Celebration of 92 Years of Love, as is popularly called, the week-long 92nd 'Birthday' celebrations of Bhagawan Sri Sathay Sai commemorating the 92nd Year of His Epochal Advent commenced this morning on a very auspicious note in Prasanthi Nilayam. Marking the auspicious occasion, as is the custom over the years, celestial marriage of the Divine Couple, Lord Sri Ramachandra and Mother Sita was staged in the Sanctum Sanctorum at the Sai Kulwant Hall that was followed by the annual festival of Rathotsavam. The Sita Rama Kalyanam is aimed at Universal Peace and Prosperity.
The programme held on a make-shift platform commenced at 0730 hrs. and lasted two hours. The make-shift podium had the Lords seated majestically, Divine Couple Sita Ramachandra flanked by Lakshmana and Hanuman on one side and Lord Venugopala Swami on the other side.
The elaborate rituals that followed included various offerings to the Divine couple, Upanayanam – the sacred thread ceremony of the bridegroom followed by Kanyadanam (giving away the bride) marked by Laghu Arathi offering at intervals. Amidst floral offerings and to the backdrop Nadaswaram music, the Divine Marriage was conducted at 0900 hrs marked by tying of Mangala Sutra. Bringing back nostalgic taste of the yore, of the Divine Marriage that had happened in the Treta Yuga, the Priest then briefed the actual event and its significance. Laja Homa was then conducted, offering oblations to the sacred fire. Kumbha Harathi, Nakshatra Harathi, Karpoora Harathi followed next marking the grand-finale of the Celestial Wedding. This is the seventh year on the trot, ever since its inception, that the Divine Marriage is conducted in Sai Kulwant Hall.
Annual festival of Rathotsavam followed next. Lord Venugopala Swami was taken out in a chariot procession along with the Divine Couple – Sita Ramachandra through the main road, outside the ashram precincts, to the Peddavenkama Raju Kalyana Mandapam.
The deities, mounted on a chariot at the gopuram gate were taken out along the road in a grand procession. Hundreds of devotees joined the procession, with village folks coming to the fore, dancing to the tune of drumbeats, breaking coconuts, offering arathi, exhibiting great religious fervour. Vedam and bhajans contigents from Prasanthi led the procession.
The Venugopala Swami idol was mounted at the Pedda Venkama Raju Kalyana Mandapam before the procession returned with the newly wedded couple. Enthusiastic villagers would carry Lord Venugopala Swami in a procession covering the entire village before returning to the Mandir at night, a customary practice over the years, ever since the inception of the annual feature of Rathotsavam.
In the Mandir, bhajans continued post the celestial wedding and the session concluded with Mangala Arathi offering at 10:00 hrs.