Morning Session :
From Jammu in the north to Karnataka down south, Gujarat in the west to West Bengal in the east, the festival of Dussehra is celebrated with much devotion and fanfare in India. It is a celebration of the Shakthi (feminine) aspect of divinity, with the divine Mother worshipped in the three primary forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi, signifyning the three gunas that one needs to transcend. It is the celebration of the victory of good over evil.
The Sharad Navarathri celebrations at Sathya Sai Grama commenced with the Navarathri Homa and Durga Puja. Devotees from various countries along with students had gathered at the Sri Sathya Sai Hridaya Mandiram, which was tastefully bedecked with floral décor, matching the festive grandeur of the occasion. The morning started with Vedic chants by learned priests and scholars reverberating in the hall.
At 8.00 AM, the Sahasra Modaka Ganapathi Homam began. This particular homam is performed ahead of all other homams in order to invoke the blessings of Lord Ganesha for the successful completion of any event. According to the Ganesha Atharva Sheersham, the one who performs this homam with utmost sincerity is bound to attain wisdom, success in any venture, good name and fame. A thousand modaks (steam dumplings) were offered to Lord Ganesha as a part of this puja.
Bhagawan arrived at the venue at about 11:00 AM. He was welcomed with the Mangala vadya. As He walked down the auditorium, He inspected the arrangements that were made for the homam, before proceeding towards the dais, where idols of Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswathi, Lord Ganesha and Lord Subramanya were placed. These idols made out of special river clay were brought all the way from Kolkata especially for the festival.
At 11.30 AM, the Poornahuthi was performed for the Sahasra Modaka Ganapathi Homam. All offerings, blessed by Bhagawan, were offered into the sacred sacrificial fire. The significance and essence of this ritual was then explained by one of the priests for the benefit of all who had gathered there.
Simultaneously, Durga Puja was being performed by special priests, who had come from Kolkata. Today being the first day, the sacred kalasam was installed. The Divine Mother was worshipped as Devi Chandika and the Chandi Paat was read. This was followed by special aarthi that was offered to Bhagawan and Goddess Durga. The morning session ended with the offering of Aarathi to Bhagawan.
Evening session :
The venue for the evening session was the Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutham Hall. Bhagawan arrived at the venue at about 5:00 PM and was welcomed into the hall by the Nadaswaram, Poornakumbam and Vedic chants.
Once Bhagawan ascended the dais, the programme began with Invocation by the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva High School and the Vidya Kendra sections chanting the Ganesha Suktam. Bhagawan had blessed four speakers to address the gathering in the evening.
The first speaker was Miss Hridaya Harikesh, a second year student at the Sri Sathya Sai Prashanthi Niketanam, Chikkaballapur campus. She began her speech, narrating a story from the life of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, describing his intense craving for the darshan of Mother Kali. Drawing parallels, she stated that when we develop such a singular and steadfast yearning for the Lord, He is bound to reveal Himself to us, within our own hearts and without a distinction between us and the Lord.
The next speaker was Dr GV Prabhakar Rao, an alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science. He then went on serve in the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prashanthi Nilayam campus, as a Professor in the Departments of Mathematics and Computer Science until 2013. He is currently serving as the Chairman, Sai Society for Advanced Scientific Research at Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli. Recounting the manner in which the festival of Dussehra was celebrated by Bhagawan at Prashanthi Nilayam, he drew parallels to the ongoing events at Muddenahalli and remarked that nothing had really changed in essence. He also recounted an incident prior to the first-ever celebration of Dussehra at Prashanthi Nilayam, which reinforced the fact that Bhagawan is beyond any physical limitations of time and place. He concluded by sharing a personal lesson that he had learnt in realising that Swami is indeed a resident of our hearts.
Following Bhagawan’s guidance, the next speaker was Sri Muralidhar Bhat, one of the priests officiating the Navarathri Homam. A learned scholar, working as a priest at Srimath, Hariharapura, Chikkamagalur district, Sri Bhat is a post-graduate in the Sanskrit language. He is also proficient in astrology and specialises in Pravachanas based on the Srimad Bhagavatham and all rituals pertaining to Navrathri. In his speech, he explained the astrological significance of Navarathri and stressed on the need to give up vices of hatred, jealousy, narrow-mindedness, etc. He concluded by narrating a story that brought to fore how by being in tune with the Lord and serving mankind, we can circumvent suffering caused by the many trials and tribulations in life. It is only when one forgets God that he is faced with difficulties, he ended.
The fourth speaker for the evening was Sri BN Narasimha Murthy, Chief Mentor, Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Institutions. He reminded everyone of the true purpose behind Bhagawan organising these Yajnas and events. He explained that it was for our own emancipation and for the peace and welfare of the world. He urged everybody to make use of the opportunity and redeem one’s life.
This was followed by the Divine Discourse by Bhagawan Baba. The evening session ended with the offering of Aarthi to Bhagawan.