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Report on Ganesha Chaturthi Celebrations – 18th September, 2004

The festival of Ganesha Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chaturthi is one of the most popular festivals among Hindus. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, is one of the most interesting and important Gods in the Hindu pantheon who is worshipped as 18th Morning - Bhagawan granting Darshan in Sai Kulwant Hallthe remover of obstacles and difficulties, and one who bestows Buddhi (intellect) and Siddhi (spiritual powers). Traditionally, any activity, be it worldly or spiritual, begins with an invocation to Him.

On the morning of 18th September, Bhagawan arrived at the Sai Kulwant Hall at 7 a.m. amidst Vedic chants; all the devotees and students feasted on the beautiful divine form and filled their hearts with joy. Soon, Bhagawan was seated on the dais and the proceedings of the day commenced. Bhagawan blessed four speakers to address the gathering that morning. The first speaker was Sri Deepak Anand, a research scholar in the Department of Business Management of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam Campus. Sri Anand narrated a few of his personal experiences that confirmed his faith in Bhagawan as the ‘Sarvadevata Swaroopa’ (embodiment of all names and forms of Divinity). On one occasion, when he was praying fervently to Lord Hanuman atop the hill in the Vidyagiri Stadium at Prasanthi Nilayam, the question arose in his mind as to who was receiving his prayers – Lord Hanuman or Bhagawan. Just then, Bhagawan unexpectedly arrived at the stadium and drove up to Sri Anand and blessed him, as if to acknowledge that it was He who was receiving his prayers.

The second speaker, Sri Shashank Shah, a student of the M.Phil programme in the Department of Business Management, narrated a beautiful experience of Swami Amritananda, a disciple of Ramana Maharishi. When he was seven years old, he had performed a particular ritualistic worship of Lord Ganesha, the result of which, the Shastras (Scriptures) declared, would be the vision of Lord Ganesha in his golden-hued form. Many decades later, when he came to Bhagawan, he was called in for an interview. There, Bhagawan reminded him about the worship that he had performed as a young boy and asked him whether he had obtained the promised result. Swami Amritananda said that he was only a child then and may not have been deserving of it. But Bhagawan said that what the Shastras declare must come true and then granted him the vision of the golden-hued Ganesha, and thus demonstrated that He is verily Lord Ganesha.

The next speaker was Sri Bharath Kumar, a final year student of the MBA programme of the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus of the Institute. He began with the
18th Morning - A student addressing the gathering in the Divine presence Sanskrit quote – “Aakashad pathitham thoyam yatha gacchathi sagaram. Sarva deva namaskaraha Keshavam prati gacchathi”, meaning, just as the rain water that falls from the skies finally merges in the sea, the obeisance offered to all the deities ultimately reach Lord Keshava. He recounted an experience of his where the supplication to Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati was answered by Swami, and thus confirmed his belief in the identity of Lord Venkateshwara and Lord Sayeeshwara. He concluded his speech with an exhortation to all the devotees to engage in the Sadhana (spiritual practice) of Namasmarana, the chanting of God’s name.

Sri S.V.Giri, the Vice-Chancellor of the Institute, was the next speaker. He mentioned that Bhagawan always holds Lord Ganesha and Lord Hanuman as role models for all the students and elaborated on the qualities that these divine personalities embodied that must be imbibed by everyone. Ganesha, he said, stood for the balance between knowledge and its application in practical life, as symbolized by the huge form of Lord Ganesha riding a tiny mouse. Lord Hanuman combined action and intelligence and was thus an able instrument in the divine hands of Lord Rama. The Vice-Chancellor concluded his talk with a prayerful request to Bhagawan to bless everyone with His Divine Discourse.

Bhagawan commenced his discourse with a Sanskrit saying which extols a virtuous son as one who brings repute not only to himself, but also to everyone
18th Morning - Bhagawan delivering His Divine Discoursein his lineage, just as the sun and moon illumine the entire world by their light. Lord Ganesha, He said, was such an ideal son. Though he had no Guru or a leader above himself, he loved and obeyed his parents. To illustrate this, Bhagawan narrated a story where Lord Shiva and Parvati held a competition between their two sons, Ganesha and Subramanya, to see who could circumambulate the entire world fastest. While Subramanya set out on his vehicle – the peacock, Ganesha circumambulated his parents saying that his parents were his world, and hence was declared the winner. Bhagawan exhorted everyone to love and respect their parents and obey their commands. Even if they appear to be angry, one must realize that they are verily the embodiments of love, and that they always act in the best interests of their children. The same is true of God and God-realized persons too, He said.

Bhagawan remarked that nowadays, unfortunately, people have neglected the worship of Lord Ganesha. He told that everyone must propitiate Lord Ganesha,
18th Evening - A scene from the presentation made by the students follow his example and thereby attain success. He concluded his discourse with the Bhajan – “Prema muditha man se kaho…”

In the afternoon, the senior students of the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus of the Institute presented a programme on the ‘Navavidha Bhakthi’ – the nine-fold path of devotion. Bhagawan, in His discourses, has often mentioned that the ‘Navavidha Bhakthi’ consisting of Shravanam (listening), Keerthanam (singing), Vishnu Smaranam (contemplation of Vishnu), Paada Sevanam (service to the Lotus feet), Vandanam
18th Evening - Arati being offered to Bhagawan(salutation), Archanam (worship), Daasyam (servitude), Sneham (friendship) and Atma Nivedanam (self-surrender) is the royal road to salvation. The presentation was a medley of songs, sthothrams (hymns) and skits that lucidly illustrated the meaning, significance and practical aspects of each of these nine steps and related it to the worship of Ganesha.

This festival is usually celebrated over a period of a few days when idols of Lord Ganesha are worshipped in every home and workplace all over the country. At Prasanthi Nilayam too, the students and staff of Bhagawan’s institutions erected pandals (makeshift altars) where Lord Ganesha’s idols were installed and worshipped with great ardour for three days. On the third day, 20th September, the idols were taken out in a procession in grandly decorated chariots to the Sai Kulwant Hall where Bhagawan blessed them all. Thereafter, the idols were taken to a nearby pond and immersed amidst cries of “Jai” and prayers to visit next year too.

Jai Sai Ram!