The Kodaikanal Experience - Part I of III
Rendezvous with Prof. Anil Kumar
said that Prasanthi Nilayam is Swami’s office, Brindavan is His home
and Kodaikanal is His playground. In a manner of speaking, this is so
particularly where Kodaikanal is concerned, for it is here, that one
gets a glimpse of the Sai of the Forties, especially where Divine
Leelas are concerned. It all lasts only a few weeks, but what
extraordinary weeks they are, for those blessed to enjoy Divine
is a hill station in South India about four hundred and odd kilometres
south east of Bangalore and near the Temple Cities of Madurai and
Palani. In former years, every summer Swami used to take a few
selected students with Him to Kodai. To help you to know more about
Swami’s Kodai sojourn, we reproduce below the transcript of a dialogue
between Prof.Anil Kumar and Prof. Venkataraman, broadcast earlier over
Radio Sai. Both are from the SRI SATHYA SAI INSTITUTE OF HIGHER
Anil Kumar Garu, welcome to the Studios of Radio Sai. Normally I begin
by asking our visitors or guests to introduce themselves. In your
case, however, this is obviously not necessary. I would not say you
are next only to GOD, but you certainly stand next to GOD so often [!]
that most people know you for sure. Nevertheless I think most of us
don’t know how you first came to Swami. So may be, you could tell us
very briefly how you came to Swami. We want to know how He pulled the
string in your case and brought you close to Him.
I am Anil Kumar from the State of Andhra Pradesh and I belong to
BRAHMA SAMAJ, founded by Rajaram Mohan Roy. Our families have been
following this faith, Brahma Samaj, for the last three generations.
What is special about this Brahma Samaj?
BRAHMOS don’t practice idolatry. A follower of this Samaj believes in
fellowship of faiths and congregational worship. The Brahma Samaj does
not accept class or the caste system. It believes that all religions
are equal. It works for women’s emancipation.
everything that is said in Vedanta is there in this philosophy?
and that is why the founder Rajaram Mohan Roy is sometimes called the
Prophet of Modern India. Both my grandfathers happened to Brahmo
missionaries who dedicated their entire lives for this cause. I came
to Swami for the first time in 1970 because of some problem at home.
My wife was sick and I took her round to thirteen doctors, and spent
thousands of rupees. But after coming to Swami, she had a total cure.
Being interested in philosophy since my childhood, thanks to my grand
father, I then started reading SAI literature and soon I found that
Baba explains Brahma Samaj ideals better than the founder Rajaram
Mohan Roy himself! As a result, I am a better Brahmo now than ever
Yes, that is what Swami always says: Be a good Christian, be a good
Muslim, be a good Jew etc. Now, you are a very good teacher and you
also know a lot about how Swami as the Supreme Teacher moulds students.
So I am going to ask some questions relating to that. In particular I
want you to share with all our listeners, the thrilling experience
about Kodaikanal. It is said that Kodaikanal is Swami’s playground
whereas Prasanthi Nilayam is His office and Brindavan is His home. How
many times have you have been to this playground?
least six times.
That is very good and I suppose many more trips are in store for you.
Thank you sir.
Kodai trip seems to be an extraordinary event and with a special
purpose too. Why don’t you tell us all about the Kodaikanal trip,
starting from the beginning?
Well Sir, Swami selects students for the trip, and the selection is
based on all aspects of their performance in the college - academic,
conduct, devotion, excellence in sports and games, talent for singing
and dramatics as well. All talented students who are also highly
devoted are selected by Bhagavan to follow Him. A few teachers are
also included in the party. Kodaikanal is such a beautiful place. If I
am to say how paradise would be, well, that could not be anything
other than Kodaikanal.
When does Swami go to Kodaikanal, typically?
Usually He leaves in early April; and He returns by 5th of May. So
roughly speaking, He spends about a month in Kodaikanal. But there
have been occasions when He stayed on 6th of May also and celebrated
ESWARAAMMA DAY there, in Kodaikanal. It happened twice I believe.
Kodaikanal is most interesting because Swami is very, very close to
the boys and they can learn many, many things from Swami.
suppose boys are also very close to Swami.
Very, very intimate.
Typically, how many hours a day is Swami with them?
immediately after breakfast He spends an hour with them. After that,
Bhagavan goes out to give Darshan to the devotees and grants them
interviews. During this time, the boys go around the lake a bit and
they return by 9:30. From 9:30 to 11 O’clock Swami again talks to the
boys, after which lunch follows. Next we have tea around 2 O’clock.
Swami talks to boys again from 2:30 to 4 O’clock. From about 4 to 5
P.M there is a public meeting which the boys also attend. After the
public meeting, Swami talks to students and some select devotees,
which is something like an echo session – the evening meeting is
Public meeting means Discourse also?
of course; the Discourse is given in the Bhajan Hall of Sai Sruthi,
Swami’s Mandir in Kodai.
from morning till evening, Swami is talking all the time?
least five Discourses a day!
Four of these Discourses are exclusively for students. Besides, it is
wonderful to see how Swami treats the boys. He enquires about their
family, their brothers and so on.
let us go over the details and start from Bangalore - He always starts
from Bangalore, right? It must be pretty exciting to go all the way
from Bangalore to Kodaikanal. Tell us everything about the trip from
Bangalore to Kodaikanal.
student party travels in a big air-conditioned van, with cushioned
seats that can recline. Swami tells all the boys to get into the van,
which is loaded with sweets and eatables of all kinds, apart from
fruits in plenty. One can go on eating until one reaches Kodaikanal,
neck deep. During the journey to Kodaikanal, Bhagavan halts at not
less than fifteen to twenty places. This is because the State of Tamil
Nadu in which Kodai is located, is full of Sai devotees all over.
Every village in Tamil Nadu has a SAI centre. Along the highway,
devotees raise huge pandals and sit there singing Bhajans while
waiting for Baba. Swami stops, gets down from His car, blesses all
devotees, makes a quick round, receives Aarathi and the gets back into
He takes letters also, smiles and enquires, “How are you?” And after
He gets back into the car, the convoy proceeds.
long does it take you to go from Bangalore to Kodaikanal with stops
for lunch, etc.,?
start from Bangalore at about 5 O’clock in the morning and reach
Kodaikanal by 5:30 or 6 in the evening.
Twelve hours at a stretch and there are certain important places like
Dindigul, Salem and Coimbatore, where big groups, roughly twenty five
thousand people, gather.
Twenty five thousand?
and waiting for Bhagavan. The other centres will have not less than a
thousand or two thousand. But these big towns are where Bhagavan used
to address devotees many years back in the early days. They still
remember Him and that is why they assemble in very large numbers when
Swami is on His way to Kodaikanal. On reaching Kodai, He gives to
every boy a sleeping bag. When they get in and pull the zip, we don’t
know if it is a gunny bag of rice or a boy sleeping inside!
That is not all. Next
morning, Swami distributes a kit containing tooth Brush, tooth paste,
shaving cream, after-shave lotion, blades, the razor, and so on. After
this come towels, new dresses, cameras and what not. One suit case
load of gifts of daily needs and certain monumental presents that we
feel like preserving for the posterity.
you can go without any luggage and accumulate lots of luggage?
Take one suit case and bring back three!
what happens to the teaching about less luggage?(laughter).
then the sumptuous meals there. For breakfast we have three items,
Ten items for lunch,
four items for afternoon tea, and ten items once more for dinner.
Tell me Anil Kumar, after eating all this, how do you manage to stay
through the five
sessions when Swami speaks? (laughter)
Swami’s speech is like an appetiser. Listening more makes us also eat
food for the stomach, food for the head and food for the Heart!
( to be continued……….)
Read Part II