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Love and Light

National Birthday Celebrations – A Perfect Palace in Leicester

It was a cold but crisp Saturday morning in Leicester, but the weather was no dampener to the excitement of His devotees from all over the country gathering together in Leicester to celebrate the Lord’s 87th Advent. The anticipation of the National Birthday Celebrations had been growing over many weeks and the day didn’t disappoint.

As you walked through the door, you were instantly transported to the Hill View Stadium in Prasanthi Nilayam, as the impressive backdrop on the Stage with the Golden Palace and a beautifully decorated Jhoola in the foreground, enhanced the sacred ambience. Everyone could feel the Divine Presence instantaneously, and the spirits soared higher still as bhajans started.

Aptly reflecting the theme for the day- The Light in our Hearts- the programme commenced with a beautifully choreographed traditional Bharatha Natyam dance titled ‘Deepanjali- An Adoration of Light’. Four young students (Jhyni Ravishankar, Melisa Thulaseetharan, Maduri Satkunabalan, Vaishnavi Mohan Sarma) of the renowned Bharatha Natyam dancer and teacher Mrs. Pramila Ramanan from London,
performed this dance with such finesse, poise and verve that every assembled heart could experience the vibrant and colourful energy of Light. Then followed an offering by our beloved ‘little hearts’, SSE children from all across the country, who lovingly presented their Lamps of Love at the Divine Feet of our Bhagawan, even as a group of pilgrims from the recently concluded Sai Jyothi UK pilgrimage sang mellifluously a selection of familiar songs that they had rendered in Prasanthi Nilayam such as ‘I am the light’ and ‘Master of Light’.

After this uplifting introduction to what promised to be a wonderful day, the National Chair of our Organisation, Dr Kiran Patel, formally welcomed everyone and especially our esteemed guests from America, Dr Samuel Sandweiss and his wife Sharon. He reminded all those present of our unique fortune in being the contemporaries of the Sathya Sai Avathar who bestowed His Love constantly and unconditionally on all of us, and who worked all His Life tirelessly towards our spiritual transformation. For such a loving and divine Master, the ideal Birthday present that we could hope to offer, Dr Patel felt, would only be our unflinching commitment to integrate His Message of Love and Human Values in our daily lives.

Dr Samuel and Sharon Sandweiss who need very little introduction amongst Sai devotees then enthralled us, and enlightened us all by sharing a lifetime’s worth of experiences with the Divine. It was evident from the very start that they had a vast amount of love, happiness and wisdom to share with everyone seated in the hall and all those watching online from around the world. Stories about their interactions with Bhagawan, personal experiences and working with Sai devotees filled everyone’s hearts with limitless joy and at many points laughter. The special feature of their engaging talks was the accompanying high quality video clips on Swami set to some beautiful music from different genres in a very imaginative way by Dr Sandweiss. These videos with music highlighted Bhagawan’s Message and Mission very vividly to everyone assembled and drenched everyone in beautiful memories, pure joy and devotion.

After a delicious lunch and some lovely bhajans, Dr Samuel and Sharon continued with their wonderful sharing. What a wonderful opportunity it was to hear even more from those who have had such close experiences with Bhagawan and who permeate joy in a way that it becomes infectious! It was clear that their unwavering focus on Swami and His Teachings had a direct impact in all the activities they undertook, be they simple daily activities or organising large concerts in America to share His Love and Message with the wider communities. Flying all the way from America to share their love, it is difficult to explain just how they uplifted everyone in attendance on the day, in a such a profound way that we were sitting in His presence celebrating His Advent!

Everyone who has ever been fortunate enough to be in the Divine presence on His birthday (or seen the videos) knows that the Jhoola ceremony is an immensely special and unique part of an unforgettable celebration. This event was no exception, and the Jhoola swayed once again to the divine melodies in the form of a beautiful music offering by a group of 11 extraordinarily talented musicians.

Words cannot describe the offering of supreme devotional vibrations that permeated the hall and sweetened the already filled the hearts. The musical offering commenced with a vocal rendering by the renowned singers Kaviraj Singh Dhadyalla and Deepa Rasiya accompanied by Tabla maestro Manjeet Singh Rasiya. Then followed an elaborate and expert instrumental rendition of Raag Bhairavi lead by the internationally acclaimed Sitar player Ms Roopa Panesar, and accompanied on Santoor by Kaviraj Singh and on Tabla by Dharmesh Parmar. Ms Roopa Panesar was also accompanied by her students Jasdeep Singh, Varinder Singh, Akash Parekh, Iksit Gadhia, Nimrata Rasiya and Meera Rasiya. Truly the divine vibrations created made the Jhoola ceremony a celestial one. There was no doubt that Bhagawan had adorned the stage to enjoy this awe inspiring performance.

The climax of the programme was still to come though! Accompanied by the smiling faces of enthusiastic children, no less than 4 specially made cakes by devotees around the UK, bejewelled with candles, were brought onto the stage for the grand finale Birthday song and cake ceremony. A wonderfully memorable way to end a programme in the ‘Palace Setting’ where Bhagawan’s grand 85th Birthday was celebrated in Prasanthi Nilayam, only to be relived again in all its glorious splendour in UK two years later. One never to be forgotten!!

Dr Amit Patel
Leeds