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Sri Sathya Sai Aradhana Mahotsavam - Importance and Significance
A day of celebration or mourning?
The 24th of April every year is significant for those who love or revere Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It is on this day in 2011 that He 'died'. The quotes for that word are because someone who embodied eternal values of Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and Non Violence can never 'die'. He continues to live on in the hearts of people who hold Him dear. However, the Sri Sathya Sai Aradhana Mahotsavam, as the day is called, often brings pangs of pain and tears of lamentation for many because they miss their Swami in their midst.
Strangely, this anniversary of His ‘passing’ has been termed a 'Mahotsavam' which translates into 'great festival'. Why this irony? Isn't it sprinkling salt on a wound by terming a day of mourning as a day of celebration? What is one expected to do on such a day and how should one celebrate it?
In 2012, exactly one year after that earth-shattering day, I got ready and prepared myself for the solemn ceremony at Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi.
Sri Sathya Sai Aradhana Mahotsavam experience of 2012
Waking up early in the morning, I got dressed in the traditional white shirt and white trousers after a bath. It was already 7:00 am and I had to hurry to mandir. As I served some Semiya (Indian vermicelli) for myself, my mother called out,
“Have you kept breakfast for Swami?”
It had become a practice at home to offer food and water to Swami's photograph in the altar in an attempt to feel His presence at home. So, I took the special silver plate and served vermicelli on to it. As I placed it at the altar, I noticed the silver tumbler there had water from the previous day. I took the consecrated water, poured it into my glass and filled the tumbler with fresh water for Swami. That was when a thought crossed my mind.
When people invited Swami to visit their homes, Swami would often say,
“You want me to be at your home but you do not give me food and water!"
That was His way of reminding people that His was a constant and unseen presence in every home. Desperately hoping to feel that in my home, I told Him in my head,
“Swami, keeping food and water for you is a maintenance job. It is noticed only when it is not done! There is no appreciation if food is kept daily, but if it is missed, You complain!”
I smiled to myself as I said this. Since Puttaparthi summer temperatures get searing, I added half a glass of chilled water, placed the silver tumbler at the altar and said,
“There, cool water for a hot day.”
I then gobbled breakfast and soon, the four of us, my mother, my father, Pooja and I, left for the mandir. The other three planned to have breakfast after the morning programme in the mandir.
Being part of the Radiosai team, the official media coverage unit for the mandir in the Ashram, it was also my professional duty to cover the day’s proceedings. The governor of Andhra Pradesh, Sri E.S.L.Narsimhan was the chief guest for the day which had a ‘Guru Vandana’ music programme by the students and the release of a book titled ‘The Miracle of Pure Love’ authored by Prof.G.Venkatraman scheduled.
The students’ music programme brought copious tears in my eyes. They were singing all of Swami’s favorite songs and there were beautiful visuals of Him on the TVs and giant screens. Seeing it was such nostalgia that one wished to keep one’s eyes fixed only on the screen and forget everything else. But sadly, I could not do that for I was manning a camera! Those beautiful 30 minutes were followed by the book release and then the governor’s speech. His speech took everyone by a storm almost.
He simply discarded the speech paper which had been prepared and spoke straight from the heart. He made it clear that he had not come as the governor but as ‘an admirer of Swami’. He said, “I am ashamed that whole governments are not able to do for the people what a single individual did. Swami is such a positive force that He gave a fantastic meaning even for vices. He said that one must have Kama (desire) for service, Krodha (anger) if one is not able to serve and Lobha (greed) to serve more and Matsarya (jealousy) towards those who are able to serve more!
Shedding tears he recalled how Swami cured someone very dear to him with just one statement, “Don’t worry! Nothing will happen.” And as the governor choked, the ruthless press photographers clicked away, firing flashes into him.
“I am sorry I am getting emotional” the man apologised, “I simply cannot help it.”
I was in tears. I was thinking that Swami is a real silent worker. Without the slightest announcement or advertisement He was transforming and changing lives everywhere. And I missed Him!
I missed Him with all my being. My heart pined and ached for Him. Ah Swami! How much I desire to see you...
And then, the governor said, “Swami should not be seen! He should be experienced!”
A Divine reminder
It was as if Swami was slapping an answer to me. I wiped my tears but they refused to stop. I then remembered all the assurances of Swami.
“I am always in you, above you, around you, below you and with you.”
“You may leave me, but I will never leave you till I deliver you to your destination which is yourself.”
I felt better. My heart welled in gratitude and love for Him. I felt blessed that Swami had given me the chance of knowing Him and recognising His divinity. Really! Aren’t we blessed to know that the Lord is in our midst? This is one aspect where I feel that ignorance is definitely not bliss!
Swami’s discourse was the final part of the programme. Swami exhorted everyone to see Him in all and ‘never let God out of your lives’. After that moving session in the mandir, I was returning with my dad on my motorbike when I met mom and Pooja at the coconut seller.
As we stopped there, Pooja told me,
“You know, today I missed Him so much! I cried so much during the programme.”
The same was the story with my mom too. Dad, the wisest in such matters, had a smile on His face. It was as if he was returning after having had Swami’s darshan in the mandir.
We all enjoyed a cool sip of tender coconut water and then went home. Fatigued from standing for about 3 hours and shooting, I just collapsed on the sofa. Mom went into her room to change.
“Aravind...Pooja....Aravind...Pooja...” her screams were frantic.
I thought that she had a fall or something and rushed to her room. She was in stunned silence and frozen stiff. Her hand was outstretched and finger was pointing to Swami’s picture on the cupboard. I followed her finger and my jaw dropped. Forming a gentle halo around Swami’s head was vibhuti! As I rushed to take out my camera, mother rushed to my room to tell Pooja about what had happened. I wanted to tell her to slow down but she was in excitement.
“Aravindddd......” came another scream from my mom and this time I was sure that she had fallen and hurt herself.
“I told you not to get so excited and go slow....” I shouted back as I rushed to see what had happened to her.
Again she was frozen. This time however, there was another frozen figure by her side - Pooja. Both were looking at the altar. And when I went there, I saw that there was copious amount of vibhuti that had emerged from a framed photograph there! I was really stunned. What could be said in such moments? Dad also came and all of us were transfixed. Everyone slowly moved out to the living room to allow the Presence to sink in the being. I was still standing at the altar. I looked down and saw that a few ants were wending their way to the vermicelli that had been placed for Swami.
“Appa! Amma! Pooja”, I screamed from the top of my voice. They must have thought that I had received an electric shock and they were partly right for that was how I felt - pleasantly shocked and electrified.
As I picked the small plate holding Swami’s vermicelli, I could see that there was vibhuti everywhere on the vermicelli! It was as if Swami had decided to feed us vermicelli with vibhuti as a side dish!
And then, facts rolled out one by one.
“Swami was born in the year of Akshaya. Akshaya means that which never diminishes and can never be destroyed.”
“ Today is Akshaya Tritiya. It is on this day that Lord Krishna gave the Akshaya Patram (the inexhaustible vessel) to Draupadi. Whatever is acquired on this day will be replenished endlessly.”
It is for this reason that people all over India buy gold on this day. Today, we had received something far more valuable than gold!
We all sat in silence for a few moments. The ACTUAL IRONY hit me! This was the day being solemnly observed as the ‘day of His passing’. And here, He had almost ‘rampaged’ and ‘had fun’ at home! I decided that from now on, 24th April, Aradhana day, will be a day to be observed joyously as the ‘day of His arrival’ in our hearts. Swami has moved from Yajur Mandir (His former Residence) to Hridaya Mandir (the temple of our hearts).
Since that day, there have been many occasions when Swami has shown that He is always in my heart, with me. And this has happened not just through manifestations of vibhuti, kumkum and turmeric but through a myriad variety of 'miracles' that have left me and my family dumbstruck in gratitude and love. I have attempted to describe the vibhuti manifestation miracles, medical healing miracles and other experiences through my blogs. But however hard I try, I know that I cannot fathom and describe even an infinitesimally small part of God's glory and grandeur. A quote from Swami's discourse would be the best way to conclude this piece:
There are many who observe My actions and start declaring that My nature is such and such. They are unable to gauge the sanctity, the majesty and the eternal reality that is Me. The power of Sai is limitless; it manifests forever. All forms of 'power' are resident in this Sai palm. But, those who profess to have understood Me, the wise, the Yogis (spiritually advanced persons), the Pandits (scholars), and the Jnanis (liberated persons) - all of them are aware only of the least important, the casual, external manifestation of an infinitesimal part of that power, namely, the ‘miracles’! My power is immeasurable; My truth is inexplicable, unfathomable. What I will, must take place; what I plan must succeed. I am Truth; and Truth has no need to hesitate, or fear, or bend. I am announcing this about Me, for, the need has arisen.
- Divine Discourse, Jun 19, 1968.
© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya