1990 was a remarkable year for many Divine reasons. There were many blissful experiences with Bhagawan that I hope to cover eventually :) However one incident that comes to mind is the very significant ONAM festival of that year, when Bhagawan chose to grant a special blessing to the Anantapur students which continues till date.
Traditionally celebrated as the visit of Emperor Mahabali on his annual visit to his erstwhile kingdom, Onam is a festival peculiar to the small state of Kerala situated at the south-western coast of the Indian peninsula. It is a harvest festival with the legend of King Mahabali and the Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu in the background of the festivities. Primarily, Onam is a time for home-coming for all Keralites, whichever part of the globe they might be. Perhaps, one parallel to this unique, emotionally bonding festival would be Durga Pujo in Bengal during the Navaratri/Dassera period
|The Kerala girls in 1989 with the warden in front of the Hostel|
|The 'attham', traditional floral decoration|
|A typical ONAM 'sadya' (feast) served on a plantain leaf|
Two of us seniors called for a meeting of all the Malayalee girls in the hostel. We had to try for a Onam trip and we had to strategise. When all doors close and all human effort fails, then the Divine is the only recourse. It was at Anantapur that I learnt the efficacy of COLLECTIVE PRAYER. So we decided we would do just that and we would concretise it by writing to Swami every day, imploring Him to call us for Onam. Meanwhile some pragmatic souls wondered about the authorities and what about talking to them. I felt that since they had categorically told us not to irritate them, what was the point in aggravating the situation further. Also wasn't Bhagawan the CHANCELLOR of the Institute? So, let us address our letters to that highest authority, the head of the Institute. So far, so good, one would think.
But when I returned to my room, I was very uneasy. Disquiet haunted me. Something was not right in our approach. True, Bhagawan was the Chancellor of the Institute, but beyond that wasn't He our closest Friend, the soul-Companion over countless births? Why impose this official distance between Him and us? Swami was subtly teaching all of us a profound lesson! Yad bhavam tad bhavati (As is the feeling, so is the experience)That very day, I again called all my 'co-conspirators' (for a noble cause, though!) and discussed with them that we should write to Swami 'right from the heart', since He is the heart-dweller and not official letters, positing an artificial distance. And so we did that.
Ganesh Chaturthi arrived and we were preparing to go to Prasanthi. Meanwhile, Bhagawan had come in a few dreams of the diligent letter-writers and promised to call us. Though I was organising this endeavour, I wasn't actually writing to Him, though I prayed every day. Just as I was about to board the bus for Parthi, a junior of mine hurried up to me; she had a significant dream of Bhagawan that morning and I was in it too. The dream went like this:
Bhagawan was in a room and I was hesitating at the door with a pile of letters in my hand. He graciously calls me in, accepts the letters and tells me that all of us could come and see Him for Onam. Then as an after-thought, He added, "Come for TWO days"!
I believe Swami's dreams are His actual visitations, sometimes symbolic, sometimes prophetic. But 'two days' sounded a bit remote; that too the very next week with exams round the corner; anyway I was happy that Swami recognised me as 'letter-deliverer'!
During darshan, that Ganesh Chaturthi day, many letters were handed over to Bhagawan, pleading for our Onam trip. Not just us, the rest of the girls too (bless them all!) were 'recommending' our case through slips of paper saying, "Swami, call the Malayalee girls". Swami nonchalantly and swiftly collected all the letters and all the tiny slips of paper. But no one spoke aloud to Swami, as we had pre-decided; I did not want the authorities to feel that we were rebelling or trying to put anyone down. However, who can object to a silent prayer?
That evening we were in luck. Bhagawan called all of us into the mandir (Bhajan-Hall) for a campus Interview. We all rushed in and as usual I was somewhere at the back; Bhagawan's voice just reached us as He gave us all a Discourse. Then came the bowls of prasadam, the Arati was offered and then He would be gone.
Suddenly, Swami paused, looked around and CASUALLY enquired in His soft voice, "How many Kerala girls are there ?!" Confused murmurs; He asked again and this time, many hands shot up; I felt too weak to lift mine and my class-mates had to prod me! Then directly looking at our Principal, respected Prof. Hemalatha ma'm, Bhagawan said, "Send them next week for Onam to Prasanthi Nilayam."
Bhagawan speaking to us in the 'mandir'
When we went back to the Hostel, we were summoned to make a list of girls who would be going the next week. The cordial atmosphere was unbelievable. From 'impractical rebels' we had become 'heroines' ! As Bhagawan has said somewhere, when God accepts and acknowledges you, the whole world will do the same. With Him you are a HERO and without Him a mere zero.
And so we returned the following week. Keeping my junior's dream in mind, I packed an extra set of clothes, though we had permission only for one day. We reached Prasanthi and sat for Bhagawan's darshan. I remember that Onam how He called one small child from the crowd, handed him a basket of sweets and then with the child following Him, went around the whole Darsan area throwing chocolates to all the kids assembled there.
We came near the vans with our luggage to find the driver missing ! As we waited, our teacher in high tension (she had to reach on time to sign in the attendance register) and we in abandon, the driver appeared, shaking his head. "We cannot leave now, madam; there is a BANDH (a shutdown) today" !!!!!
And that is how Bhagawan called us for "TWO DAYS' as He had promised in the dream ! Nothing is beyond the reach of prayer, except that which is beyond the Will of God. After that historic day, every year without fuss, the students from Anantapur came to Parthi participate in the Onam festivities, with official sanction.
ONAM in 2008
FAST-FORWARD to the year 2005:
It was Onam time and the State organisation of Kerala had come prepared with three days of programmes, involving children and professional artistes. Many devotees had also come to spend Onam in the Divine Presence. But Bhagawan was in a strange mood. He wasn't talking much and in fact He finally cancelled all the programmes that year, asking the Office-bearers to go back.
Was He not in favour of too many extravagant programmes? Was it due to the minor tsunami that struck Kerala a few days later and? Or was there some other reason? One can surmise but never gauge the causes why such things happen. All of them left, including the children. But devotees stayed back and sat for darshan on Onam day, in their traditional simple, white attire. I too was sitting amidst them. There was not a single decoration in the Hall. This had not happened for years, so the mood was sombre. Bhagawan came in the car, slowly surveying the Hall. In the middle, He stopped and spoke to a lady. Soon He came near me and as though in slow motion, the car stopped, the window rolled down and Bhagawan gave me an enquiring look. I got up and went to the window, where He asked me : "Why are they all sitting here?". I answered what He willed: "Swami, they have come here for Your DARSHAN." And the Lord's reply before the window rolled up was :"Aithe, MANCHIDI" (If so, GOOD)
Were priorities being tested by God ? Why exactly have you come here? Is it for the sake of the Divine One or do you have other motives? Whatever maybe so, the significance of DARSHAN can never be over-rated, nor taken for granted, even today,