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Dasara Festival

Dasara, also known as Vijayadashami, is one of the most important festivals celebrated in Prasanthi Nilayam in the Divine presence of Bhagawan which is celebrated on the 4th October this year. It is preceded by the first nine days observed as Navratri.

On reflection, the Dasara festival has afforded an opportunity for the vast gathering of seekers coming to Prasanthi Nilayam to benefit by a course of divine lessons from Bhagawan Baba on the mystic symbolism of the vedic culture. The festival carried a special significance where Baba invariably in His Discourses used to make important declarations about Himself, His Life and His Divine Mission. To quote one of these,

“The first sixteen years of this Life have been, as I have often told you, the period when Baala leela (divine child sport) predominated and the next sixteen is being spent mostly in Mahimas (miracles) in order to give santhosha (joy) to this generation. Joy and contentment are short-lived sensations; you have to catch that mood and make it a permanent possession: Aanandha (bliss). After the thirty-second year, you will see Me active more and more in the task of Upadhesa (spiritual instruction) - teaching erring humanity and in directing the World along the path of Sathya, Dharma, Shaanthi and Prema (Truth, Righteousness, Peace and Love).Not that I am determined to exclude leela and mahima from My activity after that. I only mean that re-establishing Dharma, correcting the crookedness of the human mind and guiding humanity back to Sanaathana Dharma (eternal universal religion) will be My task thereafter.”
Prasanthi Nilayam, Vijayadhashami, 1953

When reminiscing early days back in the 1950s as narrated by Sri N Kasturi (Sathyam, Sivam, Sundaram : Part 1), Dasara was celebrated with bhajans (devotional singing) and puja (ritualistic worship) with Baba decked in ornaments, rings, necklaces, crown. He used to be taken in a palanquin which was decorated in different styles everyday.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the celebration began with the Flag Hoisting ceremony located on top of the Prasanthi Nilayam temple on the morning of the first day. To the sound of bells, gongs, music and prayer, Baba used to unfurl the flag. The second day was set for social work by devotees, repair of the approach road, cleaning of the place where poor were fed etc with Swami giving a discourse in the evening. The third day was celebrated as Children’s Day with sports and fancy dress, drama and recitations by the children. Baba used to give prizes to every child participant. On the fourth day, poets assembly was held with poets from near and far expounding their pieces in a variety of languages who were graced with gifts. The sixth and eight day was spent in bhajans. On the seventh day, the poor were fed and clothes distributed. He examined the cooking and the items prepared. He also supervised the seating arrangements. He Himself used to serve the sweet Laddu to almost everyone, stooping before every leaf and pouring on the leaf as much as each could eat. There used to be musical presentations. On Vijayadasami Day, Abhishekam (offering) was done to the image of Shirdi Sai Baba.

Bhagawan Baba elaborates on the significance of Dasara festival,

“It is now Dasara festival time. What is Dasara? The celebration of Dasara festival is meant to purify the actions performed by the dasendriyas (5 senses of action plus 5 senses of perception). Every human being in this world has to perform some kind of karma. The presiding deity or the driving force behind these actions is Devi, who is the personification of energy. She is the bestower of all kinds of energy to perform various kinds of karma by the human beings. Goddess Lakshmi bestows various kinds of wealth like money, food grains, gold, different kinds of objects, vehicles for movement, etc., to human beings so that they can lead a happy life in this world. The third facet of the divine female principle is Saraswati, the goddess of learning and intellect. Thus, the Trinity of Durga (goddess of energy), Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) and Saraswati (goddess of learning and intellect) are worshipped during this festival of Dasara. This is the underlying principle of worshipping this Trinity of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati during this Navaratri (9 day) festival. It is essential that man worships all these three facets of the Divine Principle.”
Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 41

“The term "Devi" thus represents the Divine power which has taken the Rajasic form to suppress the forces of evil and protect the Satwic qualities. When the forces of injustice, immorality and untruth have grown to monstrous proportions and are indulging in a death-dance, when selfishness and self-interest are rampant, when men have lost all sense of kindness and compassion, the Atmic principle, assuming the form of Sakti, taking on the Rajasic quality, seeks to destroy the evil elements. This is the inner meaning of the Dasara festival. When the Divine Goddess is in dreadful rage to destroy the wicked elements, She assumes a fearful form. To pacify the dreaded Goddess, Her feminine children offer worship to Her with red kumkum (sacred red powder). The Goddess, seeing the blood-red kumkum at her feet, feels assured that the wicked have been vanquished and assumes Her benign form. The inner meaning of the worship of Devi with red kumkum is that thereby the Goddess is appeased.

During the ten days of the Dasara, the Rakshasas (demons) in the form of wicked qualities have been routed. Rakshasas do not mean demonic beings. The bad qualities in men are the demons. Arrogance is a demon. Bad thoughts are demons. Ravana is depicted as the king of Rakshasas.He is said to have ten heads. He was not born with ten heads. Who is this Ravana and what are his ten heads? Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Moha (delusion), Lobha (Greed), Mada (pride), Maatsarya (Envy), Manas (the mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (Will)and Ahamkara (the Ego)-- these ten constitute the ten heads. Ravana is one who has these ten qualities.”
Discourse at the Kalyana Mandap at Brindavan, on 18-10-1991, Dasara Day.

In recent times, one recollects the commencement of the celebrations of Dasara in Prasanthi Nilayam with the air filled with the music of Nadasawaram. Bhagawan used to come out and be garlanded by His richly bedecked pet elephant Sai Geeta . Then He used to join the grand procession led by Sai Geeta and Nadaswaram musicians with the priests chanting the vedas to the Poornachandra Auditorium. All the devotees used to flock to the auditorium to witness the grand commencement of the Veda Purusha Sapthaha Jnana Yagna which used to be a spectacular event. Once Swami was seated, the proceedings began with two priests involved in the process of producing the sacred fire in the traditional way by rubbing two pieces of wood. After the fire was produced, Swami used to bless it after which it used to be placed in the Yagna Kunda (fire altar). Soon after, the priests used to start offering oblations in the Yagna Kunda with the whole atmosphere engulfed with divine vibrations arising from the sacred sound of the vedic hymns and other chants. The rituals continued for seven days.

On Vijaya Dasami day, poornahuti (final oblations) used to be offered by Swami to mark the completion.

“Poornahuti is a symbolic ritual wherein one should put one’s evil qualities in the sacrificial fire and come out pure and sacred. If you follow this path, the whole world will be transformed.”
Divine Dasara Discourse, Sai Kulwant Hall, 10th October 2005

After that, Swami used to go around the masses of devotees sprinkling tirtha (sanctified water). During the celebrations, on each day, the Prasanthi Vidwan Mahasabha, the elite gathering of the learned used to happen where chosen individuals had the opportunity to share their wisdom or poetry with the congregation. This used to be followed by a musical presentation before Baba’s Divine Discourse. It used to be a very joyful occasion. These traditions are still maintained today in Prasanthi Nilayam in Swami’s physical absence.

Dr Kiran Patel,
Chairman, UK Central Council