The word ‘Kodaikanal’ immediately conjures a cool summer retreat in the lap of Mother Nature. But for devotees of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, it connotes the Divine Playground, an annual pilgrimage of sorts, a tradition which commenced many decades ago. For Kodaikanal is the place where every student, staff and devotee have always wanted to accompany their Master, to be with Him and partake nuggets of spiritual lessons, as they come under His transformative influence.
On the morning of May 10, devotees from around the world, girl students and staff proceeded to the Bangalore Airport to join the Lord on a chartered plane to Madurai. Boys had already left the previous day with their teachers by bus, and were eagerly waiting for Bhagawan to welcome Him at Madurai. On the evening of May 8, the Lord called all the guests, students and staff who would accompany Him to Kodaikanal. He told everyone that the ten days for sure are not holidays, but ‘holy-days’, as it will be a time spent in the contemplation of God. Swami then lovingly handed over suitcases filled with goodies, from clothes to probably every single essential that would be required on the trip to His students, staff and also to some of the guests. Like it is always said, for a student of Sai, everything is taken care by the Divine Parent, from pin to plane!
After a brief delay due to a technical snag, the aircraft took off to Madurai. The technical snag actually turned out to be a blessing, as Swami walked down the aisle and distributed chocolates to each and every person. The air was filled with ‘Jaikars’ as the plane took off with an excited lot of pilgrims with their beloved Bhagawan to Madurai. A whole host of devotees from Tamil Nadu led by Brother Gowrishankar and his devout wife Smt Priya received Bhagawan and His plane full of guests with much love. After lunch, the Lord proceeded to Kodaikanal, and reached the Hill Top Bungalow, beautifully christened by Him last year as ‘Sri Sathya Sai Anand Ashram’, perched magnificently on the highest point in Kodaikanal, a little before 8 p.m.
Sevadals and a few others who had reached a few days early to make arrangements welcomed their Lord with much joy and adoration. Some of the guests reached shortly, and Swami spoke briefly to everyone, before walking towards the new kitchen which was waiting to be inaugurated by the Divine Hands. He inspected the dining hall, the stores, and even the bathroom area to ensure all arrangements were made well. Excited boys students arrived, as Kodaikanal is a great opportunity for them to stay in Swami’s Bungalow. A sumptuous dinner was served, and everyone proceeded to the respective hotels, which they would call home for the next ten days.
May 11 – Morning
A beautiful, bright and sunny morning, and of course a wonderful spread of delicious breakfast welcomed everyone. With Swami around, it’s always food, and more food! All the devotees were gathered in the Bhajan Hall, which was inaugurated by Swami last year in May. Swami entered amidst Bhajans, and the first speaker of the morning was a Grade 10 student, Yuva Supreet Reddy. He reminisced his journey with Swami, and emotionally offered himself at the Lotus Feet of His Lord as His instrument, ready to do whatever He wanted him to do or be.
Sri B N Narasimha Murthy addressed the gathering next, and said that whatever Swami did, or does at any point of time is always prompted by love and compassion. He reminisced Swami’s last visit to Muddenahalli in the physical, and spoke about Swami’s unique bond of love, which can never be broken. “We have to count our blessings. All of us feel the spiritual joy, and experience emancipating bliss which can release us from the shackles and help us fly in the spiritual skies. Whether we are at the level of the body, mind or psyche, we should rise up to the ultimate level. Just as we have risen physically to the proximity at the top of this hill, so should we rise in our minds and spirits spiritually during this trip!”
Swami in His divine discourse said for a mother and father, a child is their very life. “When we analyse it, mother and father can be with us only for a limited span of time and can do things only in a limited way. But God alone can be with us all the time, and do everything without limits. When we direct this love towards God, it is devotion. Love manifests itself in many forms, but the love between God and devotee is more sacred and intense. Lot of people keep saying ‘I love You’. It’s true. But that’s not good enough, instead we should say ‘I love You ONLY’. You may ask, ‘Does it mean we should not love others?’ Not at all. God exists in them as well, and we should love them selflessly in a divine way after recognising the presence of God in them. When raindrops touch the ground, they get polluted. But that water is purified and we use it. Polluted water can be purified and can be utilised. In everyone’s heart there is divine sacred love. Because of worldly desires, this love is polluted. Have only one desire – ‘I want only pure love, in a pure and selfless way’. This love is the greatest treasure in our lives.” After Mangala Arati, Swami proceeded to the dining hall to dine with His guests. After blessing everyone with Prasadam, Swami rested for the afternoon.
May 11 – Evening
Evenings in Kodaikanal are always intimate. A cozy and informal gathering with His near and dear ones. As Swami entered the hall, melodious Bhajans were in progress. After going round, and blessing everyone seated, both inside and outside, Swami came back to the hall and took His seat. He commanded the music group boys starting with two eighth graders, Pranav Sai and Abhay Sai to render the Rama Katha. Thereafter, few more boys also sang the same songs on Swami’s command; almost three generations of Rama Katha singers, with the finale song, where all of them joined together. The 45 minutes or so was filled with divine bliss, with Swami explaining many beautiful instances from the Ramayana. From the story of Vali and Sugriva, to the story of Surpanaka and Ravana, the evening was filled with the narration of these episodes, laden with deep inner meaning. Swami said, “Ramayana means ‘Rama – Ayana’, which means ‘The way of Rama’. Rama’s name is the sweetest, and I never get bored of listening to the songs of Rama. When you chant the name of Rama it is very beautiful and blissful, that you will get immersed in that chanting. One name of Rama is equivalent to thousand other names. That is the glory of Rama’s name!” Only Swami is capable of narrating these epics in a meaningful way, and sometimes he would even embellish them with humour, which would leave everyone in splits of laughter. He then beckoned Sri B N Narasimha Murthy to speak about this Rama Katha tradition, which had started way back when Swami was a little child. Swami’s grandfather, Sri Kondama Raju was an actor himself, and had regularly donned the role of Lakshmana. Sri Narasimha Murthy went on speak about how Ramayana is probably one epic which is known from the North to the South of India.
Mangala Arati was offered to Bhagawan, and He proceeded to the dining hall yet again to partake His dinner with all the guests, before retiring for the night.