Recently, I have visited Prashanthi Nilayam, Ashram of Sri. Sathya Sai Baba at Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh. What a beautiful campus it is. However, I do have a mixed experience but more of the positive side. Let me share what I felt.
Firstly, I thank my sister-in-law Mrs. Subbalakshmi and her daughter Chi. Teju, who had come all the way from Vizag and insisted me to come and see them since I live just about 4 hours away by road.
I have investigated the route and did a good amount of research on their website to learn as much information as possible about the Trust, culture, facilities available, bus route etc. After my work, I boarded a bus and reached Puttaparthi about 9:00 PM (India Time) and approached security personnel to help me find accommodation with the Ashram. This is perhaps only area I would like trust to bring improvement. As per their Accommodation page, devotees who reach the Prashanthi Nilayam after office hours, accommodation will be provided in the documentaries. Extract from the website:
Arrival at non-office hours: For Indian devotees who arrive in Prasanthi Nilayam during non-office hours (between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.), accommodation will be provided for a day in the dormitories, as allotted by the Sevadal volunteers at the Ashram entrance. These devotees are required to report to the Accommodation Office later during office hours and collect their accommodation receipt in order to extend their stay in the Ashram.
However, when have reached the Prashanthi Nilayam’s security office, I was informed that the content on the website is old and, now they no longer be able to make any arrangements and I need to look for a stay outside the campus. But it would be really helpful, if they continue to offer temporary accommodation for people who reach the Ashrama during non-office hours.
I was lucky enough to find a room for Rs. 250/- day, really a good accommodation and quite close to Ashrama. Later I met my sister-in-law and dear Teju and next problem is to find a hotel for my meal. It’s so happened that none of the hotels are opened except one small hotel who was also supposed to close the day. But he was kind enough to make a fresh rice for me! Here, my observation is that it would be great, if hotels do have some provision to offer some meal to the customers.
Next day morning, my sister-in-law left for Amma Gayathri temple quite early to light the lamps. Around 7 AM, Teju, her friend and myself proceeded towards temple. I must say, whole temple campus so peaceful and I think, I will spend most of my future holidays there. Firstly, we have taken darshan of Ganapathi, then proceeded to have breakfast. One needs to buy a set of coupons from accommodation office and each would cost around Rs. 2/-. Just with 2 such coupons, you will get a tasty and handful of breakfast. Volunteers greet us and talk to us very politely and help in all the ways we need. Very impressive.
Further, we have proceeded to Kulvantha Mandiram, darshan hall of His Holiness, Shri. Sathya Sai Baba, after the security check, since I’m a person with low vision, volunteers helped me to get inside and sit in the first row. There were about a few hundreds or perhaps, a thousand plus devotees, who had come-in yet, darshan hall was simply quite and there was no bit of noise. This is something I liked most and should be implemented in all devotional places.
Once all the devotees came in, vydic chanting was started followed by devotional songs (Bhajan). Sound system was awesome! Sri. Sai Baba came to the darshan hall and interacted with quite a few of us and showed solutions to some of their problems.
The best part I liked is they maintain a strict rule in the campus that no one should make any noise or speak aloud. This doesn’t mean that you should not talk to next person, you may feel free to do so, but your volume of voice should not disturb others.
Further, I have visited their Trust’s central office and interacted with the personnel and they have a variety of programs, colleges and universities and all that observed is they work with whole lot of dedication and offer best services.
I’m planning to have a second round of discussion and to see how some disability related activities can be started under the banner of Sri. Sathya Sai Trust. Watch this space for updates.