Ramayana Saptaha Mahotsava At Prashanti Nilayam

Ramachandra

Ramayana Saptaha Mahotsava At Prashanti Nilayam
(Curtesy RadioSai)

Sunday, June 22, 2008
The seven-day Ramayana Saptaha Mahotsava got underway today. In the morning, the priests assembled for the occasion did Abhishekam to Lord Rama’s idol at the altar readied on the Mandir Stage. The Bhajans did not start since the puja was scheduled. Bhagawan did not come for darshan, so the devotees in Sai Kulwant hall dispersed by 11.30 am.

In the evening, the Rama-Sita-Lakshmana idols were brought to Sai Kulwant Hall in procession with traditional paraphernalia from Bhagawan’s residence just before 4.30 pm, and Swami followed soon after. At 4.45, Bhagawan was seated onstage and asked for the programme to commence. A learned scholar spoke in Telugu for 45 minutes, introducing the Ramayana Saptaham, stating that each day, one Kandam of the Ramayanam would be expounded by a scholar, till the last day, which would be dedicated to the Pattabhishekam or Coronation ceremony. The scholar then spoke about the first part of the Ramayanam, the Bala Kandam and the inner significance of many events narrated there. Bhajans commenced after the speech and prasadam was distributed while the students sang Rama Bhajans. Bhagawan accepted Arati at 6.10 pm before returning to His residence.

Come 22nd of June and the entire Kulwant hall appeared in a different light altogether. It looked as if the legendary “Rama Rajyam” had descended on earth. Sorry! Correction please – not just looked that way, Raama Rajyam has indeed descended! Sai Rama speaks a lot on Rama. More than anything else, as He describes the qualities of the Lord then and the way Rama conducted himself, one is always reminded of the daily activities of Swami Himself.

The stage had been occupied by three beautiful statues – Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. Hanuman was conspicuous by his absence. It came to be known that these were only like a standby The actual idols would be brought in a procession in the afternoon! In the afternoon, the Yajur Mandir was bustling with activity. A gaily decorated procession stood in readiness to escort the two Ramas from different Yugas!

Swami came out at about 4:30 pm and the procession started. The grandly decorated palanquin bearing the idols of the Lord was being carried by priests chanting hymns and mantras in praise and glory of the “perfect man” of the Treta age. The sanathana Dharma is so glorious and grand.. While in many places, God is reduced to a mere book, idol or picture, the Sanathana Dharma, uplifts everything – idols, pictures and everything to the level of God! The “GajaNade” as it is called is the traditional elephant walk that the priests simulated while carrying the idols. This meant that Rama seated atop the palanquin would have felt as though He is seated on an elephant! The movements were such and the priests undulated and gracefully twisted their bodies to exactly replicate that walk.

Swami in the meanwhile, sat just at the threshold of the Kulwant hall entrance from Yajur Mandir and said that He would prefer to wait for the idols to be taken in procession completely and then begin His darshan round. That was so sweet and understanding of Swami. Imagine the state of mind of people if both Swami and Rama came for darshan together! The two eyes are not enough to drink in the beauty and glory of both forms at the same time. What does one do when the tastiest of dishes and the best of desserts are placed simultaneously in front for the feast! So, as Swami sat sweetly allowing the palanquin to proceed. all the assembled devotees had a wonderful darshan of Rama, Lakshmana, Seeta and Hanuman. Towards the later part of the procession, the “HamsaNade” or the gait of the majestic swan was adopted and the palanquin proceeded and came to a halt at the stage.

Then sweet Swami began His darshan rounds. It was double delight. For those not yet spiritually evolved to see the Lord in the idols, here was the same Lord in flesh and blood. The thought that the Avatar was in our midst in flesh and blood, heightened by the presence of the idols atop the palanquin made hairs stand on their ends at the great good fortune all of us privileged to enjoy being contemporaries of Swami.

Swami glided through the hall in the chair and was all smiles towards the assembled devotees. He went through the gents side and then came to the students section of the hall. Blessing the birthday boys and collecting letters from many, Swami went on stage. There He lit the lamp that had been placed and so the “Srimad Ramayana Sudha Pravachana Sptaham” had been officially declared open! The Kalashasthapana and Shodashopachara pooja to the idols were performed and everyone awaited for the next part of the programme to begin looking at Swami. Swami sat listening to Vedic chants as He gently fondled and played with a yellow rose bud in His hand. He opened up the petals slowly. It was so symbolic of what He was doing to all the children seated in front of Him. The come to Him as buds and with His touch, He makes them bloom into fully blossomed flowers.

At 4.45, Bhagawan, seated onstage, asked for the programme to commence. A learned scholar, Sri.Vidwan Nidumamidi Srikanta Rao, spoke in Telugu for about 45 minutes, introducing the Ramayana Saptaham, stating that each day, one Kandam of the Ramayanam would be expounded by a scholar, till the last day, which would be dedicated to the Pattabhishekam or Coronation ceremony. The scholar then spoke about the first part of the Ramayanam, the Bala Kandam and the inner significance of many events narrated there.

As he went about the narration of the events of the planned coronation the intilal exploits of the young princes, Swami listen appreciatively with rapt attention. At the end of his talk, Swami looked at the bhjan group and signalled them to begin with a hint word, “Shlokam”. And so began “Shree Raghavam”, the aalap for the bhajan “Shree Raghunandana”. Bhajans continued after that and everyone clapped and sang enthusaistically. All the bhajans were on Rama with special emphasis on the initial phases of Rama’s life- to the events of Baala Kanda in particular! Prasadam was distributed while the bhajans went on. Bhagawan accepted Arati at 6.10 pm before returning to His residence. (Reference)

Monday, June 23, 2008
Today was the second day of the Ramayana Saptaham being held at Prasanthi Nilayam, and today’s talk was on the Ayodhya Kandam. Bhagawan arrived for evening darshan at 4 pm, and after sitting onstage for a few minutes, moved to the interview room. He emerged after half an hour to move around the stage area and the verandah, going back onstage and starting the proceedings at 5 pm. After the stirring hour long Telugu speech by Mallapragada Srimannarayana Murthy garu, bhajans commenced at 6 pm. After half an hour of Rama bhajans, Bhagawan accepted Arati and returned to His residence.

The afternoon of 23rd too began on the same auspicious note as Swami came for darshan. Today however, Swami cut to the stage after the ladies side. Bhagawan arrived for evening darshan at 4 pm, and after sitting onstage for a few minutes, moved to the interview room. He emerged after half an hour to move around the stage area and the verandah, going back onstage and starting the proceedings at 5 pm.

Today’s talk was on the Ayodhya kandam. The scholar speaking on it today was Sri Malla Pragada Sriman Narayana Moorthy from Guntur. He spoke very beautifully on the inner significance. Ayodhya means, “Where no one wins”. this part of the Ramayana, expounded the scholar, was the portion where everyone- King Dasharatha, the queens, all the four brothers and everyone in the family loses. Yet all of them lose so that Dharma can win. And that was the significance of that Kanda. It also highlights the beautiful congruence between Sathya and Dharma. Like the two feet which are perfectly in sync and make movement possible, only when Sathya and Dharma are in sync is progress possible.

Swami was very moved at many instances during the narration. The speaker too spoke very powerfully on the Ayodhya Kanda and the entire audience listened in rapt attention. After the stirring hour long Telugu speech by Mallapragada Srimannarayana Murthy garu, bhajans commenced at 6 pm. Swami too sang the lead for some of the bhajans and that only catalysed a more devotional and enthusiastic singing by everyone assembled! After bhajans for half an hour, Swami received Mangala Aarthi and left for Yajur Mandiram. Two Wonderful days of the Ramayana Sapthaha. (Reference)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
On this third day of the Ramayana Saptaham, the proceedings began in the morning with Vishu Sahasranama chanting by the entire congregation at 7.50 am, forming a laksharchana. Bhagawan arrived when the morning Bhajans commenced after the laksharchana. In the evening, Bhagawan once again sat for a few minutes onstage after His darshan round in the chair and returned to the stage from the interview room to start the proceedings at 5.15 pm. Today’s speaker was Sri S. Ranganath garu from Bangalore, who spoke in English about the Aranya Kandam for 45 minutes, noting various points of interest in Valmiki’s poetry. Bhajans commenced at 6 pm, and Bhagawan accepted Arati at 6.30 pm.

As the Mangalavaram (literally translates as auspicious day / Tuesday) dawned in Prashanti Nilayam, the chanting of the holy VishnuSahasranaama started in the mandir. All the devotees who had assembled offered the holy akshatha grains to a picture of Swami’s cosmic form that had been so efficiently distributed to all of them.

At about 8:45am, Swami came for darshan in the chair. He cut to the interview room after the ladies side. The bhajans began at 9 as usual and then a beautiful incident took place. Swami came in for bhajans and noticed that a student was seated in front with a bowl of Akshatha grains as it was his birthday. Swami called him and blessed him profusely. The magical moment came when the student asked for paadanamaskar and Swami consented. There was a sudden momentary silence as the bhajan that was on concluded. As the student placed his head on the Lotus feet, the next bhajan began – Sathya Sai Paadaambujam, Bhajore Manasa Nirantaram. (Oh mind! Dwell incessantly on the Lotus feet of Sathya Sai) A thrill went through all who were witness to the poignant scene and the student must have been overwhelmed for he stayed down on His feet for more than 10 seconds. Swami was smiling so sweetly at this “coincidence”! The bhajans concluded and Swami left after receiving Aarthi.

In the evening, Swami arrived at about 4:30 pm. He completed the darshan rounds and came onstage. There , He called a boy and took his letter opening it, Swami saw that the letter was a full page long. He made a face of mock anger and then asked, “Why do you write so much? Write a few lines- that’ll suffice!” The boy returned with a smile on his face. He was so happy that Swami spoke to him that maybe that advice went unheard! Immediately, Swami called another boy to take the letter. This time, as He slowly opened it, all watched in bated breath! Swami Himself seemed to open it with an expectant anticipation. Seeing that the letter consisted only of a few lines, He smiled and so did everyone around. With this, He went around the upper stage and then via the inner portico, went into the interview room. He returned to the stage from the interview room to start the proceedings at 5.15 pm.

Today’s speaker was Sri S. Ranganath garu from Bangalore, who spoke in English about the Aranya Kanda for 45 minutes, noting various points of interest in Valmiki’s poetry. Today’s talk was more of a Sanskrit scholars’ delight with the erudite speaker outlining the beautiful grammar and perfect language employed by the sage Valmiki. He also drew out examples from the works of various modern and contemporary writers where they had been influenced and inspired by the Ramayana. Therefore, he stated, this epic has great relevance irrespective of the age or era!

At the end of his talk, Swami saw that one of the students was clicking photos prolifically. He asked him as to there was film in the camera. The student, on his knees, cheekily pulled out the memory chip from the camera, showed it to Swami and said, “No film Swami!” Swami smiled and asked for the bhajans to begin. The bhajans began and today they were all specific to the episodes and the characters of the Aranya Kanda. After bhajans, Swami enquired whether any prasadam was available! When it was being checked, He said that prasadam may be distributed the next day. Smilingly He asked for Aarthi and then left. (Reference)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
This morning’s Laksharchana chanting was performed with the Sri Rama Sahasranama at 7.30 am. Bhagawan came in His chair in the evening at 3.45 and went into the interview room. After interacting with a few devotees, Swami came onstage at 4.45 to start the proceedings. Today’s talk on the Kishkinda Kandam was in Telugu by Sri Venkata Subbarao garu. After the 45 minute talk, the Bhajans commenced at 5.40 pm. Prasadam was distributed while the students sang Hanuman bhajans. Bhagawan accepted Arati a few minutes before six o’clock and returned to His residence.

This day was dedicated for the Kishkindha Kanda. Swami arrived in the evening a little earlier than all the students had arrived. He completed His darshan rounds on the ladies side. There was a huge empty space as the students had not yet filed in. He took a detour and then cut across the marble blocks. He spoke to the two sevadal lads who were seated near the pillar as part of the security measures to ensure that no one rushes upto Swami to touch His feet and so on. They were taken aback but nevertheless filled with joy as Swami spoke to them. The speaker scheduled for the evening was Dr.Thangirala Venkata Subbarao from Bangalore. Swami then went into the interview room. Coming out, He took a round around the stage and inner portico and once again went into the interview room. From there, He spoke a while with then bhajan singers and then came out of the bhajan hall too. Swami came out and then after a while of Veda chanting, He asked for the speaker to be introduced. The speaker offered his obeisances to Swami and began the talk.

He detailed at length on the Ramayan story from the point where Hanuman meets with the two princes Rama and Lakshmana till the point where Hanuman stands ready on the shores of the ocean, ready for take off to Lanka. The killing of Vali at the hands of Rama and the wonderful dialogue that followed was narrated. Vali asks Rama as to was it fair on His part to kill him in that manner from behind. Rama raplies, “Oh Vali! I never challenged you in a fight. I am on a hunt and I hunted you like any hunter would do a wild animal. Your deeds show that you are indeed a wild animal as you have eyed the wife of another and treated your own brother very badly. As for the enmity, though you are not my direct enemy, you are the enemy of my friend Sugriva, and so you become my enemy too!” Vali himself repents to his words and begs Rama’s forgiveness. Rama’s crystal clear understanding of Sathya and Dharma was highlighted. At one point, the speaker said that just like the forest in Ramayana had been transformed by the penance of the sages, Puttaparthi had been transformed by penance of Swami. At this point, Swami burst out laughing! With a smile, He said, “I never did any penance of any sort.!” All those who saw it smiled and nodded back at Him.

There exists a misnomer among many that Swami is a great spiritual seeker who has loads of penance backing Him. He is not a spiritual seeker but the One who is spiritually sought; does not need penance to back Him, but He is the one who backs all the penance of the world!

The mind may make comparisions between Him and sages, but the heart will say that the only apt comparision will be between Him and Rama for both are incomparable and that is the similarity between them!!

After the speech completed in about 50 minutes, there was a loud applause and the speaker was blessed by Swami. Swami then asked for bhajans to be sung. The instructions were that only Hanuman bhajans be sung.

The first bhajan to begin was “Rama Lakshmana Jaanaki”. Now this bhajan is special because, the lead is always “Rama Lakshmana Janaki” while the follow is always,”Jai bolo hanuman ki”. As soon as the first line was sung, Swami sang out aloud, “Jai bolo Hanuman Ki”. Apparently, it seemed that the Lord was reminding all about the special nature of the bhajan. Well, a little deeper view and the Lord was showing mankind another beautiful aspect. In the divine romance, the devotee always keeps singing and thinking of the Lord while the Lord thinks and sings about the devotees. As all assembled kept singing the Lord’s name, the Lord was singing the devotee’s name! It was indeed an awe inspiring and thrilling sight! After four bhajans, Swami asked for the Aarthi and then left for Yajur Mandiram. (Reference)

Thursday, June 26, 2008
The laksharchana by the devotees gathered in Sai Kulwant began at 7.30 am, with the chant of the Sri Sathya Sai Ashtothara Sahasranamavali. Bhagawan arrived at 8.40 am while the chanting was in progress and sat onstage for a while. He then moved to the Bhajan Hall and then to the interview room. The chanting concluded at 9.10 am and Bhagawan arrived in the Bhajan Hall for the Bhajans to start. He moved to the interview room for a few minutes, then returned to the Bhajan Hall, sat there for half an hour and accepted Arati at 10 am before returning to His residence.

Swami returned in His chair to Sai Kulwant Hall at 4.10 pm and moved to the interview room. After a round of the Bhajan Hall and the verandah after a few minutes, He came onstage at 4.45 pm and sat there for 45 minutes while the Vedam went on, calling up a few students with letters and interacting with them. The speech for the day was on the Sundara Kandam by Dr. Mylavaram Srinivasa Rao garu in Telugu, and he held the audience spell-bound for 90 minutes. Swami accepted Arati immediately after the talk at seven o’clock while prasadam was distributed to all.

Friday, June 27, 2008
This Friday’s concluding Laksharchana was with the chanting of Sri Lalitha Sahasranama. All the devotees chanted “Aum Sri Matre Namah” as the Sahasranama went on from 7.30 to 8.25 am. The scholar who chanted the Sahasranama spoke a few words extolling the compassion of the mother, then concluded the morning session for the Bhajans to begin as usual at 9 o’clock in the Bhajan Hall.

The afternoon session began with Bhagawan arriving in His chair at 3.45 pm. Moving to the interview room after a few minutes onstage, He emerged at 4.15 and moving to the verandah, distributed special clothes for the priests to wear for tomorrow’s function. Then He came onstage and sat for a while with the Vedam chanting going on. Swami called up two American brothers from among the students to chant Vedam onstage, then an Iranian boy from the Primary School. The programme of speeches commenced at five o’clock. The Yuddha Kandam was narrated with aplomb in Telugu by Sahasravadhani Garikipati Narasimha Rao garu till six o’clock, and with that the programme of speeches concluded. Bhajans were sung by the students as prasadam was distributed, till Swami accepted Arati at 6.15 and returned to His residence.

Pictures Of Prashanti Nilayam Rama Pattabhikema 2008

Lord Rama

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