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ONAM CELEBRATIONS: 3rd to 5th SEPTEMBER, 2006

 

Photographs - 5th September 2006

Photographs - 4th September (Evening)

Photographs - 3rd (Evening) and 4th (Morning)

Report on ONAM CELEBRATIONS

The Onam celebrations this year were marked by piety and gaiety. Devotees from the state of Kerala gathered in huge numbers to celebrate the sacred festival in the Divine Presence. The entire mandir complex was beautifully decorated with colourful buntings, and the spotless white clothes with golden embroidered attire of the Keralites lent added charm to the place.

The festivities started on the evening of 3rd with a drama titled ‘Bhakthi and Vibhakthi’ presented by the Bal Vikas children of Calicut District. The drama portrayed God’s love for His devotees and how He came to their rescue when their safety or dignity was at stake. And also how Bhakthi (Devotion) is greater than Vibhakthi (Grammatical accuracy or Scholarship). The drama revolved around the lives of great devotees of Sri Guruvayurappa (Lord Krishna worshipped as a child in the ancient temple at Guruvayur in Kerala) like Sri Poonthanam Nambudiri, Sri Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri and Manjula. The story of young Manjula is particularly inspiring. Manjula was very devoted to Lord Guruvayurappan and would daily offer a flower garland to adorn His idol in the temple. But, one day, she was late in bringing the garland and by the time she arrived at the temple, the doors had already been closed. She was filled with sorrow at this, but Poonthanam Nambudiri advises her that the Lord is omnipresent and is immanent in every object in the universe. He points to a stone near a banyan tree at the eastern gate of the temple and tells her to place the garland around the stone. Manjula takes his advice to heart and with great devotion did as she was told. The next day, devotees were witness to a great miracle as that same garland was noticed by the chief priest around the neck of the temple idol the next morning. This incident thrilled the hearts of everyone as it showed how the Lord responds to the pure and sacred feelings of His devotees.

The morning of 4th witnessed the offering of love to Bhagawan in the form of music. Sri Sankaran Namboothiri, a child prodigy in his earlier years, and now a famous exponent of Carnatic music, rendered classical music interspersed with Sai Bhajans. The singer enthralled everyone with melodious and soul-stirring songs for more than an hour. In the evening, the students of Sri Sai Vidya Vihar, Alwaye presented a drama titled ‘Mathru Devo Bhava, Pithru Devo Bhava’. These lines taken from the Taithreya Upanishad state that one should revere one’s parents as God. The drama depicted the story of transformation of Pundareeka, a legendary devotee of Lord Vittal due to whose prayer the famous Panduranga Vittal temple at Pandharpur in Maharashtra came into existence. The drama effectively brought home the message that loving service to one’s parents is not only the highest form of spiritual exercise but also closest to God’s heart. The participants were blessed with photographs by Bhagawan. Following the drama, there was a vocal recital by Prof. Vayyankara Madhusoodanan.

On the morning of 5th September, the sacred day of Onam, Bhagawan was welcomed in to Sai Kulwant Hall in a procession led by small children dressed in traditional Kerala costume carrying lamps in their hands, young men attired in the typical ‘vedam’ orange silk dhoti and white ‘angavastram’ holding Poornakumbham in their hands, and the Naadaswaram music troupe. The ‘Panchavadyam’ and Vedic chanting by students were going on simultaneously. Soon after Bhagawan was seated on the dais, the youth members sang a welcome song. Following this, there was a musical presentation by the Bal Vikas children titled ‘Sai Tips to Fly High’. The presentation beautifully depicted the importance of cultivating human values in the present day context through many scenes. The opening scene showed a spiritual aspirant approaching a Guru for clarifying his doubts. The first question put forth by the student is – “How and why was the universe created?” for which the Guru replies that in the beginning there was the Word; the Word was with God and the Word was God. From God then arose the five elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth consequently in that order. Then evolved the plants, animals, and finally came man. The next step in evolution is ‘superman’. This ‘superman’ is not the one who possesses extraordinary physical strength, but the one who overcome all mental weaknesses, practices human values and is always absorbed in spiritual bliss. And to help us in this endeavour, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba has laid down guidelines on human values, which is a treasure house of wisdom. It is now our responsibility to internalize these values, practice them in our daily life and benefit thereby.

For the next 50 minutes or so, the presentation, interspersed with catchy songs, briefly dwelt on various teachings of Bhagawan like importance of time, love of God, respect for parents, sacrifice, control over one’s tongue, prayer and peace. It concluded with the famous quote of Bhagawan as the solution for world peace:

“If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in character.
If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home.
When there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”

After the presentation, there were Bhajans sung by the Kerala devotees. The morning programme concluded with Arati to Bhagawan.

The evening programme commenced at 3.00 pm. Prof. Mukundan, the State President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, Kerala spoke a few words of introduction. After offering salutations to Bhagawan on behalf of everyone, he briefly mentioned the various Seva projects undertaken by the Organization in all the districts of Kerala. For instance, the Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorneshwari project was started with the noble intention of providing free food; another project for providing necessary material for school children, and adoption of some schools by the Seva Organization; the Youth have undertaken a project to provide housing to hundreds of homeless people, while the Mahila Vibhag (Women’s Wing) has undertaken a Mother & Child Welfare Programme in many villages and towns. The District Collector had formally expressed his appreciation to the Organization for the rescue and relief work undertaken by it in the Quilon District which was affected by the tsunami in December 2004, Prof. Mukundan reported. In conclusion, he expressed his gratitude to Bhagawan for His guidance and for transforming the state of Kerala in to a ‘Sai Samrajya’ (Kingdom of Sai). He then introduced the guest speakers for the day.

The first speaker was Sri Virendra Kumar, Member of Parliament from the constituency of Calicut and Director of Press Trust of India (PTI). He said that it is a custom that during Onam, all the members of the family gather at their ancestral house, wear new clothes, partake of tasty dishes and spend their time full of happiness, love and with a sense of unity and belongingness. And that’s why all the devotees from Kerala have congregated at Prasanthi Nilayam, at the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan, their Divine Father and Mother. At this, the whole hall reverberated with thunderous applause affirming the sentiment expressed by the speaker.

The second speaker for the day was Justice Sreedharan. Justice Sreedharan served as the Chief Justice in the High Courts at Punjab & Haryana and later in Gujarat. Post retirement, he is serving as Loka Ayuktha, an important office that checks corrupt practices in Government bodies. During his speech, Sri Sreedharan mentioned how Bhagawan unfailingly came to his rescue during many crises and solved them all in answer to his prayers. He said that before performing any act, one should pose two questions – “Will it cause harm to anyone?” and “Will Swami approve of it?” Only if the answer for both the questions is ‘yes’ must one proceed to act. He concluded his speech by imploring everyone to live by the ideals espoused by Bhagawan and make the country a better place to live in.

After the two speakers, Bhagawan graciously delivered His discourse. He said that the body can be compared to an iron safe and the human values within are the precious jewels meant to be safeguarded. If not for the human values, the body is worthless. Bhagawan then went on to explain the legend behind the celebration of Onam. Emperor Bali ruled over the land now called Kerala. He ruled over his subjects very lovingly and righteously, and there was happiness, plenty and prosperity all over the kingdom. But there was one blemish in Bali’s character, he was slightly egoistic. God can tolerate anything but the two evil qualities of ego and anger, Bhagawan said. So, the Lord had to incarnate as Vamana and vanquish Bali’s ego, and send him to the netherworld. Though Bali was knowledgeable and virtuous, his ego led to his downfall. So, Bhagawan said, one must give up the evil qualities of ego, anger, jealousy, etc. and cultivate the human values of Sathya, Dharma, Shanthi, Prema and Ahimsa befitting one’s human stature.

Following the discourse, the students of Sri Sathya Sai Vidyapeeth, Srisailam presented a drama entitled “Na Me Bhaktha Pranashyati”. The drama portrayed the life of Saint Sakkubai, who was born in the land of Maharashtra. She was an ardent devotee of Lord Panduranga Vittal, but her husband did not approve of her worship. However, despite the stiff resistance from her husband she never wavered from her path of devotion. Lord Vittal is so pleased by her devotion that on one occasion He even revives her from the dead. Once, when Sakkubai gave her husband the slip to have darshan of Lord Vittal at Pandharpur on the sacred day of Ekadashi along with the disciples of Saint Kabir, Lord Vittal takes her place at home so that her husband would not notice her absence, and thus saves her from earning her husband’s wrath. In the end, her devotion bears fruit, for her husband too is granted the darshan of Lord Vittal and thereby is transformed from an agnostic into a believer.

After the drama, Sri Vishnu Bhat rendered a soulful song in Kannada. Bhagawan then accepted arati and retired to His residence thus concluding the grand three day Onam celebrations. The thousands who traveled the far distance from their homes in Kerala just to be with their Lord on this sacred occasion returned with their hearts full of the love and joy that only the Divine can confer. His message to the people of Kerala to always uphold the five human values will enthuse them to serve the Lord with greater dedication and thus put that message into practice.

Jai Sai Ram!