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Then & Now
A day in Ashram


The Annual Sports and Cultural Meet of Sri Sathya Sai Educational institutions is a much sought after event every year. Devotees and parents of wards throng Prasanthi Nilayam days ahead of this gala festival, as it is called in Prasanthi parlance – The Annual Sports and Cultural Festival. To the many festivals that dot the Prasanthi calendar, the sports and cultural festival has added significance since it is performed by the students of Sri Sathya Sai Educational Institutions of Prasanthi Nilayam, Brindavan and Anantapur under the divine guidance of its Revered Chancellor, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Like the bygone years, this year too, the event had all the richness of quality, colour, exuberance, enthusiasm, valour, courage, balance and skill.

Being the 25th year of the Institute’s formation, the students and staff extended a warm welcome to everyone present in the Hill View stadium. Bhagawan arrived in the stadium in a sparkling yellow robe at 8.00 a.m. “The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here”, was the announcement made in the Public Address system. Truly, with Bhagawan in our midst, there cannot be a happier moment. Crimson caparisoned Sai Geeta, Bhagawan’s dear elephant led the procession followed by the escort team comprising students in motor bikes entered the stadium as the band troupe of the Anantapur campus played sonorous notes. Midway through the stadium, the Prasanthi Nilayam campus brass band stirred up a lively note when the contingent of Lion dancers welcomed Bhagawan. Bhagawan was received at the dais by the wardens and principals of the three campuses. At 8.10 a.m., Bhagawan lighted the ceremonial lamp to mark the commencement of the proceedings. Then tiny tots from the Primary school came to the dais to offer their obeisance to Bhagawan.

The march past parade commenced with students from Sri Sathya Sai Primary School in their regal attire marching sprightly to the beats of the brass band of Prasanthi Nilayam campus. They were followed by the girls section of Sri Sathya Sai Primary School. It was then the turn of students from the Anantapur campus of the Institute, followed by students from Sri Sathya Sai Junior college, Anantapur. Marching contingents from Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, Prasanthi Nilayam, Brindavan campus of the Institute, Prasanthi Nilayam campus, Sri Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music and Postgraduate students’ squad from Prasanthi Nilayam campus of the Institute followed suit. Finally ringing up the rear of the parade was the award winning squad from the Prasanthi Nilayam and Brindavan campus of the Institute. A special squad of the Institute brought the Institute flag to be hoisted by the Revered Chancellor, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The Institute captain then read out the oath which was repeated by all the students. A part of it is reproduced for the benefit of readers. “We, the children of Sai will take part in the Sports Meet in true spirit of sportsmanship, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them for the glory of sport, nation and our beloved Mother Sai.”

Bhagawan lighted the torch and released pigeons and balloons to mark the happy occasion. A song which ran as follows was played in the background: “Flame of truth, flame of joy, flame of peace …” as students in pairs carried the torch to the mascot of this year’s sports meet, Peacock which lit the sports meet urn at the Hanuman hilltop.

Education is about building men. The students of Sai are in the society, for the society, but not of the society. With these words, an impressive display of items was presented by the students of Prasanthi Nilayam. A revolving tower with the words, Purity, Patience and Perseverance was displayed in the background which formed the theme of their presentation. Huge figures on stilts representing diverse sections of society added colour to the occasion. A medley of dance and martial arts followed. The Prasanthi Lions displayed their grit and determination with daredevilry coupled with aesthetic flavour. Lion dance, which is famous in China and the Far East was displayed with dexterity by the students. What takes months to learn was mastered by these students in a few days. Dancing to the lively beats, the Prasanthi Lions offered their obeisance to Bhagawan. Then a breathtaking feat of pillar crossover, as it is called in Chinese parlance was achieved with perfection. After offering their obeisance to Bhagawan, the Prasanthi Lions departed from the performing area.

Activity is the only passport to happiness. What followed was symmetric movement on poles. The focus of attention then shifted to two giant wheels each weighing two tonnes each. The performing students saluted Bhagawan from atop the wheel. Feats like hanging with their head downwards, headstand, Padmasana and Chakrasana were performed from the giant wheels with adroitness. Bend the body, mend the mind and end the senses. A scintillating display of acrobatics like snooping nosedive, acrobatics on rings, on cartwheels and jumping over fire was displayed by the students. Playing drums with ease and exchanging drums without missing a beat was the next performance.

When the going gets tough, only the tough gets going. Students climbed smooth slippery logs of wood and performed various Asanas. Calling themselves Delta Force Warriors, these indomitable warriors made rhythmic movements. The next performance was display of Yogasanas with Siva Tandava dance in the background. A delightful mix of items followed – shooting balloons in the air, balancing on moving wheels, dunking of basketball in the basket with hurdles at every step and forming pyramids was displayed by the students.

At the end of the performance, the staff of Prasanthi Nilayam campus marched to the performing area carrying flags while students carried beautiful portraits of Bhagawan and sets used during the performance to pay their heartfelt obeisance to Bhagawan.

The last programme of the morning session was presented by the students of Anantapur campus of the Institute. The theme of their presentation was Unity of Religions. “Religions are many but goal is one. Clothes are many, but yarn is one. Jewels are many, but gold is one. Cows are many, but milk is one. Beings are many, but breath is one. Stars are many, but sky is one. Castes are many, but humanity is one.” “Let us all move together, let us all grow together, Let us all stay united and grow in intelligence together Let us live together with friendship and harmony.” A lively performance of gymnastics followed. Acrobats performed gymnastics on top of jeeps like Sarvangasana, lotus formation, students perched on the sides of a pole while performing chakrasana and another student made a flying fish formation on the top of the pole. Cartwheel, headstand, Christmas tree formation, Dhanur Asana, revolving on stick, were some of the feats performed with dexterity, skill and balance by the students of Anantapur campus. Truly, the students should be having nerves of steel and muscles of iron to perform such feats. Of course, their love for Bhagawan and His grace has made such stupendous feats possible. The next item was flag march with flags of various hues. The last item of their performance was a dance coupled with rhythmic movements on hoops. Students strapped huge beautiful butterflies on their bodies and performed an undulating dance. Unity leads to purity and purity to divinity was their motto. All the students assembled to pay their obeisance to Bhagawan. Thus, ended a memorable morning programme.

In the evening, Bhagawan arrived in the stadium at 4.00 p.m. The Primary School students gave a unique welcome to Bhagawan. As Bhagawan’s car was nearing the stage, a few students clinging one on another walked ahead of the car giving an appearance of contortionists. After Bhagawan reached the dais, tiny tots offered bouquets to Him. The first item of their performance was a dance by primary school girls welcoming Bhagawan with the song, “Prasanthi Vasa Swagatam, Puttaparthi Pureesa Swagatam, Swagatam, Suswagatam.” Suddenly hordes of Vanara army came out of shells and swarmed the performing area with mace in their hands. They performed a lively dance and opened scrolls of Bhagawan’s picture signifying they have Bhagawan in their heart of hearts. The climax was the entry of Rama and Lakshmana amidst the Vanara hordes.

The students displayed wonderful show of skill and balance through their gymnastic performance. Christening themselves Sai Wheels, three students catching each other rolled on the ground giving the appearance of a wheel. They also offered Pranams to Bhagawan by admirably balancing one on another. There was a virtual riot of colours when students in their yellow dress with lamps in front of them performed a dance. Then the students performed a lively dance in their dazzling silver and blue dresses. A group of roller skaters performed heroic stunts on skates like jumping one over the other, crossing obstacles on skates. The students performance left the audience in amazement at their skill and perfection. The Primary School students too like their seniors did wonderful feats on slippery poles. They made beautiful formations, precariously balancing themselves on stomach on top of the pole, balancing head downwards and sliding in the same direction. The feat of balancing on the pole with legs and holding a flag won repeated plaudits from the audience. The next item was a dance by tiny tots in their sparkling yellow dress with large flowers strapped on their bodies.

The items kept coming one after another like a cascade. Dexterous balancing on ropes was the next item. Hanging with head downwards, Shavasana on ropes from a great height, somersaulting on ropes were some of the feats performed by the students. And what not, a human hoop was formed and boys started jumping through the hoop. The last item was a dance by Primary School girls dressed as angels and in dresses representing clouds. Their breathtaking performance ended with final formation of all the students offering obeisance to Bhagawan. A touching song was played in the background: “We all have come to sing. We love you dear Sai. Having found such loving God, we have only to rise and shine.”

As the Primary School students were leaving the performing area, the students of Sri Sathya Sai Deenajanoddharana Pathakam were getting ready with their performance. This particular project was initiated by Bhagawan as He is the refuge of the forlorn. Bhagawan has given them food, raiment and shelter and also deposited 1 lakh rupees for each boy. They are given training even in computers. Their performance was christened Chadarang – a form of warfare where transformation is achieved without elimination, the enemy is subdued without killing.

A war ensues between black soldiers on one hand whose only goal is annihilation and are the symbol of egoism and white soldiers. Discrimination is better than valour. Forgive and forget is the watchword. At the end, the white king forgives the black king and there is peace. A song “Love is God, love is life, love is everything is played in the background. Then one of the inmates of the Ashram narrated their deplorable condition before coming under the loving care of Bhagawan. Bhagawan has taken them in His fold and has given them everything for their sustenance. He also gave instances of how some inmates were cured of Tuberculosis and Cancer completely. They are now able to read, write and sing Bhajans.

The last group to perform for the day was from the Brindavan campus of the Institute. Strength and valour, beauty and grace – these were the hallmarks of their programme. The first item was Dragon dance. Tone the body to realise the goal of life. The dragon’s pursuit of the pearl symbolises the humanity’s untiring pursuit of perfection in life. The dance requires team work, agility and strength of arms. Swirling the dragon throughout the performing area, they performed the dance with aplomb, winning time and again applause from the audience.

The next performance was a medley of different types of martial arts like Kalarippayattu, Karate, stick fight and fight with mace. Kalarippayattu is the martial art form from the State of Kerala. Efficient swordsmanship is the pinnacle of Kalarippayattu. The artiste requires agility and strength for this martial art. According to legend this martial art was brought by Parasurama to earth.

This art began with Pranams to God. The students displayed various Katas in Karate gracefully. Karate helps in eliminating weakness and indecisiveness in the mind. Then there was a display of stick fight, fight with flashing steel and fight with mace. The main emphasis of this performance was how the mind and body reacts in unison instinctively to face the opponent. A wonderful display of blindfolded wielding of Nunchaku followed. The agility of the performers was a sight to watch. The key to success in martial arts is reading the mind of the opponent. The last item of their performance was display of sheer human raw power. They jumped through rings, crossed human hurdles of a few boys and broke pots with lethal power. To crown it all, the students smashed blazing tiles with hand. The Brindavan campus students’ performance ended with final formation and offer of obeisance to Bhagawan. After Arati, Bhagawan left for His abode from the Stadium at 6.30 pm.

Thus, ended a memorable, outstanding and remarkable Sports and Cultural Meet in Prasanthi Nilayam.