Dasara or Navaratri is a ten day festival, usually falling in the month of October, that is celebrated all over India in the worship of the Divine as the Mother principle. Bhagawan has explained that the festival of Dasara is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil signifying the vanquishing of the ‘six demons’ of lust, anger, attachment, greed, pride and jealously within us.
By Bhagawans grace, Dasara season begins in Prasanthi Nilayam with Gramaseva, Veda Purusha Sapthaha Jnana Yagna and Prashanthi Vidwan Mahasabha.
Veda Purusha Sapthaha Jnana Yagna
Over the past many years the festival of Dasara in Prasanthi Nilayam has been closely associated with the ‘Veda Purusha Sapthaha Jnana Yagna’, the week-long sacrificial ritual conducted in the Divine Presence in Poornachandra Auditorium, for the welfare of the whole world.
Prasanthi Vidwan Mahasabha
The evening programmes are held in Sai Kulwant Hall, under the auspices of the Prasanthi Vidwan Mahasabha, where many speakers, primarily students and functionaries of Bhagawan’s institutions, address the august gathering on many topics concerning spirituality and philosophy, Bhagawan’s teachings and experiences of devotees. Following these talks, Bhagawan would bless everyone with His Divine Discourse.
Sri Sathya Sai Grama Seva
In addition to the Yagna, Swami has blessed with the ‘Grama Seva’ (Village Service) during Dasara Celebrations since 2000, where the students of Bhagawan’s School and University visit Puttaparthi and surrounding villages and distribute Bhagawan’s Prasadam consisting of food and clothes from door to door, as a symbol of Bhagawan’s love and blessings to the people. Every dwelling, be it a palace or a hut, was covered by the messengers of Sai. Bhagawan showed the importance of every individual in society reminding him or her that Sai never forgets anyone irrespective of whoever else may have forgotten him or her.
Swami said “Every house without fail should get Prasadam and a pair of clothes at their doorstep before their lunchtime” – It has become vision statement of Sri Sathya Sai Gramaseva during Dasara celebrations.
Bhagavan said that why is it that He was giving clothes and food as prasadam and not something else. Swami said “Bhikshanam deha rakshartham, vasthram sheera nivarnam”. Food is needed to foster the body while clothes are needed to protect us from inclement weather.
All these years, the poor people were coming to the Lord to seek His refuge. But that year 2001 onwards, Bhagavan resolved to go Himself to every doorstep to feed and clothe every poor person. This project was executed by thousands of students from the 3 campuses of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning: the one at Anantapur, Brindavan near Bangalore and Prashanthi Nilayam, assisted by the students of Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, Prashanthi Nilayam and messengers of Sai (Sevadal) from Andhrapradesh. There was a fortnight of planning and execution followed by a fortnight of the actual Grama Seva.
There are 3 stages involved in Gramaseva service.
Preparation & Packing of Prasadam – Sweet: Around 150 sevadal involve in Laddu prasadam preparations starting from provisions cleaning, grinding, bundi preparation, and Laddu making. Close to 4 lakhs laddus will be prepared during Dasara period with devotion, continuously singing Bhajans. Higher secondary children love to participate in packing and stocking them in craters.
Preparation & Packing of Prasadam – Rice: 250 sevadal involves in provisions cleaning, cooking rice & cooling rice, Tamarand pulp preparations and keeping the entire area of Gramaseva shed clean and neat. Whole team does service day and night by singing Bhajans which will infuse the Prasadam with Divine vibrations and really that makes all the difference. Younger girls from primary school class 11 & 12th help in spreading the paper and dried leaves during day time.
Staff from Swamis hospitals, Canteens, Institutions participates in mixing the rice. Three large basements in the Gramaseva shed, Prashanthi Nilayam Ashram where around 600 students of Anantapur women’s campus and Bangalore Nursing College sit on the floor and wrap tamarind rice in packets of dried leaves and newspapers . Daily around 35000 packts will be made for days.
Distribution of Prasadam (Rice,Sweet & clothes):
Swami wanted that His students from all His institutions and staff also experience the joy of giving and so He has directed that all should go and serve each one of the people in their houses, at their doorstep and experience that joy of giving.
For the thousands of students going to 600 villages and 5 big towns with a population of close to 4 lakhs and 50 vehicles travelling in different directions and distributing the prasadam with love at most disciplined way. The discipline did not come out of force but it came from the Source.
Grama Seva is conducted during the vacation of Dasara. All the students stays back, happily participate in Gramaseva so enthusiastically and converte their “holidays” into “holy days”.The Grama Seva has become Rama Seva.
Bhagavan has instructed all the students who involve in distribution should go around the village and do Nagar Sankeerthan and Vedam chanting before distribution. Just imagine hundreds of youth going around singing the glory of God with all their hearts. What an impact it will have in the environment. There was only Love. Love and Joy in every heart.
A very notable feature of Grama Seva which we see in the response of the villagers is the reverence with which they accept the prasadam. To them these are not material objects which are just given to them out of pity. From the conception, the planning, execution in every stage the Divine name is chanted. Villagers feel happy and blissful.
At the outset, this Grama Seva is an unique service where in Sri Stahya Sai Trust members, staff from Educational Institutions, Hospitals & other utilities and sai messengers(Sevadal) join and work together to showcase excellent coordination, cooperation, commitment, dedication, discipline , and high devotion.
Since most of the youth involved, they learn and understand the needs of the needy. And all does service with great discipline and high levels of commitment. Though they lost their sleep, never complain and worry about it because of the bliss they enjoy. They may forget the subjects they have studied during the course but never forget the lessons learnt and memorable experiences they gain during this service period. . While the planning and the actual spadework takes 15 days, the actual execution of the project takes 15 days. This remarkable speed is basically possible due to the excellent discipline and coordination among the teams.
At the outset, Bhagavan’s invisible, yet visible hand is felt at every point of the project guiding and guarding each and every one. The important power of the name of the Lord and it’s divinised the entire effort will be learnt in this divine platform.
Bhagawan has often stated – “Each one of us works for happiness. Whatever we do in hinged around the simple, single pointed objective of achieving happiness.” But when we try to bring happiness to some others, happiness comes to us by itself by doing Nishkama Karma, to serve with love. This divine workshop is blessed by beloved Bhagawan to all His loved ones.
Ever since the year 2000 when Swami first introduced the concept of Grama Seva, it has been growing in strength year after year. This is true not only in the Sri Sathya Sai University but all over India too with all the samithis and district and state organisations pitching in wonderfully. Villagers all over India have been touched by His Love. They have seen Him even before seeing Him physically.
Swami told why is it that He was giving clothes and food as prasadam and not something else. He said “Bhikshanam deha rakshartham, vasthram sheera nivarnam”. Food is needed to foster the body while clothes are needed to protect us from inclement weather.These were villagers who extended their hearts to them because their hearts were touched with the love of Bhagawan who had given them so many projects for their upliftment.