Today witnessed the Ashadi Ekadashi celebrations at Prashanthi Nilayam. A
very auspicious day especially for the Maharashtrians.
Three days earlier, a team of 300 devotees from Mumbai city had landed at
Dharmavaram. From there, they started a procession, ‘Dindi’ as they call
it. They started walking all the way from Dharmavaram to Parthi amidst
Bhajans, Abhangs, dances and chanting of the name of the Lord. The
highlight of the Dindi was the carrying of the Palaki (palanquin) with the
Padukas of our dear Sai Vitthala.
This practice has been going on for the past 5 years from 2000. This has
its roots in Alandi and Dehu, the native land of the great saints, Sant
Jnaneshwar and Sant Tukaram of Maharashtra. In their times, 15 days prior
to Ashadi Ekadashi, both these saints would set out on a Paada Yatra
(walking on foot) to Pandharpur. They would reach there exactly on Ashadi
Ekadashi to offer their obeisance to Lord Vitthala. Later, their devotees
followed suite. The current practice is that huge groups of devotees from
the native towns of all the famous saints of Maharashtra commence their
procession (Dindi), culminating the same on Ashadi Ekadashi in Pandharpur.
The procession from Dharmavaram had another unique feature. There was a
second ‘special group’ of 150 members, who performed a different type of
procession. They visited all the villages en-route to Parthi from
Dharmavaram, doing Grama Seva. They conducted medical camps in the
villages, fixed tubelights and fans in the village schools and also gave
away Amruta Kalasham – 1008 of them. Amruta Kalasham is a service pack – a
bag containing 9 most essential food items required for a family, adequate
for a weeks time.
Both these groups reached Parthi yesterday evening. Swami had come to the
Institute Auditorium for the Music Programme Rehearsal. He came at 3.30
p.m. and was here until 5.00 p.m. As His car left the college campus, the
procession too crossed the College gate and proceeded to the Mandir. What
timing! It was as though Swami was leading their procession to the Mandir
Himself! Bhagawan has His own ways of Blessing His devotees!
For this Ashadi Ekadashi, the theme was ‘God – the only friend’. The Sai
Kulwant Hall was decorated elegantly for the function. The main pillars
were draped with flowing multi-coloured crepe cloth from the lotus
structure right until the bottom. The dais too was bedecked with floral
decorations. A grand flower curtain covered the Ganesha at the rear of the
dais. On this flower curtain was a huge cut out of Lord Vitthala with His
beloved Tukaram. The balcony was also covered with curtains of flowers and
looked very attractive.
Coming to the centre of the Hall, the performance area, the whole place
looked like a film city. There were cameras, light reflectors…… Along the
top, there were a number of banners advertising the latest film releases.
Some of them were ‘The Protector’, Kingdom of Heaven – from the Director
of Cosmos’, ‘The Moving Force – the Sai Avatar – Episode II’, Satyam
Shivam Sundaram – the Divine Page’, ‘The Eternal Witness’…..and so on. At
the bottom of the banners a print read www.saiworld.com.
On the pillars there were cutouts that had ‘Dost – the only Friend’
written on them. All this made it clear to us that this morning’s
programme had something to do with a film actor and his life. That was
precisely what it was. But let’s start from the beginning. By the way,
there were wonderful floral decorations at the Gopuram side Entrance and
even at the Gate leading to the Poornachandra.
At sharp 9.00 a.m., as announced the previous day, the lights in Kulwant
Hall went on and our dear Lord arrived in the Porte car. As the car passed
by the centre of the Hall, Swami stopped and all the children decked in
dance costumes crowded around the car window. Swami spoke to them for a
while. The Vedam was being chanted this morning by a special group of
Pundits from Maharashtra.
At 9.10 a.m. Swami was seated on the dais. The office bearers and the
coordinators offered their Pranaams and flower bouquets. The Swagatam song
followed. The Vedic Pundits took Blessings from Swami. At 9.20 a.m. a set
of four men blew the conch and the bugle heralding the arrival of the
Dindi Palaki. The Palaki with Bhagawan’s Padukas was brought amidst
vibrant songs and dance. A Tulasi garland was offered to Swami marking the
culmination of the Dindi. This was followed by a folk dance by the Mumbai
At 9.30 a.m., the Balvikas children of Mumbai and Goa, the Youth Wing and
the students of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Mandir – Dharmakshetra, commenced the
long awaited programme for the morning, titled – ‘God – the only Friend’.
The play went on till 10.25 a.m. To give you a brief overview of the
play…..It talks about a very famous film actor Amit Kumar who is at the
peak of his career. He has won several laurels, the latest being the best
actor award for his film ‘Maya Bazaar’. To add feathers on his cap, he
also bags the best costumes designer, best dialogue writer and a number of
other awards for the same movie.
In his award acceptance speech, he acknowledges all his fans, his wife and
many others and then only as an after thought, he mentions God in his
list. The story goes on with Amit Kumar acting in another movie called –
‘Dost-the only Friend’. The mahurat of the shooting begins with prayers to
the Lord and all that, but once again, God is left behind and forgotten
As one may expect, the movie ‘Dost-the only Friend’ turns out to be a
super flop in India. This brings Amit Kumar down with a crash. The
producers are at his neck for recovering their money. All his so called
fans turn their back. As usual these adversities bring Amit to God. The
rest of the play is a dialogue between God, played by a young boy and Amit.
The highlight of their conversations is that though we think that we are
doing everything all the while, it is truly God who is the doer. In fact,
we are just a witness to what He does. God explains to Amit, how it was He
who enabled Amit to deliver the right dialogues, design the best
costumes…… Amit too agrees that whenever he got into the acting mode, he
always felt that there was somebody within him who was running the show.
When he sat to design the costumes, there was a clear flow of thoughts and
ideas that came from within spontaneously. God even goes to the extent of
re-enacting a scene from his film, exactly the way Amit did, to prove to
him that He was always with him and within him.
Amit gets convinced of the reality in no time! (If only such things could
happen so quickly in the real world!) Well, when God is pleased with you,
problems vanish into thin air. Guess what! His film, ‘Dost-the only
Friend’, becomes a box office hit in other countries. In fact, the film
gets nominated for the International Film Awards in France.
Needless to say, Amit again wins the award, but this time the celebration
has a different touch. Just before accepting the award, Amit makes a
powerful speech, acknowledging the true doer within him. He gives all the
credit to the Lord, resident within him and humbly accepts himself as
An attractive part of the play, apart from the wonderful sets and the
catchy songs, was a huge cut out of Swami with His hand on the shoulder of
a young boy indicating the theme – ‘God – the only Friend’.
The play was followed by Vitthala Bhajans and Prasadam distribution. Swami
retired to the Poornachandra at 10.40 a.m.
In the evening, Swami came out at 3.30 p.m. At 4.10 p.m. the Vedam
chanting stopped. The Sri Sathya Sai Seva organization from Nagpur was
ready with a Ballet ‘Krishna Uddhava’.
This was in continuation of the theme of God being the only true friend of
man. The scene started with describing the Nava Vidha Bhakti, and Lord
Krishna pining to meet His childhood friend Uddhava. The rest of the play
is a flashback, as Lord Krishna tells Uddhava all about his childhood and
Uddhava is portrayed as a role model of a true friend of God. Even as a
baby, he receives the Blessings of Lord Narada who foresees the role to be
played by Uddhava as the best friend of Lord Krishna. Friendship with the
Lord is extolled as the best path for reaching God in Kaliyuga.
Some of the very good scenes were the Govardana Giri episode. The sets
were very good and they had made a cut-out of the hills which actually go
up, pulled by a rope, and child Krishna along with the cowherds take
shelter under the mountain. In due course, Uddhava is made the Prime
Minister of Mathura. The scene following this is the visit of Uddhava to
the Gopikas. Lord Krishna deliberately sends Uddhava to the Gopikas to
make him realize the essence of true Bhakti and Love.
Lord Krishna describes their meeting as the confluence of two rivers. The
Jnana of Uddhava merges with the Bhakti and Love of the Gopikas, each one
enriching the other.
The final scene depicts the Uddhava Gita, the knowledge received by
Uddhava from Lord Krishna about the Truths of life. Lord Krishna explains
to Uddhava that man can truly give nothing in charity for nothing actually
belongs to him. There is no separate hell in any place. Excess of Tamo
Guna itself is hell……….
Uddhava, sensing that the final moments of the Avatar’s sojourn had come,
cries out to the Lord not to leave him. But Lord Krishna convinces Uddhava
that he still had a role to play in this world. He exhorts Uddhava to
chant His name, hear His story, visit Him not in temples but in the hearts
of His devotees and spread His Love.
The fantastic, heart-moving play
concluded at 5.20 p.m. Prasadam was distributed to all. Bhajans were sung
by the devotees from Maharashtra. Later, Swami went into the Bhajan Hall.
All the students rushed into the Hall for the Bhajans. At 5.50 p.m., our
students took over the Bhajan singing. Aarti was offered at 6.00 p.m.
Bhagawan slowly proceeded in the car to the Poornachandra. All the
devotees were extremely happy with His wonderful Darshan and Blessings.