Gurupurnima 2002 at Prashanti
Notes from a devotee from USA
24 July 02 Wednesday Prashanti Gurupoornima
Gurupoornima 2002 was low key compared to some of the
other festivals I’ve attended at Prashanti -- but not the crowds!
There were plenty of devotees! I left my room at 2:20 am for the
token lines. When my friend and I got to the main street of
Prashanti (where the autos come in), the token line was already up
to Round house 3. There were only a few seva dals on duty at that
time, so one of them asked me to direct ladies to a second line. I
did that for a some time then, they had us move into two lines as
more seva dals arrived to help. We all sat for over an hour and a
half before they let us move up to where the token lines normally
line up (by the Poornachandra Auditorium) at 4 am. It was!
surprisingly calm at the front of the line where I was seated. But
the back of the line was a different story! As the women began to
feel they might not get inside the hall or be part of the tokens,
they began to push forward. I was lucky to miss all that. At 4:30
am tokens were pulled and my line was 9. I was through security
and seated by around 5:10 am. By that time the hall was already
1/2 full! I took a seat near the far side aisle and looked around.
A Sai video was playing on the TV monitors for our enjoyment while
we waited. More decorations had been put up in the hall. The
mandir exterior now had new multi colored, multi looped garlands
along the roof edge (hung over the red and gold decorations that
were already there from several days ago). The floral arch of
yesterday had been replaced with a triple arch covered with multi
colored Gerber daisies, red and white tropical flowers and
carnations. The pillars one either side of the arches had been
refreshed with new flowers. Round floral balls hung along the
curved roof edge over Swami’s gold/beige swivel chair. Many more
floral decorations were hung around the hall and on the façade of!
the mandir. The front of the verandah looked like a lush garden.
The gate leading to the Poornachandra Auditorium was decorated
with new mult-colored, multi-looped garlands. A new floral arch
had been placed outside that hall gate and in front of the gate to
Swami’s residence. It was twice as wide as the one that was there
a few days ago. The fence in front of the Poornachandra, the
façade and balconies were lavishly draped with colorful garlands
some looped and some vertical. It looked very rich and colorful.
The arch that was inside the main driveway gate, had been changed
overnight to burgundy with gold letters saying Gurupoornima
Festival on one side and Om Sri Sai Ram on the other. Strings of U
and V shaped flags in red and white with various designs were
strung around the main driveway. There were a number of video
cameras set up to record the event.
By 5:40 am the hall was full. Indian ceremonial music began -
horns and drums. All the lights in the hall were turned on at 6 am.
I could now see that the ceremonial music was coming from the
verandah – all the band members were women! They began to play
Manasa Bhajare. Some of the devotees in the hall started to clap
and sing along.
On the middle of the verandah was a large cylindrical shaped
object covered in orange cloth and tied at the top like a present.
We all wondered what it was. No one knew in the audience. The lady
musicians ended their performance and some men took over (seated
in the main driveway).
The VIP ladies were seated up front near the verandah – some on
the floor and some in white plastic chairs (normally they sit way
over by the gate to the Poornachandra). The verandah itself was
overflowing with VIP men, almost not enough room for them all.
At 6:30 am all the students from the local Sai schools came into
the hall to be seated. I was seated near a TV monitor, so I had
both live and TV views.
At 6:45 am a loud noise began to come from the crowd as the TV
monitors showed Swami coming slowly toward the hall from the
Poornachandra. Then He came into physical view and the noise got
even louder. I could not hear the darshan music. He was followed
by 3 men - one was Indulal Shah and the other two are named
Srinivasan. All three of these men spoke yesterday at the
Valedictory event. In the past, Swami would often be preceded by
one of the Sai School bands and followed by another band - coming
into the hall with great pomp and stirring music. Sometimes even
Sai Gita would come into the hall with the bands following. This
year was very low key.!
Before entering the hall, Swami turned off the carpet and went
over to an area outside the hall where the women line up for
tokens. Ladies were seated there who could not get into the hall
(no more room). Swami kindly went over to give them darshan,
waving a blessing to them several times. Such love. At this point,
some of the ladies in the hall got up on their feet to see what He
was doing. The seva dals had to work to get them reseated, so
everyone in the back could see.
Then Swami came back over to the carpet and into the hall. I could
see that His face was still very swollen, especially on the right
side. He walked along the main aisle between the ladies then, cut
across to the verandah. He stopped to talk to some of the VIPs
along the way. Next, He went over to the orange covered object and
pulled a string to open up the cloth covering. A statue/sculpture
of Swami was revealed. It showed Swami standing on an open lotus,
raising the energy with His right hand and holding a letter in the
other – a classic pose. The crowd gasped and then started to clap.
The statue was a dark gold/bronze color. Swami was very happy with
it and materialized a chain for the sculptor, putting it around
the fellows neck and patting Him gingerly on the arm in a gesture
of appreciation. The fellow (sorry, don’t know his name) smiled
broadly. This is the first official statue made of Swami.
Now the mandir priest began to put garlands on the statue --
first, a long pure white one, then a
shorter red one, and another red one. He started to put on a
fourth red one, but Swami stopped him. Three was enough. (The
priest had an entire plastic bag of garlands, so he took the
remainder back to the mandir.)
At 6:55 am, music came on over the loudspeaker, then singing (Indian
language). Swami went over and sat in His swivel chair. A podium
was brought over and some young male students in white (with a
white cloth and red stripe hanging over their right shoulders)
came up to chant for us. When they finished, they bowed to Swami
The MC (Srinivasan) came up to the podium and introduced two men
who would speak before Swami. The first speaker was Dr. Michael
Goldstein and the second, Sanjay Sahani (not sure of the
spelling). Dr. Goldstein came up to Swami, bowed down and then
went to the podium. His talk was short, only about ten minutes.
Swami listened from His swivel chair, turned slightly to His right,
so He could see Dr. Goldstein.
After Dr. Goldstein finished, Sanjay Sahani came up to Swami, gave
a flower then, went to the podium. His talk was also brief. As he
left the podium and Swami’s desk was being brought out, I noticed
that devotees were peering over the fences that surround the hall.
There were many, many outside – all along the East,West, and North
sides and on the 2nd floor of the East building.
At about 7:30 am, Anil Kumar came up to the podium to translate
for Swami, bowing to Him first for blessing. With His desk in
front of Him, Swami began, singing the introduction as usual. Here
are some highlights (To read the complete Gurupoornima discourse,
click on this link :
During the day, it is the Sun that
sheds its light and helps all the beings in this universe. It is
themoon that shows the path to all the beings in the night time.
It is dharma that shows the light on the path to all the worlds.
It is a true son, who sets a good example – a light for His family
Swami spoke for sometime about a fellow named Karnada (don’t know
the proper spelling). Swami had to repeat this name to Anil Kumar
several times before He was able to understand. Karnada, it seems,
was the first to talk about atoms. Swami spoke at length about
atoms. He said “God is smallest of the small and biggest of the
big. Everyone is a combination of these atoms. Man never made an
attempt to know the mystery of the atom.
He said He has had swelling of teeth for 10 days, but has taken no
medicine. Yesterday, after His discourse and during bhajans, He
said He went inside (the interview room) and focused on all the
prayers that were being said for Him by devotees. Those prayers
were able to help Him and when He woke up the next morning no more
pain whatsoever. I and you are one!
At 8:30 am Swami stopped His discourse and began to sing Vahe Guru
interjecting several verses with the different names of God
including His own (Krishna, Rama, Sathya). Ocassionally He wiped
His mouth off with a cloth.
He stopped singing this bhajan and began to talk again about the
Guru and the So Ham principle. About 8:40 am, He begain to sing
Hari Bhajana Bina, followed by Subrahmanyam. The devotees sang
along enthusiastically. Then, He stopped singing again and had
Anil Kumar make an announcement: There would be a cultural program
in the Poornachandra Hall at 6 pm put on by the Bal Vikas and
devotees of Canada.
He lit 3 arti lamps as we began to sing and the big bell was rung.
While we were singing, Swami went to the back of the verandah and
blessed some of the men there. Then He came back up front bringing
some young boys along. Anil Kumar went back up to the microphone
and spoke first in Telegu, then in English saying that these young
boys were orphans and Swami had adopted them all! He would see
that each had 1 lakh rupees. He would take care of them in every
possible way. The children then filed off the veranda.
Swami went to the interior of the veranda again and lit the candle
on a large cake that was on a table with wheels. Helpers brought
out prasadam in big silver bowls for the school children and VIPs
and a few lucky devotees. Meanwhile, Swami began to hand out gifts
to the VIPs on the veranda from a basket. It was something wrapped
The Indian ceremonial music began again. The male band came around
from behind the mandir on the ladies side with all the orphans
following in a mini parade. They moved in front of the veranda,
then over to the men’s side and disappeared. Swami finished
handing out the gifts and began to walk toward the exit. At the
end of the veranda, He was greeted by two Indian ladies, one held
a ceremonial bowl/pot with a candle stuck in the top for Him to
light. The other had a coconut. He lit the candle then, continued
along the side aisle toward the Poornachandra. The sacred conch
was blown and large cymbols were played. ! ; Guruproonima 2002 had
For the sake of the large crowd of devotees, Swami had several
temporary “canteens” put up at strategic locations throughout the
ashram. Food was available in any of these, as well as the regular
In the afternoon, darshan was back to the normal routine although
the crowds were still very large and filled the hall. It was a hot
day. The TV monitors were still in place and turned on. Swami came
at around 2:30 pm. He walked through the ladies quickly, then up
to the verandah. He had helpers give more prasad to the VIPs and
students while He supervised from the door of the interview room (we
could see this because of the video cameras!). Eventually Swami
went inside and darshan was over.
Bhajans began early (4 pm) because of the cultural program at 6 pm.
I did not attend either bhajans or the cultural program because I
was extremely tired. But, I could hear both events from my room
over the loudspeakers that are set throughout the ashram.
My dears, this has been a most incredible, inspiring and sacred
four days (the conference and Gurupoornima). I hope I was able to
convey some of that to you in these emails.
At His Feet Love,