Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 13 - Magnificent public session and special private session in Shimla

A magical evening on 15th April

After a good snooze, we began to ready for our first darshan session in Shimla by 4 pm. The washroom area was simply wonderful. It had an empty and large central area with the toilets and bathrooms in separate arrays. The windows overlooked the hills around and a constant breeze filled the space. The gusts of fresh air made it rejuvenating to just stand in this area! Soon, we filed up to the second floor of the mandir, in the interview room there and waited for Swami’s arrival. Once He arrived, we moved up.  

Disneyland? For a spiritual seeker, this is indeed Disneyland with the best of nature and the best of Bhagawan!
This is a picture taken from the back-end of the darshan grounds at Anand Vilas. (Download photo and see
it in full size). 
The tiffin session was a short and quick one. Swami called Dario and asked him which country he came from. “Spain” was the answer. “Not pain” was Swami’s retort! Swami also asked Phaneendra as to which place he was from and the answer was, “Hyderabad”. He also made enquiries about his grandfather and enquired whether he had come here. The tiffin session soon concluded and Swami left for the bhajans session.


The “ship deck” had filled up. There were devotees as far as the eye could see. The ladies side presented a very pleasing sight in its myriad colours. In sharp contrast, the gents’ side was like a white expansive sheet! The lovely blue mountains formed the backdrop with the clear blue skies. A gentle breeze was operating and it refreshed everyone in its trail. The bhajans were already on and everyone were singing enthusiastically as they awaited His arrival. The news had already travelled that Swami was out of His room. The ladies had also seen Him descend in the lift.

{This is the 13th part of an ongoing series. You can read the previous part at this link:
Or you can read from the beginning of the serial where each part is linked to the next. The link to Part 1 is here:


The CM of Himachal Pradesh offers his salutations to Swami.
The chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, Prem Kumar Dhumal had come to pay his respects to Swami. He had a bouquet in his hands and he offered it to Swami before touching His feet in the lift-landing area of the ground floor of the mandir. Along with him were also a few of his cabinet colleagues and they too sought His blessings. Swami was smiling as He blessed them and then He moved into the prayer hall.


Through the prayer hall to the entrance which opens up to the 'ship-deck' darshan grounds.
The bhajans were on and Swami gently moved through the central path of the hall. Like ocean waves, the ladies and gents on either side rose to see Him better and/or to hand over letters. Swami kept looking to each of the sides and blessed everyone. As He came out on the stage shortly before 6pm, thousands of hands went up in reverential salute to Him. It was such an awe-inspiring sight. The bhajans gained tempo and everyone began to clap with all energy. The claps could be heard reverberating among the hills around.


The sunshine was warmed by the gentle glow on Swami's face... Wah! What ethereal beauty
The golden sun lit up Swami and He looked so beautiful. He was the focus of every eye and the subject of all the adoration in the air! Along the borders of this great gathering place was the police for security. All of them stood with folded hands and strained their eyes to catch a glimpse of the lovely form in orange. And as these bhajans went on, CG and I busied ourselves taking shots for posterity to admire and benefit.

Everyone turned into a devotee and all eyes were directed only towards one point. (I hid behind Swami and took this picture
to get an idea of how Swami's view feels!)
I slowly moved down the stage on which Swami was seated, and began to move towards the end of this helipad-turned-darshan-ground. It was a really large area as I discovered on foot! I moved all the way to the back and take some shots for stitching into a magnificent panorama.To see the whole expanse of humanity in front of me and the dream like structure, at the base of which was the tiny orange form of Swami was such a thrilling sight. I could feel the devotion pouring in from all sides.




There were many people who had still not been accommodated. So, there were two constantly moving lines of people - the devotees would join the line, walk all the way to the front having darshan for about 10 minutes that it took to traverse the distance and finally exit from the front! It was an ingenious way to ensure that the hungry hundreds who were stuck outside could have their heart’s fill. As I saw the mandir, I noticed that the green trees provided a very colourful and multi hued backdrop to it. As I moved back to the front,  I noticed that there were also a couple of dogs in the darshan grounds and nobody drove them off - truly all were equal in God’s presence.


I sat in the front, admiring the edifice in front of me and took pictures. It was imposing and very different from any of the temples that had been built for Swami. That I think is a feature of all Swami’s temples. Prashanti Nilayam, Brindavan, Dharmakshetra, Shivam and Sundaram - all have their own unique style and design.


The panorama is simply stunning and out of the world. (Of course, a slight distortion has got introduced in the photo to
accommodate the wide panorama. The stage is actually right in the center.)
Shortly after 6:30pm, Swami indicated that He would go inside. Blessing everyone, Swami moved into the the mandir. Again, He was accosted by hungry devotees here - a common feature for Swami in Simla.  Swami moved through the hall and ascended the stage. He asked for the Aarthi and soon the camphor was waved at Him. Swami called S V Giri and had a few words with Him. Smiling at all the devotees assembled, Swami moved towards the lift. As Swami moved up, we were all told to rush to the interview room because Swami was expecting us to be there.


Swami came in at about 6:40 pm. He came to the front and even as He settled, He was asking about songs. Looking at Ravi bhaiya, Swami asked him to sing. Ravi bhaiya asked Swami, “Swami the tabla and harmonium are in the next room. Shall we get them in?”
(In the morning, it was CG’s suggestion that we shift all our instruments from the room to the mandir so that we could be ready anytime Swami tells us to sing, It turned out to be a wise and wonderful suggestion indeed.)
All the boys filed out to get the instruments. CG told me that I would have to shoot with the video camera too as he would be playing the sitar. Saying so, he rushed to fetch the sitar.

Ravi bhaiya would often get called by Swami and few words would be exchanged. This picture is taken later, during the
dinner session.

I slowly was adjusting the video camera and at the same time taking photos. Swami asked Bhabhani Shankar what he was doing and where he was from. The conversation lasted a few moments. All the instruments were in the room by now. Swami asked what they would be singing, Srinivasulu sir told Him that they would sing, “Sai Ke Darbar Mein”. Ravi bhaiya and Srinivasulu sir began to sing that qawwali, starting off with the alaap.


The boys fortunate to be at His feet, began to slowly massage them. Their massage-rate and movement seemed to synchronise with the rhythm of the song! Those in the second row were clapping and lending their voices in chorus for the qawwali. I was in the fourth line to Swami’s right. From my angle, I could get Swami’s profile along with the close profiles of the singers. I slowly moved the camera stand towards the back from where I could get a straight shot of Swami. In a matter of a minute, I was at the back - face to face with God. The song concluded and Swami looked at Aravind Sai and told him to start.


Bhabhani Shankar gets his moment with the Lord as Prabhakar and Dario look on. 
Quick whispers between him and Prabhakar decided the song and it was conveyed to the harmonium player. They started off with the song, “Sainatha Bhagawan.” As they sang, Swami was reading some letters that were present in His lap. Even as they concluded, He looked at them and said, “Sing one more song!” This is a blessing that very few are blessed with. To give joy to the One who gives joy to everyone is a very special privilege. And that too when Swami asks for another song, it must be really some great merit of the past lives.


Prabhakar began with an Alaap, “Vishweshwara” in Raag Todi. The flute and harmonium accompaniments added to the profundity and beauty of the tune. With a bang the song, “Maa Prana deepam” began. The tabla and mridangam danced in tandem and the powerful Shiva song filled the entire room. The two lads, Prabhakar and Aravind Sai, sat with their palms folded and sang with all feelings. It was a beautiful experience. The song is so beautiful for it is nothing but a list of adjectives for Lord Shiva - each adjective seems to describe him better than the previous one. The song built into a crescendo and when it concluded, there was an air of awe and reverence.


Swami now looked at Ashwath and PS and told them, “Now you sing!” He waited patiently as the tabla and mridangam tuned themselves and then the boys began, “Bantureethi kolu”. Swami looked intently at both the boys and moved His head rhythmically to the song. As usual, they sang beautifully in tandem, playing with the swaras and ended the song on a high note with PS taking a soprano. There was an applause at the end of the song and Swami nodded.


He then asked, “Venkatraman! How is it?”  
GV sir, who was seated on a sofa opposite to Swami rose up and answered,
“Swami, it was wonderful and magnificent. That too they concluded the song with Sai Raama! To hear that in your presence, is such a blessing. Even the Shiva song was powerful and they also sing that burrakatha song very well.”


Swami now looked at Prabhakar and Aravind Sai and told them to sing the burrakatha song. They started the lullaby song on Swami. As they concluded it, Swami looked at Anil Kumar sir and asked him what he felt. He replied elaborately - Swami it was simply perfect. The tune and the lyrics were perfectly matching. If one understands the language, one would be transported into a wonderful experience.”
GV sir and SV sir also added something saying that the Kodaikanal experience was recreated here.


The private song session in progress.
At this point, Devasenapathi’s father said, “Swami. he sings the song Shiva Shankari very well!” He had been very impressed with the recollection of Ashwath’s previous performances of that song. Swami now looked at Ashwath and told him,
“Sing Shiva Shankari.”
That was all that he needed. Even as the harmonium played the chords and the flute and sitar joined in, my hairs stood on their ends. Raag Darbari in its pure and pristine form. Ashwath began the alaap - first the lows and gradually built up to the high end of the scale.


The whole mood changed into one of reverent devotion and the pathos of a devotee. Swami was so moved. His gaze was fixed on Ashwath and His emotions seemed to move along with the oscillations of his vocal chords. Even as I shot the video, my eyes welled up with tears. The song began and the tabla and mridangam gave life to it. It was such a beautiful trance-like experience to sit through the song. Swami also began to keep rhythm with the song.


{You can watch glimpses of the whole visit to Shimla, including this private session in the Sai Blossom production: Shimla 2010 - A Divine Travelogue }


The song progressed and soon picked up in speed and variety. Swaras flowed out incessantly from Ashwath and everyone seemed to be immersed in the song. When he concluded with a high pitched alaap, Swami almost broke down in joy and everyone applauded. Swami nodded His head appreciatively and with pride. He looked at Balaram sir and asked him what he felt. Balaram sir was overwhelmed and he said,
“Swami I have blessed to accompany Swami for the last 20 years. In my life I haven’t seen such musical excellence. This group must be conferred the title of Sangeet vidwans!”

Swami however gave a beautiful reply, “Bantu reethi Kolu - that is the prayer always.” I was not sure whether He told that as a statement or a piece of advice or both. It was simply beautiful - “The prayer always is to pine to be counted among the servitors of the Lord.”
Swami then called Jagadish and told him,
“Go out and check if the food is ready!”
He soon returned and told Swami that the food was ready. Swami looked at us and asked,
“Do you have to carry all these instruments also with you?”
Harish Mani answered, “No Swami! We shall leave them here.”
Swami further said, “Leave them all to the sides, along the walls and then come for dinner.” During the course of this conversation, Swami also mentioned,
“I heard your songs, I am full!”


As we were about to leave, Prabhakar rose with a bowl of Akshatha grains. Everyone chorused, “Swami it's his birthday!”
Swami took the grains and began to sprinkle it on everyone present. I was surprised to see even Satyajit bow down his head for the grains. I thought that the one who lived in the Ganges would not pine for more water! But God is such that you can never have enough of Him! What was more surprising was, Swami was not showering him with the grains! Prabhakar then requested Swami  to put grains on his head too and Swami obliged.


Prabhakar now held the grains for Swami to shower on other eager heads as he  told Swami, “You have given us this opportunity......how can we ever express our gratitude for this?” I bowed down at His feet and Swami sprinkled the grains on my head. One by one, everyone moved to Swami and Swami showered them with the grains. Ravi bhaiya had taken the camera now and he was shooting. Swami asked Sai Dath as to where he had come from. Kerala was the answer and Swami continued,
“He is a very good boy. He is from our music college. Every Sunday, these boys come together and give a programme. He has been with me from a young age itself.”


Prabhakar's large-mindedness turned his birthday into a blessing-fest for all of us. You can see even Satyajit waiting to
receive the Akshatha grains on his head. 
I was feeling overwhelmed with gratitude and was on the verge of tears as I told Swami, “Swami! There are so many people waiting to catch a glimpse of you outside and we have this chance to be with you! We are so grateful!” Swami also became emotional. He then moved and was heading towards the lift. CG came forward to receive his share of grains. Swami sprinkled grains on him and he picked grains off Swami’s robe too. I was taking photos now and as I moved towards a window to take pictures, Swami told me,
“People will see. Don’t go there!”
I realized how much Swami was aware of even at the physical level and quickly moved away from the window. He knew that any movement inside would be sensed outside and would lead to unnecessary excitement.


Swami then moved out of the room into the lift. We quickly trooped to the dining hall. We sat in our places and after the food prayer, began to eat. We were very happy at the lovely session we had. During the session, Swami called Ravi bhaiya and told him that they too should insert as many swaras as possible in the songs they sing. He also told him to be ready with a programme for Dusshera. The dinner session complete, Swami moved via the lift back to His room. We too exited the building with filled heart and full stomachs.


In the night, it was a beautiful sight to see the mandir with all lights and decorations. Devotees were still streaming on the darshan grounds. We too went there to take some pictures along with the building. A lot of solos and group photos were taken. Then, we retired into our rooms for rest, reminiscing the wonderful events of the day. There were gifts for us, placed on our beds. The package contained a shawl, a muffler and a Himachali cap - traditional ‘warming’ gifts that made us so happy. We thought that we would wear these in Swami’s presence sometime soon.


continued in Part 14 which is at the link below:

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5 comments:

  1. "I thought that the one who lived in the Ganges would not pine for more water! But God is such that you can never have enough of Him!" - Beautiful verses. Enjoying every post of your's Sir. Thanks for sharing your experiences and by the grace of Bhagwan, I am able to read till now all the 13 parts and hope He continues to bless me to be in His satsang.The coincidence is that I joined this group just 1 / 2 weeks before the start of this series. Thanks & awaiting further parts from you - S.Ganapathy

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    1. Thank you... :) Maybe 4 more parts to complete this travelogue... :)

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    1. Sai Ram Aravind, unless readers go back to part 12 and read comments from one Shimla resident they wouldn't quite understand the hard task these good people accomplished nor the miracle of completing Swami's dining room in one night. The trance like state he felt he was in was similar to that experienced by many on visits to PN whether Swami was in residence or not. People don't during a normal day for them sit still for hours on end in the sun without getting sunburnt and yet it doesn't happen in Swami's presence.The photographs turned out beautiful and you must have walked some distances to get some of these fantastic images. I remember reading that you were going to write your first book and got permission from Swami. Did you have it in mind when you stitched together the panoramic view? And what a wonderful idea (I hid behind Swami and took this picture
      to get an idea of how Swami's view feels!). I was paying more attention to Prabhakar's facial expression that I didn't even notice Satyajit bending all the way forwards to get his head in position for blessings with rice grains but I did like the way you compared him to The Ganges. I enjoyed the trip very much thank you. Chandan aunty.

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