Grand Kerala Festival Thiruvonam Celebrated…

Vibrant Kerala, charged with spirited devotion, celebrated Thiruvonam, the day that marks the return of its erstwhile ruler Emperor Mahabali, today here in Prasanthi Nilayam with gaiety and devotional fervor. Back in Kerala, traditionally, the festival is celebrated for a period of ten days, starting from the first day Atham to continue till the tenth and culminating day called Thiruvonam.

Thiruvonam in Prasanthi Nilayam evokes nostalgic memories of golden days, when Bhagawan would go round the serried ranks of devotees giving ineffable joy to one and all… it is one such occasion when Prasanthi would often go ‘Kerala’ with devotees from other states would emulate wearing traditional Kerala costume.

This year too, the festivity evoked greater enthusiasm as hundreds of devotees from the State joined the Nagarsankirtan in the dawning hours of the holy day.

The morning programme commenced at 0820 hrs., after regular 20 minute Rudram chanting, with a brief spell of ‘Nadaswaram’, by the Percussion Band of SSSIHL, Prasanthi Nilayam campus. Soulful musical notes from the young enthusiastic band of percussionists was enough to evoke the auspiciousness surrounding the grant festivity.

Popular devotional singer and a familiar face during  Onam celebrations for the past many years, Sri TS Radhakrishnan coupled with his son Shankar Vinayak, an alumnus at SSSIHL, then presented a soulful musical session, arousing nostalgic ‘Homely Feeling’ for the hundreds assembled in the ‘Real Home’ away from home celebrating their most important festival.

Beginning with a traditional ‘Jai Ganesh’ offering, the duo went on singing alternatively, producing some of the finest compositions, most of them in the vernacular Malayalam. Some of the numbers were “Jaya Jaya Swami Jaya Jaya…” Puttaparthiyil Niranju Nilkkum Sri Sai than Paadangalil”, “Kanna Kanna Chinnarakkanna En Munnil”, “Jagadoddhaarana…” etc.  These songs with instinctive devotion, sung with great devotional fervor, were enough to stir up the nostalgia within.

Sri Nishikant Barodekar, faculty member at Sathya Sai Mirpuri College Of Music, Prasanthi Nilayam accompanied the duo on Tabla, while Shankar Vinayak himself played on the Harmonium.

Charged up with ‘hearts full’ devotees from the State then continued with a vibrant bhajan session that ended with Mangala Arathi at 0930 hrs.

On the morning, the Prasanthi Mandir bore festive decorations with typical Kerala themes parading all over. Onappookkalam, traditional flower decoration along with Nirapara (traditional Indian measuring cup symbolising plentiful harvest) was arranged in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum. Colourful parasols and flower buntings added spice to the décor.

Evening Programme:

Continuing with the grand festive spirit, in the evening, the session commenced at 1700 hrs. with an introductory speech by Prof M. Mukundan, State President of SSSSO – Kerala. Welcoming the devoted assembly with “Happy Onam” greetings, the State President paid rich gratitude at Bhagawan’s Lotus Feet narrating a few of his interesting experiences at Bhagawan’s physical presence. He then introduced the winners of annual essay writing competitions to the august assembly. Into the 11th year, this annual feature is conducted at three levels, High School, Higher Secondary and College (levels) under the auspices of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations. The winners were: Master Swatil Nandan, IX Std., Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Kannur, Master Krishna Prasad of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Trissur and Kum. Jain John of FY Engg. Diploma at Nityananda Polytechnic, Kanhangad, for High School, Higher Secondary and College levels. Topics for the three respective levels were, God Is Love, Right Attitude – Why & How, Youth – Challenge and Responses. Over 24000 students from 14 districts participated in this year’s Essay Writing competition.

Before the felicitation, the winners shared their thoughts with the evening’s assembly. “Happy not at being a medal winner, but for the rarest opportunity of speaking at the same podium wherefrom The Almighty Lord inspired lakhs and lakhs of devotees”, said Master Swatil Nandan adding that Bhagawan has changed the perceptions of Onam from being a mere joyous celebration to a Festival of Spiritual Enlightenment.

Master Krishna Prasad who addressed next spoke about his subject during the competition, Right Attitude… divulging into Mind Control and Success… Confessing his initial fear to stand up and deliver a speech at Prasanthi Nilayam, Master Krishna Prasad then narrated how he overcame the fear by diligent mind control, visualizing success.

Kum. Jain John chose to speak in Malayalam. With sprinklings of Bhagawan’s teachings, exposing the present day society that is going haywire, the speaker stressed on the greater need to inculcate human values in societies. Youth should become beacon lights, spreading light and love, like the Sun… observed Kum. Jain John.

Sri K Chakravarthi, IAS (Retd.), Member Secretary, Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, then felicitated the medal winners. Delivering a brief speech Sri Chakravarthi commented on the laudable effort of the Organisation conducting such a mammoth, successful Essay Competition, inspiring thousands upon thousands. He expressed his hope that the State Organisation would come up with plans to organise study circles, at different localities, allowing all 24000 participants of this year’s Essay Writing Competition to be part of it.

A scintillating Carnatic music session followed next. Sri Kanjangad Ramachandran, a reckoned name back in Kerala whose penchant for State’s musical icon Padmabhushan Dr KJ Yesudas is an open secret, was the artiste for the evening. Sri Ramachandran had shared the podium with the legendary singer many a time.  He was the first Indian in the mid 80s to hold the title for singing non-stop for 25 hours in the Guinness Book Of World Records.

Paying obeisance, invoking grace of Bhagawan and Lord Ganesha, Sri Ramachandran began with Vaataapi Ganapathim…followed by Gurupavanapuraadheesham… Producing nine gems Sri Ramachandran aptly concluded his hour-long concert with two songs, one each on two of Kerala’s most sacred spiritual centres, Sri Kottiyoor and Sabarimala temples, singing “Dakshinakaashiyaam Kottiyoor Vaazhum” to end with “Harivarasanam…”, famous lullaby song to Lord Ayyappa. Kottiyoor is considered as the Kashi of South India, where the Daksha Yaga supposedly happened. Other songs were, Jaya Jaya Hey Sachchinmaya Roopa…, Ksheera Sagara Shayana…, Oru Neramengilum Kaanaathey Vayyentey Guruvayoorappa…a famous number familar at everydoorstep in the State, Hey Sai Bhagawan Jaya Vandanam… etc. Capacity audience in the evening sat in rapt silence enjoying the musical treat at the auspicious twilight.

Sri Ramachandran was accompanied by Kanjangad Anoop Bhaskar on Violin, Kallekkulangara P Unnikrishnan on Mridangam, Riju Unnikrishnan Palakkad on Ghatam and Vellikothi Rajeev Gopal on Mukhashankh.

Bhagawan’s Divine discourse followed next, played on the public address system. Addressing Keralites with “Onaashamsakal” in Malayalam, Bhagawan said Kerala is no ordinary land, It is the centre of God, where Vamana was born and where Gayathri Mantra revealed Itself to Sage Vishwamitra. Bhagawan ended His Divine discourse with the bhajan “Prema Muditha Manasey Kaho Rama Rama Ram…”

Bhajans continued and ended with Mangala Arathi at 1910 hrs.

II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II