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Experiences by Devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba

  Krishna Janmastami at Prasanthi, August 2002

Notes from April on her visit to Prasanthi Nilayam during Krishna Janmastami

31 Aug 02 Saturday 

My Dears, Today was the celebration of Krishna Janmastami at Prashanti. I went early to the morning token lines just in case the crowds somehow got bigger overnight, but they didn’t. It was like a large Sunday in terms of the number of devotees. The hall was not full (at least not on the ladies side). When I got inside after passing through security and took a seat, I looked to see what decorations had been put up during the night. 

The veranda had gold decorations (with red) hanging from the edge of the roof. There were red and gold metallic garlands as well. Under the roof of the veranda were many hanging ornaments of gold and red also. The same gold and red decorations were hung on the balconies and along the roof edge of the Poornachandra. Metallic garlands of red, gold and green had been hung in various designs on the fence that surrounds the hall. The entry gates each had a bunch of banana leaves (gathered at the middle and tied) on either side. The ceiling of the hall had various types of multicolored hanging decorations including red and yellow V and U shaped flags draped across and along the sides of the main driveway. On the veranda was a shoulder high statue of Krishna (blue) with a white garland. The Ganesh statue in the middle had a lovely fresh multi-colored garland. The two front pillars were wrapped in gold ribbon that created diamond shapes. These pillars also had red ornaments hanging down from the top. Swami’s red swivel chair was in the middle front of the veranda with a white pillow and two white handkerchiefs. There were also some flat, woven, red and white decorations hanging on the windows and walls of the mandir. The VIP men had seats on either side of the front portion of the veranda facing in toward Swami’s chair. Some of the VIP ladies had been given seats (in white plastic chairs and on the floor) near the base of the veranda stairs. 

All the Sai students had come for the celebration and were seated in front near the veranda as usual. The female students from Anantapur College had also come for the occasion. The decorations were elegant and tasteful. Two video cameras were set up to document the event. A ceremonial band (all female, dressed in purple) had begun to play around 5:45 am. They were seated on the veranda near the mandir wall. They stopped playing around 6:20 am and left the veranda. There was no more music until darshan which began at 7 am. The ceremonial music began again, this time it came from the loud speakers. 

Swami came slowly into the hall (wearing His usual orange robe) looking out over the crowd. He walked about half way through the ladies section before He stopped to speak to a woman on the aisle (His left). At the end of the ladies, He stopped and spent a few moments looking over at the men and the male students (raising the energy with both hands) before He turned up the driveway to the veranda. He had to walk through the male students to get there, but they happily obliged making a path for Him. When He reached the veranda, three oms came over the loud speakers and music began over the loud speakers - singing by some of the male students. Swami stood looking over the students and the VIPs to the East side of the hall for sometime, then He walked to the West side and stood looking out over the younger students and the ladies before He headed over to His chair. The singing continued. Swami sat in His chair and listened as the students entertained Him with their songs – many about Krishna). The songs would stop rather abruptly, then start again. I was never sure when the program was ending or if it was just a pause between songs! 

Swami kept time with the beat of the music, tapping on the arm of the chair and swaying occasionally. At 7:40 am, a ceremonial band outside the hall could be heard over singing of the students in the hall. Swami got up out of His chair and stood waiting for something. Finally, I could see that it was a procession with Sai Gita at the front.

She came lumbering through the main double gates (where the Rama statue is located) into the hall magnificently dressed in a red and gold outfit (blanket). She had on her long dangling silver earrings (they hang from her ears and almost touch the ground) and a colorful faceplate. She was followed by a group of young men dressed as gopi’s (cow herders). They had various colored cloth bands tied around their heads and brought several cows with them. The ceremonial music and the students singing Krishna bhajans were both going on at the same time, creating quite a loud mix of sound. Sai Gita stopped at the place where the driveway and the main aisle intersect. You could tell she was so happy and excited to see Swami. He came down from the veranda to pet and feed her. Cameras flashed. At this point, many of the ladies in the hall decided to get on their feet to see Swami and Sai Gita. The seva dals had quite a job getting them reseated, but somehow they managed. After feeding Sai Gita a few food balls (these food balls are the size of a brown coconut), Swami walked behind her where the cows and gopis waited. He blessed and fed the cows as more cameras flashed. There were so many men in the driveway, that they completely surrounded the cows and Swami. It was difficult to see what was going on, plus the devotees still kept getting on their feet to see, blocking the view at times. 

At 8:00 am Swami finished with the cows and walked back up the driveway to the veranda. Sai Gita, the cows and the gopis waited in the driveway. Just before Swami reached the veranda, He was met by two boys dressed in costumes as Krishna and Arjuna. They looked really great! Swami made vibuthi for them and had photos taken of the three of them (Swami in the middle). Finally Swami was back on the veranda and prasad in big silver bowls was brought out of the mandir by the college boys. Swami stood on the veranda directing the distribution. There was plenty to go around, so it wasn’t long before I had a sweet in my hand (the kind that has silver foil and nuts). Sai Gita saw Swami on the veranda and began to raise her trunk up to Him. She repeated this several times. It was so endearing to see the love between them When the prasad was almost finished being distributed, the mandir priest lit the arti lamp in the driveway and waved it at the cows and Sai Gita. Bhajans continued. 

Sai Gita trumpeted several times and the sacred conch was blown. Swami sat in His red swivel chair amidst all this action. Sai Gita continued to raise her trunk to Swami and to the crowd. Finally the mandir priest came over with the arti lamp and Swami lit it along with a couple of others and we began to sing the closing prayers arti and lokas. Then, Swami decided to walk back down the driveway to Sai Gita and held her trunk and patted her lovingly. She was in heaven. Cameras flashed. The sweetness of seeing Swami giving Sai Gita such loving, personal attention and caresses touched everyone’s heart. Then Swami headed back up to the veranda and into His office, just as we finished singing the lokas. An announcement was made over the public address system: On the occasion of Krishna Janmastami, our most beloved Bhagavan has graciously consented to bless us with His divine discourse in Sai Kulwant Hall at 3:00 pm. this afternoon. Sai Ram. There was clapping for this. It was 8:30 am. Since Swami was not in sight, the hall began to buzz with activity as devotees began to leave or moved to different seats. The ladies ceremonial band began to play right outside the gate that leads to the Poornachandra Auditorium. The cows and the gopis had left via the main double gates, where they had entered. Sai Gita backed up until she was halfway down the driveway. She stopped there. The other ceremonial band began to play. So there were two bands playing at once. At 8:45 am, Swami began to walk out via the side aisle with His assistant following. At the first pillar past the veranda, He stopped to light an arti lamp for the head of the Anantapur College. As Swami walked down the aisle, He smiled sweetly and blessed all items on His right for the Anantapure College students in the front row. As the ceremonial band played "Govinda Krishna Jai" Swami walked out of the hall. The ladies band stopped playing abruptly – mid-song, because Swami stopped for a moment to be with them. Swami then continued to his quarters and the band began to play again. Darshan was over. 

After leaving the hall, I thought I might see Sai Gita as she walked out of the ashram and over to her enclosure (which is down the road to the South). So, I walked out of the ashram as the ceremonial band (the males) and Sai Gita were slowly leaving Sai Kulwant Hall from the side gate. I positioned myself directly across the street from the Ganesh gate so I had an excellent view. The ceremonial band continued to play as the procession came through the ashram gate. Male seva dals were trying to keep the devotees back so Sai Gita could walk through the crowd. But, everyone wanted to touch her and get close. Some came up quickly patted her and ran back, others touched her feet. By the way, her toenails were painted red and her feet were painted yellow. She was really quite the beautiful lady! As she came out the gate, a group of devotees followed her up the street. The band stopped their music and then it was just Sai Gita walking slowly amidst her admirers, who were still trying to pat her and touch her as she made her back to her "home". She did not seem perturbed by all the people so closely surrounding her. She was very patient and even seemed to enjoy the attention. So ended the morning celebration of Krishna Janmastami 2002. 

At His Feet – Love, April

Source: http://www.geocities.com/saicenter_us/snl/snl_101502.htm

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