Week-long 87th birthday celebrations commenced at Prasanthi Nilayam on a very auspicious note, staging a symbolic celestial marriage of the Divine couple Lord Rama and Mother Sita followed by annual feature, Rathotsavam.
Amidst Vedic chanting and to the backdrop music of Nadaswaram, even as the rituals continued with various offerings to the Divine couple, the chief priest went on elaborating the greater significance and purport of the Divine Marriage connecting the same with the Sai saga. Upanayanam, sacred thread ceremony of the bridegroom followed by Kanyadanam (giving away the bride) was performed amidst chanting before the final ceremony, The Divine Marriage, was conducted by tying of Mangala Sutra around the neck of the bride.
This is the second year in succession, ever since its inception, the Divine Marriage is conducted in Sai Kulwant Hall, witnessed by an assembly of devotees. Over the years the function used to be inside the bhajan hall, in the immediate Divine Presence of Bhagawan.
The celestial Marriage is aimed at establishing Universal Peace and Prosperity.
Mangala Arathi to the Divine couple was offered before the deities were taken out in procession along with that of Lord Venugopala Swami. Subsequently, the deities were mounted on the main chariot at the Gopuram gate amidst devotional exuberance. Upon mounting the deities, coconuts were broken and arathi was offered before they were taken out along the road in procession.
The Venugopala Swami idol was mounted at the Pedda Venkama Raju Kalyanamandapam before return journey commenced, carrying the Sita Rama idols, a custom that has been in place ever since the Chariot Festival was introduced in Parthi. Enthusiastic villagers would carry Lord Venugopala Swami in a procession covering the entire village before returning to Mandir in the night, a customary practice over the years, ever since the inception of Rathotsavam.
Back in the Mandir, bhajans continued till 10 hrs. when Mangala Arathi was offered to Baba.
Earlier, outside the Prasanthi gates, enthusiastic Parthi folks were up quite early, sprucing up and decorating the entire road between Prasanthi Mandir and Pedda Venkamaraju Kalyana Mandapam. Women devotees were seen engaged in painting the road with ‘Rangoli’.
The evening function featured Marati Abhang singer Makarand Kalyani, the gifted artiste who hails from Indore and who has specialised in Marati Abhang and Natya Sangeet.He sang for more than an hour presenting gems of musical pieces, Marati Abhang, Hindi devotionals and Sai bhajans sung in Abhang style.
Sai Bhajans sung in Abhang style turned out to be explosive, as the audience joined the singer lighting up the November twilight. Those numbers, especially the bhajan Partheeshwari Jagat Janani was enough to evoke nostalgic memories of Baba's physical presence at the same venue, where He would sit on-stage listening to mellifluous singing of students.
The singer signed off in style singing his final number "Sai Paada Pooja Karo Hey Manva..." sending out the message to worship Bhagawan's Lotus Feet.