In the tiny hamlet of Muddenahalli, the excitement, elation and enthusiasm was palpable as devotees converged from all over the world to wish their beloved Lord on His 91st birthday, welcoming Him with melodious bhajans and holy vedic chants.
The celebrations began with the presentation of the newly instituted Sri Sathya Sai Award for Human Excellence. These awards were instituted to appreciate and recognise the services of those individuals who have led a life of service and sacrifice to serve mankind in various fields of social relevance. Padma Shri Mrs. Mallika Srinivasan, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of TAFE, a tractor major in India, introduced the categories and the selection process of the awards. The awardees were Mr. Mohammed Rezwan in the field of education, Dr MR Rajagopal and Master Cheng Yen in the field of health, Ms Sunitha Krishnan for her efforts in the field of Women and Child welfare, Dr Chandi Prasad Bhatt for his constant endeavour to preserve and protect the environment, Dr KJ Yesudas for enthralling the world with his mellifluous music, Dr AT Ariyaratna in the field of Unity of Religions.
The grand moment that everyone was waiting for had finally arrived. The Jhoola Mahothsav of Bhagawan began with the launch of a book on the renowned artist Late Mandolin U Srinivas, titled ‘A Life in Music’. Bhagawan has, in the past, extolled Sri Srinivas as a great saint and spiritual luminary, who belongs to the heavens and not to the world. This was followed by a musical composition by one of the finest music composers and dispel of Mandolin Srinivas, Devi Sri Prasad. Devi Prasad composed a song on his Guru, Srinivas, as a token of his love and gratitude. Sri Shashi Vyas, one of the greatest connoisseurs on Indian Classical Music, spoke about Mandolin Srinivas on Bhagawan’s command. Sri Vyas extolled Srinivas as God’s gift to music and mankind, a legend who will continue to live in the millions of hearts he touched with his music.
The next presentation was a musical extravaganza called ‘Hridayanjali’, which featured the most renowned names from all fortes of music. The first in this great list of musicians to offer his songs was Sri Sumeet Tappoo, Swami’s beloved musician from Fiji. The next recital was by Padma Bhushan TH Vinayakram, a Grammy award winning percussionist and a recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, the highest honour in the performing arts. Joining Sri Vinayakram was, Mandolin U Rajesh, brother of Late Mandolin Srinivas. Sri Rajesh began by enthralling everyone with the popular invocation ‘Maha Ganapathe’. Sri Rajesh’s recital was brought alive by Sivamani, a percussionist who can create rhythm from virtually anything.
The next performance was by Mr George Brooks, an American Saxophonist, famous for combining Jazz and Indian Classical. Mr Brooks was joined by popular Jazz exponent Mr Harmeet Manseta on the keyboard.
The Jazz musical was followed by the launch of a devotional album by Padma Shri Hariharan and Sri Sumeet Tappoo. Sri Hariharan is a celebrated ghazal maestro, an extremely versatile vocalist who has received the National Award twice. Sri Hariharan began with a Hindustani classical song and ended with his very famous rendition of the popular Sai Bhajan ‘Janani Maa Sai Janani Maa’ that left the audience spellbound.
The next performer was Sri Rahul Sharma, Santoor exponent and son of renowned musician Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. Sri Rahul Sharma was accompanied by Dmitris Lambrianos, a multi-talented Greek Musician on the Bouzouki, a greek instrument. Sri Rahul played a fusion piece before concluding with the bhajan ‘Govind Bolo Gopal Bolo’.
The next performance was by India’s most sought percussionist Sivamani. He has performed alongside some of the most renowned musicians internationally, including AR Rahman and Ilayaraja. He along with, Sri Rajesh and Sri Harmeet, form the musical trio called ‘SiRaHa’. The trio performed some of their compositions, enthralling one and all.
The grand finale was the Happy Birthday Song wishing Swami on His 91st Birthday. The song, sung by Sri Sumeet, Sri Kunal Ganjawala and Sri Hariharan with the entire crowd joining the chorus was the perfect ending to a week-long expression of love between the lord and his devotees. The night ended after Arathi was offered to Bhagawan.