Thursday, 13 March 2014

Time-travel to the days of declaration of Avatarhood of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba - Part 1

Combining space-travel and time-travel

The time-machine is a marvelous piece of technology. It is probably the best motion-inventions after the space-machines. While space-machines help one to travel across space; across dimensions of length, breadth and height, time-machines help one to travel across time; into the past or into the future. And so, if one is armed with a space-machine and a time-machine, the history and geography of the universe become very interesting and exciting subjects. If I had both these machines, I would use them to explore His-story and the geography of His story! For those that may not know, by ‘His’ I refer to my best friend, Master and God, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Meesaraganda Venkamma, Sathya's doting elder
sister who was among the few to recognize His
divinity and thus maintain a diary about the
daily happenings of His life. 
Along with my family, I got into two space-machines christened as ‘Tata Sumo Grande’ and ‘Toyota Innova’. The time-machines I had procured were named ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Imagination’. I set the destination in the space-machines to ‘Uravakonda’ and ‘Hampi’. The dial on the time-machine was set to 1943. I decided to make use of the SUVs first to reach the exact geographical location before utilizing the time-machines for the time-travel.Needless to say, I was hyper-excited about the time-travel because the previous such journey had been unbelievably memorable and fulfilling.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning and we set off in the vehicles towards Uravakonda, enroute to Hampi. The journey would take a few hours and we utilized that time to immerse ourselves into the story of the Sai Bhagawatham. One significant point of that discussion is vital for our understanding of Bhagawan’s childhood time-frames.

The time-frame confusion

The official biography of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Sathyam Shivam Sundaram (Part 1), records October 20th of 1940 as the day of declaration of Avatarhood. (The Annunciation day when Swami announced to the world that He was ‘Sai Baba’ and also sang the immortal message, Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam). School records (which include the attendance registers and transfer certificates from various schools) indicate a slightly different story. As can be seen from the photographs provided here, little Sathyanarayana Raju (Swami’s childhood name) studied in the Puttaparthi School (Samithi Elementary School) from 1935 to 1940. In 1940, He went to the Kamalapuram school for a year. In 1941, He enrolled in the Bukkapatnam school directly for VIII grade skipping VII grade. Therefore, it was now, in 1942, that He had to give the ESLC (Elementary School Leaving Certificate) exam. Sathya was not allowed to attend the exam because he lacked the minimum attendance necessary to do the same. However, since his elder brother, Seshama Raju, was a Telugu teacher himself, he pulled a few strings necessary to ensure that his kid brother could write the examination in early 1943. Sathya came out in flying colours along with two other students - Ramesh and Paresh -  who took refuge under Him. The rest of His class failed!

Appearing in the 'Admit No.' 154, Sathya's name in the attendance register of the elementary School at Puttaparthi
shows that he was extremely regular to the school where He studied from 1936 to 1940. 

It was after that examination that Seshama Raju, worried about the increasingly ‘crazy’ behaviour of Sathya, decided to take Him along with him to Uravakonda where he had got appointment as a Telugu teacher in the Karibasavasvami District Board High School. That was how Swami landed in Uravalkonda in 1943. It was here that the famous ‘scorpion bite’ episode occurred which was followed by the cruel treatment Sathya received for proclaiming the Inconvenient Truth. The 20th of October of 1943 saw the epochal declaration being made when Swami announced that He was the Supreme Infinity in human form.

Now the question arises as to why the official biography records the Annunciation Year as 1940? A little dip into the circumstances and conditions prevailing in those days is essential to understand the source of this apparent dichotomy.

Sathya's transfer Certificate from the Kamalapuram School, a framed duplicate of which is
still hung in the new school premises. The third row clearly and wrongly records the
date of birth as the 4th of October 1929. 
All the school records show Swami’s date of birth as the 4th of October, 1929. Those were the days when Baba’s parents and especially his brother were keen to ensure that he has a flourishing career as a government revenue officer. To ensure good career prospects and the minimum eligibility age at the same time, the date of birth was modified to a convenient date in 1929! This was a very common practice those days as it was not compulsory for everyone to obtain a birth certificate. I know this from personal experience too. In fact, my father’s date of birth was modified to 22nd May instead of 22nd September to give him this very advantage. He therefore, retired from service also on 22nd May when he was supposed to have turned 58!

Two junior schoolmates from the Puttaparthi Elementary School, who were affluent and ‘important’ enough to obtain an official birth certificate from the British (who ruled India then) have their birth-years recorded as 1927. So, while there is no doubt that Swami’s year of birth is indeed 1926, the 1929 birth-date clears the air of many ‘mysteries’.

For starters, when Swami says in the discourses, “I went to Kamalapuram as a 10-year old”, He was indeed a 10-year old as per school records. Prof. N.Kasturi, Baba’s biographer, got all details for the Sathyam Shivam Sundaram from Swami Himself and many other people whom Swami directed him to. So, when he got the info that Swami made the Annunciation when He was a 14-year old, it was but natural for him to conclude the year to be 1940!

The Register of Admission of the Bukkapatnam School records Swami's name as 'Admit No.' 466. Again, the date of
birth recorded is shown as 4/10/1929. The last few columns also show that Sathya was not allowed to sit
for the ESLC exams that year (1942) due to lack of attendance. 
There is another reasoning that lends credibility to this line of approach. All the early devotees of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba have recorded a sudden spurt in Swami’s travel and interactions post the annunciation. The earliest records of Swami’s intense travels in the current states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh date to the January of 1944. Therefore, it does not make logical sense that the annunciation took place in 1940 and there was a lull for more than 3 years. The annunciation, in all probability, took place in 1943, a few months after which Swami’s mission exploded with travels galore.

This was the discussion as we travelled to our destination. It cleared the air and gave a better understanding of the times and situations of Swami’s childhood days. And since 20th October 1940 has been traditionally considered as the Annunciation day for decades now, there is no harm in going along with it. This is akin to the fact that nobody can ascertain exactly that 25th December 0000 is the date of birth of Jesus Christ. Yet, in reverence to the first traditions, that has been celebrated as Christmas, the day of birth of the Lord’s son. So too the tradition of celebrating 20th October 1940 as the Annunciation Day may continue.

The Register of Admission of the Karibasavaswami District Board High School in Uravakonda records only Sathya's
joining date as 1/07/1943. There is no entry for His leaving the school. 

Take off

Presently, we arrived at Uravakonda and it was now time to start the time-machine. As stated earlier, I had turned the dials to 1943. Uravakonda was a small town that had just progressed from being a big village. The silk-weaving industry was flourishing here when little Sathya arrived to his brother Seshamma Raju’s house.

The house stood in ruins today. The roof was completely gone and wild grass grew abundantly within the three rooms that constituted the house. The house was like train bogies with one room after another in a straight row. The innermost room measuring about 9 feet by 7 feet was possibly the biggest space of the house. It served as the kitchen. The middle room was the bathroom attached to it while the outermost room acted as the only room. Once again, like my last journey, I shall base my narrative on recorded instances from people. (All the research and many photos have been borrowed from the epochal book, Love is My Form.) But, I shall present it as my own account so that I enjoy the historical events which very few were privileged to see and experience.

So, fastening the seat belts now... Whirrrrr...... Swooooooooshhhhhh...... Blip.

A fly on the wall which sees all

I am now a little fly on the wall of Seshama Raju’s house - the luckiest fly in all times perhaps because I shall be witnessing History. It is early 1943 and instead of just the master and mistress of the house, there are 3 new entrants to the house - one is a little boy in his teens, Sathya, proclaimed to have miraculous powers, the other is his eldest sister named Venkamma and the third is her son, Shankara Raju. The house is located on the Temple Street which has been christened so due to the Subramanya temple that is located almost opposite to the house. I have flown to that temple several times to enjoy the cool coconut waters which the devotees offer.
The main deity of the temple, Lord Subramanya or Lord Muruga, is surprisingly shaped as a 5-hooded snake! I love visiting the temple often because this bright little boy, Sathya spends most of His time there. It is February and the school at Uravakonda is closed for the summer. So, Sathya is free till late June when He will have to enrol there. One day when He is along with His friends in the Subramanya temple, Sathya tells them that He wishes to sing a bhajan. In an instant, spontaneously, He starts singing,
“Subramanyam Subramanyam Shanmukhanatha Subramanyam.”

The exteriors and interiors of the Subramanya temple which still stands today.
The inset shows the main deity as a 5-hooded serpent. 
The mellifluousness of the voice and the sweetness of the love exuding from Him is such that I sit transfixed on the wall. I have no idea that I am witnessing Swami sing this popular bhajan for  the first-time ever! But then, that is how my Swami has always created history - spontaneously and without much ado. Just a few meters away from this temple is a large well (Bhavi) with a big pulley (Gilakala) to draw water. This Gilakala Bhavi (belonging to a certain Manchipalli Hanumantha Rao) is another favourite haunt for me because Swami walks to it daily to draw water for the general needs of His house. For drinking water, He travels more than 3 kilometers to the Bungalow Bhavi located at Travellers’ Bungalow on the Anantapur-Bellary road. My wings tire to fly such a long distance and so I make use of a special carrier - my Lord Himself! I sit on His hand and the ever-patient and loving Swami never brushes or swats me! I feel as special as Arjuna who had the supreme Lord Krishna drive him around in a chariot. Here, the Divine body was my chariot!

Sathya’s shoulders daily get bruised by the heavy weight of water that He carries for 3 kilometers but His spirits never get even a graze. He is always cheerful and spreading the cheer to whomever He comes in contact with. My days are so filled with bliss because I am living every moment in the Divine Presence. Then came that fateful day, the Shivarathri of 1943 when things would change forever.

A scorpion bite?

Shivarathri is a very profound and important festival for all. The whole night, Sathya danced and sang bhajans on the streets of Uravakonda along with His friends. This group of lovely and enthusiastic boys was called the Pandhari Bhajan group by everyone and it’s glory preceeded it to Uravakonda. Legends of how all villages where the group sang had been saved from plagues and other epidemics were talked about openly. Late in the night, Venkamma decided that it was time to return home. She walked to Sathya and told Him to return with her but He refused,
“I have to go somewhere now. I shall return soon sister. Please do not bolt the front door so that I can silently slip into the house.”

Venkamma agreed and returned home but I rode on my Swami to wherever He was headed. He walked more than 3 kilometers on the same Anantapur-Bellary road towards Bellary. Arriving at a village called Budagavi, He headed straight to a temple. This was a temple dedicated to two deities - Surya (Sun God) and Lord Shiva. Going to the Shiva lingam, Swami performed ritualistic worship to Lord Shiva. He did the holy Abhishekam and followed it with Pooja. He spent the whole night there. I kept seeing Him. It did not appear like a devotee worshipping his God. It was more like God spending time with Himself!

“He is a child among children, a woman among women and a man among men. When He is alone, He is God.” I couldn’t help but think this way.

It was almost 5 in the morning when He returned home. As He was about the open the door, the door opened by itself. It was His sister Venkamma. She had this habit of first setting her eyes every morning on a picture of God. Since there were no pictures in the house, she substituted it with seeing the tulsi (holy basil) plant just outside the front door. Today, she indeed saw God first thing in the morning because when she opened her eyes, she beheld Sathya.

File photograph of Sathya during his school days at Uravakonda.
“Where were you the whole night Sathyam?”
“I was at Budagavi”, He answered honestly.
“You were performing worship for so long?” she asked with surprise.
“I performed worship and received it as well”, He said matter of factly and entered the house.

Venkamma tiptoed into the kitchen to get some food for Swami. She did not want to wake up his brother Seshamma who might have given Him a sound scolding and possibly a thrashing too. In the meanwhile, Sathya went into the bathroom for a bath. I was so sleepy and tired. I wondered from where did this boy get His energy from.
“You fool! He does not derive His energy from anything. He is the source of energy for the Universe.” That was a voice from within me.

I smiled to myself and nestled comfortably in a wall crevice. As I was about to drift into sleep, I heard a loud cry - Abba.

Sathya had screamed out! What had happened? Venkamma came running and pushed the door open. I buzzed into the bathroom and saw that Swami was clenching His foot. Oh My God! What was happening to you? Why are you in pain?

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  1. this is so amazing- wow I appreciate this a lot

    1. Sairam Granny,

      Glad that you are enjoying this.... I shall carry on with a few more such episodes...

  2. Looking forward to reading the rest Aravind. Swami's stories are such a delight to hear.

  3. The book Love Is My Form is still available, you could write to to order a copy.

  4. Very nice idea to put Swami's story this way :) Truly those places that were blessed with His feet should form a path for pilgrimage for all devotees! Tracing that path gives so much joy :)

  5. So nicely put aravinda. You truly are unique and fabulous. No adjectives can do justice to your worthy cause of writing HIS STORY.

  6. Sai Ram brother!

    That's so cool about Swami's birth certificate, and that He probably left home at 17. Do you also by chance know of a "rational" explanation for Swami's "will", where He signed that He was presently 44 years old and left home at 12, in 1967?

    Always love reading your blog, it's really exciting to see new posts by you!

    Warm regards

    1. I love the way you have put the words in quotes Hari! Well, am sure that like everything else, whatever Swami has done has deep inner meaning and Truth. We just have to wait for it to unfold. If Swami decides that the unfolding has to happen through me, then, I shall probably write about it. :)

      Glad that you are enjoying the posts...

  7. The way he speaks,the same way he writes,so full of love and enthusiasum and love.I love travelling with him to see Swami,in those days.

  8. Sairam. Amazing. Certain missing information finds place. Thank you.


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