The auspicious morning of the Eighth day of Navarathri celebrations, the Ashtami began with the Sai Gayatri Homa at around 7.45 a.m in the morning. This day was dedicated to Maha Gouri. All the ladies were adorned in the Saree that was distributed by Bhagawan the previous day. Devotees from West Bengal prepared the Ashtami Bhog/ feast for Goddess Durga. It is believed that on this day, Goddess Kali emerged from the forehead of Goddess Durga to annihilate the demons. The weapons wielded by the eight forms of Durga in the battle against Mahishasura were worshipped on this day.
The head priest of the Homa briefed the gathering on the inner significance of Yaga or sacrifice. The Bahiryaga is performed to the Lord who is formless and attribute less, the one who is nothing in everything and everything in nothing. The one who is the resident of every heart, keeps the lamp of devotion aglow in the hearts of devotees and drives away ignorance. In the Antar Yaga of life, Atma is the head priest; dedication and devotion is the consort of this priest; body is the offering to Divine; heart is the sacred sacrificial place, the pivotal point where God resides; nervous system is the Darba grass; worldly desire is the ghee offered; anger is the sacrificial fire; words are the preceptor; life breath is the subordinate priest conducting the sacrifice; eyes are the two other priests performing the sacrifice; mind is the observing factor not to be given importance. Fear of sin and the shame associated with tainting one’s good name due to a bad conduct should be the driving force of life thus preventing us from a wrong action, food in taken is the sacrificial offering, every action is the flame of the sacrifice. This sacrifice of life is meant to offer everything to God. Antar yaga takes a life long time and finally aims at experiencing divinity in its fullest.
The Kumari Pooja for four children was also conducted in the Divine presence. A short dance drama was performed by the West Bengal Youth Team. A young girl stuck in the inescapable twines of crippling poverty finds refuge in the Lord. Godesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi appear in front of her. Goddess Saraswathi grants her the power of divine wisdom, Goddess Lakshmi cleanses her senses and mind to pursue the path of goodness, harmony and honest labour. Goddess Durga reminds her of her inner strength inside her tender frame, her tenacity and her quality of resilience. She exhorts her to rise and empower herself. The drama ended with a note on the power and purity of feminine energy with a reference to today’s context where in women sets out to slay the demons of everyday life, wins battles for herself and protects her loved ones. This was followed by the chanting of Mahishasura Mardhini, Durga Puja and Durga Arati.
The Ekadasha Rudra Homa was performed simultaneously. The eleven Kalashas kept in the Rudra Homa represents eleven Rudras. Bhagawan graced the sacred spot of the Rudra Homa as well. Sri Sathya Sai Jaya Vijayee Bhava Stotram was chanted. Mangala Arati was offered.
The Evening programme on the holy day of Ashtami was invocated with the Vedic chants of Bhu Suktam by the girls from Sri Sathya Sai Sri Niketanam, Jayapura.
Avi Gopinath, a student currently pursuing Ist year Pre – University at Muddennahalli delivered his speech on how he came to Swami and the journey of his transformation from where and how he was to what he has become today. This was followed by an extempore speech by his brother, Rishi Gopinath. Avi spoke about the quality of goodness and purity in all the students around him at Muddennahalli which subsumed him completely, for this was something he was not used to ever before. The sublimity in the Vedas and Bhajans only made him cry sometimes. For the first time in his life, he was in a place that did not require him to be selfish, a place that will let him change for the better. Avi concluded saying that true happiness doesn’t come from eating good food and roaming with friends. It comes from serving people and being close to Swami. He humbly submitted himself to Swami to make him a hollow instrument in His hands. Rishi Gopinath, brother of Avi, currently doing his 10th grade at Muddennahalli was called upon by Bhagawan to speak. Rishi spoke about how life in Canada was much different from what it was here. Life in Canada, was based on competition, greed and arrogance. But here, he learnt the value of silence, knowledge and spirituality. When Bhagawan first asked them during His visit to United Kingdom, “Are you ready?”, they knew it is going to be something life changing. They surrendered themselves to Bhagawan to carry them through this journey and this has only made them glad now. Resounding his brother’s thoughts, he said that this place is full of such good people that he just wishes to follow them, imitate them and this is enough for him to reach his destiny.
A moment of pride for all the girls presented itself next, when Bhagawan formally introduced the Brass Band for girls, ‘Sai Symphony’ and blessed each of them with their instruments. Trumpet, Cornets, Trombone, Alto saxophone, Tenor saxophone, Clarinet, Baritone, Snare drums and Flutes were given to the girls by the Divine hands. Sai Symphony will reverberate its tunes for the Lord during the Annual Sports Meet January 2018.
It was time for the Divine entertainment! Chhau Dance is a famous semi classical Indian dance with tribal and folk origins in the eastern Indian states. UNESCO has awarded a title to this dance as the ‘Pride of India’. It is an acrobatic dance depicting battles and has 3 forms. They are, Puruliya from West Bengal, Seraikella from Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj from Orissa. The Puruliya dance form depicts Ramayana, Mahabharata and other puranas. The theme for the day was a Puruliya dance form narrating the Creation of Goddess Durga. The participants were from West Bengal belonging to the Chhau group from Hura village of Puruliya.
The Chhau dance was followed by the classical dance performance by Dr. Roshni Pillai and her troupe of students, boys and girls from the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Group of Institutions. Dr. Roshni has been a dancer from age 6. She had performed several times in front of Bhagawan. This day’s dance performance pictured the various characters of Ramayana and retold His story from birth till the vanquishing of Ravana. This was Dr. Roshni Pillai’s first group choreography under Bhagawan’s guidance and inspiration. She spoke specifically about the multiple talents the students are endowed with in Bhagawan’s institutions and in all her humility said that during this experience, the students have taught her more than what she could have taught them.