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Reports of events from the Sai Baba Ashrams

Bheema Ratha Shanthi : 10 th February 2005

Indian culture has at its heart the noble feelings of reverence and gratitude. The many festivals that dot the Indian calendar are all expressions of gratitude to the various elements of the world around us that make our lives pleasant and harmonious, and above all to God whose grace constantly surrounds His devotees protecting them and guiding them. The day of Ayudha Puja during the ten-day Dasara festival, for instance, is dedicated to the worship of the tools, machines and implements that are used in our daily lives. The Vedas too pay homage to Nature in its myriad forms. Reverence to one's elders is given utmost importance in the scriptures, which declare that one's parents are equal to God. The scriptures enjoin various ceremonies to be performed to honour one's parents at various stages in their life. The Bheema Ratha Shanthi is one such ritual worship that is performed when the husband crosses his 70th year. The ritual involves formally reenacting their marriage ceremony and praying for good health and happiness in their lives.

The procession proceeding towards Sai Kulwant Hall

On 10th February, Bhagawan conducted the Bheema Ratha Shanthi for 275 elderly couples from Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi and surrounding villages in a grand function held at the Sai Kulwant Hall. The procession of the couples started from the Pedda Venkama Raju Kalyana Mantapam in Puttaparthi at 7.00 a.m. led by the brass band and Nadasawaram troupe from the Anantapur campus of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, and a group of Banjara dancers with traditional musical instruments.

The beautifully decorated pandals

In Sai Kulwant Hall, where the procession culminated, a small enclosure had been made for every couple with elegant brass railings, and chairs were placed within the enclosure for the couples to sit. This enclosure had been traditionally decorated with plantain and mango leaves. The entire hall seemed awash with brilliant colours, with banners and decorations wherever one turned.

All set

After the couples were seated, the officiating priests began the proceedings by directing them to worship Lord Ganesha. The couples were helped in performing the various rituals by girl students from the Anantapur campus of the University who had been assigned with this duty. The previous evening, these students had received instructions from Bhagawan Himself regarding their duties during the function. The rituals were conducted in the traditional manner as prescribed in the scriptures. On the eve of the grand ceremony, on 9th February 2005, Bhagawan had blessed the couples with ornaments such as gold earrings studded with diamonds, gold bangles, silver anklets along with dhotis, silk saris and glittering garlands to be worn by the couple.

Bhagawan distributing the Mangalasutra to the couples

Bhagawan then went around the hall to each couple and with His own hands presented them with a gold Mangalasutra (necklace to be placed by the husband around the wife's neck), gold rings and silver toe-rings. The couples were also presented watches and silver idols of Lord Narayana and Goddess Lakshmi. One could see tears in their eyes, overwhelmed by the bountiful blessings the Lord had bestowed on them that day. Bhagawan's face too was radiant with joy reflecting the bliss His devotees were experiencing at witnessing the grand function. Even as Bhagawan was blessing each couple thus, the priests explained the significance of this function to the gathering and declared that is was the greatest fortune of these couples to have it conducted by none other than the Poornavatar Himself.

Mangalasutra being tied to the bride

The auspicious moment arrived for the Mangalasutra to be placed round the wife's neck. To the rousing sounds of the Nadaswaram and the intoning of Vedic mantras, the couples reaffirmed their vows to each other and exchanged garlands. Bhagawan sprinkled sacred yellow rice grains on the couples thus sanctifying their marriage. After the ceremony, the couples were provided with a special banquet along with their family members, friends, relatives and all devotees who were fortunate to attend this grand function in the Divine Presence of Bhagawan, in the South Indian Canteen of the Ashram.

Bhagawan granting His Divine Discourse

In the afternoon, Bhagawan blessed the gathering with His Divine Discourse in which He explained the significance of the Bheema Ratha Shanthi. He said that the word Bheema normally signified strength and valour. It does not refer to physical strength but to the enormous will power and the wealth of wisdom that elders possess. He said that the younger generation should pay heed to the words of their elders and pay them their due respect to achieve success in their endeavours.

Ms. Sudha Raghunathan seeking Bhagawans blessings before the concert

Bhagawan's discourse was followed by a music concert by Ms. Sudha Raghunathan, a renowned singer in the Carnatic style of music. Ms. Raghunathan has been a long standing devotee of Bhagawan. In fact, she was saved from a life threatening epileptic fit by Bhagawan when she was a two year old child. Bhagawan appeared in the form of a villager to the sorrowful couple, who were stranded on their way to Bangalore after Bhagawan's birthday celebrations at Prasanthi Nilayam, and revived their child whom they had given up as dead. When they asked the mysterious man his name, he replied that it was Jodi Adipalli Somappa. This name is now recited as one of the 108 names in praise of our Lord Sai. Before the commencement of the programme, Bhagawan materialised a gold chain for the artiste and blessed her. Ms. Sudha Raghunathan delighted the audience with her melodious rendition of kirtanas by Thyagaraja (Brochevarevaru ra?) and Purandaradasa (Jagaddodharana ?) and then went on to sing devotional compositions in Hindi and Tamil and concluded with a Sai Bhajan. At the end of the programme, Bhagawan blessed all the artistes and accepted Arati before retiring to His residence. Thus the curtain came to a close for the grand ceremony.

At a time when society has all but ignored the older generation, Bhagawan is reminding youngsters of the duties and responsibilities they have towards their elders. This was clearly evident from the way the programme was organised under the Divine guidance of Bhagawan. Bhagawan out of His immense love for the welfare of these elderly couples from the villages had taken extra care to depute a team of doctors to conduct medical check up, well in advance of the function, and thus ensuring their participation. Arrangements were also made for their to and fro transportation to make it to the function. Those elderly couples who would find it difficult to walk were provided with wheelchairs for free movement and there were students and sevadals around throughout to take care of them. Indeed, the loving care and the meticulousness with which Bhagawan supervised the arrangements and the unparalleled grandeur of the ceremony are an indication of the reverence and honour that is due to the older generation. It is now for us, His devotees, to carry the mantle of disseminating His message to the world by living our lives by His Word.

Jai Sai Ram!

Source: http://www.srisathyasai.org.in/pages/bheema_ratha_Report.htm

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