The festival of Pongal / Makara Sankranthi marks the transcendance of the Sun from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. It is marked by the day the Sun crosses the Tropic of Capricorn, heralding the closure of winter and the impending arrival of warmer days (spring to summer) in the northern hemisphere. This festival is celebrated across the entire Indian sub-continent in myriad names along with festivities unique to the Region, Languange and State.
The Sri Sathya Sai Centre at Five Dock, Sydney celebrated the festival of Pongal / Makara Sankranthi on the 17th of January 2021, in line with the centre’s tradition of celebrating any festival on the the closest Sunday (when the centre members meet for their weekly program). Along with the regular schedule of the centre, comprising of suprabhatam, vedam, bhajans and unity of faith prayers, the special program consisted of three segments:
- Talk on the cultural significance and traditional celebrations of Pongal / Makara Sankranthi: Uncle Jayshankar took all the centre members on a trip down the memory lane sharing his memories of the celebrations in his childhood. He dwelled on how he as a child looked forward to the traditional oil bath, donning new clothes gifted by the elders in the household, decoration of the cattle, offering prayers to the cattle, visits to the nearby temple, shopping in the village festival fair along with the circle of friends and partaking of the sumptous food prepared for the festival with ‘pongal’ being the star of the special menu. Having served in the Indian Police Service with postings across the length and breadth of India, he shared details of the unique celebrations in mutiple states covering Assam, Bengal, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharastra, Orrisa, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. One could sense the joy and happiness he was experiencing as he relived those wonderful memories as he took the centre members on a journey with him
- Swami’s Sankranthi Discourse: The next segment was an excerpt from our beloved Swami’s discourse on this festival in the year 1995. Swami brought out the spiritual significance of the festival – such as the shift of the sun’s trajectory towards the north, and its symoblic reference to the purpose of human life moving towards God. The centre members were thrilled to listen the simple explanations through HIS divine voice.
- A Sai Student’s narrative of the Annual Sports & Cultural Meet: For any Sai Student, this festival evokes memories of the annual sports & cultural meet that culminate with the prize distribution on the festival day. Brother Rajesh Gorlamandala reminsced of the importance the annual sports & cultural meet in the academic and cultural calendar at Prashanti Nialayam. He spoke at length to highlight the single minded focus of every sai student, during the 15 days of this meet, was only to see a smile on Swami. When this focus is mutiplied across the more than 1000 students and staff of Swami’s educational institutions, the intensity of purpose and the purity of the emotion elevates the efforts and performances put in by the students into a spectacular event – be it the stunts that are performed on motorbikes & all terrain vehicles, to the para-planes or para-motors that are flown by HIS students to the wonderful team performances put up by the tiny tots of the primary school. The underlying current or zeal would be life transforming for anyone and remain etched in the memories of every student. He concluded his talk with a short video presentation of the annual sports & cultural meet
The entire program was conducted over a virtual platform in compliance to the COVID safety regulations/guidelines in place for Sydney. The program concluded with Mangala Aarti offered to Swami.
This was the first festival celebrated by the centre this year and heralded in the year 2021 with positivity and enthusiasm. The centre members prepare for the return to the weekly sessions in the physical premises starting February 2021. This is a welcome option for the centre members who have conducted their centre’s weekly activities over the virtual platform for the past 10 months. The Pongal/Makara Sankranthi celebration left all the members with increased knowledge on the festival, provided a glimpse of the celebrations at Prasanthi Nilayam and enthralled with Swami’s message and blessings.