Glimpses Of Onam Celebrations At Prasanthi Nilayam (1999)
"Like previous years, this year also, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, Kerala, organized the Onam festival at Prasanthi Nilayam with great devotional fervour. The celebrations started on 22d August 1999 and ended on 25th, the day of Onam. The entire Mandir was aesthetically decorated and wore a festive look.
The festivities began in Sai Kulwant Hall on the morning of 22d August 1999 with Mangala Vadyam by well-known Nadaswara Vidwan, Sri M. Kodandaram & Party of Banglore in the Divine Presence of Bhagavan Baba. Thereafter, Sai Kulwant Hall reverberated with Nadaswara Vadyam and Pancha Vadyam music on all subsequent days of celebration. The evening programme started in the Poomachandra Auditorium in the Divine Presence at 6.00 p.m. with the invocation prayer rendered by students of Bal Vikas, Emakulam District. This was followed by a vocal music concert by Sri Naveen N.Namboodiri of Calicut accompanied by Sri Ajithkumar on Violin and Sri Trichur Mohan on Mridangam. Another interesting item of the programme was Santoor instrumental music by Sri Haridas of Kozhikode accompanied by Sri Philip V. Francis on Tabla. In the end. Bhagavan came on the stage and blessed the artistes. The programme concluded at 7.00 p.m. with Aarati to Bhagavan.
The evening of 23rd August was made lively by three cultural items presented in the Poomachandra Auditorium at 5.00 p.m. in the Divine Presence of Bhagavan Baba. The first item entitled 'Nadalayam' (playing of different musical instruments) was presented | by Sri Trichur R. Mohan and Party. This was followed by devotional songs rendered by singers led by Sri T.S. Radhakrishnan. The last item of the evening was the dance drama 'Bhaktavatsalyam' staged by the Bal Vikas children of Trivandrum District. Excellent acting by children, impressive dialogue, simple but beautiful make-up and lofty theme earned appreciation from the audience. In the end, Bhagavan came on the stage, blessed the artistes and distributed clothes. The programme came to a close with Mangalarati to Bhagavan at 6.55 p.m.
On 24th evening Bhagavan came to Poomachandra Auditorium at 5.00. The programme began with devotional songs in the mellifluous voice of Srimati Seethalakshmi, accompanied by Smt. Baalambal on Veena, with Ms. Lalitha, Girija and Smt. Bhavan Radhakrishnan providing vocal support. This was followed by a symbolic play enacted by the youth wing of Trivandrum District, showing the conflict of a modem man. This superbly performed dance drama depicted how modem man was ruining his life by falling prey to the evils of desire, greed, power, attachment and jealousy. Man can be rescued \v using his intellect and by taking refuge in Divinity. The last item of the programme was .mother dance drama by the very young Bal Vikas children of Quilon District, who won the hearts of the audience with their marvelous acting and perfectly choreographed dance. At the end, Bhagavan went up the stage and blessed the children and distributed clothes. The day's programme came to a close with Managalarati to Bhagavan.
The four-day celebrations culminated on Onam Day on the 25th. Bhagavan was ceremoniously received with Pooma Kumbham, Vedic hymns, to the accompaniment of Nadaswara music and Panch Vadyam. At 7.00 a.m. Bhagavan lighted the sacred traditional lamps in Sai Kulwant Hall marking the inauguration of the celebration. A variety of programmes added colour and lustre to the occasion. The programmes included Puja dance by the children of Pathanamthitta Bal Vikas, group song of one of the Panchratna Kritis, Kavadi attam by the children of Allepey District Bal Vikas, rendering of devotional songs by Kumari Radha & Sri Kavalam Sreekumar, Kolattam by Trivandrum Bal Vikas, Peacock Dance by Kozhikode Bal Vikas' followed by Bhajans by Kerala team. Bhagavan blessed the occasion with His Divine Onam Message. The morning programme came to a close with the distribution of Prasadam and Managalarati to Bhagavan.
The cultural programme on the Onam evening was conducted in the Poomachandra Auditorium in the Divine Presence of Bhagavan Baba. Bhagavan came to the Auditorium at 5.00 p.m. and the cultural programme started with devotional songs by Sri Sreekumar & Party. Not only did the melodious singing of Sri Kumar earned acclamation and appreciation of the audience, but also the song rendered by his son, a tiny tot, sent the audience into raptures. Bhagavan showered His love and blessings on the child and materialized a gold chain for him when He came on the stage. The second item of the programme was a dance drama entitled 'Ashwamedha" by Bal Vikas children of Cannanore District. The theme of the play was the performance of Ashwamedha Yajna by Sri Rama in Ayodhya. His sons Lava and Kusha, living with their mother Sita in the hermitage of Sage Valmiki, hold the sacrificial horse and defeat Bharata, Hanuman and their Army. In the end, Rama himself meets his two sons and Sita. Sita however returns to her mother Bhudevi (mother Earth). The last item of the programme was a play entitled 'Work is Worship'. The theme was taken from a story of the book 'Chinna Katha' (a compilation of short stories narrated by Bhagavan in His discourses). The play enacted by the students of Sri Sathya Sai Vidyapeeth, Srisailam (Calicut), depicted how Lord Vishnu taught Narada a lesson when he became too proud of his devotion to the Lord. The Lord sent him to a farmer, who had to do hard labour, to earn his living, yet he never forgot God. When put to test in trying circumstances, Narada forgot to chant the Lord's name. At the end of the programme, Bhagavan went up the stage and blessed the artistes. With offer of Arati to Bhagavan, the four-day-Onam celebrations came to a close." Editor, SS. 9/99, pp. 249 & 250
Glimpses Of Onam Celebrations At Prasanthi Nilayam (1995)
"After Ganesha Chaturthi, it was a great occasion for Keralites to celebrate their national festival of Onam in the benign presence of Bhagavan as they had done for a quarter of a century. The Sai Kulwant Mandap received the Kerala touch in decorations for the festival, coconut bunches and coconut leaves being prominent everywhere. Banana trees, mango leaves, palm fronds, brightly coloured flags and pennants decorated Sai Kulwant Hall and the Poomachandra auditorium. Silken umbrellas stood gracefully on every wall. One was held by the Emperor Bali centuries ago when he encountered the dwarf Vamana. On 5 and 6 September 1995, Keralites had special seating for Darshan. On the 5th evening, there was a special cultural event in the Poomachandra auditorium put on by the Bal Vikas children. The programme included a dance drama about Krishna holding up the Govardhana Mountain, a folk dance and a solo performance with Kavadi by a young man whose artistic skill earned for him a reward from Swami in the form of a medallion presented to him on the next day.
On the 6th morning, 36 weddings were performed in Sai Kulwant Hall. The brides, dressed in typical Kerala white saris with golden border, were brought in procession to the Hall headed by a group of young girls carrying lighted lamps. Among the bridal couples, there were two Muslim couples, for whom the marriage ceremony was performed by a Muslim priest from Kerala. Bhagavan went round the couples three times, first to distribute mangala-sutrams, second time to distribute saris, and the third time to confer His benediction on them after wedding.
In the afternoon, there were three speakers before Bhagavan's discourse -Mr.Natarajan, President of Kerala Sai Seva Organization, Mr. Justice Eradi and Mr. Wellington, a former Minister in Kerala. Later in the evening, there was a cultural programme in the Poomachandra auditorium." Editor, SS, 10/95, pp. 266 & 267
From the book - Festivals at Prasanthi Nilayama - An Exposition by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba - Compiled and Edited by Suresh C Bhatnagar