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Sai Premabandhan: National Birthday Celebrations

The Advent of God on earth is a heart-warming event for every devotee, fulfilling all prayers and filling him or her with great joy, hope, love and peace. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s Divine Advent on the Monday morning of 23rd November 1926 is indeed such a memorable event for millions of devotees across the world. His Life, His Form, His Words and His Work: All have given, and continue to give, immense happiness and inspiration to self-transform and lead purposeful lives.

In celebration of the 88th Anniversary of this epoch-making event, the National Birthday Celebrations of our beloved Bhagawan were held at the Leatherhead Theatre in Surrey, London, on the 23rd November 2013. About 550 devotees and others from various parts of UK attended and enjoyed the Programme on the day. The theme for the day was titled ‘Sai Premabandhan: The Unifying Bond of Divine Love’, which reflected Bhagawan’s core message of Unity of all creation that can be experienced through unconditional Divine Love.

As devotees entered the theatre on a cold but crisp morning, they were greeted by the warm smiles of many young volunteers offering them a hot drink. One felt another surge of warmth in the heart as one entered the main auditorium and looked at the Main Altar on the Stage. There was the backdrop of the magnificent ‘Shanti Vedika’, the main stage in the Hill View stadium at Prasanthi Nilayam that hosted many momentous birthday celebrations of Lord Sathya Sai, and a tastefully decorated Jhoola (swing) and Baba’s bewitching picture in the foreground. Everyone appeared to experience the same thrill and anticipation that one feels in Prasanthi Nilayam whilst awaiting Bhagawan’s Divine Darshan.

Soon the morning session began with the singing of sacred hymns and mellifluous bhajans; devotees singing together the glory of the Lord always helps calm the mind and fill the heart with love. After a warm welcome, Dr Kiran Patel, Chairperson of the UK Central Council, set the scene by reminding everyone Bhagawan’s divine counsel:

"The message of the Avathaar must be born, must become alive, must grow in you, your heart---that is the birthday, you have to celebrate...Plant the seeds of Love in your hearts, let them grow into trees of service and shower the sweet fruits of Aanandha. Share the Aanandha with all. That is the proper way to celebrate the Birthday". 23/11/1972

He highlighted the various Service initiatives that devotees undertook recently through the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation and the Sathya Sai Charitable Trust in UK, especially the participation in Food Banks in UK, the Uttarakhand flood relief in India, and the Haiyan Super Typhoon relief in The Philippines.

A beautifully choreographed Invocation Dance by the children from SSE (Sai Spiritual Education) at the Sai Centre in Kingston, London filled everyone with great delight. The children’s love for Bhagawan was evident from the perfect and graceful coordination in their movements on the stage, to achieve which they must have spent many long hours in dedicated and devoted practise. They received a thunderous applause from all the devotees. This auspicious invocation then set in motion the unfolding of the rest of the Programme, each aspect of which turned out to be a spiritual feast for the senses, mind, heart and soul!

Our guest speaker was Mrs. Janet Bock-Bicker, who along with her late husband Richard Bock, were blessed by Bhagawan with innumerable and rare opportunities in late 1960’s. They stayed and travelled with the Lord for months at a time, photographed and filmed Him, as well as various ardent devotees at the time. The numerous films that they produced on Bhagawan (Aura of Divinity, Universal Teacher, The Message I Bring, to name a few) are an eternal treasure for humanity, especially to all of us in the Sai family. Janet shared her experiences whilst she showed some of the pictures and videos from her huge collection, including some taken during Bhagawan’s divine visit to Africa in 1968. Everyone was transfixed in this audio-visual narration, and felt teleported into a divine realm of pure love, beauty, and happiness. Although Janet spoke twice during the day, each session lasting over an hour, one couldn’t be content and wished for more! Such is the Bond of Divine Love, one mused.

But this innate thirst to be close to the Divine Sathya Sai was quenched a little more through the wonderful musical concerts that were offered during the Programme: Firstly by the talented Young Adults of our Sai family in UK, and then by our guest musician, the internationally renowned singer, Sri Sikkil Gurucharan.

The youth concert in the morning, Song of the Soul, was rendered by Ms. Charlotte Hardwick from Canterbury, Kent. Charlotte was blessed to sing in Bhagawan’s Immediate Divine Presence in Sai Kulwant Hall in the years 2005, 2008 and 2011. Partially sighted but full of Light, Charlotte shared the joy in her soul with the assembled devotees who reciprocated spontaneously, especially when she played popular bhajans on the accordion towards the end of her concert. She was accompanied by Vikesh Tailor (keyboard) from Leicester and Brana Ravichelvan (guitar) from New Zealand.

The youth concert in the afternoon, Hearts in Adoration, was rendered by a group of highly talented young adults from London. The team comprising Serena Jones, Janita Amriwala, Gayatri Patel, Arun Jones, Robin Pillay, Darshan Patel, Ujas Patel and Brana Ravichelvan sang and played a string of English songs that celebrated the Love of God and offered gratitude for His Compassion. Most of the members in this group were blessed to be a part of the SSE choir from UK that offered a programme at His Divine Feet in Sai Kulwanth Hall in 2009.

The crowning point of the musical renditions was the immaculate and soulful singing of the highest calibre by Sri Sikkil Gurucharan. Young but immensely gifted, this internationally acclaimed vocalist from the Carnatic Indian classical tradition was blessed to sing for Bhagawan’s 85th Birthday Celebrations in His Immediate Presence in Sai Kulwanth Hall in the year 2010. It is said that ‘Music is the language of the spirit’ (Kahlil Gibran), and it will not be an exaggeration to say that Sikkil Gurucharan’s two 1-hour long concerts at the National Birthday Celebrations touched every heart, united all hearts and connected them with the very Source of Supreme Love. The theme for the day, ‘Sai Premabandhan’, indeed became a real experience for all those present.

As one left for home, with ‘prasadam’ bags of Birthday Cake and other nourishments for the body, there was an inescapable feeling of unity, a sense of ‘deep connect’ with each other: With the devotees and volunteers at the event, with members of Sai family in our homes and Centres, and beyond! Of course, there was the realisation too, that one needs to constantly work with oneself so as to cement this uplifting inner experience forever. There was a renewed resolve and understanding that our Sadhana (spiritual effort) and, consequently, His Grace would ensure this doubtlessly.

Sai Hruday
Youth Wing, UK