Navaratri, meaning ‘The period of nine nights’ is a celebration of the feminine aspect of God, where throughout India, elaborate worship and rituals are performed to propitiate the very source of ‘energy’ that makes the world ‘go’. Devotees from many countries across the globe have all arrived at Sathya Sai Grama to participate and bask in the powerful vibrations generated during the various Homams and Yajnas performed during all the ten days, in the very presence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Hrudaya Mandir is the epicentre of these vibrations in the Campus, where the beautiful idol of Goddess Durga and other deities like Lord Ganesha, and the Goddesses Saraswathi and Lakshmi has been staged for the traditional Durga Puja from West Bengal. Outside the main Hall, a Pandal has been constructed to provide a special area for Havna Kunda for the Navarathri Homa and the ever increasing devotees.
The first day is dedicated to the Goddess ‘Shailputri’, literally meaning the daughter (Putri) of the mountains (Shaila). Also, known as Sati Bhavani, Parvati or Hemavati, the daughter of Hemavana – the king of the Himalayas, she is the first among Navadurgas. This Avatar of goddess Durga is the embodiment of the collective power of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and is worshipped as the consort of Shiva, who rides a bull and carries a trident and a lotus in her two hands.
On the first day Bhagawan arrived, and the proceedings were underway. As customary, at the beginning, Lord Ganesha is worshipped so that the whole programme will go unhindered and obstacles may stay away. A very vibrant coloured unique Rangoli of Lord Ganesha was prepared by the Ritwiks and everybody admired the beauty that the place radiated. Bhagawan entered the Hall where a beautifully decorated and traditionally-built idols of Mahishasurmardini (Goddesss Durga), Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesha, and Kartikeya from Bengal adored the stage. The majestic idols filled everybody with instant awe and devotion. He also visited the specially kept mini-idols of various forms and incarnations of God and Goddess in a traditional celebration called ‘Kullu.’
As the proceedings began, the priests performed the Sahasra Modaka Maha Ganapati Homa and also the Navagraha Homa. On the first day, worship was offered to Goddess Chandi. An explanation of Navagraha Homa and their significance and impact on humans was also provided in Kannada and English languages. Sahasra Modakam Maha Ganapati Homa is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and to seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha, who is the remover of obstacles, for the prosperous and successful completion of the next nine days of the festival. The Navagrahas or the nine planets are the ones which provide the seven Dhatus (tissues) to the human body made up of five elements. These five elements provide the energy and dynamism to the body, which otherwise would have been purposeless. Any difference in the movement of the Navagrahas, makes a difference in the activity of the body and affects our day to day life. Though the Navagrahas are many light years away from earth, they should have a positive effect in our lives. This was the aim of the Navagraha Homam which was performed to appease the Navagrahas and win the grace of the Divine.
After Poornahuti, Swami went inside the Hall and traditional Durga Arati was performed accompanied with the special percussion sounds of the Dhakis, with Dhunuchi dance, a ritual dance worship.
After Mangala Arati was offered to Swami, He retired for the afternoon.
The evening session commenced at the majestic Sri Sathya Sai Premamrutham Hall with sacred chanting of Sri Rudram followed by repetitions of Samasta Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu. The august gathering of devotees from across the globe, students and staff were eagerly waited for the arrival of Bhagawan, who was welcomed with Poorna Kumbham, Vedic-chants and soulful renditions of Bhajans. After He took His seat, grade Nine students of the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva High School chanted Ganesha Suktam – a Vedic invocation to Lord Ganesha – the Supreme and Primary deity. Thereafter, a short introduction to the mother form of Navadurga that is venerated on day one as Shailaputri was given. Thereafter, the speaker for the evening was Dr Prema Pandurang, the Founder and President of Samskriti (Home of Culture) and Kshetropasna Charitable Trust and the Founder Trustee of Shree Chakra Foundation. She is a Harikatha Exponent and an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna. She presented the tenth canto from Srimad Bhagawatam, expounding Lord Krishna’s mercy on the demon Poothana that how the Lord, out of His infinite mercy gave her Moksham. Later, Swami Himself, in His discourse mentioned that even Gods in heaven vie for such a Satsang where Srimad Bhagawatam is expounded with pure love and devotion. Dr Prema Pandurang’s exposition took the entire audience verily to the place where King Parikshit heard it from Shuka Muni. The entire congregation at Premamrutam Hall were totally in one with the ambience of devotion that she created. It was indeed a supremely sacred opportunity bestowed upon the chosen audience that even the Gods in Heaven would vie for.
Thereafter, Bhagawan blessed Sri Narasimha Murthy to speak. He had many words of praise for Dr Prema Pandurang, and said that she is someone who has not only tasted the nectar of God’s love, but is also adept in expressing it in words.
Then Bhagawan in His divine discourse beseeched all to seek the company of noble people and to the path of Satsang and stressed on the importance of self-purification. He further said acquiring book knowledge and degrees are not enough. It is for this very purpose that He is organising exposition of Srimad Bhagawatam. It is for all the students to become better servants of God. He said all His students would be doing great good merits in the future, in coming time and would be better servants of God and for that reason this opportunity is being granted upon them now.
He thanked Dr Prema Pandurang and said that she would be continuing with her exposition for two more days. The blessed evening session closed with the Bhajan ‘Hari Bhajan Bina’ and Mangala Arati was offered to Swami.