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|Posted at 10:30:00 Hrs. IST on 21 Dec 2009
Prasanthi This Fortnight
The Lord must have already heard them singing! With the advent of Christmas there is a western populace camping in Prasanthi, uniting untiring efforts of many a hundred, tuning their vocal cords, perfecting hands on instruments, all for a final presentation, singing His Glory on the auspicious Christmas Eve, in His immediate Divine Presence.
Yes, it’s Western time again at the holy city of Puttaparthi. During this time of year, we begin to sense a change in the air. The weather begins to change and one gets the feeling that Christmas is in the air bringing great sense of expectancy.
…And in Prasanthi Christmas adorns a new colour. No folks, not Country and Western but Western Carols for Christmas. It’s the time of the Blessed Birth of the Baby Jesus. That means that the “Westerners” get a chance to strut their stuff for their Beloved Bhagawan. In fact, the westerners get to have their hands on everything related to Christmas, though the term westerner get a different meaning and should be viewed from a broad global perspective.
The fortnight that is passing by marked a steady progression with the D-Day preparations getting geared up thinning the counting down numbers.
While an international Western Choir with a strength of over 8-9 hundred has been gearing up singing and sweetening ‘their’ love for The Lord, ably guided by wonderful Sylvia Alden from the United States, another International Choir comprising over 170 children has been practising under ever familiar Alma Badings from the Netherlands, singing His glory on ‘their’ way to present a perfect Christmas eve to the Lord in physical.
On a wintry afternoon on December 19 when one would prefer to stay outdoors warming up beating the chillness in the weather, the double decker auditorium next the Book Centre was as active as in a warm fresh morning. One could hear two majestic voices, of two lady conductors, breaking the pin-drop silence, taming their wards to sing with devotion, sing with discipline and sing with all the sweetness they have in their hearts to make the Eve a most memorable one. While at the ground floor, Sylvia Alden was at her humorous best cracking instant jokes parading the folks to sing along the popular Ganesha Bhajan, “Ganesha Sharanam Sharanam Ganesha....”, at the one-up floor, Alma Badings was donning the role of a stricter, stressing on melody making her little ones to sing “We Love You Sai Maa….”.
In the meanwhile, a group of over twenty-five children from the Latin American countries is having routine rehearsal sessions elsewhere, for a drama entitled “Christmas comes to my heart”, the official Christmas drama by International Children.
Shed No. 32, the work sphere for the decoration team is vibrant with devotion and dedication, energy and enthusiasm, with over 100 men and women from Atlanta Centre, United States busying themselves with “Decorating Divinity”, responsible for decking up entire Prasanthi Mandir and Yajur Mandiram for the Christmas occasion. “We are ready and are waiting for Swami’s instructions”, says Tom Lahey, Australian born International Christmas Decorations Director, talking about the teams readiness and preparations. Apart from the main venues, Prasanthi Mandir and Yajur Mandiram, the team also had plans to decorate the canteens, western and northern, the hospitals, book-stall, mini-temples inside the ashram. The main team of 115 odd from the Atlanta centre is ably supported by another 40 odd volunteers from across the globe making it a unique International Team.
The entire Christmas Preparations by the overseas team have the back up of a group of dedicated volunteers from various overseas countries.
Celebrating its Silver Jubilee, Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar, Visakhapatnam came with complete strength totalling over 550 including teaching staff and some of the alumni, making the auspicious occasion a most blessed one in His presence. The students from the school had a dance drama presentation “Sai Kiranaalu”, portraying Sai students as role models serving the society, essentially practising His message in their lives.
A group of over 350 from Singapore was blessed to perform in His presence a most innovative theme based on a Divine Discourse delivered over forty years ago, precisely on 14th July 1966 on the occasion of the inauguration of a branch office of State Bank of India in Prasanthi Nilayam. The presentation, Bank Balance, was a clarion call to the present generation exhorting them that a deposit with spiritual bank would be the most viable line of action towards achieving peace and happiness.
The fortnight also witnessed a high dignitary visit, with Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) of Nepal Chhatraman Singh Gurung showing up in Prasanthi Nilayam accompanied by his wife, seeking Divine blessings. Escorted by a group of high ranking Indian Military officials from MEG Centre, Bangalore, a protocol gesture, the Chief of Staff arrived at Prasanthi Nilayam by a special Indian Air Force Aircraft on Dec 16 on a day visit. The couple was blessed by an interview upon which the Army entourage was blessed with Vibhuti Prasadam and Paadanamaskaars. Bhagawan later materialized a chain for Mrs. Gurung while blessing the women in the group.
Another diginitory visit during the fortnight was that of Sri Lankan Defense Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse.
A group of over 400 youth from Haryana, a Parthi Yatra group from the Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh were in Prasanthi for Divine Darshan apart from many mini groups from the western countries, a regular happening during the advent of winter season in Puttaparthi. A group of over 140 office bearers from Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, Kerala had a two-day orientation session during the second half of the fortnight in Prasanthi Nilayam. Another big contingent of over 1200 devotees from West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, representing Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, West Godavari Samithi was camping in Prasanthi when the fortnight was passing by.
Though the ongoing statewide agitation had its toll on the influx of devotees, as state-run bus services stopped plying with an increasing number of incidents involving road blockades, an ever exuberant Prasanthi never stopped attracting devotees and the week running into Christmas has been experiencing good inflow, making the ashram bubbling with festive fervour.
The construction work for the new set of dormitories is in progress with the dismantling of the first set of two existing sheds at the western end of Prasanthi Nilayam compound, levelling the ground to raise the new construction.
Rose Beneficiaries for the second half of the fortnight were, Prof. Muralidhar Rao, Mr. Swami Sastry, Mr. Ramabhadra Raju, Mr. Janardhanan, Mr. Mishra, Mr. PV Subba Rao and Mr. Ram Mohan Rao, all from Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, Prasanthi Nilayam.
After the “Group of 120” visiting in November, a second batch of staff, exclusively doctoral staff with families, from the twin hospitals at Whitefield, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences and General Hospital was here, this time with a strength of over 200, relishing Divine Darshan during the weekend. …And sunday, 20 Dec was the marked day for them as the contingent was blessed to bask in His Divine Love. Bhagawan, coming out bit early at 4:30 spent almost an hour in the packed Bhajan Hall moving among them, granting Himself with darshan, sparshan and sambhashan ending the session with a twenty-five minute “Divine Discourse” in Kannada. It was more of a discourse with counseling tips for the doctors to serve devotees efficiently. The group visit, second in the series that began last month, was at the instance of Bhagawan, as guests of Divinity. The group also had special awareness lecture sessions wherein speakers of eminence of the ranks of Prof. G. Venkataraman addressed them on Bhagawan’s Mission and Vision. The group was lead by Dr. A.S. Hegde, Director, SSSIHMS, Whitefield, Bangalore.
As the Christmas day is coming closer, Prasanthi is bound to get into higher gears witnessing frenzy of activities making the occasion a grand affair. …And Prasanthi offers one of its kind occasions for the lovers of Jesus, celebrating Christmas in a style typical of Prasanthi. Long ago, dating back sixteen winters, there was an overseas devotee from Qutar, returning from Prasanthi Nilayam via Dharmakshetra, Mumbai, who had his comments on the typical Christmas celebrations in Prasanthi Nilayam. He said: “Yes, I had a typical Christmas, a Christmas with 21 Omkars”.
Posted at 18:40:01 Hrs. IST on 08 Dec 2009
December arrived and came along with the wintry season. While passing off, the first week of the last month left vivid pictures of a vibrant Prasanthi that had enough of actions in its kitty. Topping the list comes the visit of India’s Industrial tycoon Ratan Tata.
Yes, the week that passed by had a hectic twenty-four hour schedule for India’s topmost industrialist, Ratan Tata, in Prasanthi Nilayam. The man who rose like a phoenix to become India’s ‘topbill’ in international business forums, Ratan Tata, left the holy township richer with greater insight into humanitarian services as exemplified by Sathya Sai Baba’s Mission.
In appreciation, the distinguished guest wrote in the guest book after completing his visit at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthigram, “One of the most impressive and unique hospital facilities I have ever seen. It performs patient care and treatment as it should be, and in a form that unfortunately is not, by and large, practised today”.
Accompanied by his colleague and close confidant Mr. R.K. Krishna Kumar, Vice Chairman, India Group of Hotels and a member in the Board of Directors for Tata Sons, Mr. Ratan Tata also visited the University Administrative Block and the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus wherein the distinguished guest was briefed in detail about Bhagawan’s Vision on Educare, His Revolutionary Educational Mission and the Holy Educational set up brought about by Bhagawan.
In a brief address to the officials and faculty members of the University, Mr. Tata expressed his thanks for the hospitality, lavishing at the holistic institution run by Bhagawan that serves as a role model.
And after watching the Water Project Video presentation, he said: "I would have loved to be part of the water project. This is a project where all the benefit has reached where it is actually needed - the poor man! I wish I was there to see Swami plan and execute the whole project!"
A drama entitled, Premaarpitham, portraying the plight of the present day confused youth, confused at choosing the right path between staying abroad aiming at greater career growth and staying back to serving the nation, was staged by the University students on the 3rd evening at the University Auditorium. The drama that was blessed by Bhagawan’s gracious presence was also attended by Mr. Ratan Tata, Mr. Krishna Kumar, Dr. Vijay Kelkar, Chairman of the Finance Commission of India and the ashram officials along with students and faculties from the University. Bringing home the message that Educare is in essence Love of God and the Love for God the forty-five minutes drama had flashback scenes from the lives of Swami Vivekananda, Adi Shankaracharya, the Pandavas and Gopikas of Vrindavan.
Excellence in performance meeting the benchmark set by Bhagawan, the crew was rewarded well with a forty minute onstage session with Bhagawan in presence of the Chief Guest. From the drama to real life, many of the aspiring students writing the final year exams got to clear their doubts about career path, capitalizing the best of the occasion.
Bhagawan Himself was seen introducing many of the boys detailing their courses undertaken. In between, Bhagwan called out Issac Tigrett of Hard Rock fame asking him, “how many hotels?” "In reply he said, “Swami more than 148 Hard Rock Cafes; but all that is nothing in front of my Master! Master is everything." Continuing with this conversation, referring to the present day plight of youth and parents, Bhagawan said emphatically, "Everything is polluted. My students will go everywhere and clean up everything. That is their service to me"
Speaking about singing, Bhagawan said that the harmony of feelings, rhythm and melody are most important. "Bhava, Raaga and Tala - these constitute Bharatha. Bhava or feeling is most important. The boys here have lot of feelings. They go to the villages and serve the poor people there." Acknowledging this Tata replied, "I have seen the glow in the eyes and faces; they have a lot of devotion for You". Swami said, "If everyone had such devotion, the world would immediately improve." Bhagawan specially introduced Warden of the Hostel followed by the lead singer. Referring to the lead singer who had studied in Prasanthi Nilayam from the Primary level, Bhagawan remarked that he had been working there for sixteen years and his final remark before leaving was on Mr. Ratan Tata. …And before leaving Bhagawan had a mention about the good man in Tata, who serves the society most selflessly.
Upon returning from the University Auditorium, Mr. Tata and Krishna Kumar were blessed with a fifteen minute open session in the bhajan hall on the 3rd evening. The next morning after his visit to the Indoor Stadium and Chaitanya Jyothi Museum, Mr. Tata was granted an audience with Bhagawan that lasted for forty minutes which was followed by a brief audience to Mr. Krishna Kumar.
Before leaving for Hyderabad after one day stay in the Ashram the guest of honour also paid visit to the Indoor Stadium and Chaitanya Jyothi Museum.
With the passing off 84th Year of Advent, the countdown for the landmark occasion, 85th Birthday is virtually begun. …And in anticipation of the mammoth occasion, new dormitories are being constructed replacing existing ten numbers starting with shed nos. 11 and 12. The new provision would be having triple storeyed
dormitories with twin units. Each single unit would be having a capacity of 504 aggregating to 5040 against the current capacity of 120 per shed. All sheds would be provided with bunk coats facilitating increased number of capacity per shed. Open shelves for keeping the belonging, liberal provision for bathroom facility etc. are some of the additional features of the new construction. Built up area for the entire construction would be 200000 sq. ft. and the project that is entrusted to L & T is expected to be commissioned by Guru Purnima 2010.
Bhumi Puja for the above construction was held on the 2nd Dec attended by senior officials from Ashram along with students and staff working in ashram institutions.
Two more Parthi Yatras, from West Bengal and Punjab, marked the end of the week with two programmes by the respective states. West Bengal that came with a force of over 550 staged a drama “Transformation – Individual to Global” that talked about the influence wielded by Sai Youth in the society in general bringing in transformation beginning at the individual level. “Vande Sai Mataram”, a colourful dance drama by Punjab Youth and Balvikas, came with a force of over 450, was a depiction of the state’s rich cultural heritage and patriotic feeling.
Come December and Prasanthi gets the taste of winter. Wintry weather hit Prasanthi as December gets going to the second week. But, the chilly climate no way stops the students from gearing up for the annual sports and cultural meet. The preparations virtually began this week with trial and practice sessions got to start braving the wintry weather.
Apart from the Tata Team and Dr. Vijay Kelkar, another dignitary who was present during the week was veteran VHP leader, Ashok Singhal who was here for two days.
Seeing off Police personnel upon completing their duty
December gripped by wintry climate, progresses slowly reminiscing the year that is fading off. And the bell rings with the countdown for Year 2010.
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