The Dharma for Hillfolk

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Bhagavan it seems has a soft corner for these village folk from the hills. Every year, they make their pilgrimage and Swami blesses them abundantly. Their programmes might not exactly stand the critical test for theatrics and dialogues, but in the realm of devotion and feelings, they are past compare as one can gaze from Swami's response to them year after year.

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The Veda chanting that had begun at p. The entire cast for the drama came forward and stood in front and the backdrop lived up to its name!

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The programme was to be mostly based on the tribal dances of these hill folk and so, as custom demanded, the person wearing the costumes of Lord Ganesha, stood with both hands upraised with his fingers in the modern "V-for-victory" pose. It needed quite some convincing from the organisers to tell him that it was okay and he could stand with folded hands!

So much was his involvement in his character and respect for his traditions. Soon, Swami passed by this array of characters and He blessed them. There were two lady characters at the end of the line and He spoke to them, presumably trying to find out who was Savitri! Then He moved around the gents' side and passing by the students, arrived on the stage. Immediately, He called for the coordinators and told them to begin the programme.

The initial offerings were made and Swami so lovingly accepted them. And then with the introductory announcement about the story of Savitri, the drama began. It was done in the folk-dance style and for those unaccustomed to it, it provoked mild laughter. But the cast were so serious about their roles and the sincerity and effort was seen in their performance.

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It started with a song in praise of Lord Ganesha. Though the whole programme had been recorded, it had not lost the flavour of tradition as the high pitch voices of the hillfolk singers rented the air. The story then unfolded. The childless king of Madra, Ashwapati, lives ascetically for many years and offers oblations to Sun God Savitr. He wishes to have a son for his lineage. Finally, pleased by the prayers, God Savitr appears and grants him a boon: he will soon have a daughter.

The king is joyful at the prospect of a child. She is born and named Savitri in honor of the god. Savitri is beautiful and pure. She sets out on a pilgrimage and finds Satyavan, the son of a blind king named Dyumatsena, who after he had lost everything including his sight, lives in exile as a forest-dweller. At this point, Swami called one of the students sitting in front and asked him what language the drama was being performed. The student seemed dazed and Swami Himself answered saying that it was in the 'Badaga' language.

The Badaga language is a southern Dravidian language, a branch of Tamil-Kannada spoken by approximately , people, the Badagas, in the Nilgiri Hills in Southern India. Savitri returns to find her father speaking with Sage Narada who announces that Savitri has made a bad choice: although perfect in every way, Satyavan is destined to die one year from that day. Savitri insists that she will choose her husband but once. Savitri and Satyavan are married, and she goes to live in the forest.

The "forest-dweller" Savitri, with her mere appearance seemed to move Swami. Bhagavan looked at her and told a student nearby, "That is Savitri!

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The drama moved on. Three days before the foreseen death of Satyavan, Savitri takes a vow of fasting and vigil. Yama himself, the Death, comes to claim the soul of Satyavan.

Savitri follows Yama as he carries the soul away. At this point, the organisers made an interesting change. The traditional folk singing stopped and what played on the PA system was the audio from the Telugu movie, "Satyavan Savitri. She praises obedience to Dharma , then friendship with the strict, then Yama himself for his just rule, then Yama as King of Dharma , and finally noble conduct with no expectation of return. Impressed at each speech, Yama praises both the content and style of her words and offers any boon, except the life of Satyavan.

She first asks for eyesight and restoration of the kingdom for her father-in-law, then a hundred sons for her father, and then a hundred sons for herself and Satyavan. The last wish creates a dilemma for Yama, as it would indirectly grant the life of Satyavan. However, impressed by Savitri's dedication and purity, he offers one more time for her to choose any boon, but this time omitting "except for the life of Satyavan".

Savitri instantly asks for Satyavan to return to life.

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  8. Yama grants life to Satyavan and blesses Savitri's life with eternal happiness. Swami was very pleased. He almost shed tears at Savitri's purity and chastity. Seeing Swami was truly an awe-inspiring sight. The minimal lighting reflects from the copper bar top, giving visitors the vague sense of sitting inside a Moscow mule mug, and even a few patrons make the narrow room bustle. Just be wary of sitting in the last spot at the bar—the only thing dividing that seat from the Boise Fry Co.

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