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My First Tryst With Sai Bhajans

Prakash (second from left) with Swami during his student days at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Puttaparthi.

I  have been a big lover of music since childhood, and I remember with nostalgia the days I spent listening to music in the tape recorders. My earliest music listening was only on the radio through All India Radio. The programmes had a stunning variety with news, talks on useful topics like farming, Q & A and of course the mainstay of radio was music. The music that was played had amazing variety starting from Carnatic, Hindustani to film and folk songs. The radio was almost playing in the background in the mornings as we went about our daily chores. Among the genres of music I listened to, film music was my favourite owing to its instant connect and the variety. Devotional music, especially bhajans was melodious but not very interesting! My impression about this was about to change soon…..

 

After my Class 12, I was to write my entrance exam to join the Sri Sathya Sai University in 1998. Before I went to Puttaparthy, my family decided to visit the Brindavan ashram in Bangalore where Swami was staying as it was like Swami’s “summer capital.” It was my first darshan of Swami and I was quite excited about it. I reached the Sai Ramesh hall for the evening darshan and was waiting with the crowd for Swami to arrive. The common practice in Brindavan for the evening darshan was that the moment Swami arrives, bhajans would start. Swami would just sit through the bhajans and go back. 

Suddenly, I heard the harmonium buzzing and Om chanting started. Then the first Ganesha bhajan began…. I still remember it was one of the most soothing and melodious pieces of music I had ever heard. It was so captivating and the bhajan was Sri Ganesha Vinayaka. It was like an ethereal experience, with Swami sitting on the throne on the stage with the bhajans in the background. My exposure to bhajans was in the local mandalis and they were good but not so melodious. So, I had a false impression that devotional music was monotonous and boring. But the bhajans I heard that day completely changed this outlook.

After this elevating experience, my desire to join Swami’s college increased. I was lucky and fortunate to get an admission not just for under graduation but also my post-graduation. The icing on the cake was that I was also part of the bhajan group. The point I want to make is that Sai Bhajans would count among the best genres of devotional music. You have bhajans for all the deities (including all religions), all talas, covering most of the ragas. You have bhajans for every occasion, bhajans covering every speed ranging from slow, medium to fast tempo ones.  It is devotional music therapy! For all music lovers, it is nothing short of a treasure…let us enjoy this gift from Swami and spread the fragrance of Sai bhajans. It is the need of the hour during these trying times.

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