Ashadhi Ekadashi 2006

Just as the month of December instantly triggers the thoughts of Christmas, the month of July is intimately linked in the Ashram with the celebration of the Ashadi Ekadashi and the Guru Poornima Festivals. It is a mega event that triggers the first big celebration of the new academic year, when the students have just returned after the summer holidays and Bhagavan Himself has also come back after His summer sojourn in Kodaikanal and Brindavan.

It is the devotees from the States of Maharashtra and Goa that kick-start this event with the two-day long celebration of the Ashadi Ekadashi festival by hundreds of Bala Vikas children from these States. We bring you a report of the two dramas staged by these children as well as the rich musical fare offered by talented musicians from Maharashtra. Bhumi puja (consecrating the ground before construction), for the proposed indoor stadium of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, was also done on this auspicious day.

Close on the heels of the Ashadi Ekadashi festival comes the Guru Poornima celebrations. Traditionally the students sing stothrams to Bhagavan, their Sadguru in the morning on this holy day. Tricycles were also distributed to a few handicapped villagers during the morning. The evening of Guru Poornima day saw the Sai Symphony Orchestra regale the crowd. This year we saw, in addition to this international orchestra, the Bala Vikas children from Indonesia and Canada present dramas in the Divine Presence. We bring you a report of these as well as other programmes that were celebrated this month.

JULY 3rd – 6th 2006: THE DINDI YATRA OF ASHADI EKADASHI

Ashadi Ekadashi is a religious procession and is celebrated during the months of June - July (Aashaadh Shukla paksha). It consists of a procession in which people collectively go singing and dancing the glory of the Lord in what are called as ‘Dindis’. This custom of taking out a holy procession is said to have started as far back as the year 1810.

Tradition has it that two of the greatest devotees of the Lord from the State of Maharashtra, Sant Gyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram had set out on a pilgrimage to the temple of Lord Vittala from their respective places and reached the Divine Abode in fifteen days time on the auspicious day of Ashadi Ekadashi.

 

Vithal, or Vitthal, or Vithoba, or Pandurang (a form of Krishna ) is worshipped in some temples in Kerala. Vitthala's original temple is at Pandharpur, Maharashtra. Pandharpur is located 65 km West of Sholapur, on the banks of the river Bhimarathi also known as Chandrabhaga . Vitthala is said to have been derived from the word Vishnu in Kannada. Panduranga is a Sanskritized form of Pandarga, the old name of Pandharpur.

Following this tradition established by these great souls centuries ago, even today devotees from the entire length and breadth of the state of Maharashtra and even from outside the state set out for Pandharpur, to the famous temple of Lord Vittala, wearing basil beads and singing His glory on a pilgrimage scheduled so that they reach Pandarpur on the auspicious day of Ashadi Ekadashi to have His Divine Darshan. This pilgrimage is traditionally called the Dindi Yatra.

Lord Vithalla of Pandharpur
 

 

A similar (yatra) procession is being carried out by the devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba by carrying a palanquin with the Paduka (sandals) of our beloved Sai from Dharmavaram to reach Prashanti Nilayam (Puttaparthi) (a distance of about 35 kilometres) on the day of Ashadi Ekadasi.

 
Dindi Yatra
Dindi Yatra Ladies wing

This journey is performed as a sadhana by the warkaris (as the devotees of Lord Vittala are called) by singing the name of Sai Vittala together with rendering of Dindi Seva – wherein the people on pilgrimage undertake selfless service to the poor and needy en route - like annadhanam (donation of food-grains), medical seva, building & repairing rural infrastructure, etc.

Participation in the Ashadi Dindi Yatra and Dindi Seva helps an individual in many ways by bringing good health, peace & prosperity in his life. By continuously chanting the glory of the God in the Ashadi Dindi procession and by performing the Dindi Seva, an inner cleansing takes place in Mind, Body and Spirit and the participants experience immeasurable bliss. It is believed that this holy pilgrimage removes all the sins committed knowingly or unknowingly and helps in one’s spiritual progress.

The Dindi Yatra

The Dindi yatra commenced on July 3rd, 2006 from the Sri Rama temple at Dharmavaram and continued for three days to reach Prashanti Nilayam on July 6, 2006. The Dindi was offered to Bhagavan on July 7, 2006, the day of Ashadi Ekadasi. The Dindi procession passed through over 40 villages of Ananthapur District before reaching Prashanti Nilayam. In all about 600 people, at various points, participated in the procession. The stay and food arrangements for the participants were done at various villages along the way. This year the procession was lead by sevaks chanting the Veda. This was followed by folk dances from different parts of Maharashtra, bhajans / kirtans and the palanquin carrying the padukas of Sai Vittala. Harikhata (relating the glories of the Lord) was performed by Shri Netra Guruji on all days during the evenings
 
 
Dindi Hari Katha

A NOTE ON THE DINDI SEVA ACTIVITIES

 Dindi Seva or selfless service to the poor encompasses activities like distribution of foodgrains (annadhanam), improving rural infrastructure and medical camps.

 ANNADHANAM - Distribution of Dindi Amruta Kalash

Amruta Kalash is a bundle of love; it is Bhagavan’s prasadam in the form of nine essential grocery items required for cooking meals for 5 days for a family. About 1008 kalash packets were distributed to the most backward families enroute to Prashanti Nilayam.

In terms of poverty, Anantapur district is one of the poorest districts in India. The economy is principally agrarian with very few industries. With very little rainfall this district is one of the most backward provinces in the state and chronically drought prone. Infant mortality rate is 70 per 1,000 births in the district as against the State average of 59. Monthly per capita rural consumption is Rs.400 per month (one of the lowest in the state). It is frequently in the news for farmers’ deaths through suicides due to acute financial problems, has a high incidence of brain fever and also low agriculture productivity. Distribution of Amruta Kalash is a small symbolic act expressing solidarity with the people and spreading Swami’s message of love and care and assuring the people that our Bhagavan is there to take care of all.

Villagers welcoming the team
Distribution of Amruth kalash
Contents Of The Amrutha Kalasham

Rice

5 kg

Thur Dal

0.5 kg

Tamarind

0.5 kg

Jaggery

0.5 kg

Atta / Nachni

1 kg

Oil/ Cooking Salt

0.5 kg each

Swami’s Photo

1 No

Laddu,Vibhuti

1 No

Sai Protein

1 No

The Dindi Grama Seva

As part of Dindi seva some work is undertaken in terms of improving village infrastructure in a small way. This year two toilets were constructed for the use of the children of the Medapuram High school - one for the girls and the other for the boys. Besides these 9 ceiling fans and tube lights were installed in the class rooms. A few tube lights were installed in the Basampalli temple for the use of the villagers.

In addition, a project to educate the village on the awareness of healthy living was undertaken. 3 tableaux were made on the themes of National Integration, the ill effects of the consumption of tobacco & liquor, health and hygiene. These tableaux visited all the nearby villages and spread the awareness on the themes mentioned above. 27 Youth from Navi Mumbai and Thane district staged plays in Telugu in the village square to convey important spiritual messages.

 
Health Awareness Programme

All the villagers lent a patient hearing and understood the importance of the themes presented.

The Dindi Medical Seva

In Anantapur district health spending is amongst the fastest growing components of rural family debt. Public hospitals are starved of funds, medicines and drugs. Lack of adequate primary health centres leads to last stage diagnosis of serious health problems. Poor agriculture output, coupled with rising inflation leaves little savings for other needs. The net result is a lack of money for heath needs resulting in a vicious cycle of poverty and ill health. Anantapur district also has acute Fluorosis related problems (a disease caused due to excessive fluoride levels in the ground water).

Adult Medical Camp
Medical Camp for Villagers

Early diagnosis through public medical camps, timely treatment and medicine for the lesser problems before it becomes grave and an awareness campaign for preventive care and hygiene could reduce the impact of the vicious cycle, even if it cannot completely break it.

The annual Dindi medical seva is thus an offering at His lotus feet to supplement in a small way the initiatives taken by Bhagavan in rural health care. The objectives of the camps are “Early diagnosis and damage control” with the focus being the children of these communities. The areas of specialization included General Pediatric, Heart ailments, Congenital abnormalities or Primary complex, Dental check up and timely help for treatable problems, Eye check up for errors of refraction or other problems, a Skin specialist check up to rule out Leprosy and an ENT check up.

Dental Camp
Eye Camp

The camps catered to 1495 children and about 2500 adults, who were treated in 3 different camps all through the seva period. The Camps were organized for 3 days in 4 village cluster centers. Spectacles were made and delivered after 2/3 days. Children with heart, eye and neurological problems were referred to the nearest hospitals.

Health education & Fluorosis awareness was done through a poster exhibition. Bala Vikas Classes were held in the various villages and in addition Bal Amrut Kalash containing Sai Protein and Health biscuits, Peanut chikki, Iron Tonic/Multivitamin tablets, Health education booklet /Toy, anti-worm tablets, Toothbrush, Toothpaste, comb, towel, and soap were also distributed to the children.

Bala Vikas Classes
Distribution of bala Amruth Kalash

Free lunch was served to all who visited the medical camp.
Narayana Seva
Veterinary Camp


In all about 20 specialists and 15 general physicians and many pharmacists and sevadals participated in the medical camp. The students from the Anantapur Medical College also assisted the team of doctors in the above mission.

A veterinary camp was also organized during the above days. A total of 280 animals were treated and medicines prescribed. The doctors explained the need to take care of the health of the animals to the villagers.

Heart2Heart would like to gratefully acknowledge the receipt of the text and photographs on the Dindi Yatra and Dindi Seva which were provided to us by the State President, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization of Maharashtra.

JULY 7: THE ASHADI EKADASHI CELEBRATIONS AND BHUMI PUJA FOR THE INDOOR STADIUM

The morning of Ashadi Ekadashi was greeted by an elegantly decorated Sai Kulwant hall. The entire Hall was decorated by pithy sayings like MAN IS DIVINE and MAN MUST RISE ABOVE HIS ANIMAL QUALITIES. From the ceiling suspended by ropes hung a ‘logo’ (modelled on the lines of the famous MGM symbol through which the lion roars at the opening scene of every MGM movie) which proclaimed the SAI GOLDEN ERA, THE MARVEL OF DIVINE LOVE. We were wondering about this unique contraption and its significance but it became clear only later in the morning when the Lion King in the children’s drama roared through the opening to proclaim AHAM ASMI – I AM I after the “logo” was lowered during the drama in a dramatic scene.

The Sai Golden era
A poster in Sai Kulwant Hall

There was also an intriguing back-drop (situated behind Swami’s chair) that merits some explanation.

 

At the centre was Lord Vittala (an avatar of Lord Vishnu) and He had a halo behind the head of the sarva dharma symbol with the 5 petals showing the 5 human values of Love, Non-Violence, Truth, Right Conduct and Peace. Thus cleverly Lord Vittala was linked to Swami to show that “They are One”.

Furthermore on one side was Moses, the founder of Judaism, and the other side was a depiction of Swami’s students and Lord Vittala is shown balancing both.

Thus they wanted to show that it was Swami Himself who had given Moses the Ten Commandments in the aeons past as guiding principles for humanity and now in this present age, Swami has given the human values as guidelines for youngsters and humanity at large.

The intriguing back-drop
   

The mountain and the popular depiction of the stone slabs containing the Ten Commandments as given by God to Moses are also shown. On the other side the sky shows a message representing one of Swami’s immortal teachings depicted as a scroll, LOVE ALL MEN WITHOUT DISTINCTION. KNOW THAT MANKIND IS A SINGLE COMMUNITY. A rainbow bridges the gap between both the eras. A discerning viewer can even make out faint outlines of the Chaitanya Jyothi and the Museum just behind the rainbow. A meaningful and strong back-drop well befitting the occasion!

Swami was escorted into Sai Kulwant Hall by a group of children dressed as warkaris, devotees of Sai Vittala. Four men, also appropriately dressed, blew conch shells in the traditional welcome ceremony from ages past as Swami’s car passed by. After Swami reached the stage and had given His benedictory darshan to the assembled multitude, He graciously lit the lamp to signify the start of the two day ceremony.

Swami being escorted
Swami lights the lamp

After Swami was seated He was first welcomed with a rose by Sri Ramesh Sawant, President of the Maharashtra State Sathya Sai Seva Organisations. Following this a number of the State Officials also welcomed Him in turn either with a rose or a plate of fruits.

 
Being welcomed by the State President
 
DVD being released

As part of the birthday celebrations in Maharashtra last year, they had organised an evening of enchanting divine music inviting some of the top musicians from Mumbai and other parts of India. A DVD of this musical extravaganza was also presented to Swami who blessed it.

The first item on the agenda was the warkaris to end their dindi yatra, the 400 devotees who had walked with the sandals of the Lord from Dharmavaram; who made a dramatic entrance carrying the palanquin with the sandals of the Lord. They came in to the strains of the Dindi song celebrating the glory of the Sathya Sai Avatar and also paying obeisance to the great saints of Maharashtra like Nivrutti, Gnanadev, Eknath and Tukaram who have blessed everyone gathered there that day. This was the culmination of their Dindi Yatra from Dharmavaram; and it was completely fulfilled by having the darshan of Sai Vittala on Ashadi Ekadashi Day.

The Palanquin that Carried the Sandals
The Sandals being Blessed by Swami

After these formalities were dealt with, Swami blessed the morning’s program to start. After a few bhajans sung by a group of about 25 singers from Maharashtra, the first item was the customary opening dance wherein a group of boys (also dresses as warkaris) performed a traditional dance from the state of Maharashtra. The highlight of the dance was when they formed a colourful pyramid in front of Swami

The Opening Dance
Making the Pyramid

The Divine Commandment Drama by The Bala Vikas Children

This was followed by a musical entitled "The Divine Commandment", with the cast comprising of 150 children (95 boys and 65 girls) of the Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas, Mumbai, Maharashtra and about 150 participants (50 boys and 100 girls) belonging to the youth wing.

All the State officials heaved a sigh of relief when the drama started as the days preceding were filled with tension and high drama. It had started raining heavily in Mumbai before the children were to leave by train to Puttaparthi. There was a lot of anxiety if the train would be allowed to leave Mumbai station at all. But leave it did, and was perhaps one of the last trains to leave Mumbai, before the train service was shut down due to inundation of the railway lines. Swami assured the office bearers not to worry and that they could have the programme after the children arrived. The train in which they were travelling had to proceed very slowly as the tracks were under water at many places, but with Swami’s grace they all arrived safely and in time for the programme to be held as scheduled on the morning of July 7th.

The Welcome Dance
The Lion Roars

The Ashadi Ekadashi drama is a popular fixture in the Prashanti Nilayam calendar and people look forward to it all year. And this year was no exception. The Ashadi Ekadashi dramas are characterised by a clever and novel theme, colourful costumes, catchy tunes and well choreographed dances all calculated to drive home one or two of Swami’s selected teachings for that year.

In the saga of the amelioration of Man, similes of animals have often been used to describe his negative qualities. However the state of Man today is such that even the animals have taken umbrage to these similes. The labelling of a deceitful liar as – “as cunning as a fox”, the description of a hypocrite as shedding crocodile tears, a silly and narrow-minded person being referred to as a frog in a well, associating the bull with anger and the pig with greed and referring to a treacherous person as a snake in the grass and the humorous complaint of the duck that when a man is out for a zero in the game of cricket he is supposed to have scored a duck, all raise the ire of the Lion King who commands that Man be brought before him for judgement.

The Animal Conference Is Convened
The Snake Complains.

The Conference of Animals convened by the Lion King has unanimously decried the overtures of Man and have put forth their case that the animals are followers of Human Values and it is they who have successfully maintained the balance of Nature, while Man survives on exploitation of other creations.

(The drama has numerous animals singing songs like the Chimpanzees rap Song of Invitation at the beginning of the Conference and the Peacock Dance Song make the opening scene very memorable and enjoyable)

 
 
The Peacock Dance

Man is captured and brought before the king. The Lion king gives man a chance to defend himself, but man is shown to be weaker than the animals - slower of foot, conniving and harmful to even the members of his own species. Even the horse complains that man has dragged him to fight his numerous wars, and man’s best friend the dog also turns against him. Man tries to boast of his technological accomplishments but the elephant asks him if he has conquered his own petty mind (The elephant’s song making the point that “without adherence to dharma man is just an animal” was very poignant). The tiger mocks man for not following dharma but living a life of vice, where desires only increase but man has no peace.

 
Man is Captured
 
The Elephant’s Song

All the animals thus proclaim in turn that they have a reason and season for everything they do, but Man has none. Man then uses his clinching argument by stating that only he has the power to know God. The animals reply that man today has forgotten God but the animals still remember Him, for serving the Lord is the motto of all the subjects in the Lion King’s kingdom.

For it is not only man but even animals have been the chosen instruments of the Lord, for rendering yeomen service in the form of the different vahanas (divine vehicles of transportation). At this juncture there was the Medley of Vahanas song where different colourful vahanas – like the Hamsa vahana (Swan), the Nandi vahana (Bull), the Garuda vahana (eagle), the Simha vahana (the Lion), the mayur vahana (peacock), the mushaka vahana (rat) and so on - strutted across the stage to some meaningful Sanskrit slokas being chanted in the back-ground.

Garuda Vahana
Simha Vahana


 

Going further, in the drama the animals also assert that God assumed the animal form in several Avatars to reiterate the fact that animals are also children of God and that we all belong to the Kingdom of God. The Song of Avatars then plays with appropriate slokas while the Avatars’ form of the fish, the boar and the half-lion and so on, all gracefully stride across the stage.

The Lion King then proclaims that the animals are supreme. The animals cheer and man hangs his head down in shame.

Avatars of Animal Form
   

The wise elephant, however, extols that Man is indeed a reflection of God, and that Man seems to have forgotten this Divine Commandment "I AM I - AHAM ASMI" and the Lord God Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is here to remind him of the same and to redeem Man from the illusion of Maya. At this point the sage Narada enters and pointing to the pig (who is really Indra) asks if he is ready to enter back to Indraloka. (This was referring to a popular story often related by Swami to show the powerful influence of maya where Lord Indra becomes a pig and thinks he is in “hog heaven” in company with his piggy wife and piglets as children, forgetting his own divine heritage). Narada’s song then asks man to shed Desire, Anger, Greed and Attachment and see the Divine Atma.

The wise elephant avers that the spiritual regeneration of mankind can only happen through the divine programme of Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas given to us by our dear Bhagavan. This programme awakens man to his reality by touching and transforming the lives of children, parents and gurus.

 
   
Narada explains about Maya

A contemporary class is then shown where the students are taught inane nursery rhymes like Baa Baa Black Sheep. This is followed by a Bala Vikas class where the children learn that God really resides in all of them.

 
Baa Baa Black sheep
 
Bala Vikas Class
 

The School Song (“Sai Baba Who are you; Yes Dear I am You”) is then sung and the musical culminates with all the animals joining the Bal Vikas children in their class, contemplating on their real nature. By the divine grace of our Bhagavan, not only humans but even the animals can realize that we all belong to the Kingdom of God.

The musical was a huge success and was greeted with prolonged clapping. Swami sent clothes and other goodies for distribution as a sign of His pleasure.

But Swami was not yet done for the day.

The Finale Song
   

Sourced:

http://media.radiosai.org/Journals/Vol_04/01AUG06/Prasanthi-Diary.htm

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