The energy and excitement at the Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutham auditorium was palpable on the penultimate evening of Swami’s 90th birthday celebrations.
Bhagawan entered the hall at 5:15 P.M, enveloping the eager devotees with His abundant love.
After the bhajans and the vedam chanting, the evening’s proceedings commenced with a talk by Sri K. H. Muniyappa, Member of Parliament of the Kolar constituency. Sri Muniyappa narrated to the audience the story of one his recent near death encounters and how Swami, ever so graciously, granted him a second lease of life. Urging the audience to have utmost faith and belief in Swami, he concluded by emphasizing on the importance of Gurus in all our lives.
This was followed by the ‘Sai Award Ceremony’ to the students and teachers from 13 institutions of the Sathya Sai Loka Seva Trust, Prashanthi Bala Mandir Trust and the Saraswathi Education Trust. There were two categories of awards presented, that of ‘Best Character and Conduct Student’ and the ‘Best Teacher for their Contribution to Education’. The students’ award recipients were nominated by their respective classmates while the final awardee was selected by Bhagawan Himself. The teachers’ awards were similarly nominated by the principals of the respective schools, in consultation with the Chairman, Warden and Trustees, while Swami made the final decision.
The award distribution was followed by speeches from two of the students who had been awarded. Kumari Hridaya Harikesh, a PU student at the Prashanthi Bala Mandir campus, Chikaballapur, through the narration of her personal experience, spoke about the love and thousand unseen hands of Swami, protecting all from danger and mishap. Interspersing her speech with beautiful verses, she also brought to light how Swami displays the love of a divine parent, making each of his students feel truly special. At the end of her talk, Swami proclaimed that he would sponsor her medical education and that she would be a doctor, serving in Swami’s mission. Kumar Ankit Kumar Shekhar, from the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Kendra, Muddenahalli then spoke about his personal experience as a student in Swami’s school. He spoke about the transformation he underwent since he joined the campus, looking at the selfless service and complete devotion of the teachers and elders around him. Narrating his personal encounters with the Lord, he shared with the audience the indescribable glory of Bhagawan, His insurmountable Grace and His abundant love.
The next speaker for the evening was Sheikh Aly N’Daw from the International Sufi School. He is renowned for the propagation of an alternative way of life – that of peace and non-violence. His speech, delivered in French, was translated by Sister Suraya. The Sheikh began his talk by quoting Prophet Mohammed, “When we are all born, we are all realized beings, aware of our original nature, that of love, peace, wisdom and beauty.”
He went on to say that all these qualities disappear because of the conditioning received from parents, who concentrate only on the physical polarity and ignore all aspects of internal polarity ((i.e. development of the heart, soul and spirit). He claimed that Swami has come down on Earth to wake us all up from the metaphysical slumber. Concluding his talk with a song on peace, he urged all mothers to bring up their children in accordance with the teachings of Baba, reminding their children of their true original nature.
A scintillating dance presentation by Kumari Nemani Sai Gargi from Nigeria commenced the cultural events for the evening. Ms Gargi has trained extensively under the tutelage of Smt. Balaa Kondala Rao in Kuchipudi, a traditional dance form from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
This was followed by a reverberating and powerful musical presentation by “Sai’s Angels”, the brass band of Swami’s institutions. Their ensemble consisted of six performances – Power D, Sai Hamara, Spring – Remind me My Lord, Baba Calls (by the Alike Band), Brass Explosion, culminating with a ‘Happy Birthday’ rendition for Swami.
13 Singapore families got together to perform a medley of seven adapted English songs next. Beginning by offering their gratitude to the Lord, they led the audience into a foot-tapping and light-hearted sing along performance. Their songs all portrayed their deep love for Sai, even including their own rendition of a birthday song for Baba. Post the performance, the group presented Swami with a cake and card for His 90th Birthday.
The gathering was treated next to a stellar Sitar recital by Pandit Shubhendra Rao, his wife Saskia Rao and their little son, Eshan Rao. A protégé of the legendary Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Shubhendra Rao is considered amongst the top soloists of India. Saskia Rao is acclaimed for bridging the Western and Indian classical music traditions. She is renowned for her contribution to Hindustani music, through the designing of a new instrument called the Indian Cello. The recital carried the audience on a journey (Yatra), consisting of two performances – Birth and Death.
The eve of Swami’s birthday celebrations ended with one of the most awaited plays; a drama depicting the life of Swami – 90 years of love and compassion to all of humanity. The most interesting part of the play was that Swami was the conceiver of the idea, the director and the script writer. The students of Muddenahalli campus were the fortunate instruments of Swami, through whom His life story was depicted. All six phases of Bhagawan’s life was portrayed beautifully, i.e. Leela, Mahima, Upadesha, Vidya, Vaidya and Sanathana Dharma. The play ended with more than 20 Bala Sais emerging from the stage, all of them dressed like Bhagawan, in an attempt to teach us to see Sai in everything and everyone around us.
Despite the late hour, the excitement in the air was almost tangible, with several groups of the audience breaking into spontaneous renditions of “Happy Birthday Swami” as Bhagawan left the auditorium.
Watch the proceedings below: