Maha Shivaratri celebrations in the Divine Presence – Day One – 07 March, 2016 (Evening)

There was palpable excitement in the air on the auspicious evening of the Maha Shivaratri festival. Akhand Bhajans, or devotional singing throughout the night, was a much-awaited event by all alike.

Bhagawan arrived at the Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutham auditorium amidst the sacred chants of Vedic hymns. Soon after, the evening programme commenced with a mellifluous Sitar recital by Pandit Shubhendra Rao (disciple of the Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar). He was accompanied by Shri Sunil Narang,( alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning) on the Tabla. The gathering was enthralled with the talent on display, and often broke into spontaneous bouts of applause for the duo.

Evening speeches set the devotional mood

This was followed by Vedam chanting by the 8th grade students of the Muddenahalli Campus. The first speaker of the evening was Sri BS Vijay Sai, a senior alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. A hypnotherapist and soft skill trainer by profession, he is also a visiting faculty at the Sri Sathya Sai Centre for Human Excellence, Muddenahalli. Providing the audience with an insight into the name of the Lord, “Bholenath”, he spoke about how the Lord who is Himself innocence personified will only respond to the innocence of the heart of His devotees. Quoting various instances to portray how the Lord’s heart melts like butter just by the sheer innocence of His students’ prayers, he urged the audience to concentrate on the “Bhavam” (feeling) during the Bhajan recital more than the “Ragam” and “Talam” (the tune).

Sri BN Narasimha Murthy, Chief Mentor of the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Institutions, addressed the gathering next. Extolling the glory of the Maha Shivaratri festival, he reminisced the magnificence with which it was celebrated in the 1960s and 1970s in Prashanthi Nilayam. Every Shivaratri morning would commence with Bhagawan hoisting the Prashanthi flag and would end with the miraculous Linga Abhishekam performed on the Shirdi Sai statue, he said. The evening programme would witness the breath taking Lingodbhavam feat, wherein Bhagawan would manifest a Shiva Linga (sometimes multiple lingams) from His being. He further spoke about how Bhagawan would go to any length to answer His devotees’ prayers and would often remind His devotees that it was not only those who were physically seated near Him that were dear to Him. He ended his talk by saying that Bhagawan’s greatest and dearest devotees were those who were seated at the farthest end, coming from near and far, waiting for hours on end to catch a glimpse of their Beloved Lord.

Bhagawan then graced the occasion with His nectarine words of wisdom.

The Akhanda Bhajan commenced at 6:30 PM.