by V.K. Narasimhan
There are certain periods in the history of mankind when the mortal
beings of this earth witness epoch-making divine events with their own
eyes. By far the most astounding event of this century is the Advent
of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Birth and Family
Bhagavan Baba was born on 23rd November 1926 in Puttaparthi, a
remote village of Andhra Pradesh in India, in the Ratnakar family of
Sri Kondama Raju, who was the grandfather of Bhagavan's physical body.
Sri Kondama Raju, who lived separately from the family contemplating
on God day in and day out, had full faith in the prophecy of his Guru
Venkavadhoota that God would incarnate in his family. He lived a long
life of 116 years to realise and experience the divinity of his
grandson, who was by his side to fulfil his last wish of pouring water
into his mouth when he breathed his last in 1950. He had two sons,
both named after his Guru Venkavadhoota, Sri Pedda Venkama Raju and
Sri Chinna Venkama Raju. The divine child Sathyanarayana Raju (called
Sathya or Raju in childhood) was the fourth child of the devout couple,
Sri Pedda Venkama Raju and Srimati Easwaramma.
Sathya as a child was enchantingly charming. The entire village was
enthralled by His unearthly beauty and majestic demeanour. Even at the
age of five, He earned the titles of Brahmajnani (one endowed with the
knowledge of God) and Biddalaguru (child teacher). He was a born
renunciant and never let a needy person go empty-handed. He was a
vegetarian and abhorred cruelty to animals. He spent most of His time
in the house of Karnam Subbamma, who lived in the next house, and
whose boundless motherly affection for Sathya was reminiscent of
Yashoda's love for Krishna.
One of the favourite activities of child Sathya was Bhajan singing.
He not only sang and composed Bhajans, but also organised a children's
Bhajan group in Puttaparthi even at the age of ten. Later, in old
Mandir as well as in New Mandir (Prashanthi Nilayam), Bhajan singing
became an essential part of the daily programme. Who else but Divinity
could know that one day Bhajans would become one of the main
instruments in Divine hands to put the deluded humanity on the path of
devotion and spirituality? No wonder, today Sai Bhajans are sung in
all parts of the world and in all the languages as a means of
elevating and ennobling human nature.
Puttaparthi in the early 40's consisted of only two lanes, which
met each other at right angles in addition to a few mud huts. A
western author, Arnold Schulman, who visited this hamlet in late
sixties described this cluster of scattered huts as "ten minutes past
the Stone Age". Bhagavan Baba has transformed this so-called Stone Age
village into a modern township with a unique educational complex and a
university, a super speciality hospital with all modern facilities and
an airport of its own. The crest jewel of this now world-known place
is Prashanthi Nilayam, where millions come every year from all corners
of the world to receive the blessings of the Avatar.
After finishing his elementary education in the school in
Puttaparthi, Sathya was admitted to the Higher Elementary School in
the nearby town of Bukkapatnam at the age of eight. Bukkapatnam is
about 2 1/2 miles from Puttaparthi across the river Chitravathi.
Sathya's conduct in school was a model for others. He excelled in
studies, games, sports, plays etc., and invariably sang the prayer
song at the start of the school everyday. He earned the love and
admiration of not only his classmates, but many teachers also. Janab
Mahbub Khan was one of those teachers who adored and loved Sathya and
recognised His Divinity. After the famous incident of a teacher
getting stuck to his chair as he made Sathya stand on the bench,
Sathya came to be recognised as a divine child not only in the school,
but in the town also. Another fortunate teacher of Sathya was Sri B.
Subbannachar. Since the entire family of this teacher adored Sathya,
He often lived in their house. He also visited the house of another
teacher Sri V.C. Kondappa, to whom He used to narrate the story of
Shirdi Sai Baba. On this basis, Sri Kondappa wrote the life story of
Shirdi Sai Baba in 102 Telugu verses and published it as a small book
entitled "Sree Sayeesuni Charithra".
After completing His studies at Bukkapatnam, Sathya went to
Kamalapuram (Cuddappa District) with His elder brother Seshama Raju
for further education at the age of ten. The fame of the wonder child
Sathya reached Kamalapuram also. In school, He earned the love and
admiration of His schoolmates and teachers. While Sathya continued His
studies at Kamalapuram, Seshama Raju went elsewhere to undergo
training. After completing his training, Seshama Raju was posted as a
Telugu Teacher in a High School at Uravakonda, a town in Anantapur
District. Naturally, Sathya accompanied His brother to Uravakonda,
where He was admitted in the same school where His elder brother
worked. Stories of Sathya's manifestations and miracles were already
on the lips of not only the students and teachers but all over
Uravakonda. As in Bukkapatnam school, Sathya's proficiency in music,
dance, drama, poetry was immediately recognised in the Uravakonda
When Sathya turned 13, history took a sharp turn. Divinity of
Sathya as an Avatar was in full readiness to bloom, but mystery of the
Divine is impossible to fathom. The effulgence of the Supreme Being
comes only after the darkest period. The body of the tender child
Sathya had to undergo a terrible persecution before the rays of
Divinity could spread in the universe in full effulgence from it. On
the 8th March 1940, a shocking news spread in the town of Uravakonda
that Sathya was stung by a big black scorpion, as Sathya shrieked and
held His right toe at about 7.00 p.m. on that day. Nobody saw the
scorpion, but exactly after 24 hours, Sathya became unconscious and
remained so throughout the next night. On regaining consciousness,
Sathya behaved in a most extraordinary way as if possessed by a spirit.
Alarmed at the condition of Sathya, His elder brother Seshama Raju
called the parents who brought Sathya to Puttaparthi. After consulting
doctors and other village healers, the parents took the tender child
Sathya to the house of a terrible exorcist at Brahmanapalli, who put
the child to such horrible treatment that every onlooker was moved
with fear and shock. The dismayed parents could not bear all this and
brought Sathya back to Puttaparthi.
Early Declarations of Avatarhood
Exactly after two and a half months of the scorpion incident,
Sathya made His first declaration of Avatarhood on 23rd May 1940. The
household of Pedda Venkama Raju was crowded with people as Sathya was
materialising flowers and sugar candy and distributing to the amazed
villagers. Pedda Venkama Raju was informed about what was happening in
his house. Enraged and puzzled by the behaviour of his own child, he
threatened him to disclose his true identity. And pat came the reply
from Sathya "I am Sai Baba" in the form of the first declaration of
Avatarhood. Later when He was asked to give proof of what He said, He
threw a handful of jasmine flowers on the ground which formed into
Telugu letters "Sai Baba". Not impressed by these extraordinary acts
of Sathya, Seshama Raju stuck to his plan of giving Him higher
education to make him fit for "Public Service". So, only a few days
after this incident, he took Sathya back to Uravakonda in June 1940
and admitted him in the same school. Sathya was already a celebrity in
Uravakonda. Crowds of pilgrims started coming to the miracle boy's
house to seek his blessings. The headmaster of the school and several
teachers recognised the divinity of the child Sathya. His teacher
Thammiraju adored and worshipped Him.
Sathya provided another proof of His Divinity to His unbelieving
elder brother when in Dasara holidays they all went to Virupaksha
temple in Hampi near Hospet. When Seshama Raju and party entered the
sanctum sanctorum of the temple, they found to their utter amazement,
Sathya standing in place of the Lingam, though they had left Him
outside. Baffled by this extraordinary happening, Seshama Raju rushed
out and found Sathya leaning against a wall. This in fact was the
prelude to the momentous declaration the Avatar wanted to make about
His Divinity, as He seemed to have resolved to declare to mankind that
God had come on the earth in human form to usher in the promised
After their return from Hospet, Sathya went to school as usual, but
returned soon from midway. It was 20th October 1940. History of
mankind was rewritten on this glorious day when Sathya, throwing his
school bag in the house, cast away the veil of Maya and assumed the
role of Sathya Sai Baba to start His mission of transformation of
mankind which He has been performing for the last 60 years for the
benefit of the beleaguered humanity in all corners of the world.
From Uravakonda, Baba was brought in a grand procession to
Puttaparthi, where He first took residence in the spacious house of
Karnam Subbamma who served Him all her life with devotion and
dedication. This old lady served Baba with tender care and looked
after all the devotees who came to meet Him. Bhagavan stayed at her
house for several years after declaring His Divine Mission in
Uravakonda before he shifted to the Old Mandir.
When the number of devotees increased, need for a Mandir was felt
by the devotees. Thus, the Old Mandir was constructed at the place
between Sathyabhama and Gopalaswami temples, which was inaugurated by
Bhagavan Baba on 14th December 1945. The Old Mandir had four rooms.
Bhagavan shifted from Karnam Subbamma's house and occupied one of the
rooms to the left of the verandah. One room was used as a store room
and the other two rooms were for the devotees.
Divine Leelas on Chitravathi Sands
After the inauguration of the Old Mandir, the daily flow of
devotees to Puttaparthi increased substantially. During those days,
devotees would get ready at 3.00 p.m. in the afternoon to witness
Bhagavan's Leelas (divine pranks) on the sands of Chitravathi. By 4.00
p.m. all would reach there. Baba would ask the devotees to choose the
place of ther liking and all would sit in a circle. Baba would then
start playing with the sand while eager eyes of the devotees watched
His divine play. From the mounds of sand, He would bring out idols of
gods and goddesses, sweets of various kinds and numerous other objects.
In fact, anything He willed would come out of the sand. From 1946 to
1949, this was almost a daily event. On certain special days, Baba
would take out a Kalasha (vessel) full of nectar from these sands and
distribute this ethereal liquid to devotees. At other times nectar
would flow from His fingers and the fortunate devotees would receive
it. In later years also some devotees were privileged to see such
Leelas of Bhagavan.
The tamarind tree, now called Kalpavriksha (wish-fulfilling tree)
standing on the hill on the west bank of Chitravathi, was another
object of Bhagavan's Leelas. Sometimes, Baba would take the devotees
to this tree and ask them what they wanted. And in an instant, Baba
would pluck them from the tree and give them.
The number of devotees kept on increasing with the result that in a
few years the Old Mandir could not accomodate them. Even sheds and
makeshift Pandals around the Old Mandir were inadequate during
festivals. In answer to the prayers of the devotees, Baba agreed for a
more spacious place. Thus, the idea of New Mandir was conceived and
the same was constructed at a place to the south of the village of
Puttaparthi. Bhagavan Baba inaugurated it on 23rd November 1950 on his
25th birthday and named it Prashanthi Nilayam (the abode of supreme
Prashanthi Nilayam, the abode of Bhagavan Baba, bears testimony of
Bhagavan's Divinity. The millions who throng this small township in a
remote part of Andhra Pradesh in India experience its divine
vibrations, which are soaked in its atmosphere. They come from all
parts of the world, from nearly 180 countries spending their money and
time to have Darshan and blessings of Bhagavan. When they return to
their countries and places, they carry with them numerous stories of
experiences, which describe the divine love of Bhagavan for the entire
mankind. Bhagavan's presence has made Prashanthi Nilayam a township of
love and peace. It is a different world altogether where Sathya,
Dharma, Santhi, Prema and Ahimsa permeate the entire environment.
Though there are crowds evwerywhere, there are no jarring noises.
There is cleanliness, order, discipline, courtesy and humility
everywhere. This is a mini world in itself. People from different
countries following different religions, speaking different languages
live together, dine together and mingle with each other with sacred
feelings of love and brotherhood. If one wants to see "brotherhood of
man and fatherhood of God" not merely in theory but in practice, one
can see it in Prashanthi Nilayam.
Bhagavan announced His Mission in the following words way back on
25th May 1947, when he wrote to His elder brother Seshama Raju in
reply to his letter:
"I have a Task: To foster all mankind and ensure for all of them
lives full of Bliss (Andanda).
I have a Vow: To lead all who stray away from the straight path
again into goodness and save them.
I am attached to a Work that I love: To remove the suffering of
the poor and grant them what they lack.
I have My definition of Devotion I expect: Those devoted to Me
have to treat joy and grief, gain and loss, with equal fortitude.
This means that I will never give up those who attach themselves to
When I am thus engaged in My beneficial task, how can My name be
tarnished as you apprehend?
You can yourself see the full glory in the coming years. Devotees
must have patience and forbearance."
Bhagavan's Mission spread rapidly after the construction of
Prashanthi Nilayam. Publication of "Sanathana Sarathi" was started of
Sivarathri day in February 1958 in which all the 14 books of Vahini
series written by Bhagavan Baba were published in serial form. Besides,
Bhagavan's Discourses now run into 30 volumes of "Sathya Sai Speaks".
Sri Sathya Sai Organisation was started in 1965, which now has
branches in nearly 180 countries all over the world. Some remarkable
changes have also taken place in and around Prashanthi Nilayam,
including those on the growth of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher
Learning (commenced in 1981), the functioning of Sri Sathya Sai Super
Speciality Hospital (1991) and the Drinking Water Projects (1995). A
few articles highlighting the significance of these and various other
aspects of Bhagavan's Mission have been given in this Special Issue of
"Sanathana Sarathi," which is offered at the Lotus Feet of Bhagavan to
mark the 74th year of the Advent of the Avatar. A brief account of
Bhagavan's early life and Mission has also been included for the
benefit of the ever-growing community of devotees.
Source: Sanathana Sarathi, Special Issue, November
1999, published by Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust