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Swami in Maharashtra
November 1

Bhagawan Baba took a trip to Maharashtra

Below are newspaper articles on His visit

The Rediff Special / Chindu Sreedharan

Mumbai comes under Sai Baba's spell

God arrived five minutes late for his darshan in Bombay. He emerged from the right side of the podium some seconds past 1805 hours, from among a battery of cameramen and their incessantly flashing lights. A medium-sized figure topped by a fleshy, clean-shaven face and a halo of fuzz, clad in his regular flame-coloured robe, which, from afar, was remarkably reminiscent of a housecoat, he proceeded to arthritically climb the few steps on to it.

swamiThe venue was the Cooperage football ground at Colaba, south Bombay, where a mass of devotees, with bated breath, craned necks, folded hands and awed gasps, among them at least one disbeliever, I, sat in reverential silence. Some of us have been here for only the past hour, but there were others, like the few pious old ladies whom I could see out of the corner of my eye, who have been rooted to the spot since 1400 hours.

Meanwhile, God -- if millions, including the Indian prime minister, believe the man before us, Satya Sai Baba, aka the Saint of Puthaparthi, is the embodiment of the Almighty, who am I to question them? -- was traversing the length of the podium. Many before me have reported that he glides rather than walks, but to me his movements resembled standard human locomotion. He advanced in a stiff-legged gait, more like an aged godman than an immortal one. But that is not surprising -- after all, he is 82, and some of it is bound to show, if not in his hair which is still jet black, at least in his movement.

crowdAs God walked, he kept moving his palms outwards, in a gesture that looked a lot like he was offering something. From where I sat, his face, most often, looked curiously impassive, as if the adulating thousands before him had not the slightest effect on him. Occasionally, he acknowledged the salutations of the crowd with a grand wave of hand -- a faintly arrogant gesture, more suited to a statesman than a spiritual leader.

"O beloved Bhagwan," thundered an official of the Sai Baba Seva Organisation (the organisers of the event) over the loudspeakers. God, as well as the chief invitees of the evening -- constitutional expert Nani Palkhivala, Indian Merchants Chamber president Y P Trivedi, former Bombay sheriff Nana Chudasama -- were by now seated. "And the millions who have gathered here... May we offer a million pranams at your lotus feet. And a million swagats to the city of Bombay..."

God listened on indulgently. His face was still inscrutable, the hands making signs in the air. And the official went on to tell the masses that Baba was the 'all-powerful', 'the embodiment of love', that He had to walk 12 miles to school, how Puthaparthi today has become the epicentre of the spiritual world, how He created a super-speciality hospital there...

God, meanwhile, sat completely unaffected. The paeans pouring, inexhaustibly, from his devotee's lips seemed not to move him one bit. But the crowd drank it in, showing its appreciation during the significant pauses with some dispersed claps. For some devotees -- like the bespectacled 35-plus gentleman to my left -- the sight of God in their midst was too much. They closed their eyes, raised folded hands above their heads and -- swooned.

The Seva official wound up his introduction by asking Palkhivala to present a floral tribute, which he did with alacrity. The official then called on Trivedi to speak a few words.

"Reverend Satya Sai Baba," he began, reverently, and went on to express his deepest admiration for Baba and his strong belief that only He could save the world from the terrible things that were happening to it. He wound up with a Sanskrit aphorism, whereupon the next speaker, Dr Vyas, natty -- and perhaps hot too -- in his suit, took the podium.

"Friends, Mumbaiites, Countrymen... and Ladies," he roared. The last salutation, however, didn't quite go down well with even this respectable audience. They tittered but the Rotarian went on, undaunted. "As I see the sea of humanity..."

The next speaker was Chudasama. A good speaker, he, with a sense of humour and no rhetoric. "His Holiness Shri Satya Sai Baba, all the dignitaries, and the well-behaved crowd," he began, "All of us have come here with the same purpose... He has come to Mumbai after four years... I remember the first time he came here..."

Chudasama reminisced a little, said Baba had come to Bombay at the right time, when the city was in the throes of trouble and how He was the only hope. Chudasama cracked a few jokes at the expense of the politicians ("Parting with money may be difficult for politicians. But I should say, with Baba's blessings, they may get re-elected" etc). He suggested that the industrialists should adopt one village apiece in Maharashtra and provide it clean drinking water. He wound up with another jab at the Indian politicians:

"May Baba put some wisdom into them (the politicians). Because they are the ones who have ruined our country. Since this is a live telecast, I hope the message gets across..."

swamispeakIt was now God's turn to speak. As an eager devotee fixed the mike, he stood up, gazed at the upturned faces and started in Telugu: "Prema swarupalu..."

His voice was definitely not mesmeric. But what he lacked was amply made up by his translator.

"Embodiments of love..." the translator thundered in a sepulchral voice, and the crowd let out a collective tremulous sigh. God had, by now, broken out into a Telugu verse. The most devout of the devotees seemed to know the lines and sang along with him. Finishing the verse, he addressed the crowd again:

[Translation] "Embodiments of love...The human life, the human birth is essential..."

The discourse went on for 45 minutes. Forty-five minutes, wherein he quoted from the Bhagwad Gita and reiterated his teaching: "Love all, serve all."

"God is with you, in you, around you, below you, above you!"

"God is not separate from you. You are god!"

"I am god!"

"I and you are god!"

"Love is god. Believe in Love!"

Roared God's translator: "Man is living the life of an animal today because he has emotions like anger, lust and avarice. When you are overcome with anger tell yourself 'I am not dog, I am man, I am not dog, I am man, I am not dog, I am man...' and the anger will go away..."

"Embodiments of love... construction of temples are not signs of spirituality. Do your duty. Practise what you preach..."

Though devoid of any magnetic quality, God had an earthy sense of humour that made his discourse interesting. As exemplified when he spoke about depression amongst men:

"The cause for depression is desires, desires, desires, desires," he said (he has a habit of repeating certain words, running the last ones into each other), "Shut your mind to desires and depression will vanish." A pause here and the punchline:

"Less luggage makes travel a pleasure!"

someoneHalf an hour into the discourse, however, several devotees could be seen heading for the exit (Was God's hold waning?). But determined volunteers set themselves upon the weak-willed, forcing them to sit down again. Finally, God was ready to end the discourse. He sang a bhajan in praise of Lord Rama, had the crowd join in with vim. And then he was gone in a matter of minutes. Behind the podium and out into his vehicle he went, without even drawing vibhuti out from thin air...

On the way out, I cornered a couple who clearly were believers. They were settled in Spain, they told me, and this was their first encounter with God. Why, yes, they definitely felt blessed after the meeting... They were more relaxed... And, of course, they would definitely try and meet him again.

"An evening well-spent," noted another, "I am not a worshipper but a believer. What He is preaching is pure gospel. If all of us followed it, there would be no trouble in the world..."

Meanwhile, the crowd was pouring out. It was an interesting mix -- a beautiful girl in resplendent green wobbling on a pair of stilettos, big men, beefy women, two sari-clad foreigners looking more Indian than Indians, an old man in a wheelchair, a short girl in an oversized shirt, two fat women, a middle-aged woman clutching her pubescent son... They all poured out with expressions of beatific satisfaction.

Was I the only one who wasn't affected by Baba's darshan? Despite my cynicism, my disbelief, I had prepared myself to be convinced by him. After all, I reasoned to myself, if he could pull crowds like this, there must be something in him. Something magnetic...

"You know what," my colleague told me as we made our way down the jam-packed road, "He is the vocal edition of all those self-help books you get!"

I couldn't help agreeing.

Photographs: Jewella C Miranda

Power Inc takes a breather, gets down to spiritual biz
1 Nov 2009, 2358 hrs IST, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Temporal and spiritual power intermingled in Mumbai on Sunday as devotees — both the humble and the great and the good — of the spiritual leader Shri Sathya Sai Baba lined up to receive his blessings.

Big chiefs of the financial sector and India Inc turned out in large numbers to seek the Baba’s blessings. The morning prayer in the Mumbai suburb of Andheri was attended by an eclectic collection of dignitaries. These included ICICI Bank chairman, KV Kamath, the chairman and MD of the Union Bank of India, MV Nair, Kotak Bank’s vice-chairman and MD Uday Kotak, Gunit Chadha, the head of Deutsche Bank’s India operations, PMS Prasad, a director on the board of Reliance Industries (RIL), India’s largest private sector company, and Meera Sanyal, a banker and an independent candidate from the South Mumbai parliamentary constituency.

At a prayer meeting on Sunday, Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan, BJP leader Gopinath Munde and many other dignitaries sought the Swami’s blessings at a darshan organised in Mahakali Caves, Andheri.

Chief minister Ashok Chavan prayed for his new administration. “The government needs the Swamiji’s touch and his blessings. We hope to run the government according to his principles,” Mr Chavan said on Sunday morning. The CM wasn’t the only dignitary queuing up for a sprinkling of the spiritual stardust. A clutch of serving and former judges, including former Supreme Court judge BM Srikrishna (of the Srikrishna Commission fame) and a number of prominent lawyers and doctors were also present.

Mr Kamath, who spoke on the occasion, referred to the insights thrown up in the course of a two-day conference on the ‘Ethics and the world of finance’ held in August 2009 at the Sathya Sai Baba University at Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh. That conference was attended by two RBI governors, the incumbent Duvvuri Subbarao and his predecessor YV Reddy. Besides the assorted dignitaries, thousands lined up for a darshan, first at Andheri and later at Worli.

Later in the day, the chief minister and his family hosted the Sathya Sai Baba at Varsha, the Maharashtra CM’s residence in Mumbai’s Malabar Hill. Predictably, some of this attracted criticism from people of a rationalist bent of mind who said that the CM’s actions were not in consonance with the state’s secular traditions. Pictures of Mr Chavan paying obeisance to the Sathya Sai Baba were flashed by some Hindi and Marathi television channels.

That’s unlikely to deter the CM, who recalled his family’s three decade-long relationship with the spiritual leader. His father SB Chavan, two times Maharashtra CM and former Union finance minister under Rajiv Gandhi, had been similarly criticised in 1975. But the media critics of that era had later realised their error, Chavan Jr said.

Both Mr Chavan and Mr Kamath praised the selflessness of the volunteers, many from affluent backgrounds, working at various hospitals and educational institutions run by the Sathya Sai Seva Organisation.

Shri Sathya Sai Baba is on five-day visit to Maharashtra. The Sathya Sai Seva Organisation runs a number of schools and four hospitals. The organisation was recently in the forefront of relief work for cyclone victims in Orissa and flood victims in West Bengal.

Chavan hosts Satya Sai at CM house, sparks row
TN Raghunatha | Mumbai

A head of his swearing into office for a second term, CM-designate Ashok Chavan courted a controversy by playing host to spiritual guru Satya Sai Baba from Puttaparthi, at his official residence here on Sunday.

Chavan — whose Government formation has been delayed owing to differences between the Congress and the NCP over the nature of power-sharing arrangement between them — took time out to seek the blessings of Satya Sai Baba for the third time in less than a month.

Along with his wife Ameeta and teenaged daughters Srijaya and Sujaya, Chavan received the spiritual guru at the gate of Varsha around 12.30 pm. The Chavan couple performed padyapuja of Satya Sai Baba. The spiritual guru, who spent more than an hour with Chavan and other VIP devotees, had lunch at Varsha, sources in the CM’s residence said.

This is perhaps for the first time that any Chief Minister of Maharashtra has played host to a spiritual leader at his official residence.

A large number of senior politicians and industrialists turned out at the CM’s residence to have darshan and seek blessings of Satya Sai Baba. These included former Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, senior NCP leader Praful Patel, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Manikrao Thakre, Mumbai Congress unit president Kripa Shankar Singh, State Legislative Council chairman Shivajirao Deshmukh, industrialist Ashok Hinduja and leading builder Niranjan Hiranandani.

Held at the Chief Minister’s official residence, Satya Sai Baba’s visit was described by the Chavan camp as a “private affair”. Only select guests were present at Varsha on the occasion, while the media had deliberately been kept out.

Despite it having been a “private affair”, Varsha had come under siege from a large number of police personnel hours ahead of and during the visit of Satya Sai Baba.

Expectedly, Chavan’s move to host Satya Sai Baba evoked instant protests from various quarters, with people from different walks of life questioning him for “misusing” the Chief Minister’s residence — and that too before actually assuming the office.

While a regional television channel carried out an all-out campaign against Chavan for “misusing” his official residence and going against the progressive outlook of Maharashtra, renowned rationalist Narendra Dabholkar hit out at the Chief Minister-designate by saying that the latter’s act of doing padyapuja to a godman went against the concept of scientific temper “which is well enshrined in the Constitution”.

“By playing host the Satya Sai Baba, who is known more for his powers of magic than anything else, Chavan has insulted the rich social progressive traditions of Maharashtra. He has also gone against the very concept of scientific temper propagated in the Constitution by seeking the blessings of a godman who is known more for producing white ash and gold rings at the sleight of hand and presenting them to his devotees,” Dhabholkar told The Pioneer.

It was not just the Congress leader who was playing host to Satya Sai Baba. Senior NCP leader and outgoing State Home Minister Jayant Patil also performed a puja to the spiritual leader at his official residence “Royal Stone” later in the evening.

Earlier in the day, NCP’s Mumbai unit president Sachin Ahir performed puja to Satya Sai Baba at Jamboori Maidan at Worli in South-Central Mumbai, where the godman participated in a darshan-cum-bhajan programme.

A staunch follower of Satya Sai Baba, Ashok Chavan met the spiritual leader for the third time since the State Assembly poll. A day after the polling, Chavan Jr had rushed to Puttaparthi in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh to seek the blessings of Satya Sai Baba.

Chavan Jr last met his spiritual guru along with his wife Ameeta at Hadshi, a village near Pune, on Friday. Sunday’s was Chavan’s third meeting with Satya Sai Baba since October 13, 2009.

Times of India
Thousands throng Hadshi to see Sai Baba
TNN 31 October 2009, 06:25am IST

PUNE: Thousands of people thronged the village of Hadshi, about 60 km from here, on Friday for a darshan' of spiritual leader Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who has been in the village for the last three days.

The spiritual leader's appearance on the stage near the village led to loud shouts of Sai Ram'.

Chief minister Ashok Chavan's wife Amita Chavan and former Union minister Shivraj Patil were among the politicians and eminent personalities who have come to the little village on Friday to visit Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

During the three-day discourse, other politicians, including ministers Patangrao Kadam, Harshvardhan Patil and Dilip Deshmukh also sought darshan'.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba is expected to leave for Mumbai on October 31.

On Friday, people began gathering at the venue hours before the actual programme started, wherein child stars of a reality show performed a few devotional songs. There were also a number of foreigners among the crowd, who clapped and hummed bhajans along with others.

For Yamuna Deodhar, a resident of Mahad, the trip from her town about 100 km away was one she would always remember simply because she got what she wanted. "A darshan' of Swamiji was something I had never expected to take place, so this is definitely a dream come true," she said.

For Mukund Mule, a financial consultant from Sangamner, it was the social work of Sathya Sai Baba that inspired him to become his devotee. "He and his followers are working for the betterment of the society and the deprived class. I respect that," he said.

Echoing the same sentiments Sunil Ahire said that he has come for the spiritual discourse after hearing about the work carried out by Sai Baba's various organisations. "I have come to this spiritual discourse for the first time. I wanted to listen to the thoughts of Baba and this was a good opportunity for me since the programme is taking place very close to my village," said Ahire, a resident of Paud village.

Some politicians had come along with their families and were staying near the venue for the last three days. "I had heard his spiritual discourse in the late eighties for the first time. Since then I have been following Baba's discourses for more than 20 years. I regularly visit his ashram in Puttaparthi," said Dayanand Londhe, sarpanch of Malad, Baramati, and a former member of zilla parishad.

Satya Sai Baba will bless Bandra-World sea link

Linah Baliga / DNA
Thursday, October 29, 2009 2:51 IST

Mumbai: Spiritual leader Satya Sai Baba will be on a two-day visit to Mumbai this weekend. Coming to the city after a gap of nine years, the Baba will bless the Bandra-Worli sea link at the behest of his devotees, and drop in at Varsha, the official residence of chief minister Ashok Chavan.

"Devotees want Mumbai to prosper, so they want him to travel via the sea link," said Rajeev Nambiar, member, Sri Sathya Seva Organisation (SSSO), adding that children from Balvikas Sanstha, where actor Aishwarya Rai had enrolled as a child, will release balloons in the air to welcome him on the stretch. The Baba has a huge following in the city, from the common man to the celebrity. Politicians Vilasrao Deshmukh, Ashok Chavan, DY Patil and Jayant Patil, and musicians like Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Hariharan and Suresh Wadkar, are ardent devotees, and will be meeting him during his visit. Cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar has informed DNA that he will pay his respects to the Baba when he comes to the city.

Sources in SSSO said Ashok Chavan has invited the spiritual leader for lunch at Varsha. Chavan had made a special trip to Pune to seek the Baba's blessings on his birthday on October 28. The Baba, however, is making a transit stopover in the city. He is on his way to inaugurate a temple complex called Sri Satya Sai Pandurang Kshetra and do a moorti sthapana in Hadshi via Pune in Lonavala. He will be put up at Dharmakshetra near Mahakali Caves in Andheri (E).