Anthaa Swami Daya…

It is not easy for a simple God fearing village housewife to assume the mantle of “Mother” of the Avatar and recognise in her “son” the incarnation of the Divine. How Easwaramma faced this difficult situation and gradually came to realise the extraordinary role of Bhagawan is described by Prof. Kasturi in his book, “Easwaramma — The Chosen Mother”. As devotees from far and wide came to Puttaparthi to adore Baba, Easwaramma got new insights into the Divine attributes of Baba. Describing this phase in the life of Easwaramma, Prof. Kasturi writes:

The pioneers of independence were straining their every nerve to break down the hide bound taboos of society, but this simple woman of the village who had hardly heard of the crusade against orthodoxy, found that she too was hustled willy nilly against the barricades of tradition. She sat beside not only princesses but women of the Anglo Indian community and those of castes considered ‘un touchable’. Who dares pick and choose among devotes? It is the inalienable right of all mankind to reach towards the Divine! And Easwaramma was ‘Mother’ to whole neighbourhoods in the cities. Her ‘daughters’ gathered around, speaking a medley of tongues, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu. To them all, her answer was one simple sentence in Telugu. The only language she knew. “Anthaa Swami daya, Amma.” “It is all Swami’s Grace, my child.” But it was uttered with so much benediction and assurance, that no one wished to miss the sweetness of hearing them spoken.

Among the devotees were Hanumantha Rao, the Inspector General of Prisons of the Madras Presidency, Navaneetam Naidu, the Commissioner of Excise, Mysore, Ranajodh Singh, Mysore’s Inspector General of Police, the Raja of Sandur and others, seeking Swami’s advice on matters both official and personal. Easwaramma sat confounded as she watched this line up of the powerful and the prestigious. “How is he going to set right the affairs of palaces?” she wondered when the aristocrats of Mysore sat at his feet. “What does he know of Patel (Vallabh bhai Patel) at Delhi?” She questioned herself anxiously as she overheard Swami’s words to the Raja, but she did not have to worry that Swami was over reaching himself. Soon enough these people were back with beaming smiles on happy faces.

Sathya’s absence from Puttaparthi became more frequent. Who heeded the ‘boon’ she had extracted from her son that he would remain at Puttaparthi? Certainly not the devotees like Sakamma from Bangalore, the Princesses from Mysore, the Chincholi family from Hyderabad, the Mudaliars of Madras and the Chettiars from Kuppam, Karur, Udumalpet and Trichinopoly. They were convinced that Swami belonged to them, for had He not indeed come for his devotees? And not Sathya either. He, like Krishna, wished to bless the poor, the sick and the old who could not afford or survive the journey to Puttaparthi. And all those who delighted so greatly in Swami’s company, in His pranks, songs and conversation, wished to share this incomparable discovery of theirs, this unfailing source of joy, with every one they knew, their relatives and their rivals, their friends and their foes, their neighbours and non believers too. They begged Swami to stay a ‘few’ days with them but not even a whole month ever amounted to a ‘few’ days as they counted!

Easwaramma longed to accompany Him whenever He left his ‘Sthan’ (that is, His permanent place of residence as she loved to refer to Puttaparthi, feeling the comfort and reassurance of this possessive phrase). But how could she do so every time when so many family problems pressed upon her? When Sathya went off on His journey Easwaramma could only pray to the guardian gods and goddesses to protect im from the many strange types of food and perhaps the unfamiliar varieties of air and water too that he would have to imbibe!

Swami was just out of His teens and at Bangalore when He did fall ill just as Easwaramma had feared. His hosts, Raja Setty and Sakamma, called in the doctors. But no one could diagnose the trouble. How could they, for Swami announced, “I have willed the illness!” He quoted precedents, from the lives of Rama and Shirdi Baba to show that they too had had an apathetic distaste for food and fun for some years during their teenage. This ‘illness’ was therefore indispensable for Him, Swami said, spending hours trying to reassure His devotees.

At last, besieged by insistent questioning, Swami confessed that He was in the process of remoulding His physical frame so that it might withstand the Divine Energy stirring within, for He had to embark on His Avataric Tasks. Such incomprehensible words, such tremendous mysterious happenings …whoever had the experience of anything like this? Men and women stood around Him dumb and distraught.

When I saw Swami for the first time I was told that His body had only just got back to normal. His voice was still feeble and faint then, his walk, slow and hesitant and his mop of hair almost too heavy for His neck. I could imagine the mother’s anguish as she helplessly watched the tender body of her son being ‘overhauled’ by the very Source of its sustenance. And this wasn’t all. There were many such moments of tension in store for her still. They were obviously lessons designed to promote her from the consciousness of being ‘Amma’ to an awareness of being ‘Easwaramma’. From the delusions that she was the ‘mother of Sathya’ to the truth that she was the ‘woman blessed to be the mother of Easwara’ (Easwara is the concept of the Absolute as conditioned by name and form). She was therefore soon to be a mother showering affection on all living beings. “I do not belong to you.” Sathya told her. “To whom then do I belong?” was her response. “To you belong the world and its peoples,” was the answer, the lesson he was giving her.

It was on Vijayadashami, the tenth day of Dasara, that Shirdi Sai Baba had given up his mortal body. Now at Puttaparthi even as puja, bhajans, processions and the mass feeding of the poor were being organised by devotees, Swami who had announced that he was that Shirdi spirit come again to expand and continue the same task, would ‘fall’ at Puttaparthi to ‘rise’ at Shirdi and bless the devotees, during the festivities there. When Swami came back, He told the gathering at the Mandir that He had been to Shirdi and had decided to grant Darshan there on every Vijayadashami day. Year after year, Easwaramma witnessed this scene that strengthened her faith in the Divine origin of her son.

But, these incidents were not limited to Vijayadashami day. Easwaramma was soon to make the discovery that Swami belonged to the world, that even as His body was there before her very eyes, He himself flees to answer someone who calls on God. There were out of the body journeys at all hours of the day and night. He would often tell them the details of His errands of mercy when He returned from these distant sojourns—dacoity in a Telangana valley, floods in Rajahmundry, a car accident on the roads of Karnataka, a fire in Madras – He was here, there, everywhere, in homes, hospitals or jungles with His miraculous help.

Easwaramma listened with rapt wonder. It was only natural that her mind ran to the stories from the epics in which the villages are steeped. Didn’t Krishna rush to the city of Hastinapur to save the honour of the Queen of the Pandavas when their enemies, the Kauravas, tried to disrobe her in open court? Wasn’t He there again with them in the jungles where they lived in exile when the Kauravas arranged a provocative situation to expose the Pandavas to the curses of the bad tempered Sage Durvasa? As soon as Swami came back to consciousness there would be excited questions from Easwaramma. “Did Draupadi call you to Hastinapur or to the jungle? Did you hear the elephant trumpet in despair when the crocodile gripped its leg?” (This last refers to a story from the Puranas when the Lord Narayana hurries to save the king of the elephants.) And Swami would say, “Yes, There are Draupadis now too and wicked Kauravas also, determined to insult them. There are still Durvasas with fiery tempers ever ready to bully the helpless and parade their power to curse. There are human crocodiles hiding in calm waters waiting to pounce on their victims. I have come to show them all that I am here to protect whoever calls on God.”

Swami’s words to Easwaramma were the same that once were spoken by the Lord to Joshua: “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord thy God is with thee whither so ever thou goest.”

“Neither be thou dismayed?” But who would not be alarmed at Swami’s ever increasing display of His powers? He had begun surgical operations now! He did a tonsils operation on a child who was the nephew of no less a dignitary than the Inspector General of Prisons of the Madras Presidency. He coolly invited Dr. Padmanabhan of Bangalore to send his 17 years old brother to Puttaparthi saying, “Why take the trouble to put him in the Victoria Hospital? I shall do the hernia operation and he will be up and about, perfectly fine ten minutes later.” There was an operation on Thirumala Rao, another VIP from Bangalore. The surgery was done with knives, scissors, needles and swabs, all created in seconds with just a few circular movements of His right or left hand. The Vibhuti He produced was anaesthetic, antiseptic and tonic, all in one. The patients recovered in record time. And the wonder grew in Easwaramma’s voice and eyes. There was greater and greater fervour each time she spoke the word ‘Swami’ now.

It was not wonder alone but a measure of resignation too that had come. The old puzzlement and fear were dying fast in her. She grew to accept the fact that the circumstances of her life, the who and the what, the where and the why, were unalterable and most often incomprehensible Acts of God. The stories from the epics, the great ‘oral culture’ of India that pervades the subconscious of its people, had long ago taught them that the truths of life are mysteries that lie beyond the mind’s mere understanding. But, there still did linger a thin haze of dust that hid the total Swami from her view. She could not quite rid herself of the belief that the ‘evil eye’ could affect this wondrous boy of hers. He would protest, but she insisted on carrying out the ritual of averting it – the coconut waved around the body to draw the subtle waves or particles of evil towards it which was then broken in a symbolic act of destruction.

II Samasta Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II