Annual Sports and Cultural Meet 2016 – Day 1 (Morning session) – January 26, 2016

It is said Sports doesn’t build character; it reveals it. As sports is a balanced combination of mental stability and physical dexterity – these lessons can only be learnt outside the confines of a classroom on a playground.

Day 1 (Morning session) : January 26, 2016

Alan Armstrong, the English character actor, once said, “Champions do not become champions when they win the event, but in the hours, weeks, months and years they spend preparing for it. The victorious performance itself is merely the demonstration of their championship character”.

It was this championship trait that was on display at the third Annual Sports and Cultural Meet of the Sri Sathya Sai Educational Institutions as 3,000 students from 10 campuses put up a magnificent show. Be it the dare-devilry of the motor cycle stunts or the fearless display of acrobatic agility or the creative expression of talent through dance, the inauguration of the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet 2016 held on January 26, 2016 at the Sri Sathya Sai Samagamam Stadium, bore testimony to the character-centred education that is imparted in these educational institutions, established by the Lord.

The Sports and Cultural Meet is an annual affair that brings together students and staff from all the campuses, and is the culmination of months of hard work, endurance and perseverance suffused with love and devotion for Bhagawan Baba. The Annual Sports and Cultural Meet form an important part of Bhagawan’s philosophy of value-based integral education. Integral Education aims at the development of all aspects of human personality in a manner that it leads to Total Human Excellence (Development of the body, mind and the Spirit).

Decorated in brilliant colors specially for the Sports Meet, the stadium was packed with students, parents and devotees, who had gathered from the wee hours of the morning, eagerly awaiting the Lord’s arrival. Each student gathered here, had not come to exhibit a display of colour, skill, confidence and courage. For a Sai student, it goes much deeper than that, as the Annual Sports & Cultural Meet is beyond what the eye sees, and deep down, to what the heart feels! It was not an exhibition of personal achievement of glory – but an offering of love to dear Bhagawan.

Collective show of faith, courage and strength

The morning program commenced at 9:00 am with Bhagawan arriving in a swan-shaped chariot escorted in a vibrant and impressive procession, into the Sri Sathya Sai Samagamam Stadium. It was a sight to see the divine caravan being escorted by the Sai’s Angels, the brass band of the Muddenahalli campus, the Vedam group, and the Sai Ashwamedhas – the student horse riders, seated regally on the majestic beauties. The whole stadium came alive with the reverberating Vedic chants, and the foot tapping tunes played by the brass band.

Once Bhagawan reached the dais, the day’s proceedings commenced formally with the lighting of the lamp by the Chief Guest Senior Grand Master Prof. Dr Dato Leong Wai Meng, Chairman of the Consultative Council of the International Taekwondo Federation and Vice-President of the Federation. Hailing from Malaysia, Dr Meng is an ardent devotee of Bhagawan and a renowned martial artist. Dr Meng was also responsible for introducing the sport in India in 1983.  The Indian tricolor was unfurled during the morning proceedings to commemorate India’s 67th Republic Day, marking the day India’s Constitution came into force in 1950, ending a 200-year foreign rule.

The contingent of all Swami’s educational institutions, led by the respective House Captains and Vice Captains, began the grand and the magnificent march past, symbolic of Unity, Purity and divinity. March past is all about synchronisation and team work. Marching in a contingent demands alertness and an unspoken co-ordination! The students, both boys and girls from the many campuses, marched in perfect unison past the dais, to the energetic drum beats of the brass band Sai’s Angels. It was indeed a delight to watch the future citizens and leaders of the nation taking centre stage on the parade ground.

The march past was followed by the oath-taking ceremony. Chiranjeevi Rajath Ist Year student from the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva PU College, Muddenahalli Campus, read the oath out aloud which was echoed by all the young voices in unison, swearing to put sports and camaraderie, above individual triumph to please their beloved Mother Sai.

Each year the students diligently prepare a torch with a creative theme for the lighting ceremony. A torch signifying the flame of unity was lit by Bhagawan and carried across the grounds by chosen athletes.

This year the majestic Ganda Berunda, a form of Lord Vishnu, was the chosen mascot. The two-headed bird is also the official emblem of the state of Karnataka. The enormous Ganda Berunda with a wing span of 18 feet was sculpted beautifully by the staff and students of Bhagawan’s institutions. After being lit, the torch was carried up the hill by a relay of student athletes. As the magnificent bird ascended the hill, a beautiful song composed by the students had the whole crowd swaying to its beat.

A Veritable Display of Talent and Pageantry

The first event for the morning was the wonderous display of gymnastics by the students of the Mandya Campus. The daring display of acrobatics by these young kids won the hearts of audience. A testimony to what balance, precision and practice can achieve, was showcased by boys from the Jayapura Campus, through their Unicycles. Difficult feats such as synchronised cycling and criss-crossing were performed, with perfect timing. This was followed by a skating display by students of the Alike campus.

One of the major highlights of the morning was – Celestial Rhythms, put together by students of the Muddenahalli campus. The students did various acrobatic manoeuvres and formations on the grid that was elevated about 60 feet into the air. It was indeed endearing to see students of Grade 8, 9 and 10 perform feats at that height! Of course, anything for their beloved Bhagawan!

The next couple of events again were a demonstration of what the body can achieve, when the mind is focused. Martial Arts display by the Gulbarga campus with their powerful strokes, in perfect co-ordination, were a feast to the eyes, and the energetic shouts of confidence were indeed music to the ears.

Stilt Walk by the Jayapura boys and Malla Kambha (exercise routines on a pole) by the Mudhol campus, proudly showcased the collective talent of the young children in Swami’s educational institutions.

While dare-devilry and adventure dotted the first few events, it was art and culture that underlined the next set of programmes. Be it the drill dance by the boys from Jayapura campus or the Tiger Dance by over 100 students from the Alike campus, or the dance drama on the Ramayana by the girls from Jayapura campus, there was no dearth of talent and creative expression on the field.

This was followed by a brilliant Equestrian Show by students from the Muddenahalli campus. Trained within a span of just a couple of weeks, the event put to test both the horse and the rider! The valiant Ashwa Kumaras and their stallions straddled many a barrier and crossed the jumping tests with grace, thus exhibiting the energy and precision that these young riders had mastered within days.

Commemorating the Republic Day, students of the Gulbarga campus displayed the Gun Drill as a tribute to the thousands of soldiers who sacrificed their lives for India’s freedom. Standing in a neat formation, the drill was synchronised and performed to perfection. The colours, the cultures and the traditions of Bharat came to life on the sports field, with Shiva Tandava by the Alike students and Folk Dances of India by the Chikkaballapur girl students. Shiva’s Tandava is described as a vigorous dance that is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. From the Thandava emerged the primal energy which in turn created the primordial sound, the Omkara. The Panchamahabhutas, the five elements had its origin from this primal energy.

Another highlight of the day was the Lion Dance, a Chinese art form that fuses dance, music and martial arts to create awe-inspiring stunts. Trained by the world champions, the Kun Seng Keng group from Malaysia, the students from Muddenahalli campus mastered the art form in a short span of three months. So impressive was their performance that the trainers felt the students were equipped to compete in the international arena!

The grit, grandeur and grace of the students which was so ably on display throughout the morning was topped by the Motor Bike Stunts by the students from the Muddenahalli campus. It was a display of true mettle and dare-devilry at its level best. They won over the hearts of the audience with their confident ramp jumps, pyramid formations, double formations, breaking of tube lights and jumping through fire

The Grand Finale

The entire three-hour programme was an offering of gratitude to Bhagawan. As all the campuses put up a spell binding show of unity, Baba reciprocated by profusely blessing the students and lovingly waving to them. The morning program ended with a grand finale, which saw all the students present the final formation offering a prayer to their beloved Swami to bless them with the opportunity to serve in His mission. This collective prayer touched the hearts of each person present in the stadium. Bhagawan was deeply moved by the entire offering of the students and announced that He was very, very, very, very, Happy! Bhagawan’s car was then escorted out by the motorcycle contingent after aarati had been offered.