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The material sheath which the Lord once again willed to wear was formed; It grew from week to week. Mysterious intimations of the impending incarnation disturbed the even tenor of Pedda Venkapa's family life! For example, there was the twang of the tambura! Since the brothers and the father were all very much interested in the village operas on Puranic incidents and since one play or other was always being rehearsed at home, there was a substantially big tambura, leaning against the wall and a 'Maddala' or drum on the floor beneath. These two were silent only when the inmates of the house retired for the night. But, as the birth of the son for whom Sri Easwaramma prayed, announced itself as imminent, the house was awakened at midnight, and sometimes even later, by the tambura twanging automatically and the Maddala, beating rhythmically as if an expert Hand was handling it! Various theories were promulgated to explain this phenomenon by the wise men of the village but, since they only added to the mystery, Pedda Venkapa Raju hurried to Bukkapatnam where there was a Sastri, on whose interpretation he could place faith. The Sastri said that it was an auspicious occurrence; it meant the presence of a Sakthi, a beneficent Power, conferring Harmony, Melody, Order, Symmetry, Spiritual Elevation and Joy.
On the twenty third day of November, 1926, the son was born. It was the time of sunrise; and, the villagers were chanting the names of Siva, remembering that the day was still Karthika Somavara, a Monday of the Holy Month of Karthika, devoted to the Puja and worship of Siva. That day was made even more auspicious for Siva worship, because the ascendant star was Ardra and on such rare occasions when the month, the day and the star coincide, special Pujas are performed in the temples of the Lord. The year was Akshaya, the 'never-declining, the Ever-full'!
The mother had also just finished, in some hurry of course, her Sathyanarayana Puja in accordance with her vows, for, even while she was going through the final rituals, the pangs forewarned her. When Easwaramma announced the pangs, word was sent to the mother-in-law, Lakshamma, the pious old lady of the house; but, it became known that she had gone to the house of the priest to perform the Puja of Sathyanarayana; the messengers discovered her there and urged her to return; but she was so confident of the Grace of Sathyanarayana, so steadfast in her devotion, so disciplined in her religious adherence, that she refused to be hustled! She sent word that she will bring with her to Easwaramma the sacred offerings after the Puja and that, on no account would she interrupt her prayers! She finished the entire ritual with full concentration, came home, gave her daughter-in-law the flowers and the sacred water; Easwaramma partook of the blessings of the Lord. Next moment, the Lord was born. And , the Sun rose above the horizon!
Baba has said that one special point to be noted about this Manifestation is that the incarnation has not been transplanted away from the place where the body was born; for He has chosen that very place as the centre of His alleviatory Mission. So, Puttaparthi must have been doubly happy that November morn, for the Avathar had chosen that village for His Birth, as well as for His Habitation.
Indeed the village which bears the name, "Anthill Prosperity" gave the child an appropriate welcome! A snake was there in the lying-in room! The women did not notice it for long; but, when the baby, laid on a bed of clothes, was being moved up and down in a peculiar way by something underneath, they watched with bated breath and when at last they searched, they found a cobra below the bed! The snake was acting the role of Sesha to the Seshasayi!
The baby was charming beyond description, and, no wonder! For, it had even in the cradle all the Yogic Siddhis, which Pathanjali says come along with birth itself. Baba has declared that He knew even prior to His Birth where He would be born; He has said that He was born with all the miraculous powers, which He is later out of His own will, manifesting one by one, as and when He feels each could be so announced. It must therefore follow that the baby had a halo of splendour around its head, that its smile had an otherworldly beauty and a heavenly power to captivate the heart.
Some years ago, Baba told me, "I do not sleep at night; I remember then the events of my past appearances; and, I laugh within myself, as the memories pass across." It can therefore be surmised that the little lilies of laughter, and red rosebuds of joy, which lit up the cradle of the baby bloomed from the reminiscence of previous arrivals and adventures!
The baby was named Sathyanarayana, since the relationship between the Puja to that God and the realisation of her cherished desire seemed to the mother to be very important. When the Namakaranam was performed and the name was whispered in the ear, it seems the baby smiled, for the suggestion to give that name must have emanated unobtrusively from itself! How else can we explain the fact that the first requisite for spiritual advancement, now propounded by Baba, is Sathya itself? The embodiment and exponent of Truth could not give Himself a more appropriate name.
The child became the pet of the entire village of Puttaparthi and the ryots and cowherds vied with each other in fondling it and feeding it and playing with its lovely silken curls. Its charming smile attracted every one. Pedda Venkapa Raju's house was always full of visitors, who came on some pretext or other and stayed on, round the cradle, singing lullabies and showering caresses forgetting their humdrum lives.
Soon, the fragrance of the jasmine bud filled the air. Like a lighted lamp, Sathya moved about the house and laughter tinkled in the street when he lisped his sweet vocabulary of sounds. It was noticed by all with wonder that he delighted in having broad Vibhuthi markings on his forehead and that he insisted on the marks being renewed, as and when they wore off. He preferred also to have a circular Kumkum dot in the centre of his broad forehead, though for fear of the 'evil eye' the mother seldom satisfied this desire, and so, he had to seek out the receptacle from the toilet box of his sisters and himself dab the Kumkum on!
He is Siva, He is Sakthi; He must have both Vibhuthi and Kumkum.
He kept away from places where pigs or sheep or cattle or fowl were killed or tortured, or where fish was trapped or caught; he avoided kitchens and vessels used for cooking flesh or fowl. When a bird was selected and talked about by someone in connection with dinner, Satyanarayana the little boy, would run towards it and clasp it to His bosom and fondle it as if the extra love He poured on it would induce the elders to relent and spare the fowl. He was called by the neighbours, "Brahmajnani" on account of this type of aversion and this measure of Love towards creation. At such times, the boy used to run to the Karnam's house, for they were Brahmins and vegetarians, and take the food offered by Subbamma, the aged lady residing there.
He rarely retaliated when he was handled roughly by playmates; information of such ill-treatment came to the parents through other toddlers who witnessed the affair, never from Sathya, who seemed not in the least to suffer pain or discomfiture. He spoke out the truth always and never resorted to the usual subterfuges, with which fear-stricken children try to cover up their mistakes. So distinct was his behaviour that a wag once nicknamed him "the Brahmin child"! Yes, it was a fitting description. Little did that wag know that, while in the previous body, this child, so laughed at now, had declared at Shirdi "This Brahmin can bring Lakhs of men on to the White Path and take them to their destination!"
At the tender age of three and four, "this Brahmin" behaved as if it had a heart that melted at human suffering. Whenever a beggar appeared at the door and raised his cry, Sathya left off play and rushed in , to force his sisters to dole out grain or food. The adults were naturally irritated by the endless procession of outstretched hands; they easily lost temper; they sometimes shouted the beggar off, before Sathya could bring relief; this made the child weep so long and loud that only by bringing the dismissed beggar back could the elders stop the wailing. Sometimes, in order to put a stop to what the elders thought 'this expensive and misplaced charity,' the mother caught hold of the child and with a finger raised in warning, she said, "Look here! you may give him food; but, mind you, you will have to starve." That did not daunt the child; he used to run inside and bring out food to the hungry man at the door; and, stay away from dinner or launch, himself. Nothing and nobody could persuade him to come to his plate, which was left untouched!
But the child had a mysterious visitor who was feeding it! For, when he refused food and persisted in the refusal for days, his movements and activity showed no sign of starvation. He would also declare that he had eaten, says Easwaramma; he would say that a Thatha, an Old Man, had fed him sumptuously, doling out balls of milk-rice. The full stomach was proof of that. Besides, the child volunteered to give another indisputable evidence also. It held out its right hand for the mother to smell; and, lo, she inhaled from that tiny palm the fragrance of Ghee, milk and curds, of a type she never enjoyed before. The wonder remained however. Who was this Thatha, the unseen visitor, the strange nourisher of this little child?
When Sathya began running about in the street, he sought out the maimed, the blind, the decrepit and the diseased, and led them by the hand to the doorstep of the parents; the sisters had to discover from the store or the kitchen some grain or food and put it into the beggar's bowl while 'the little master' looked on, gladly.
Sathyanarayana was held up before the children as the ideal, by every mother and father so often, that the children started referring to him as "Guru!" the parents and others came to know of this, under strange circumstances. It was Ramanavami and late in the night the procession wended its way, round the village. A huge picture of Sri Rama was placed on a flower-bedecked bullock-cart and the priest sat upon it in order that the flower garlands offered by the householders could be placed on the picture and the camphor they presented be duly burnt and waved in front of the picture. The pipers and drummers awakened the sleeping villagers and thus, the cart proceeded along the uneven roads.
Suddenly, the two sisters discovered that little Sathya was not at home; a search was ordered; men ran about frantically, for it was already past midnight. But, attention was distracted just then, by the arrival, outside the door, of the bullock cart, with Sri Rama! When the inmates of Pedda Venkapa Raju's house went to the doorstep they were surprised to see the five year old Sathya sitting on the bullock cart, nicely dressed and with evident authority underneath the Picture! They asked the companions why he was seated there, on top, and not walking with them on the road. Prompt came the answer, "He is our Guru"! Yes..., He is the Guru of the children of all climes, and of all ages!
There is a small primary school in the village of Puttaparthi, and Sathya also used to go there with his contemporaries, for something nobler than learning to spell and scribe. The school had at that time an interesting scheme of punishment of ensure punctuality. The lucky child which first comes in an salutes the teacher, as well as the fellow who gets in second, are exempt from the punishment; but every chap, who for whatever reason, legitimate or other, arrives late, is given a taste of the cane, the number of cuts depending on his place in the list of latecomers, the later the larger. In order to escape from this torture, the children gathered under the eaves of the schoolhouse, much before sunrise, in rain or in fog. Sathya saw their plight and sympathised with his shivering playmates. He visited them under the eaves and, bringing shirts, towels and Dhothies from his house, he covered the boys and made them comfortable. The elders at home discovered this and, since they could do nothing else, they locked inside their boxes all the clothes they could not afford to lose.
Sathyanarayana was a precocious child, learning more things than any one could teach him and much quicker than most; he could sing all the songs and Stotras that were rehearsed at home for the village operas, and he even composed at the tender age of seven or eight, some touching songs for the cast, which were gladly accepted by them for public presentation!