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 Bhagawan’s grace, Dasara season begins in Prasanthi Nilayam with Grama seva, 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.
Prashanthi 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, Bhagawan 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’sPrasadam 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. Bhagavan 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.
Bhagawan 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 Gramseva during Dasara celebrations.
Bhagawan said that is why He was giving clothes and food as prasadam and not something else. Bhagawan said “Bhikshanamdeharakshartham, 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, Bhagawan 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 Andhra Pradesh. There was a fortnight of planning and execution followed by a fortnight of the actual Gram Seva.
There are 3 stages involved in Gramseva 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 infuses the Prasadam with Divine vibrations. Younger girls from primary school class 11 & 12th help in spreading the paper and dried leaves during day time.
Staff working in Sri Sathya Sai hospitals, Canteens, Institutions also participate 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 packets will be made for days.
Distribution of Prasadam (Rice, Sweet& clothes):
Sri Sathya Sai Baba 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 in the 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 stay back, happily participate in Gramseva so enthusiastically and convert their “holidays” into “holy days”. The Grama Seva has become Rama Seva.
Bhagawan has instructed all the students who involve in distribution should go around the village and do NagarSankeerthan 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 has on the environment! There was only Love. Love and Joy in every heart.
A very notable feature of Gram 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 Gram Seva is a unique service where in Sri Sathya 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 requirements of the needy. And all does service with great discipline and high levels of commitment. Though they lose 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 spadework take 15 days, the actual execution of the project takes another 15 days. This remarkable speed is basically possible due to the excellent discipline and coordination among the teams.
Bhagawan’s invisible, yet visible hand is felt at every point of the project guiding and guarding everyone.
Ever since the year 2000 when Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba 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.
These were villagers who extended their hearts to Him because their hearts were touched with the love of Bhagawan who had given them so many projects for their upliftment.