NEW YORK: Sai Sandhya, the half-day event sponsored by the Shirdi Sai Baba temple on Robinson Street in the Flushing section of Queens, has concluded successfully with the participation of nearly 300 spectators who applauded the twin-program event.
The event comprised “Sarvam Sai Mayam” (Everything is enveloped by Sai), a Kuchipudi ballet by noted danseuse Padma Shri Dr Sobha Naidu, and bhajans/devotional songs by awards-winning singer Dr Radhika Chopra.
The event was conducted mainly by volunteers and other devotees of the temple to raise funds for the house of worship, considered the first of its kind in the United States. Temple trustees, Consulate General of India officials, community leaders and other prominent people were present at the event held at a high school auditorium in Queens, New York City.
Temple trustee Shiva Haran welcomed the gathering, which was eagerly waiting for the event to unfold. In his brief remarks, Haran described the volunteers and devotees as an “amazing source of strength” to the temple. He particularly praised volunteers for conceiving the event, staging the twin programs.
V. Perumal, who is deputy consul general for cultural affairs, described Sai Baba as one of the most revered saints of India. He pointed out that many devotees believe him as an incarnation of god. Consul General Prabhu Dayal was to be the chief guest at the event, but he could not make it as he was away in Washington in connection with official work.
Speaking on behalf of the volunteers and devotees, Rao said the entire credit to the success was due to all the people who participated in the much-awaited event. He also shared the laurels with his fellow volunteer core committee members, who had made untiring efforts over the past several weeks. Earlier he said, “We are excited about the whole event and I see enthusiasm among not only the core organizing committee but Sai devotees at large.”
All the dignitaries and the main artists were honoured with shawls and praised for making it a success. The event began around noon with lunch and throughout the proceedings snacks and tea were made available. The first program began shortly before 2 p.m. and there was a break around 4 p.m. before the second program of songs and bhajans started.
There were several highlights in the first part. Among those that drew wide applause were – a kabaddi game played by a blindfolded Sai (Ms. Sobha Naidu) and his followers; a gathering of elephant, deer, bull and peacock with Sai and his followers (suggesting that animals have souls and they should be treated on a par with humans); Sai suffering when others are subjected to beatings; his passing away and getting back to his life in three days (a technological display here) and Sai entering ‘mahaasamadhi.’
For Hyderabad-based Ms. Naidu, the event was the first during her current US tour. Though the veteran dancer came from India, other artists were mostly young and are from the Kuchipudi Dance Academy, Germantown, Maryland. Lakshmi Babu, who heads the school and her team turned out an excellent performance. Ms. Babu herself is a student-disciple of Ms. Naidu.
The entire ballet was in Telugu, but before each of the 10 scenes began, an explanation in English was given. A booklet explaining scene-by-scene descriptions was distributed among the multilingual audience. The ballet begins with a scene ‘bala baba’ studying under his guru Venkusa who advises him to find his own way in life after he comes to know that Sai gave back life to his dead fellow student.
Sai later performs miracles such as lighting lamps with water, relocating a lost horse and curing various ailments. There is a comparison with Lord Krishna as the background song says “Dwaraka Maareraa Dwarakamayi (Dwaraka changes into Dwarakamayi)” while Baba is shown with Krishna back-to-back.
Ms. Naidu enacted the role of Baba with ease in different scenes. She excelled as Baba aged. In her brief remarks to the keenly waiting audience, Ms. Naidu said, “It is always a wonderful feeling whenever I play Baba. It is an incredible experience.” The entire team, particularly Ms. Naidu, got a standing ovation from the audience.
The second part was that of Dr Chopra and her two-member tabla-harmonium team. The highlight of this awards-winning performer was a bhajan ‘Om Sai Namo Namaha … ‘ which was sung as most of the audience joined her in unison. There were other bhajans and devotional songs. On audience’s request she also sang old Hindi film songs. Among the classics she sang were those of Noorjehan, the great singer who migrated to Pakistan after the Partition of the subcontinent.
Dr Chopra, a widely popular and accomplished singer, is not only known in India but also in such countries as the UK and Pakistan as well as in other parts of Asia. She enthralled the audiences in those regions with her melodious voice and soul-stirring bhajans and devotional songs. Dr Chopra sings with equal ease in Hindi and Urdu.
Narasimha Rao proposed a vote of thanks and expressed gratitude to the participants, particularly the key players and news-media representatives. The present premise of the house of worship, which has been functioning since the mid-1990s, was rebuilt in 2004. Formal inauguration of new premises took place in April 2010.
India Post News Service