The Sri Sai Satcharitra gives a moving account of the procession. It tells us that when Baba arrived at Chavadi and stood in front of it, his face shone with a "peculiar luster". "He beamed with steady and added radiance and beauty, and all the people viewed this luster to their heart's content ..... What a beautiful procession and what an expression of devotion ! With joy pervading the whole atmosphere of the place ... That scene and those days are gone now. Nobody can see them now or in the future."
However, we are fortunate that those days are not completely gone. We can experience something of that splendour and fervid devotion even today, as each Thursday evening, a similar procession takes place with Baba's photo in honour of that tradition. It is a passionate, understrained -- yet exalted -- celebration of Sai Baba. If you have a chance, be sure to see the procession -- it is an exhilarating experience!
In the evening, Baba's satka and padukas (in this case, a pair of Baba's leather sandals) are displayed in front of His sacred tomb from 7.30, until they are carried out at the beginning of the procession at nine O' clock. The Samadhi Mandir is even more crowded, as people are eager to touch and pay their respects to these sacred objects, which are accessible only at this time. The sense of occasion is enhanced by the hearty singing of melodious bhajan by some villagers, while outside a group of young men from a local youth organization move rhythmically to a rapid drumbeat.
At about 9.15 the procession moves out of the Samadhi Mandir, to a flurry of horns, cries and waving fans. At the centre is the garlanded portrait of Baba (the one from Chavadi) carried reverently by the great-grandson of one of Baba's dearest devotees, Tatya Kote Patil, and another of his relatives. They are preceded by one of the mandir staff carrying the padukas and satka. Other staff follow, dressed in Maharashtrain-style festive red tunics and turbans. The procession wends its way through the street lined with eagerly waiting crowds, and the music and excitement crescendo as people strain for a glimpse of the photo and padukas. Many throw flowers, and guns fire marigolds, petals and confetti into the air.
The procession enters Dwarkamai about ten minutes later, where again there is an assembled crowd waiting for its arrival and jostling for a view. Here the photo is placed on the decorated silver palanquin to the accompaniment of more exuberant bhajan. This takes about fifteen minutes. Mandir staff and locals then carry the palanquin to Chavadi, where people are waiting inside and out.
As the palanquin approaches Chavadi, we come to the climax of the evening. The palanquin is parked outside, and the picture, draped in gold embroidered red velvet, is carried inside Chavadi and greeted as if Baba Himself were entering. People may prostrate (if they have the space !), shout His name, say a silent prayer, or gaze longingly on His face. Baba's picture is then settled into place on a silver throne and arati is performed. Finally, the whole group returns to the Samadhi Mandir. Here, a local person receives the satka and padukas, and the Kote brothers hand back the picture and collect a coconut as prasad. The prasad is kept beside Baba's statue until the final night arati is over (around 10 p.m.). The picture is returned to Chavadi after morning arati the next day.
During the procession, Lalkari is performed at prescribed places along the route. There is no direct translation for "Lalkari", but it means the shouting of slogans or words of praise, such as "Long Live Sai Baba!" There are three specific places where this is done during the utsav, just as there were when Baba made the trip by foot, nearly a hundred years ago.
"Shri SaiSatCharitra Leads you in Sai's unique Path"
Shree SatChidananda Sadguru Sainadh Maharaj Ki Jai
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