Friday, 2 May 2014

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 4 - A shrine is born

A musical evening

Swami blesses Mr.Subrata Roy (above) and Mr.Shivraj Patil (below).
Swami had gone to His room after the evening tiffin session on the first day of our stay at Hadshi. Within a few minutes, He came down. It was about 5:50 p.m. and there were a few VIP guests who had come to meet Him. Notable among them were Mr. Shivraj Patil and Mr. Subrata Roy, the Managing "Worker" (as he calls himself) and Chairman of the Sahara Parivar, a multi-business conglomerate.

(Dear reader,
If you have come directly to this post, I would like to egg you on to enjoy the full story with its history.

Link to part 1 is given below and the link to the next part will be at the end of each previous part. Thank you.

It is pertinent here that I mention another ‘faulty’ line of thinking that devotees and critics alike adopt with Swami. I am drawn into this here because apparently, Mr. Subrata Roy has got himself into some legal tangles. The question that people ask is this:
How can Swami bless someone who is not good/unethical/unrighteous and so on?

I say that this is a faulty line of thinking because we seem to be partial in the application of this line of thinking. We are convinced that God is only for the ‘Good’ and not for the ‘Bad’. (i put those words in quotes only to indicate that they are good and bad in our perspective. One man’s freedom-fighter is another man’s terrorist!) God’s love is for all though He always encourages the good over bad. And that is because good is definitely a greater reality than bad. But that does not mean that God deserts the ‘bad’. If He deserts the ‘bad’ then He is no God at all. The hypocrisy lies in the fact that we consider ourselves as ‘good’. God alone knows how many skeletons we have in our cupboards! And so, I feel, rather than spend time in wondering why certain people receive God’s blessings, we should focus on ourselves being good and persevering with it. After this little detour, I move back to the narrative.

Blessing them all, Swami moved out of the Mandir. As He came down, the bands and people in costumes lined the entire way. The temple had been lit and presented a beautiful sight. Bhajans were in progress, and as Swami approached the huge stage that had been set up for Him, songs in Marathi were sung. The bhajan singers were the likes of Kunal Ganjawalla and Raviraj Nasery; the former being a very popular name in the Indian music industry! The students followed Swami’s car. I ran up the stage to take pictures.

There was a swell of a crowd on the evening of the 28th of October as Swami came on stage and moved all around,
granting Darshan. 

As Swami alighted from His car, the first thing He did was to tell Nishikant, who was at the lead of all boys, to go up the stage. And so all the students moved up and took positions behind Swami's chair. Bhagavan took a quick round of the dais so that the thousands gathered could have His darshan.

When Swami was interacting with all of us and was 'inside', Swami was so human; He was like one among us and we too freely moved about Him. There was this intimacy with Swami, which sometimes bordered on the casual from our side. However, once outside, amidst the devotees, a strange, effulgence emanated from His face. I just watched in awe at the way this radiance transferred from Him to the faces of all the devotees assembled including myself! I was overwrought with wonder. "This is God. Don't ever forget that," I told myself.

Swami was now in the centre of the massive stage, listening to the songs of the singers who were seated below. The artists due to perform in the evening were also seated below. After a few songs, permission was sought to invite them on stage and Swami agreed.

The performers for the evening seek Divine blessings. Kavita Krishnamoorthy's daughter too was present. 
The musicians for the day were Nitin Mukesh, Kavita Subramaniam (Kavita Krishnamoorthy, as she is popularly known) and Sapna Mukherjee. They bowed to Swami and began their renditions. Nitin Mukesh, as he sang, held on dearly to the rose that had been blessed by Swami. He started the session with a Ganesh bhajan, Jai Ganesh Jai Ganesh Jai Ganesh Deva. The artists had decided to sing in turns, in rotation.

The crowd was overjoyed, for they were having Bhagavan’s darshan. A huge video-mixing console had been set up and there were moving cameras everywhere. The arrangements were more than elaborate and devotional songs filled the ambience in this beautiful setting. About nine songs later, Swami blessed the performers with sarees, shawls and white safari pieces. He asked Nitin Mukesh to come to Puttaparthi as well and perform.

It was a captivating night scene as Aarthi was performed to Swami at Hadshi, on the grand stage.

The flow of devotion to which we had to become 'walls'!
Aarthi was now offered, and as Swami moved down the ramp to the car, hundreds dived for an opportunity to touch His lotus feet.

Swami then drove back to the Residence. All of us had a good chance of a close darshan as we lined up on the way from the car till the main door of the Mandir. We were actually doing “Security Duty”. As we formed a tight cordon around Swami’s car, I remembered how noticing the devotees’ plight, Swami had once played with the term ‘volunteer’ as ‘wall-and-tear’! I was myself becoming one such wall, eliciting tears of separation from the devotee.
“But they are also tears of pining”, I consoled myself. Soon the Lord was in the Mandir.

God is the '1' that gives value to all the 0s that follow

The next moment, the aroma of freshly cooked food wafted into our nostrils. Swami had dinner with the elders and then He called out, "Ay boys! Go and sit at the tables."
As He was on His way back, the inimitable Prof. Anil Kumar complimented the food saying that the quality of mango pickles (avakai) and gongura were unmatched! Swami was so happy and they had their little private chat. Then the All India President (AIP) of Sri Sathya Sai Organisations, Mr. V. Srinivasan, asked Swami whether the boys should go for morning walks as was the practice when Swami takes the boys to Kodaikanal. Bhagavan said that there was no need to do so. Entering the lift, Swami retired for the day.

We heartily dined and then returned to our rooms. It was a heavy meal and so Sudhindran, Anand and I went for a walk in the night. The temple was being prepared for inauguration the next day, and the whole area had been beautifully lit. The night air was cool.

An experience that we all felt throughout this trip was that of "oneness with God". Let me elaborate: All of us received the same love, reverence and devotion that Swami receives from the people. And all this was because we had on us the badge that proclaimed, ‘Bhagavan's Guest’. People would rejoice whenever they saw us because that, for them, was a sure indication that Swami was coming. In fact, even in our nightly stroll, we encountered a few people who asked us if Swami was coming down for darshan at that time! Living with God is not only a great privilege, but also a great responsibility. The adoring eyes can soon turn critical if we do not conduct ourselves as befitting the divine tag. That was a lesson that seared itself across my consciousness that night.

However, it was not long before I could also see what our true status was. A security guard just brushed me aside and said that I had no permission to enter the gate that would lead me back to our quarters. I was in my T-shirt and track pants and had forgotten to carry my badge. I was shocked and did not know what to do. The very next instant, the security personnel’s behaviour, metamorphosed into one of humility and love when Anand flashed his badge and stood by me saying, “He is Swami’s student. Let him in!” Wow! It is Swami and Swami alone who means everything to everyone. Else, all of us are nothing! We rise in the eyes of the world, only because of our association and proximity with the Lord. Without Swami, we were insignificant nothings. This incident only demonstrated to me the axiom – “With God, we are heroes. Without Him, we are zeroes.”

The Ultimate Hero_ who does everything and acts as though He does nothing!
As we returned to the rooms, Sai Krishna came running to me and said that five of us would be privileged to sleep just outside Swami's door in the Mandir. That too was part of the security duty. Would I like to be one of them? It was a rhetorical question for me as I hurried and picked up my pillows and bed sheets to go towards the Mandir.

Gopi Sir who was shepherding us, enquired from all of us whether any of us snored at night.
“I don’t want any of you disturbing BHagawan with your ‘sound’ sleep!” he remarked. I remembered that my parents and sister had told me that I snore on some occasions. I just hid that truth and prayed to Swami that he control my body physiology so that I don’t lose this chance.
“Dear Swami, I have been given this body to get closer to you. Let me not do anything with it that takes me away from you - snoring included”, I prayed.

We were given beds and soon all of us lay down. A washroom next door was open for us to use and I really felt like a king as I saw the size of that room! My God, it was bigger than many living rooms that I had seen so far! When I returned, I thanked Swami for the many beautiful moments of the day, and bid a happy good bye to the first day of this lovely trip.

Sunrise - the beginning of the D day

Sunrise at Hadshi, silhouetting the Residence.
The sunrise at Hadshi is so beautiful. Sunrises have always fascinated me more than sunsets simply because I like the concept of ‘rising’ more than ‘setting’! Rising seems like birth while setting seems like death. However, the Truth of life is that there can be no sunrise without a sunset. And the faster I realize it, the better.

Since our rooms were on the western side of the Mandir, as the sun rose it presented a beautiful silhouette of the Residence. I was actually clueless when Harish told me, "Go up and shoot the sunrise!" Hurriedly I ran up and searched in vain in the western skies.
“Oh! Maybe this is another of Harish’s practical jokes”, I thought, and was about take the stairs down when suddenly my eyes fell on the gorgeous sunrise and I stood transfixed! I had foolishly been looking in the wrong direction! The sun was a big ball and looked so handsome and juicy. No wonder Lord Hanuman mistook it for a ripe fruit and lunged at the Sun God! The sun was that stunning orange that is so dear to anyone who knows Swami.
“This is almost like morning darshan”, I said to myself and did take a few good snaps. These photos would be playing a lovely part in an interaction we had with Swami later on.

The first view of the poolside breakfast area. The balcony is beyond
the glass doors and windows behind the breakfast counter.
Admiring the sunrise, I came down to ground realities of morning ablutions. We were all ready and received instructions to head to the poolside for breakfast. The others in the party consisted of mainly elders who stayed at a guesthouse, 100 metres from the Mandir on the eastern side. And there, adjoining the guest house, was a lovely swimming pool. It was really tempting when I realized that I had even carried my swimming shorts to Hadshi. But then, I realized there was no way I could jump in for a swim during a trip of this nature. I therefore drowned my ‘dripping’ desires.

The cool blue waters were an ethereal sight indeed!
At the poolside, the classic blue of the water was cooling and refreshing even to look at. There were other interesting exhibits too like a statue of a boy drawing water from a hot spring (wherein dry ice was used to create the steam effect), an antique lantern, and so on.

Even more impressive and inviting was another display - of dosas, vadas, upma, bread, toasts, juices, Maharashtrian poha, cornflakes in many flavours and the choicest of teas and coffees! The breakfast spread was sumptuous and the dining tables had been neatly arranged in a 3m x 50m balcony that afforded a breathtaking view of the hills and lake nearby! Everything that the eye could see from there belonged to the Jadhavs and it was a remarkable real estate holding to say the least. For the first time many boys requested for pictures of them eating in such a spot of natural splendour! I did oblige but till the moment the groans in my stomach allowed me too! The term breakfast was actually not appropriate, for we were not 'breaking' a 'fast' of any type! If anything we were all overworking our delighted Vaishvanaras!

Imagine breakfasting here, in the lap of nature, with sweeping views of hills and trees. 

Ganesha temple inauguration

By 8:30 a.m. we were all back at the Residence. Bravely we went upstairs and waited there for Swami to emerge. We knew this would be our complete private time with Swami as there was no one else except us at that hour. At about 9:15 the door opened and as soon as Swami saw us His eyes opened up wide as He exclaimed, "Ikkada unnara (You are all here)!”
And then He came towards us and said, "Paandi, paandi (Move, Move)”.
He wanted us to leave quickly. I wondered what the hurry was all about and as my mind was racing, my body was not! Swami saw this and called out, "Ae photographer...." He left the rest unsaid and my body immediately joined my mind in the race. Swami then told something to Jagadish which I am sure he has recorded in his personal diary. Hopefully someday I will be able to peek into it!

So we all rushed down and out to the darshan grounds. The "out" part did not pertain to CG and me as we stayed back to shoot in the Residence itself. Swami came out of the Residence and saw the family of Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma who had come to pay their respects. Bhagawan then came on the upper porch from where the maestro's family could easily take padanamaskar. I did take good snaps of those moments.  But once Swami saw us, He said, "Pillalu paandi (Boys go)!” That was message enough and both of us immediately went down to the temples that awaited inauguration at the divine hands.

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and his family seek Swami's blessings. 
The temple complex looked beautiful like a bride awaiting her groom. Fountains squirted lending a cool feeling to the entire atmosphere which was lit up brightly by the sprightly sun. The Ganesha temple was at the entrance and there were fountains behind which had been laced with detergent, so they foamed and looked icy. After gathering a few pictures of this picturesque setting with its reflection in the water, CG and I entered the shrine of Lord Ganesha.

A mere glance sufficed to realize why Swami was so insistent that we go before Him. The complex was packed and I sighted at least ten photographers and video cameramen in the premises. Swami's car was like a dam that held back surging floods behind it and once His vehicle was inside, the temple was almost washed away by the masses flooding in! There was a Sarvadharma Stoopa standing opposite to the sanctum sanctorum - only it was a stout variant of the one at Prashanthi Nilayam. Swami alighted from the car near the Stoopa and was flanked by a security perimeter consisting of security guards and the boys. Through the ramp He entered the small sanctorum. Fortunately, I managed to squeeze inside.

Swami lights the lamps and then, the eternal 'string-puller' pulls the string to do the life-instilling ceremony.

Shivajirao Jadhav, as commanded by Swami puts the neckalace
around his wife's neck.
The Pranaprathishta (the life-instilling ceremony after which the idol is considered as a Living God) in these parts of India is done in a different way compared to the South. A bundle of red and yellow coloured strings were tied at the base of the statue. Swami was handed the other end and He tugged at them. With that, the idols were now alive, charged into divine potency by the divine hands. Swami also lit the lamps in the temple. The Ganesha idol made of marble looked different. The sculpting styles in different regions in India shape the idols differently. This idol was so unlike the others I had seen in life so far; nevertheless it was beautiful. Swami was given a document which He went through quickly. He also blessed a pair of padukas with His sanctifying touch. Then when nobody expected, He materialized a beautiful golden necklace laced and studded with stones. Giving it to Shivajirao Jadhav, He asked him to place it around his wife's neck. Once that was done, Swami moved out.

A close up of the necklace that Swami created for Mr. Jadhav's wife.
Having understood the importance of being early at the scene of action from the experience at the Ganesha temple, CG and I ran out towards the next temple - the main shrine at Pandurangakshetra. Meanwhile, fireworks went off in the skies signaling to the gathered thousands that the Pranaprathistha (installation) at the Ganesha temple was complete.

to be continued in Part 5 at the following link:

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 5 - The idols get instilled with life

For all readers:

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  1. baba's photos are very very beautiful..sairam!!!

  2. Thanks !
    Your words says everything fabulously !" Every opportunity to be 'near' to the Lord is actually an opportunity to grow 'dear' to the Lord and key to that is to remain free from the delusion that God is just 'another person'. Reminding ourself that we live in God's presence every moment of our lives is a great sadhana in itself."

  3. When are you posting next part? its been long


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