Celestial Marriage and Rathotsavam…

November 18 is a marked day in Puttaparthi, for religious fanfare and piety coupled with devotional pomp among village folks, as this is the day when Lord Rama and Mother Sita would go in a procession along with Venugopala Swami from the Mandir in Prasanthi Nilayam to the Peddavenkama Raju Kalyana Mandapam, near Hanuman Temple. This symbolic procession has been in practice eversince its inception dates back 1980s. Over the years Bhagawan would personally bless the occasion in the bhajan hall as the deities were taken out in procession.

This year, the highlight of the morning’s schedule was the Celestial Marriage of Divine Couple, Lord Sri Ramachandra and Mother Sita performed with religious rites, in Sai Kulwant Hall. The function began at 0820 hrs. after 20 mts. of Veda chanting.

After invocatory chanting, the officiating priest explained the greater significance of the function, especially that of conducting the marriage in the Divine Presence of Beloved Bhagawan.

The chanting went on and various offerings pertaining to the rituals followed. Upanayanam, sacred thread ceremony of the bridegroom followed by Kanyadanam (giving away the bride) was performed amidst chanting before the final ceremony, The Divine Marriage, was conducted by tying of Mangala Sutra around the neck of the bride.

The entire function was linked to the Sathya Sai Saga as the priest went on repeating the connection and greater significance at frequent intervals.

It is for the first time, after its inception, the Divine Marriage is conducted in Sai Kulwant Hall, witnessed by an assembly of devotees. Over the years the function used to be inside the bhajan hall, in the immediate Divine Presence of Bhagawan.

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Mangala Arathi to the Divine couple was offered before the the deities were taken out in procession along with that of Lord Venugopala Swami. Subsequently, the deities were mounted on the main chariot at the gopuram gate amidst devotional exuberance. Upon mounting the deities, coconuts were broken and arathi was offered before they were taken out along the road in procession.

Ecstatic mood of the village folk dancing to the tune of drumbeats, breaking coconuts and offering arathi enroute, was evidential of the religious fervour attached to the festivity. Vedam and Bhajans group from Prasanthi led the procession.

The Venugopala Swami idol was mounted at the Pedda Venkama Raju Kalyanamandapam before return journey commenced, carrying the Sita Rama idols, a custom that has been in place ever since the Chariot Festival was introduced in Parthi. Entusiastic villagers would carry Lord Venugopala Swami in a procession covering the entire village before returning to Mandir in the night, a customary practice over the years, ever since the inception of Rathotsavam.

Video Courtesy: radiosai.org

Earlier, outside the Prasanthi gates, enthusiastic Parthi folks were up quite early, sprucing up and decorating the entire road between Prasanthi Mandir and Pedda Venkamaraju Kalyana Mandapam. Women devotees were seen engaged in painting the road with ‘Rangoli’.