Report on Annual Sports & Cultural Meet 2008
11th January, 2008: Morning and Evening Programmes at Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium
Even as the New Year dawned, devotees of Bhagawan were waiting to know what was in store for them during this year’s sports meet of Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions. Bhagawan’s daily visits to the Hill-view Stadium since the beginning of the year only increased the curiosity and whetted their appetite to savour the feast that Bhagawan’s students would offer to Him… a labour of love topped off with an excellent display of physical strength and prowess as well as grace and beauty.
On the morning of 11th January, Bhagawan, clad in a bright yellow robe, arrived in the Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium at 8 a.m. to the tunes of the music band of the Anantapur Campus of Sri Sathya Sai University. In the middle of the ground were students of Bhagawan’s school and university smartly dressed and ready for the march past. After Bhagawan came on to the dais and lit the ceremonial lamp, the students marched past the dais and offered their salutations to their Lord and Chancellor Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, even as the University brass band of the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus played melodious tunes and kept beat.
Following this, the Sri Sathya Sai University flag bearing the Vedic dictum “Sathyam Vada, Dharmam Chara” emblazoned on the University insignia was hoisted and Bhagawan released balloons and doves. On this occasion, the students were also administered an oath by the University Captain that all would participate in the various sports and games in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the honour of the country, glory of sports and their beloved Mother Sai. Then two students came on to the dais with the Olympic torch which Bhagawan lit with His Divine hands. These two students were later joined by a few more as they went around the ground and went to the foot of the Hanuman hill behind the ladies gallery. From there, the torch was carried by a mascot specially designed for this year’s sports meet… a unicorn with wings that majestically glided up the ropeway to the top of the hill and lit up the urn.
The first presentation was by the students of the Anantapur Campus of the University on the theme ‘The Spirit behind the Sports’. They began with traditional Indian dance and later Japanese and Chinese dances. Then came the hockey drill where the girls demonstrated various strokes and techniques such as sweep, zigzag dribbling, etc. This was followed by Tennis drill and Volley ball drill. Synchronized movements and the symmetry of the display were remarkable. As these presentations were going on, the commentators waxed eloquently on the true spirit of sportsmanship… the need of the hour in the world of sports today. The Anantapur Campus concluded with some daredevilry stunts on motorbikes such as high speed crisscrosses, ramp jumps, jumps through ring of fire and pyramid formations. All the students then assembled in front of the stage and sang their hearts out to their Lord. Bhagawan raised His hand in ‘Abhayahasta’ and blessed them all lovingly.
The Brindavan Campus of the University commenced their programme with showjumping where 6 boys demonstrated their ability by controlling the horses and performing various jumps and stunts. Drawing a lesson out of spirituality, the commentators remarked our senses are like the powerful horses that need to be controlled and trained by the mind and direct it towards God. Meanwhile some students performed aerobics and some stunning stunts on the German wheel in front of the stage. The next to follow was an item called ‘Timber Wonders’ where the boys performed drill on wooden planks. ‘Celestial Rhythms’ was the highlight of the Brindavan programme where boys dressed in yellow, green and red t-shirts performed exercises on a metal grid hung from a crane at a breathtaking height of 82 feet with nothing but bare, hard ground below. They executed many risky stunts with perfect coordination, confidence and balance. They conveyed their love for their Lord through many interesting patterns and messages such as “V” for victory, “SSS” standing for “Sri Sathya Sai” and “We love you”, etc. After saluting their Lord, they slid down using ropes and went on to the dais to take Bhagawan’s blessings. Later all the students came in front of the stage and knelt down expressing their love and gratitude to Bhagawan through a beautiful song. The morning session concluded with Arati at 9.45 a.m.
The afternoon programme began at 3.30 p.m., when Bhagawan, dressed in a beautiful maroon robe, arrived in the stadium granting Darshan to the thousands of devotees seated on the galleries. As soon as Bhagawan was seated on the dais, tiny tots from the Primary School went up to Him and sought His blessings to commence their programme. As it happens every year, the children floored the audience with their cute and colourful costumes and dances. The first dance was in adoration of Lord Ganesha set to a Hindi song. This was followed by many more wonderful dances by boys and girls… each one excelling the other in music, choreography and costumes. The perfect synchronization and symmetry in their movements was a feast for the eyes. After having impressed everyone with the beauty and grace of their dances, they decided to showcase their physical strength and suppleness. Small boys dressed as monkeys performed amazing acrobatics on ropes and poles even as they were being hounded by another set of boys dressed as lions. Another interesting item was the stunts on unicycles and bicycles. They even had a basketball match with the players moving swiftly on unicycles and scoring a number of quick baskets. Finally, all the students came together to offer their Pranams to Bhagawan through a song and released balloons in to the sky… concluding their programme literally with ‘flying colours’.
The final presentation of the day was made by the students of Higher Secondary School and University of the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus. Even as the programme was about to begin, one could see the big and beautiful backdrop of two peacocks being unveiled on the far end of the ground and instantly the audience applauded at the exquisite piece of art. The first item was a dance-drill where one set of students performed with a colour discs in the background and another set of students dressed in traditional Indian costume danced in front of them. The visual effect was simply stunning. Then a group of boys who called themselves the ‘Stallions’ performed acrobatics and stunts on the road directly in front of the stage as well as on moving trucks. Then a few boys demonstrated their strength and dexterity by balancing 40 feet high flagpoles weighing more than 55 kilograms skillfully on their palms, foreheads and jaws. The next item performed by group of boys called ‘Transcenders’ stole the show. These brave boys performed terrifying stunts on ropes and trapezes which were hung from a 40 feet high structure. One stunt that had the audience on the edge of their seats was that by a student who was rotated horizontally at a dizzying speed while he held on to a rope with no other protection except His Beloved Mother Sai. This was a very courageous feat as even a small lapse in concentration could have proved lethal for him. After completing this mind-blowing stunt, the student quickly recovered himself and to the accompaniment of a thunderous roar of applause from the entire assembly went up to the stage to take the blessings of the Lord. Following this, there was a display of stunts on roller-skates and a gun drill by another group dressed as soldiers in red and black and armed with rifles. The final item by the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus was a martial arts display where the boys wielded many weapons like sticks, Nunchakus with remarkable agility. At the conclusion of the programme, one could see the sweet smile of pride and love that played on Bhagawan’s lips as He blessed the students with ‘Abhayahasta’. Bhagawan then accepted Arati and got in to His car, and Bhagawan’s motorcade slowly made its way back to Mandir.
12th January, 2008: Drama 'Ramayana Ratna Hara - Veeranjaneya' in Sai Kulwant Hall
On 12th evening, the Postgraduate students of Prasanthi Nilayam Campus of Sri Sathya Sai University staged a drama entitled 'Ramayana Ratna Hara - Veeranjaneya'. The drama depicted the greatness of Hanuman through many scenes from the epic Ramayana as seen through the eyes of Sage Narada and Saint Tulsidas. The underlying theme of the drama was the Four F's that Bhagawan often mentions in His discourses: "Follow the Master, Face the Devil, Fight to the end and Finish the game". The drama depicted the events beginning with the fortuitous meeting of the Master and the devotee in the picturesque environs of the Rishyamukha hills. Hanuman is sent as a scout by Sugriva, the deposed king of the Vanaras to find out if the two brothers dressed as ascetics were spies in disguise. Hanuman goes disguised as a Vedic scholar and accosts the brothers. But, when he discovers their true identity He falls at the feet of Rama, for He was the very Lord he had mentally worshipped all his life. From that point onwards he became the Lords foremost servant, always by His side to do his every bidding.
The drama portrayed many episodes that epitomize the attitude of surrender to the Lord that Hanuman developed. It was his strong faith in Lord Rama that gave him the strength to perform such stupendous feats as the crossing of the ocean to deliver to Mother Sita the message that Lord Rama was coming to Lanka to rescue her, and facing the ferocious Ravana, the king of the demons. But the one instance that unequivocally demonstrates Hanuman’s devotion to Lord Rama occurred at His coronation upon His return to Ayodhya. Lord Rama thanked all the great personages like His preceptors Vasishta and Vishwamitra, His brothers, family members and many others like Sugriva, Jatayu etc. who helped Him in His time of exile. Mother Sita too shows her appreciation and to Hanuman she vouchsafes a beautiful pearl necklace. But when Hanuman receives the necklace he does something very strange. He bites off the pearls one by one from the necklace and holds them to his ear and throws them away. When the outraged courtiers ask Hanuman to explain his behaviour he tells them that he was listening to see if the pearls echoed the sweet name of his Lord Rama for without that the pearls were of no value. The courtiers were amazed to see that every hair on the body of Hanuman resonated with the name of Lord Rama. This scene was beautifully depicted by the students to loud applause from the audience. At the end of the drama, Bhagawan beamed His appreciation to the students and congratulated the student who had scripted the excellent dialogues that were really the highlight of the drama. As the students came forward in batches for photographs with Bhagawan, He spoke to them expressing His pleasure at their wonderful presentation.