With love for the Baba

With love for the Baba

A grand event was staged to celebrate Puttaparthi Sathya Sai Baba‘s 84th birthday.

To celebrate the 84th birthday of Puttaparthi Sri Satya Sai Baba, a five-day festival of music was organised. Several associations of his devotees, followers and members of the city seva samithi in association with the pupils and teachers of Sri Satya Sai Vidya Vihar in MVP Colony, organised the festival of music, dance and drama.

The ballet Sree Paadaalu scripted and directed by M. Prakasa Rao, staged on the penultimate evening on last Sunday was the highlight of the festival.

Enacted by about five scores of pupils of the Sri Satya Sai Vidya Vihara on the imposing stage, attracted a very large gathering. It depicted the story, how a very prideful scientist who was an atheist got totally reformed after coming to know about Sathya Sai Baba from one of his staunch devotees whom he came across by chance.

As was advised by the devotee, he went along with him on a pilgrimage to get ethically worthy enough to visit Prasanthi Nilayam, the abode of Sathya SaiBaba at Puttaparthi and fall on his feet to get blessed by him for deliverance from the ill effects of the sinful life that he had led.

Visualisation as to how his desire gets fulfilled marked the grand finale of the ballet. All dialogues in prose and lyrical form for all the dramatis-personae were perfectly rendered by professionals (evocatively, musically, melodiously and aesthetically) and were pre-recorded. Makeup, sound and stage management were admirably accomplished. No wonder, watching the ballet, spell bindingly turned out to be an enthralling and elated experience.

The Hindu Reference

When A Mother’s Dream Came True

When A Mother’s Dream Came True

If the art was mother’s gift, the title Bala Meera was given by Jawaharlal Nehru.

On a hot Sunday afternoon, Meera Grimes aka ‘Bala Meera’ Chandra receives you at the entrance of her spacious apartment on Poonamallee High Road, with a broad smile. For a moment, I remember those days when my family members would hurriedly complete the evening chores and rush to concerts and katha kalakshepams. One was child artist Bala Meera Chandra’s harikatha. I recall the discussions that would go on till late at night about her treatise on the subject that day, her charming looks, her abhinaya and her fantastic voice.

Over a hot cup of coffee, Bala Meera starts the conversation. “Harikatha encompasses storytelling, poetry, music, drama, dance and philosophy, and it is about God or about saints who had realised God. I owe it all to my mother Neela Balasubramaniam. She used to accompany my grandmother to Kadapa Lakshmi Amma to learn music, dance and harikatha. Lakshmi Amma is the first woman harikatha artist as far as I know. My grandmother and C. Saraswathi Bai provided her vocal support. Having lost her husband at an early age and due to the prevalent social stigma, Lakshmi Amma confined her performances to her house, and only women would be in attendance. My mother’s childhood dream of becoming a harikatha performer did not bear fruit. So, she was hell bent on making me one.”

Her arangetram

Bala Meera’s brothers were her accompanists and her cousins and aunts gave her vocal support. Her mother never missed her programmes.

Bala Meera’s voice sounds like the tinkle of a bell. She goes on “My mother taught music and dance to many children and as I watched them, it was but natural that I imbibed the art. Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sharma, an accomplished musician and harikatha exponent, volunteered to teach me the art of storytelling. His father Mahadeva Sharma had written a book on the various aspects of harikatha. The first piece I learnt was ‘Dhuruva Charithram’. My arangetram took place when I was 12. I was a student of Sarada Vidyalaya, T. Nagar, at that time. Offers started pouring in after that. Many sabhas, bhajan mandalis in the city and those in the districts provided plenty of opportunities. The training went on for about five years, and I learnt ‘Valli Kalyanam’, ‘Rukmini Kalyanam’ and many more pieces, expanding my repertoire in the process.”

Meeting a veteran

“Having heard about you, I wanted to see how a little girl in a skirt performs this art. That’s why I am here a day earlier. I am really proud of you and will help you hone your skills further,” was harikatha exponent Embar Vijayaraghavachariar’s comment when Bala Meera fell at his feet after her performance at Bangalore Ramani Ammal’s festival. Embar was to perform the next day. She reveres Embar a lot and values whatever she learnt from him.

A large photograph of a sanyasi in her drawing room attracts your attention. She explains, “That is Swami Remaji (Vaidyanathan) who was introduced to me by my mother when I had just finished SSLC. He taught me several bhajans of Surdas and Meerabai that he had set to music. He was an expert in all genres of music, be it Carnatic, Hindustani or Western classical. A nuclear physicist at the Cambridge University, he renounced life to propound a new philosophy. He was my spiritual guru. Before he passed away, he bequeathed to me all his writings running to several thousands of pages. I am in the process of bringing them out as a book.”

The prefix ‘Bala Meera’ got attached to her name when she performed Meera bhajans in the presence of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a village in Rajasthan. A large number of people had gathered there to donate gold equivalent to the weight of Nehruji for the National Defence Fund. “Patting my cheek and appreciating my performance, Nehruji said, ‘So you are the Bala Meera performing Meera bhajans.’ That was in 1963, and from then on I came to be known as ‘Bala Meera’ Chandra.”

She rates her harikatha performance on the 30 saints in 30 days at Sai Samaj, Mylapore, as one of her best. ‘Krishna Rathna Thrayam’ taught to her by Swami Remaji was another pet subject.

Performing alongside the women trinity M.S., MLV and DKP at a Tiruttani festival got her an opportunity to perform at The Music Academy, on the request of T.L. Venkatrama Iyer. Dr. V. Raghavan helped her get a scholarship from the Academy to learn Lalithopakyanam under the tutelage of Mahadeva Bhagavatar. In the process, she learnt many Dikshitar kritis.

Academic life

“As I was busy with my concerts, harikatha and dance programmes, I did B.A. privately. After obtaining a Diploma in music and dance, I went on to do my Masters at the University of Madras. That’s where I met John Grimes of the U.S., who was doing research. He was deeply into Indian philosophy and wanted to marry an Indian who would help him in his journey. That’s how we got married, with the blessings of the elders and Sri Sathya Sai Baba of whom he was an ardent devotee.” The bookshelf in their house is full of John’s books on Indian philosophy, including a treatise on Adi Sankara’s Viveka Choodamani.

Shifting base to the U.S. after her marriage, Bala Meera continued her performances there. Due to ill health, she cut down on the number of performances. Unable to bear her daughter’s ill health, her mother Neela passed away suddenly. “I never thought that I would be able to perform again. But by God’s Grace, I am still performing, but am limiting it to chambers and smaller crowds.”

Her book ‘Harikatha’, that covers Samartha Ramadas’ contribution to art of spiritual story telling, is what she considers her best contribution to this art. She says Samartha Ramadas is the father of harikatha for it was he who codified it logically into a structure. The spiritual guru of Chatrapathi Shivaji, he travelled to South India and established maths in Thanjavur when it was ruled by Shivaji’s step brother Ekoji. That’s how harikatha spread in the South.

Bala Meera also hails Thanjavur Krishna Bhagavathar, who was a violin vidwan for harikatha performances then, as the father of harikatha kalakshepam, for he adopted it to suit this part of the country. “Nonetheless, Samartha Ramadas’ ‘Dasa Bhodha’ is the ultimate book on harikatha and its grammar,” she says assertively.

As I take leave, “Harikatha is a sugar coated pill,” she sums up.

The Hindu Reference

The Right Values

The Right Values

HUMAN values have changed over time, said Inter-Varsity Human Values Drama Competition (HVDC) organising chairman Shree Ganeis.

The competition, organised by the Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of Malaysia, was recently held at Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. It was the first of a series of events based on the theme Are U Valuable?, targeting students in higher educational institutions.

“The drama competition is only one of a series of events. What we want to do is to organise more activities that will emphasise the multiracial concept,” said Ganeis.

Thus, a criteria for the competition was that participating teams had to comprise members from different races besides demonstrating good human values.

The three institutions that took part were Taylor’s College School of Hospitality and Tourism (TCHT), Binary University College (Binary) and Universiti Teknologi Petronas.

The students took home trophies, as well as MPH and Jaya Jusco vouchers totalling RM4,750, sponsored by DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd.

The first prize winners, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, received RM2,500 worth of vouchers while TCHT bagged the second prize and took home vouchers worth RM1,500.

Binary, which came in third, won RM750 in vouchers.

The students were judged on their acting skills as well as the values they promoted in the play.

Binary put up a play about a boy who left home to study overseas, who did not realise how much his parents loved him until it was too late.

“The play is inspired by the fact that we are students staying in hostels and don’t get to see our parents often,” said Binary’s team director, Melissa Wane, 22.

“Parents play an important role but often times, the children do not realise this,” Melissa added.

“I have written six plays in the past but this is the first time I am writing a story based on human values,” said TCHT’s play director who wants to be known only as Sim.

Sim’s play revolved round a traditional Chinese family and touched on issues such as the importance of sons in a Chinese family and sentiments about inter-racial marriages.

The competition started with a performance by the Sathya Sai Baba Seputeh choir team, followed by a performance by Fallen Leaves, a theatrical production written and performed by people recovering from various addictions, including some living with HIV.

Ganeis said that the Sathya Sai Baba Council has plans for more events in the near future, such as seminars on career and time management, mural painting, and even campaigns promoting human values on campuses. — BY ALYCIA LIM


Devotees Grom Uttar Pradesh And Uttarakhand Perform For Sai Baba

Sai Shiva Shakti

Sai Shiva Shakti

Devotees Grom Uttar Pradesh And Uttarakhand Perform For Sai Baba


Thursday, September 18, 2008: For the last few days, the Vedam tutorial has been commencing at 4 pm every day. This evening, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba arrived at 4.15, took a full round of the Sai Kulwant hall in His chair and came onstage. Youth from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were to present a drama this evening. When the Vedam tutorial concluded at 4.20, Swami went into the interview room and returned to the stage to begin the drama at 4.45 pm. At the end of the half-hour drama which depicted the story of Sage Bharadwaja, Swami took group photographs and blessed two of the participants with chains. Bhajans by the youth followed while Prasadam was distributed to all. Swami accepted Arati ten minutes later before returning to His residence.

Sai Students:

September 18 2008: Another beautiful Thursday dawned in the international hamlet, Puttaparthi. Thousands had arrived from the Northern states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. It has now become a kind of timetable schedule, with devotees from the different places arriving in a manner that the pilgrimage dates do not clash and thus all are assured of the precious proximity to Swami. Swami had agreed for a programme by the youth from these states and a huge backdrop of the Ganges bathing ghat stood in the centre of the hall. As per the regular schedule, the Veda chanting class for Rudram began at 4:00 pm and was going on when Swami arrived at about 4:20 pm.

Moving in the chair through the ladies side, Swami reached the centre. He seemed to be intrigued by the backdrop that had been erected. He studied it as He passed by. The previous day, Swami had not moved through the gents side. And so, as He entered the gents side of the hall, all of them were so happy and excited. Like bees getting attracted to a rose, they seemed to be buzzing all around the orange robed figure. Swami bestowed Abhayahasta and seemed to be making a sort of futile attempt to calm down the devotees! Moving through the students, Swami collected letters and blessed the boys holding trays. As soon as He moved to the stage, Swami said that the coaching was enough for the day. The teaching students took padanamaskar and returned to their places and then Swami sat in the silence that prevailed.

It is amazing how His mere presence has such a soothing and calming effect on everyone present. The 10,000 strong crowd sat in a serene silence and all the 20,000 eyes were riveted on Swami. It was after a few moments of blissful silence that Swami asked for the programme to begin as soon as He returns from the interview room. As Swami went in, the performance area was cleared. The actors got ready. Swami came out soon enough and then the programme began. A few actors moved up front and opened a huge scroll which Swami read with a smile for about a minute or so. Then receiving His blessings and padanamskar, the lads returned to start the drama.

The drama was based on the secret behind the Sai Avatars. It was entitled “Sai Avataran Rahasya”. It showed a modern youth very disturbed, coming up to his saintly uncle with doubts. The uncle offers him sage counsel along the lines of the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba. Very intrigued and interested in knowing more about Swami, the lad asks his uncle about the same. Narrating the story of how Swami suffered a paralytic attack and cured it during the Guru Purnima of 1963, the uncle narrates the story of how Swami as Lord Shiva promised sage Bharadwaja of three advents into his clan. When the sage visits Kailas to request an audience with the Lord, he sees Shiva and Parvati engaged in the cosmic dance. Mother Parvati smiles at him and he mistakes it as mockery. As he is leaving, he suffers a paralytic stroke on the left half of his body. Lord Shiva then revives him and tells him that his suffering of the stroke was a blessing in disguise. He confers the boon of being born in his lineage, not once but thrice. In the second advent as Sathya Sai, the left side of His body signifying the Shakti or Parvati aspect would suffer a stroke for exactly the same time as sage Bharadwaja waited, i.e. 7 days. The drama then cocluded with all the children coming front and forming the Sarva dharma symbol that Swami has gifted the world.

The drama concluded and Swami asked so sweetly, “Drama over?” He makes such a perfect audience. Always asks, “Is it over already?” as He is so engrossed. Many times, we humans do not enjoy things because we have expectations and keep judging the performance. As someone beautifully put it, “if you judge, you just do not have time to Love.” We can safely add the corollary that when you Love, there is not a moment free where you can judge. And Swami is always so engrossed for He sees the sincerity and effort. God sees the efforts and so whether it’s a fantastic performance or an average one, they are the same for Him as long as the efforts have been put in. Not so for humans. We judge everything by results forgetting the fact that many things that we ourselves have learnt in our lives is because of the encouragement and support that our efforts (and not our results) have received!

Swami called the actor “Bharadwaja” to come up to Him. He materialised a gold chain and gave it to him. His hair and beard were so copious that Swami could not put the chain around his neck! Swami then asked what was “Parvati’s” name! He said that the drama was fully based on Parvati! Calling ‘her’ Swami created another beautiful gold chain with a pendant for the lad who did that role! Swami then wanted Shiva, Parvati and sage Bharadwaja to pose for photos with Him. The three were overjoyed and after that, Shiva fell at Swami’s feet. It was such a poignant and beautiful sight! Swami then called the videographer and told him, “I will come down and pose for photos.” Swami then moved down the stage and with a beatific smile posed with the lads. As it always happens, after the session, all of them took the opportunity to fall at His feet and speak a few words with Him. After that, Swami moved up the stage and blessed prasadam to be distributed to all. He also asked them to sing bhajans which they did. After two bhajans, Swami received Aarthi and left.

Reference (With Pictures)

Cultural Program By Sri Sathya Sai Seva Institution Alike

Cultural Program By Sri Sathya Sai Seva Institution Alike
“Choodamani Pradanam”, a YakshaGana (Folk Art form) Presentation
August 23, 2008

The students of the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Institutions, Alike put up a grand and vibrant presentation of Yakshagana and enthralled one and all by the sheer power of their performance.

The Yakshagana is a combination of musical narration, dance and drama and it is a unique folk art form of coastal Karnataka. Here the characters give expression to their thoughts and feelings through their dance and actions. The actors enact the song sung by Bhagavatha (Singer).

Bhagawan encouraged the students before the programme by interacting with them on the backstage charging them up for the presentation.

The story chosen by the students for this presentation was “Choodamani Pradanam” (literally translated as ‘the gift of the crest jewel’). It was predominantly drawn from the Sundara Kanda of the Srimad Valmiki Ramayanam though some scenes where from Kishkinda Kandam and Yudha Kandam as well.

The most significant factor about this presentation was the wonderful characterisation of Lord Hanuman, whom Bhagawan repeatedly advises His students to consider as their role model. Hanuman was shown alternatively as a devout servant, humble soldier, powerful adversary, confident warrior and witty messenger. The student performed all the roles with utmost dexterity and captured the imagination of the audience.

The other students also effectively complimented the protagonist which resulted in a power packed performance. Here a special mention has to be given to the music group which was the voice behind the whole presentation. The singer with his sonorous voice gave a fitting gravity to the presentation.

As extremely pleased mother that He was, He immediately proceeded towards the boys and gifted them with group photographs. He interacted with most of them and blessed two of the participants with chains. Not yet contended, He then instructed that T-shirts be given to all the boys and safari clothes and silk dhotis for the musicians and organisers.

Bhagawan once again expressed happiness and complemented the actors after accepting Aarathi.

Reference (With Pictures)