Holi at Prashanti Nilayam

It is the time of the Holi festival, and Sai Kulwant Hall is gaily decorated, with reflective strips, blue, red, green, silver and gold hanging down from the roof. The Sathya Sai Organisation of Bihar and Jharkand are pleased to offer a Holi Celebration of Divine Love in Prashanthi Nilayam. One of the banners reads Khelo Holi with Sai Sannaaidi.

It happened this morning, it happened this evening. You know when you are walking down the avenue in front of East Prashanti, beside the darshan hall, and just take that first glance into the darshan hall. That first glance, one millionth of a second; the eye sends the message to the brain, Swami is standing beside the Samadhi, with his hands behind his back. Look down the footpath, the mind kicks in, “Swami?” “Swami is there???” Look back, no, there is no Swami, the mind looks again and again and again. An argument starts up in the mind.

Kadu, Kadu, Kadu; for one millionth of a second, I saw.

His love, His grace, He gives.

It is the time of the Holi festival, and Sai Kulwant Hall is gaily decorated, with reflective strips, blue, red, green, silver and gold hanging down from the roof. The Sathya Sai Organisation of Bihar and Jharkand are pleased to offer a Holi Celebration of Divine Love in Prashanthi Nilayam. One of the banners reads Khelo Holi with Sai Sannaaidi.

I took a long look at that tiger skin under Swami’s chair in the mandiram, this morning. Either that tiger skin is showing its age, or my colour matching is slightly awry. I tried to think back, when Swami first acquired this. I will have to ask. Looking at the ground as I walk out, I think of the ladies who sweep the entire darshan hall daily, midday and evening, and then mop it all by hand. Pigeons do “decorate” the floor, that is true, but there is also an incredible amount of dust blowing up with a warm wind these days.

Again, looking at the ground as I leave the mandir, I wonder to myself, how long this will last like so. I thought back to the day when Swami walked up Hanuman Hill with Sai Gita at Hillview Stadium when the foundations were being laid for the Hanuman statue. “It has to last hundreds and hundreds of years”, Swami told the engineer, Jayakumar. Swami materialised a small Hanuman idol for Subramanium Stapathi and Jayakumar so they could get the design right. That Sanjivini Hill weighs 50 tons! Hundreds and hundreds of years, I thought to myself; what will the Sai Kulwant Hall and this ashram look like in hundreds, or in thousands of years?


Sai Gita walked up the Hill slowly – Swami told her to go up the hill, where he was waiting at the top. Photo by R. Padmanaban.

Another story. Swami went to go up what we now call Hanuman Hill; the Krishna Idol was being built, and Swami was showing James Sinclair, and going over the plans for construction. Swami’s red car, the Mercedes Benz, wouldn’t go up the hill. They put some rocks behind the car to stop it rolling back, and got in another car. One fellow, he had just got his licence, and driving this other car; he drove them all up the hill. Swami asks Jayakumar, “Can this fellow drive us down the hill?” Jayakumar pauses; (this is the fellow who used to stand outside Swami’s door and say TEN TIMES, “He is God, he knows everything!” before he would knock on the door and go in to see Swami. He told me, Never, never, never, never, never, never tell a fib to Swami.) OK, you get the picture, Swami has asked Jayakumar about this fellow’s driving; Jayakumar told the truth, “Swami he has just got his licence, he is a careful driver!” “Swami said, “Can he drive us down the hill?” Jayakumar tells, “Swami, I don’t know if he has driven hills before”. So this fellow walks up to Swami when the work is complete, the planning is done, and all that. He asks Swami, “Swami, shall I drive you down the hill?” Swami tells, “Save me, please, NO!” They laughed, and Swami got in the jeep to go down Hanuman Hill.


Swami gets in the Jeep; Jayakumar is driving.

So much of spirituality is how we interact with people. Truth, Right Conduct, Love, Peace and Non-violence. This is spirituality in action. I was talking with a friend from Melbourne last night, we were just talking and this fellow, he had two crutches, he was having a doleful time trying to hail an auto-rickshaw at night. By the time he got his hand off one of his crutches to wave down an auto, it had passed. I was getting ready to go under the fence and hail one for him when a young man, a villager, walked up to him and asked if he would like an auto. He then waved down a rickshaw, took the fellow’s crutches, and helped him into the rickshaw. My friend was still gasbagging a bit and I pointed out to him, “This young fellow, he has been talking with his friends for five minutes in front of us; he has left his friends to go to the aid of this man on crutches. This is what you constantly find in the hearts of Puttaparthi people; no matter what they look like on the outside, they are good people at heart; they practice Swami’s values”.

I was in an office today with a fellow for whom I built a website. The office is the temple; the temple is the workplace. So you will understand an entire wall behind his desk is a shrine; very large pictures of Sita-Rama-Lakshmana (and Hanuman); then a large, (and I mean large) Ganapathi in the centre, and on the right, an equally large Sathya Sai, sitting in his chair. Big garlands on all pictures. Anyway, this fellow is telling me how sad he is when he is away from Puttaparthi; and when he comes back to Puttaparthi, he is so happy. A flower fell from the garland on Sathya Sai, and the garland itself swung back and forth for quite some time. Pure delight, and pure confirmation, Baba is ever so happy when this fellow is back in Puttaparthi!


The Office in question. I took a photo – spot the leela

It is Holi, evening darshan, and I am sitting in Sai Kulwant Hall. The devotees from Bihar and Jharkand are providing a musical presentation. Relaxing, I sit and listen to the singing. It is superb. I am listening for the instruments under the lady singer’s voice, she is so perfectly in tune, then she soars above it all. Just listening to these ragas, I begin to drift upwards, my crown chakra is tingling, and suddenly, I have this spiritual feeling, ah, words don’t really work well here, I feel like I have completely risen within myself, and encounter this divine energy, this divine peace which is both within myself and beyond myself. I just stay there, let the singing carry me to heights. I think to myself, this is why people like music like Handel’s Messiah, it lifts the spirit and soars! How I am in awe of this lady singer’s voice, so strong, mellifluous, on the note, yet so much more encompassing than the note, you are not yourself when you allow this singing to compass you, and take you to timelessness, beyond, drifting blissfully; an embracing spirit in her singing that lifts you up into the sacred spheres.

I reflect on the discipline of the singers, the musicians, and how their very own practical discipline – albeit a spiritual discipline also, goes far beyond them and creates that spiritual reality, that spiritual experience for others. How I wish people could see this! That their own personal discipline, a spiritual discipline, is not only for themselves, but for others also, and creates a different felt reality, a different experience of life, an experience of true humanness for others in this clag we call Kali Yuga.

I am often in admiration of the discipline of artists. My mind goes back to other times when I have been here in Sai Kulwant Hall and had yet similar experiences, when the best of India comes here to sing and present and give their love to Swami. I am humbled in the face of this.

Holi, the devotees of Bihar and Jharkand lead evening bhajans; clear, strong voices, Mumbai style, where other singers have microphones and lead the responses. This really lifts the participation. Last bhajan, Shivaya, Parameshwarya … and the ladies start the rhythmic clapping that goes with this bhajan and it pulls everyone in. Bhavaya, Gunu Sambhavaya and my mind goes back to Lingodbhava, and this bhajan being sung – along with Om Shivaya as Swami brought forth the Golden Lingham … such a memory evoked by this bhajan.

That bell. I can’t hear a thing!

Anil Kumar greets us with Sai Ram!, and gives a short talk on Holi. Outside, I find my chappals and my eye catches the Murugan Shrine, it has been a long time, I say to myself, and I walk over and kick my chappals off, and chant the Subramanya Gayathri three times. Joy wells up within.

Outside, I see many signs against the ashram wall, Sri Sathya Sai Giri Pradakshina. A list of Full Moon dates, all the months for 2012, today is a full moon day, and there is a dray with a big picture of Swami, they are going to do pradakshina (go around) Prashanti Nilayam beginning from the Ganesh Gate at 6:30 pm, all around Prashanthi Nilayam. I see a crowd around the dray, and loudspeakers attached to it also. A decent crowd has built up, I wonder to myself, if this is a service activity of the Sathya Sai Centre of Puttaparthy? I wonder.

Sai Ram from Prashanti Nilayam on festival of Holi; it is two and a half hours later, and the pradakshina has just passed me by, singing Hara Shiva Shankara Sasanka Sekhara … they are on their way to the Ganesh Gate.



© Chris Parnell