Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli, witnessed the grand and glorious celebration of the Navaratri festival spread over ten days. The festivities began on the morning of September 26, 2022. The ashram reverberated with Divine vibrations from the religious homas and yagas as the festivities commenced with the Divine blessings of Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai. During this festival, spread throughout nine nights, in keeping with tradition, nine feminine aspects of the Divine Mother were revered and celebrated.

The celebrations began with the Sahasra Modhaka Ganapathi homa on day one to invoke the blessings of Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and pray that the Navaratri celebrations be fruitful and blessed. And indeed, as willed by the Divine, over 20 homas were performed, propitiating different devatas and praying for the health and well-being of the entire world. 

Every year, over the last few years, priests from Sringeri have been coming to Sathya Sai Grama to conduct the Navaratri homas and to pray for the health and well-being of the entire world, while priests from West Bengal have been performing Durga puja as an offering of love and gratitude to the Divine Mother.

The traditional kolu with nine steps was displayed at Hridaya Mandir, Satya Sai Grama. As per the Divine command, this year’s theme was the Bhagavatam, and various scenes like baala leela of Krishna, snippets from the Bhagavad Gita and the Vishwaroopa darshana were meticulously recreated. 

Elaborate arrangements had also been made for Durga puja, which has now been recognised by UNESCO and is the first Asian festival to be listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Goddess Durga and her family were brought in from Kolkata and decorated with embellishments known as Dakeshaaj, a traditional art form of Bengal.

Hridaya Mandir was transformed into the temple of Dakshineshwar, with informative displays on various leaders of the Ramakrishna Ashram lining the hallways.

The nine forms of the mother Goddess or the navadurgas – Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Khushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kaalaratri, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri – respectively were reverentially worshipped on each of the nine days. 

To honour the Divine feminine, worship was offered to nine little girls through the kannika puja and to nine sumangalis or married women through the Suvasini puja on the fifth day of the festivities.

This period also saw the launch of the first edition of the India Start-up festival, wherein noted entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and several hundred budding businessmen from across the country participated. Almost every single person in attendance was moved and touched by the message of ‘Love All Serve All’, inspired by Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai’s vision of rural upliftment and development aimed at building a better Bharat. 

Also launched was the revolutionary One Rupee App and Walk for Peace initiative, which saw collective participation towards the health, education, and nutrition of children in need.   

Indeed, the start-up festival gave the attendees a glimpse into the future – ushering in a new era in the mission, with so many more like-minded individuals being able to connect and commit to the cause. 

The boy and girl students held the audience spellbound with the precision and clarity with which they chanted various shlokas and hymns from our scriptures at the beginning of the evening sessions. This included Swadhyaya Prashamsa from the taittiriya upanishadbhusuktam, Narayana upanishad, the ishavasya upanishad, Gayatri Ganapaata, Devi suktam and verses from the mundaka Upanishad

The evening programmes also included scintillating music, dance and theatre performances by various reputed groups and schools. The Kalakshetra Foundation put up two dance recitals, ‘Koorma Avataram’ and ‘Sri Rama Pattabhishekam’; a dance recital entitled ‘Agomoni’ was presented by the Ananda Shankar Centre For Performing Arts, West Bengal, led by Smt Tanusree Shankar ; a Yakshagana performance by the troupe Kalaadhara Yaksharanga Balagaa, entitled ‘Kamsa Vadhe’; flute recital by Dr B Vijayagopal accompanied by Sri Sumanth Manjunath on the violin, Sri Anoor Vinod Shyam on the mridangam and Sri Gopi Shravan on the morching; an enrapturing ensemble was presented by the Sai Symphony Orchestra, the largest symphony orchestra in India comprising students of Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Gurukulam Group of Institutions led by their teacher Mr Dimitris Lambrianos; Carnatic classical music recital by Padma Sri Smt Aruna Sairam and Group; ‘Strings Attached’, veena and violin recital by Dr Jayanthi Kumaresh and Vidwan R Kumaresh; a musical offering by students and staff of Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Gurukulam group of Institutions, along with renowned artistes from Mumbai. On the evening of the tenth and last day of the Navaratri festivities, the staff and students of the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence and Loka Seva Gurukulam presented an enthralling music performance as an offering to the Divine Mother. Both classical Carnatic and Hindustani devotional songs were offered. The songs celebrated Divine Mother’s power, majesty, splendour and infinite love.

The morning and evening sessions were graced by eminent personalities from various fields as special guests. 

On the tenth day, Devi Baran was performed, bidding farewell to the Mother, and praying that she graces us with Her presence every year. The final Durga arati was offered, and the traditional ritual of sindoor khela was observed by married women. After that, the idols were taken in a procession for visarjan or immersion into the waters. 

In the last four days of the festival, the Maha Rudra Yajna was performed, wherein 133 Rudra homas were completed along with 1,331 Rudra parayanams, culminating in the Maha Purnahuti. After the Maha Rudrabhishekam, Sadguru also blessed everyone present by sprinkling the holy water.

The priest explained the significance of the rituals, quoting a line in the Namakam, which prays to the Lord to lead us on the right path. He also remarked that under the guidance of Sadguru, the students of His institutions are true “Saraswati putras” as the knowledge gained in these institutions is being put to the right use for the welfare of the world, thus following the dictum atmano mokshartam jagat hitayacha.

In His Divine discourse at the close of the morning rituals on Dussehra, Sadguru said, “This is a holy place not because there are devotees present here; devotees who have a lot of love for God… All the Gods, too, are present here. In the last ten days, I have seen various Gods, Goddesses, Gandharvas and Yakshas here, just as I see you all here. .. When we prayed, requesting God to accept our prayers, puja and Seva, Mother Parvati and Parameshwara, as they were sitting in Kailash, gave Me their darshan and, with abhayahasta, blessed everybody saying – ‘we are here. I have always told Shiva, “Bhagavantha, Mother is always well dressed. Why don’t you too dress up well?” Thus when Shiva gave me darshan, He was dressed very well (shringara purita). Generally, He is bhasma bhushita. This is what I saw. Not only that, Shiva was wearing a turban (peta) on His head. Hence, I told them to put the peta on Shiva over there because He gave me darshan in shringara rupa adorned with many ornaments. There is no snake too around his neck today. He is adorned with garlands and ornaments. Let all prosper, let there be auspiciousness, and let there be the grace of Shiva on all. From here, let the spirituality and culture of Bharat spread everywhere.” With these words, Sadguru showered His blessings on all. 

The Navaratri celebrations were, without doubt, a cleansing and spiritually uplifting experience for all – those who attended the various events and religious ceremonies physically and those who watched them online the world over. As Sadguru said in His Divine discourse at the conclusion of the festivities, the various rituals and homas must remind us to lead our lives as an offering to the Divine constantly.

Ten glorious years in the mission have passed thus far, and one can only imagine how much more glorious the coming years will be.