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Makara Sankranthi Celebrations, 2006

 

Makara Sankranthi is one of the most important festivals for Indians and one that holds immense physical and spiritual significance. It is also celebrated as Pongal in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. It is a festival when farmers rejoice at the good harvest and express their gratitude to the Sun, the Earth and the cattle for their bountiful blessings. It marks the end of the dull and dreary winter and the onset of colorful and joyous spring.

Sankranthi also marks the northward movement of the sun called ‘Uttarayana’, and its migration into the zodiac sign of Makara or Capricorn. The sun represents illumination and hence this event is equally awaited by spiritual personages, for, it symbolizes the intellect being directed towards achieving higher pursuits and the spiritual goal of mergence with the Divine. Bheeshmacharya, the grandsire of the Pandavas and the Kauravas in the great epic ‘Mahabharata’, is said to have lain on a bed of arrows for days, waiting for this holy day, to shed his mortal coils and attain to the higher worlds.

At Prasanthi Nilayam, this holy and joyous occasion also marks the valedictory ceremony and prize distribution of the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet of Bhagawan’s educational institutions.

On the morn of 14th January, Bhagawan arrived in Sai Kulwant Hall at 9.50 a.m. in a procession led by the captains and vice-captains of the men’s campuses, along with the brass bands of the University campuses of Anantapur and Prasanthi Nilayam. Soon after Bhagawan took His seat on the dais, the Physical Instructors of all the campuses greeted Bhagawan with bouquets. Bhagawan, then, lit the ceremonial lamp and commenced the proceedings. The Vice-Chancellor of the University, Sri.A.V.Gokak, spoke a few words of introduction about the significance of the festival of Makara Sankranthi. He also elaborated on the uniqueness of the Integral system of education offered at Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions where equal emphasis is placed on the holistic development of the body, mind and the soul. And the Sports & Cultural Meet is an instance of the application of this integral approach, where the student’s body and mind is strengthened, and he/she imbibes many valuable and enduring lessons for life. After Sri.Gokak’s talk, Bhagawan rose up to deliver His Divine Discourse.

In His discourse, Bhagawan defined and delineated the meaning and distinction between education and Educare. While education is assimilation of facts and information from the outside, Educare means to bring out the wisdom and virtues inherent in man’s heart and apply them in daily life. Each individual is endowed with the three Gunas (attributes) of Sathwa, Rajas and Tamas, and these represent the Divine Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. Bhagawan also mentioned that the students should not to be content with merely winning prizes and securing degrees, for, what is most important is cultivating the three essential qualities of Nischalatwam (steadiness), Nirmalatwam (purity) and Nirmohatwam (detachment). If one has these qualities, he verily becomes Divine, Bhagawan said. Bhagawan exhorted everyone to think of God always. Though there are many manifestations of Divinity, the inherent principle - the Atma, in all of them, is one and the same, just as gold is present in all ornaments and sugar is the common ingredient of all sweet dishes. Bhagawan concluded His discourse with the Bhajan – “Hari Bhajan Bina Sukh Shanti Nahi”. Bhagawan, then, gave away the trophies and cups to the various campuses.

The afternoon session commenced at 4.15 p.m. with Bhagawan’s Darshan. The programme scheduled for the evening was a drama by the students of the Brindavan campus of the Institute entitled, “Adi Kavi Valmiki”. Sage Valmiki is the composer of the sacred epic ‘Ramayana’ that narrates Divine story of Lord Sri Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. While the story of Lord Rama is no doubt enchanting and elevating, Sage Valmiki’s life story is no less inspiring, for, it is the story of the transformation of a ruthless dacoit Ratnakaara into Sage Valmiki by the power of the name of Lord Rama. The drama started with the scene where Ratnakaara encounters the Saptarishis (seven great sages) in a forest and threatens them to surrender their wealth and belongings. They pose a question to him: “You claim to be indulging in robbery solely to feed your family. Will your family agree to share a part of the sins that you commit thereby?” When Ratnakaara goes home and enquires with his wife, she says that no one can share another’s sins and each one is responsible for his or her own actions and their consequences. This truth strikes him like a thunderbolt and a disillusioned Ratnakaara repents for all his past misdeeds and decides to seek God. He is then imparted the sacred name of Rama and is blessed by the Saptarishis to meditate upon it. Ratnakaara undertakes severe penance and is lost in meditation for thousands of years, so much so that an anthill comes up around him. Then, the Saptarishis visit him and beckon him to come out. As he emerges out of the anthill (called ‘Valmika’ in Sanskrit) grand and shining with divine effulgence born out of chanting Rama’s name, he is christened Valmiki.

Sage Valmiki, then, is blessed with the visit of Sage Narada and Lord Brahma who inspire him and bless him with the sacred task of recording the story of Sri Rama – the Lord Incarnate who walked the earth as an ideal human being to set an example for all humanity to emulate. The drama depicted scenes from Ramayana on a stage in the background, while Lava and Kusha are seen narrating the story in the foreground through melodious songs in Telugu.

Sai Prema Dhara

On the evening of 13th January, the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Primary School presented a programme at Sai Kulwant Hall. It began with a violin concert by the girl students. This was followed by a presentation entitled ‘Sai Prema Dhara’. Using a projector-screen system, the programme dwelt on the life and teachings of Bhagawan. The presentation commenced with Lord Ganesha and Lord Subramanya offering their obeisance to the Shiva-Shakti principle embodied as Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The narrators of the programme were two students dressed as Prof. Kasturi and Dr. Hislop, two devotees who were fortunate to have enjoyed the proximity of Bhagawan and were witnesses to many wonders and miracles of Bhagawan during their lifetime. They recall various incidents that took place during Bhagawan’s childhood days, which demonstrate how, while even as a young lad, He displayed mastery over the powers of Nature, and His leadership qualities and sterling virtues such as Love and Compassion for fellow beings. One of the highlights of the drama was the depiction of the episode where Bhagawan demonstrated His Divinity to His brother Sri Seshama Raju Garu during their pilgrimage to the Virupaksha temple at Hampi. The astonished entourage witnessed how young Sathya appeared in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple even as he was seen standing outside the compound of the temple, thus convincing His brother that He was no ordinary lad, but the Omnipotent and Omnipresent Lord Himself.

The grand service projects undertaken by Bhagawan were also portrayed in a novel manner where Mother Saraswati, the Goddess of learning, Lord Dhanvantari, the God of Healing, and Mother Ganga descend to pay homage and express their gratitude to Bhagawan for providing education, healthcare and life-giving water to millions absolutely free of charge, and also restoring these gifts of God to their pristine glory. The great saints, Thyagaraja, Purandaradasa, Meerabai, Chaitanya Deva, Andal and Namdev also follow, paying their obeisance to the Lord whom they had all adored through their devotional compositions. At the end of their presentation, the students collectively sang the song, “Madhura Mohana Ghanashyama…”, adoring the enchanting Lord Krishna who has descended as our beloved Lord Sai to shower Ananda (Bliss) on everyone.

Thus ended the celebrations of the sacred festival of Makara Sankranthi in the Divine Presence. Let us pray that this Uttarayana period brings us all health, prosperity and happiness, and sees us march forward with success on our spiritual journey.