Swami in Kodaikanal
Magic of Kodai
Imagine! Early morning
you are sitting just in front of Swami's bedroom, Swami
comes out of His room and then standing beside you (His
robe touching your shoulders) looks out of the window
and softly and sweetly hums a divine tune! Or, imagine
Swami narrating jokes and humorous anecdotes and smiling
and laughing for more than an hour and you are sitting
there right in front feasting on this glorious sight!
Or, imagine Swami pretending He needs help and asking
for your hand and then walking a few steps, His soft and
tender palm holding your hand! Or, imagine Swami talking
about Lord Rama and then in a jiffy waving His hand and
producing a beautiful medallion with Rama's portrait n
it just in front of your eyes and saying, "Look, this is
how Rama looked when He was about to be crowned"!
Or, ..or, imagine you
are in the plane and Swami walking on the aisle after
take-off and coming near you and enquiring if you are
comfortable and then asking for your palm and filling it
with chocolates! Or, imagine Swami rocking on the
tastefully decorated swing and listening to your songs
most delightfully! And even giving rhythm to your song
by playing the cymbals in perfect synchronization with
your music! Or, imagine going with Swami to the highest
point in a serene hill station - you are standing in the
midst of a cloud - and there Swami posing with you for
an exclusive photograph! Or, imagine…well this could go
on and on. For, this is the Lord's Divine Play, most
blissful, ever rejoicing, never ending. And this is just
a glimpse. A glimpse of the glorious saga that unfolds
when Swami is in "Sai Shruti", His picturesque
abode in Kodai Kanal.
Tucked away among the
Palani Hills of Tamil Nadu, in South India, and
jealously guarded like a prized jewel by the dark
forests, is this heavenly hill station of Kodaikanal. In
fact, the name itself, in Tamil means "Gift of the
Forest". You could not have imagined a more provocative
and appropriate name for this quaint, clean and green
little hill station where the air is intoxicating, the
scenery breathtakingly beautiful, and the serenity
seldom found in other hill stations. No wonder this
exquisite locale has been the Lord's choice to be His
playground summer after summer!
At 2133 m above sea
level and 120 kms from Madurai is located this lovely
hill station in the southern crest of the upper Palani
Hills in the Western Ghats. They say, the best way to
spend time here is to just be here and appreciate the
beauty. Now, what if you are there enjoying the beauty
of Kodai and along with it the beauty of its creator
too! Well... that is the magic of being in Kodai during
the Lord's visit here, because the whole place
transforms into a dream world. And if you are someone
picked up by Swami to be in His troupe, you have an
opportunity that has no equal. It is the fulfillment of
your prayers of a million life times!
Imagine Swami coming
near you while you are having lunch and the Divine
Mother asking for an extra helping of your favourite
dish to be served to you as you gaze at His
compassionate form! Or, imagine you are walking with
Swami on the manicured lawns and suddenly there is a
small breeze and with great joy you watch the wind
playing with Swami's silken copious hair! Or, imagine
you are in a sedan behind Swami's car and as Swami's car
passes, you witness the devotees' joy and thrill – some
crying in excitement, some hugging each other for they
have caught a glimpse, some still in awe and disbelief,
some jumping in joy!
Or, imagine Swami
filling your hand with currency and then asking you to
go for shopping, boating and horse-riding! And not only
that - when you come back, enquiring in detail about
your purchases and your rides and as you are narrating,
revealing His omniscience so casually, so
unceremoniously! Or, imagine early morning Swami coming
to you and enquiring if you had good sleep and rest and
then all of sudden producing a big resplendent diamond
and then asking, "Come on! Who wants to take it?"
...Well, these are the kind of experiences and ecstasies
that Swami's visit to Kodai Kanal is composed of. The
whole ambience becomes so very divine, so full of
delight and full of bliss.
After a hiatus of a
year, Swami visited Kodai this April-May to the delight
of the devotees, students, Kodai's residents and Mother
It all started on the
19th of April when Swami emplaned from Puttaparthi
around 12.30 pm in an Indian Airlines Flight to Madurai.
The plane landed at Madurai in an hour and hundreds had
gathered at the airport for a glimpse. And there was an
even bigger crowd waiting for Him at a bungalow in
Gangavarapatti where He was supposed to stop over for a
while. Swami and the boys reached there in an hour.
After the boys had their lunch there, Swami came out of
the bungalow, blessed the waiting devotees, enquired
with the boys if everything was alright and the journey
resumed. The rest of the 120 kms to Kodai Kanal was to
be on road.
Behind Swami's car
followed the students' bus. The boys could not wait to
get there. There was joy inside and joy outside. The
panorama outside the bus's window through the turns and
curves of the Ghat road was exhilarating. What a relief
it was to leave the hot, dusty plains behind and drive
up into the cool hills! They watched the vegetation
gradually change from palm-fringed paddy fields to wild
brush with flaming blossoms to plantations interspersed
with stately silver oaks. And driving higher, it was
such a rejuvenating experience when the cool mountain
air brushed their cheeks! The whole countryside, dotted
with wildflowers in jeweled colors, magenta and purple,
was truly a breathtaking sight. But the boys' thoughts
were not on the glorious mountain outside the window but
on the glorious days that were to come inside Sai
increased every passing second in their hearts as the
destination got closer and closer. At about 7 pm, they
reached the hallowed hill station. All the boys alighted
from the bus and stepped into "Sai Shruti" and
good gracious! Swami was there waiting for them! Their
hearts pumped with delight for all the thirty seven knew
they had stepped literally into Sai's own home! They
were to live almost every moment with Him in His
beautiful abode for heaven knows how many blessed days!
The Silent Host
boys had settled down comfortably in Kodai, from the
third day onwards Swami would send them for a walk every
morning during the rest of their stay there. It was to
perhaps to exercise their bodies, energize their senses
and enliven their spirits in the early morning cool and
sylvan surroundings of the Kodai Lake. Swami played a
perfect host. To Him the hundred and odd troupe of boys,
a few kids and elders were guests and His love and
concern for them was unbounded. On the second day of
their walking, as the boys went towards the lake in the
morning, the compassionate Lord sent a vehicle with
instructions to follow the last boy walking around the
lake and to be of help if any boy felt tired or needed
any aid. The boys actually did not know this and found
this out only after they questioned some elders about
the vehicle following them behind slowly every morning.
God loves to do things silently.
returned from the walk, Swami came out of His room,
spent quite some time with them, talking and smiling,
and then went to the small balcony in front of the
Sai Shruti entrance. Thousands had gathered since
early morning, draped in shawls and sweaters, braving
the cold and mist, for a glimpse of their Lord in the
emerald hills. When Swami came out of Sai Shruti,
you could see the faces of devotees saying they wanted
nothing else. As Swami slowly walked down the Sai
Shruti slope, His face, fresh as a beautiful
morning rose, the soothing morning light reflecting
love, grace and goodness from His immaculate face …the
green background of the Kodai hills and the
vibrant-coloured flowers of Sai Shruti creating
an alluring milieu…it was such a glorious sight! The
Lord, looking so radiant and full of beauty, completely
one with nature.
And to add to all this
was the mild breeze playing with His shining , supple
hair and Swami gently moving them away from His radiant
face as if persuading them to stop caressing Him and
allow Him to confer His loving glances on His devotees
uninterruptedly…. As He moved down the slope, He was
getting closer and closer to the devotees, little by
little and for every devotee, you could see it on their
faces, it was the sweet fulfillment of a penance.
After a while, Swami
got into the white golf cart and slowly moved towards
the devotees. Swami's car passed so close! There was
almost no barrier between the devotee and the Lord. And
Swami looked so resplendent, so very compassionate,
accepting letters from as many as possible from the 1 st
row, 2 nd row, even the 3 rd row, sometimes asking for
the letters from the rows even behind. He was just
giving out joy and the cup of every devotee's heart was
full. For more than half an hour, sometimes nearly an
hour, He was out with the devotees listening to the
prayer of somebody, blessing the child of the second
one, materializing a beautiful ring for someone here, a
shining bracelet for someone there…everyday He was
giving away gifts, speaking so affectionately to an old
woman, smilingly blessing and conferring gifts to the
small children who had come from a Vedic school, a
recognizing glance to an old devotee… in the words of a
student, "Swami gave Himself away completely, especially
to the devotees".
In fact, one particular
evening when it started pouring just before Bhajans and
the devotees could not get inside the Bhajan hall, Swami
Himself went outside and stood there giving Darshan
to the devotees during the whole Bhajan session. He
stood there radiating His love for nearly half an hour.
Not only that, He asked for arathi to be given there,
outside in front of the devotees, while the boys were
singing Bhajans inside the Bhajan hall. That was His
immense love for the devotees. He was just reciprocating
their deep love for Him, as He, we know, is just a pure
morning Darshan, Swami gave His time to the
students inside the Sai Shruti. On the first
day, He was just giving away things: blankets, cameras
and clocks to soaps and towels. He gave everything that
they would need for a comfortable stay and even said
very lovingly, "You came here with less luggage,
but will return with double". For the last 15
days, I have been making arrangements for all the things
that have to be given to you. It is very cold during the
nights here so I have got special Korean blankets for
you." Every boy was choked with emotion. Who would not
be? It was no ordinary love, it was Love cleaned of all
selfishness and multiplied a million times!
There were days when
Swami was reminiscing His old devotees like the Rajah of
Venkatagiri, a great devotee, who would roll on the
ground as Swami's car had just passed to sanctify
himself; and the old time devotee Smt. Kamala Kotnis;
His visit to the valley of Kashmir and how all the
people in the troupe would struggle to keep pace with
Swami's speedy steps; His days in Venkatagiri and how
the then Transport Commissioner of that area, Mr.
Hanumantha Rao, baffled with Swami's driving skills
awarded Him Driving License when He was only 12!
Another day it was how,
years ago, people would gather around Him wherever He
got down in Madras (now Chennai) assuming Him to be a
film star! And earlier how He used to have breakfast in
Puttaparthi and lunch in Madras, driving Himself
270miles at a go at His swift pace! And the days of
World War II, when He was in Madras, the M-10 fighter
planes, the bombs and the siren…; how He got the
just-born Sai Geeta (His pet Elephant) in His own
entourage from the Bandipur forest after her mother was
cruelly killed by elephant-hunters, and how Sai Geeta
would go around everywhere inside the ashram including
One session was
entirely devoted to 'Food and Hygiene'. Swami, in
detail, elaborated on what, when and how much should one
eat, giving examples from His own life. Recollecting His
own childhood He narrated the incident when He would
make Rasam (a kind of soup) for His body's grandfather,
Sri Kondama Raju, and how all the village would be lined
up front of His small house for a little portion of that
preparation because of its irresistible aroma, fine
taste and medicinal properties.
Another day it was on
religion and about Sikhism, in particular. He explained
in detail the five important things for Sikhs and
recollected with great enthusiasm His visit to
Chandigarh many years back where a group of four strong
Sikh devotees lifted His car and put it on the stage
when the crowd around Swami's car became unmanageable.
There were quite a few
morning sessions when Swami would permit students to
sing and they would enthrall everybody with their
beautiful rendering of timeless devotional compositions.
Swami would graciously accept the cymbals from one boy
and start giving beat to the music most wonderfully.
Hours would pass like this and He would involve Himself
completely with their singing, sometimes asking them to
stop and enquiring the meaning of the song, or who
taught them, or if they could sing that again or if they
know a particular song, or if they know the raga and the
beat and so on. As one boy put it, "Swami is truly
Ganapriya i.e., Great Lover of Music". And Swami sealed
the issue when He said, "Music is God's Love".
Later, Swami rewarded the two student singers by
slipping beautiful emerald rings onto their fingers and
the boy on the keyboard who was also a singer was gifted
with a gold bracelet and a nine-gemmed ring. A perfect
example of how one can win the Lord's heart with
heartfelt music. And Swami even elucidated in detail all
the gems that make the nine-gemmed ring with their names
For the boys, it was a
continuous learning experience. During one morning
session, Swami asked one boy, "Where are you from?" He
said, " Bangalore". He then asked, "Where in Bangalore?"
to which the boy mentioned the street. Then Swami said,
"There is a temple near it, isn't it?" "Yes, Swami" he
nodded a bit amazed at His omniscience. Swami then
inquired, "How far is it from your house?" The boy said,
"Just 2 minutes, Swami". To this Swami said, "This is
not the right way to answer. Whenever anybody asks for
distance you should answer in miles or kms, not in units
of time as the time taken will differ with the mode of
travel. Let people judge the time depending on their
conveyance". How down to earth He gets to teach us small
but significant things!
There were morning
sessions which were full of laughter. Swami would ask an
elder or a boy without a musical voice to sing and the
whole group would burst into laughter. Another day there
was the game of passing the parcel where a parcel would
be circulating in a group and as the music stopped the
person holding the parcel is supposed to open the box
and pick up a chit and do what is written there. Swami
would take the chit from the boy and read out for all to
hear. It was another very amusing session.
One very memorable
session was dedicated to the small kids in the group.
Swami had said the previous day that there are a lot of
nice stuffed toys available in Kodaikanal and the next
day there were a number of tigers and lions, dogs and
bears, big and small, bright and light on the table.
When Swami came, like a loving mother, He asked the kids
in the group to pick their choice. They rushed and
picked up one each. After each one selected his/her toy,
he/she came to Swami and showed their well-chosen toy.
Swami would take the toy and just like an innocent one
would begin to explore and admire the tiger or the lion,
then talk to the kid, make some sweet comments and
finally pose for a photograph with the kid along with
his/her favourite animal. As this was going on, each one
present there could not but recollect the famous
declaration of Swami – "When among men, I am man; when
among women, I am a woman; when among children, I am a
On the Hill Top
On the 21
st afternoon Swami took all the boys to the Hill Top
building, the highest point in Kodai Kanal. There was an
elderly devotee whom Swami had spotted during
Darshan time and had brought him along. The
devotee, overwhelmed by Swami's love and kindness, said,
"Swami, I am beholden to you! So graciously you
recognized me in the big crowd!" To this, Swami, casting
a very benign look on him, said, "Dear one, when
I come as Prema Sai, even then I will recognize you."
That is the bond between the devotee and the Lord!
The boys had a
beautiful session with Swami on that old but elegant
building full of woodwork. Swami, sitting on the swing
and asking elders to sing who have never sung in their
life… it was a very amusing session. The boys sang
heartwarming songs. And after that, an unforgettable
banquet on the high balcony overlooking the beautiful
greenery of the Kodai hills was like icing on the cake.
And Swami's love was
not restricted to students or devotees alone. That
afternoon, Swami beckoned all the gardeners of the Hill
Top building and
blessed them with excellent clothes and gifts. In fact,
in an earlier visit, Swami had materialized a beautiful
ring for one of the gardeners and posed with them for a
lovely snap on the manicured lawns. Swami never forgot
the washer men or the drivers. Before leaving, He would
call all of them and give them gifts that they could
have never imagined to possess.
a lot of occasions where the boys could see how the love
and concern of Swami is universal. One morning, after
the session, Swami gave money to every student and told
them to go for shopping. He said, "Look boys, there are
a line of Tibetan shops. They have traveled a long
distance to sell their goods. You all must buy from
them. Buy things for your mother and father. They will
be so happy when you give them gifts blessed by Swami.
The Tibetans are very honest and kind-hearted. They are
very hard-working. When I had been to Kashmir
years back, the Tibetans there offered me a shawl and
when I gave them money, they respectfully refused. Since
then I have been always sending all the boys to
Tibetans. They have lot of love for Swami. When
they know that you are Sai students they will also offer
you a good price." It was as if the shopping was meant
more for the Tibetans than for the boys, one boy
remarked. And after they returned Swami enquired with
all the boys what they had bought, at what price, for
whom and what were the Tibetans saying and so on and
looked very pleased when they said, "This saree is for
my mother", "This shawl is for my father", etc.
On another day Swami
sent all the boys for boating. The boys enjoyed the ride
on the lake. There were fragments of the sun dispersed
through out the lake and there were small pockets of
lotuses strewn all around the circular pond.
Appreciating the beauty of a particular lotus, one boy
thought, "How nice it will be to present it to Swami?"
and immediately plucked the lotus. After they returned,
with a beaming smile on his face, the boy held it out to
Swami and Swami's first reaction was, "Why did you pluck
it out of the lake?" as
if feeling the pain of the lotus deprived of the water
and the sun.
On another day as Swami
was coming from the Dining Hall towards the boys, one
boy hiding his camera behind two other boys was trying
to take a snap and not surprisingly, Swami noticed it
and immediately said, "Boy, you are a camera
chor, but I am Chitta Chor" (meaning, you are a
stealer of photographs but I am the stealer of hearts).
One morning as soon as
Swami opened the door, He said, "P Sushila is gone. Yes,
She is gone." The boys looked at Swami with
utter shock and
disbelief because just yesterday the famous playback
singer was there hale and hearty and many times during
the day Swami had spoken to her. In fact, one boy,
astonished, got up and asked, "Really Swami?" Swami then
keenly looked at the boys and suddenly smiled and said,
"When I am there here how can anything happen to
her? Last night around 10 o' clock she suddenly fell ill
seriously and had to be taken to the hospital. She is
stable now." Neither had Swami come out of His
room the previous night after He retired around 7 pm,
nor had anyone informed Swami about it physically.
That morning Swami went
to the hospital to see her after morning Darshan
and when He returned He narrated with great gusto how
Smt Sushila was so surprised to see Him there by her
bedside and how she was overwhelmed with Swami's love
and just could not contain her joy… The boys could see
Swami was so full of joy and energy when He was
narrating all this. Truly, the devotees' joy is Swami's
Bliss, it is His Food, It is His Mission.
There was another
occasion when Swami went out of Sai Shruti. It
was for a long drive all around Kodai on the 3rd of May.
All along the way He was giving Darshan and
blessing the devotees from the car window. The boys'
following behind in many vehicles were not seeing the
scenic beauty of Kodai but the ecstasy and excitement on
the faces of devotees lined up on either side of the
road. As Swami's car passed by them, some were literally
in the air jumping in joy, some were crying with
happiness and there were some who were in bliss with
their eyes closed.
glorious day during the Kodai Trip was Eswaramma Day.
Since morning Sai Shruti was one busy place as
arrangements were being made for the Narayana Seva
to be held for over 3000 people. It was a miracle that
the weather was perfectly fine with no showers or
thunders that day because the previous two days it was
pouring all the time and the organizers were worried.
And after the serving was over, Swami confirmed it when
He said, "See, nothing happened. The weather was
perfect today. The distribution went on so
smoothly and all the people were so happy with the food
and the clothes."
Much before this, when
Swami was outside giving Darshan and overseeing
the preparations, there was one senior devotee who was
inside Sai Shruti and the thought passed in his
mind, "What am I doing here when Swami is outside. If
only Swami calls me I could go out and have His
Darshan." And just then his son who was outside
with Swami came to him and to his utter amazement said,
"Swami is calling you." His joy knew no bounds. He was
as much stunned as he was overjoyed at Swami's
omniscience and benevolence!
The whole morning the
boys spent preparing food plates inside the Bhajan hall
and then passing it outside through a human chain. Swami
came there and was extremely pleased with their work.
After the distribution was over and the boys were with
Swami again, with much concern in His voice Swami said,
"Boys must be very tired". He then lovingly distributed
pens individually to every boy so that the joy of
receiving the gift from Swami's hand probably would
reduce the tiredness of their bodies. And it surely did.
The boys were full of smiles.
That morning Swami
informed all the boys that the next day would be the
last day of their stay there and they would be leaving
to Madurai the next day and from there in flight to
Bangalore. All the boys were obviously disappointed. In
the afternoon, however, as soon as Swami opened the
door, He said, "Anyayam Aayipoyindi (Something terribly
wrong has happened). There is no flight for us to go
tomorrow. We have to go today itself. Even today, there
is only a 20-seater plane. Have you all packed?" The
boys were shocked. "You all have to go by bus. Even I
will travel in bus. All the elders and kids will go in
the small plane." The boys did not know what to say.
They just stared at Swami. The air was tense and there
was silence. And then suddenly Swami laughed and said,
"I was just joking", and then came the golden words,
"Once I decide something, is there anybody who
can contest it?" What a revelation! What
enacting by the Divine Director!
After this small divine
drama, the whole troupe went to Mr. Srinivasan's house
where Swami spent almost an hour recollecting days when
He had stayed in that house and sat next to the
fireplace in the corner of drawing room. The boys along
with Swami had refreshments there and returned to
Sai Shruti to see a nice and entertaining play
entitled "Kaliyuga Nachiketa" by the Bal Vikas
children of Tamil Nadu.
7th May- Precious Moments...
special moment in every Kodai trip for every student is
the chance to pose individually with Swami for a very
memorable snap. It was already the 6 th of May, their 18
th day with Swami and still no photograph with Swami.
The boys were to leave the next day and Swami had
somehow never allowed the photograph session to happen.
Sometimes He would say, "Not today", at other times,
"There is not enough light now" and so on. Another day
He said, "You want my photo? Take", and then stood
immediately in attention position like a disciplined
soldier ready to be shot, but no posing with the boys.
But on the final day, when the boys prayed and sang a
stirring song, He just gave in. "Are the cameras
ready? I am ready" He said with a beaming
smile. "It is probably the reward for the service that
we did yesterday during Narayana Seva," this
was the thought on every boy's mind.
And He rewarded them
profusely. Every boy got a snap kneeling beside Swami's
sofa. Their last wish was fulfilled. But Swami did not
stop at that. He stood up and walked to the point in the
terrace where the Kodai Lake came nicely as the backdrop
and posed again with every boy! Every boy got a bonus
snap holding Swami's hand and standing beside Him. And
it did not stop there too. This was followed by group
photos, photos of boys in pairs and then some lovely
shots of Swami with the background of the Kodai Lake.
It was a great day for
devotees too. For, from below they could have
Darshan of Swami for more than an hour. It was a
lovely day, the sky was clear and Swami was so beautiful
with the bright halo of hair. The boys sang heartrending
songs expressing their love and gratitude. Swami blessed
them all and told them to have breakfast and get ready
to leave. There was so much joy, yet so much sadness.
What a great climax for such a wonderful trip! Swami had
preserved these moments for the last day perhaps to
lessen the grief.
Around 8.30 in the
morning the convoy started from Kodai Kanal and by two
in the afternoon Swami was in Madurai. He went to
'Ananda Nilayam', His beautiful abode in Madurai where
there were thousands waiting for a glimpse.
Incidentally, Swami inaugurated this beauty of a
building when he had stopped in a similar fashion in
1999, though He was en route Kodai then. Impressed by
the architectural beauty of the structure Swami then had
said in Telugu, "Andam Anandam" i. e., "Beauty
and Bliss" and had named the building "Ananda Nilayam"
(meaning, 'The Abode of Bliss') to the joy of Tamil Nadu
devotees who had been praying to Swami since His arrival
to christen the new building. After a brief stop over
there, Swami and the whole troupe moved towards the
Madurai airport. The plane left around 4 pm and Swami
was in Bangalore by 5 in the afternoon.
The divine odyssey had
ended. All good things must come to an end. But the
timeless precious memories remain. Memories that are
more valuable than all the wealth of the world. Memories
that can inspire you for a whole life time. Memories
that will stand by you whether you are in pleasure or
E-Magazine, July 2005