Maha Shivarathri Celebrations 30 NEW PHOTOS

Also read: Shivarathri Report 

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Maha Shivarathri Celebrations Update - 23rd & 24th Feb.
At 7:30am, seated majestically on the golden raised chair, Swami arrived and completed His darshan rounds. More than 1000 youth had assembled in the hall to chant the Rudram. Swami took a complete round and then moved to the stage. Along the way, He blessed and cut a huge cake that had been adorned with statues - the one of Rama worshipping the linga being the most prominent. After lighting the candle on the cake, Swami moved out on to the stage. He sat listening to the Rudram chants that were looped over and over again.

After a while, Swami got into His "orchestrator" mode. He told the people chanting in the mikes to stop doing so. He wanted to listen to the strength of the 1000 vocal chords- and they did not disappoint. As the Vedic rumble shook the hall, Swami continued to guide as He said that only those in the back rows must chant. It is not unusual among youth to become back benchers to get away with a lackadaisical attitude. But here that was not the case! Those in the back rows were there simply because all cannot sit in the front rows! (Akin to the philosophy where even a good team loses a game because there can be only one winner!) Building up the crescendo, Swami once again opened the floodgates for the vocal chords as He asked for all to chant in unison. The Primary school students also arrived and joined in. The chorus now seemed complete with the bass, midtones and trebles rocketing high to chant the glory of Rudra on Shivarathri. Wall calendars and prasadam was distributed to all after being blessed by Swami. Swami accepted Arati just after 9 am. Before retiring, Swami told all the youth and students, "Go and eat well. Then sleep and come fresh back here at 3:00". He told the same twice or thrice to different people and it was such aa sweet sight to see Swami enact those instructions as all were beyond the hearing range!

For the evening, anticipating a surge of devotees, arrangements had been made to put up huge screens to show the programmes live to those who could not have a good view from their spot. Such screens were put on both sides, ladies’ and gents’ in the Sai Kulwant Hall and a massicve screen was put up in the Poornachandra Auditorium too. The youth from Karanataka had brough a huge ice-lingam, 5 feet in height, at Swami's residence. It was after 4:15 pm that Swami arrived and He had a complete look at the ice lingam. The University brass band stood in complete attention to escort Swami. But Swami had other plans. He asked the band boys to make way and He proceeded towards the back entrance of the Poornachandra Auditorium! The devotees had assembled there and though a huge screen would show them their Lord, all of us know that the thrill and joy of seeing Him in person is something very special. There was a huge applause and shouts of "Jai Bolo Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ji Ki Jai" rented the air. Everyone were thrilled by this act of Grace. Swami saw the devotees and blessed them with darshan for about 5 minutes. Then He moved into the Kulwant hall, led in procession by the brass band.

Swami was resplendent in a yellow robe, seated on the golden raised chair, and just behind Him, the ice lingam in all its majesty, was wheeled into the Hall. Swami arrived on stage and asked for the ice lingam to be brought up front and placed in such a manner so that all could see it. Then the session began with an address by former Vice Chancellor Sri SV Giri who dwelt upon the greater significance of the sacred night, calling the festivity as a cultural representation of the country, Bharath. Sri. V. Srinivasan, All India President, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations was categorical in expressing the greater benediction that befell on the capacity crowd assembled in Prasanthi Nilayam to celebrate the festivity in His Divine Presence. The third speaker, Mr. Ajith Popat gave an electrifying speech, an appetizer warming up for the lofty Divine Discourse that was in waiting.

As Swami asked for His mikes to be brought, there was a loud cheer of joy and approval. What else can be better than listening to Shiva on Shivarathri? Hailing Mother India and her greater cultural heritage, Swami said that having been born in Bharath, people of the country have the responsibility to upkeep her cultural heritage. Referring to the auspicious Shivarathri night, He was candid in expressing that many nights that we pass could not be compared with the auspicious Shivarathri Night. The holy night should be utilized in chanting His Divine Name. Exhorting to listen to the glory of Lord Shiva, He said, when you spent the night in constant contemplation, it verily becomes Shivarathri. Shiva is beyond physical form. We assume Him a physical form out of our imagination. Hari and Hara are beyond the physical.

Dwelling upon the story wherein Mother Parvathi, being prodded by Goddess Lakshmi, questions Lord Shiva of His odd credentials to be her husband, Bhagawan brought home the point quoting Lord’s reply to Mother Parvathi that Lord was beyond names, caste and lineage; He has no name and no form; He is changeless; He has neither birth nor death; neither beginning nor end; He is eternal and Atma Swarupa. Talking about the greater importance of meditation, He said one should advance through the three levels of concentration, contemplation, and thereafter Meditation. Meditation is resulting out of a steady unwavering mind. True identity with the Divine could be achieved only by sacrificing action leaving the feeling of doer ship. May you experience any amount of discomforts, never give up the consciousness. As a prerequisite to attain peace one needs to start with Sathya and Dharma by rooting out all negative tendencies/qualities.

Referring to all the criticism being poured unto Him, He asserted that He is not affected by any of them and He remains to be the same. He only has Love to give back to all of them as he does not have any trace of hatred or anger. Bhagawan exhorted the assemblage of devotees to follow the path of Sathya and Dharma and to Love All and Serve All. When Sathya joins Dharma there comes Prema…While singing Prema Muditha Manase Kaho…think of Him, meditate upon His Name wholeheartedly with Love. He concluded the Divine Discourse calling upon the devotees to Be Happy.

The discourse concluded and Swami asked for the bhajans to begin. Swami wanted the Aarthi to be performed! The priest went in to get the Aarthi apparatus. Meanwhile a member of the bhajan group requested Swami for the chance to sing bhajans all night. Swami then smiled and agreed. (It was with goosebumps that a realization comes over us. Many a times we take things for granted as "they are scheduled" - like the chance to sing bhajans throughout the night at Prashanti Nilayam. Every darshan or every bhajan session is a Divine gift being showered on us. Small acts like Swami asking for the Aarthi even before the bhajans can begin remind us and awaken us to the great good fortune we are all receiving! And so the bhajans began. Swami sat for a few bhajans and then retired into Yajur Mandir even as the bhajans went on in the Kulwant hall.

The next morning, Swami arrived in magical maroon! The blessing of seeing Him in this attire first, once again went to the devotees waiting eagerly in the Poornachandra auditorium. Swami sweetly made His way towards them and granted darshan there before heading to the Kulwant hall. By 8:30am, Swami was amidst the students in the centre of the hall. There, He was 'informed' of the prasadam that had been kept ready at the northern gates of the hall. He moved down towards the main gate and blessed the prasadam. Taking a bunch of holy grass, Swami sprinkled water on all the bowls containing tamarind rice and laddoos. He spent about 5 minutes with the 'prasadam' and the people blessed to distribute it. Swami then moved to the stage area through the gents side. He sat listening for a few more bhajans after which the grand Mangala Aarthi was performed. Swami then personally supervised the distribution of prasadam to all. Many brioke their fast with Swami's prasadam.

Beautiful minutes ticked by as Swami sat silently watching all who were eating. The devotees were contented looking at their Lord and so was the Lord looking at His devotees. Swami told a few people to start eating. The photographers in front were busy capturing these beautiful moments. Swami told them also to eat. When they continued shooting, Swami sweetly asked, "Why? Is the prasadam not tasty or cooked well?" Immediately, the cameras were put down and the prasadam given importance! The food prayer was chanted twice, once by the University students and once by the Primary school students. Swami seemed to relish watching everyone eat. One could feel the message, "Aham Vaishvanarobhutva Praninaam Dehamaashritaha" - I am the One inside all who digests the food. After sitting onstage for nearly forty-five minutes during the prasadam distribution, Swami returned to His residence.