The South Asian Times

26 June 2019 14:55 PM

Play and quiz mark centenary celebration of Maha Samadhi at Shirdi Sai Baba Temple

About 40 devotees of the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, located on Robinson Street in Flushing, Queens in New York City, enacted a play “Ek Me Anek” (One in Many) on Oct 27. The play drew immense applause from more than 700 spectators at the Ganesh Temple auditorium, just a block away from the Baba temple.

The artists, who participated in the play, tirelessly practiced for weeks in the temple basement to ensure the eight-act play was successful. None of the artists charged the temple any money for donning their roles. On the contrary, they donated money by buying tickets for them and their families. The devotees prepared or bought snacks for each practice session. A few of the sessions were also held at the auditorium itself.

“When I had my first group meeting, I learned the importance of my role as a postman even though my only line in the play was, “Babaji ke liye do rupaye kamoney order hai.” It is also a good thing that the lines spoken were all played by the audio and we all had to do was just lip- sync. Given that the auditorium is huge, it would have been difficult for us to be audible to everyone sitting in the back rows and on the balcony. As a postman, I deliver two rupees dakshina to Baba. Shama, a close Baba associate, is supposed to receive the two rupees from me and give them to Baba. However, he plays a trick on Baba by hiding the money (a big sum indeed more than a century ago). But Baba finds out. How is Baba able to find out? It is due to his omniscience and his all-knowing nature,” says Yadu Chittampalli, a young devotee.  

Hemadpant was the author of Sai Satcharitra, the book that was the basis of the cultural program. In the program, Sekhar Rao – the main organizer and the brain behind the whole play -- played the role of Hemadpant, who introduced every act in the play. Rao also directed the play during rehearsals and wrote the entire bilingual (Hindi-English) script.

The play – which was enacted on October 27 -- drew wide appreciation toward the end and inquiries were made whether it could be done elsewhere in the US. Though each and every character played a key part with sincere devotion, it is the role of Sai Baba itself that was praiseworthy. Three persons played the all-important character and were able to evoke devotion, sympathy, and veneration.

In the run-up to the play, which completed the centenary celebrations of Maha Samadhi held by the temple, a quiz on the life and times of the Shirdi saint was held in several rounds. The final round, conducted on the actual centenary day on October 18, saw a longtime devotee, Sudha Malhotra, win the first prize—an Air India roundtrip ticket to Shirdi, sponsored by the country’s flag carrier. A complimentary special darshan is included in the prize. The second prize is worth 500 dollars and the third is valued at 250 dollars.

“I was thrilled to win the prize,” Ms. Malhotra, 60, said and recalled. “God has called me. It was nothing but a miracle.”

The second prize of $500 was won by Ragini Palluru. The third prize worth $250 was won by Vaidyanathan Krishnan. Two special consolation prizes were given to Sruthi and Yadu Chittampalli.

Though the actual centenary day was a weekday, a steady stream of devotees visited the house of worship. It was estimated that about 1,500 visited the temple against the usual 400 or so, that normally visit on Thursdays. Special prasad arrangements were made for all the devotees that visited the temple. Programs on that day included Sai Baba, Dattatreya Moolamantra Havan Maha Abhishekam, Sai Naam Jap etc were performed. For further info about the temple and its activities, please visit call 718-321-9243 

Update: 27 Dec, 2018