naturally so. How could the school building not come up on a foundation that had been reinforced with love and selfless sacrifice?

The Universe Stretches Out to Help

The devotees had already embodied Step 4 in building a 'Sai School' - complete faith that nothing is impossible when the intent is that of pure and selfless service. However, everything happens at the perfect time. Parashuram knew that he had to get a source of income to start funding the school building. The funds that all the devotees had built up would be barely enough to construct a few rooms.

Then came a flash of inspiration and a neat idea. A few rooms were constructed in a land in their possession. Parashuram converted these into shops and in no time, all the shops got rented out. The amazing thing was that these shopkeepers, being aware of the pure intentions behind the building of these shops, agreed to pay a year’s rent in advance to do their bit towards the coming school. Thus, the construction of the school building began in right earnest. Nature too seemed to celebrate the noble project because it provided rain exactly when it was needed and offered dry days when that was the need!

The shops whose generous tenants did their bit for the school by paying rent in advance

Finally, in 1993, Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Mandir was inaugurated with love and dedication to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. When the school started, many devotees who were teachers volunteered their services without any remuneration. It was a Prema Yajna, a ritual sacrifice of love, by hundreds of devotees over year that ensured the creation of a school. The breeding place of vermin would now be the birthplace of responsible citizens of the country!

The first batch of students were enrolled totally free, without any fees.

The inauguration was both - the culmination and the beginning of the building efforts - as far as the school was concerned

A success story

The results produced by the school in the first year of its existence itself were so good that many came seeking admission. Now, a minimal fee was introduced and a tiny remuneration for the teachers was possible. Over years, the school grew in its reputation for its good results and focus on building character in students. In 1997, a team from the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) certified it as worthy of the CBSE affiliation. The certificates and honours awarded by the school thus gained nationwide recognition. Within a decade of its existence, the school began to procure ‘Centum results’ where every student passed the Board Exams with first class grades.

sathya sai vidya mandir, bhawanipatna

The fees and salaries have grown today but the school still takes fees much lesser than the other schools and pays its teachers more comparatively. All this is made possible by the spirit of love and sacrifice with which it has been nurtured. Today, the school has also been certified as a model one by the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vahini programme. It is indeed an apt reward as the school celebrates its Silver Jubilee in 2018.

sathya sai vidya mandir, bhawanipatna
The school stands ready, gearing up to celebrate its Silver Jubilee

The lessons from this success story are crystal clear. All the resources that one needs to start a ‘Sai School’ or any ‘Sai Project’ for that matter are purity and selflessness. Whatever else is needed, Swami will grant at the correct time provided we don’t violate the basic necessities of purity and selfless intent.


"There is no dearth of resources in our country Bharat. But there are very few who have the noble intention of doing good to society. When you undertake a sacred task, even Nature will extend all its help."

- Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

So, there you are. It all starts with compassion in the heart, transforms into passion in the hands and results in innovation in the head. That is the 3HV, the unity of the head, heart and hand.

- Aravind Balasubramanya
Radio Sai Team

comments powered by Disqus
counter for wordpress