Annual Sport Meet at Prasanthi Nilayam
Sri Sathya Sai Educational Institutions celebrate their Annual Sports & Cultural Meet
The Sri Sathya Sai Educational Institutions held the main event of the Annual Sports & Cultural Meet on 11 January 2019 at Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium, Prasanthi Nilayam, Andhra Pradesh.
The event is a culmination of various sports, cultural and fine arts competitions held at all campuses of the University and other Sai educational institutions throughout the academic year. The Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions include all the four campuses of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Sri Sathya Sai Primary and Higher Secondary Schools, Smt. Eswaramma High School and SSSIHMS College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences.
It showcases an array of physical and cultural presentations by over 3000 students of the institutions spread across two sessions, morning and evening. Preparations, which began a month in advance, involved thousands of combined practice hours by all students and teachers at each institution.
Process over outcome
The Annual Sports & Cultural Meet brings to the fore several qualities of human excellence in students. With only a few weeks to perfect their presentations, and with academics and other daily pursuits, students have to make every minute of preparation count. The challenges of the process go beyond time, however. Very quickly, students need to have clarity of their outcomes, work in teams with unity (often with colleagues they have never worked with before), surmount the mental and physical obstacles that may seem impossible, and so on.
All this is accomplished on a shoestring budget that leaves the teams to make their final props and other event items with available and existing resources at the hostel. It not only helps them be thrifty, but forces them to think out of the box and bring in an element of creativity much beyond their current model of the world.
As D-Day approaches, failure and disappoints give way to a sense of determination to achieve excellence despite challenging circumstances. This ultimately leads to Self Confidence, when they go out and perform despite fears, doubts and self-limitations.
It is at this crucial juncture where the man-making experiment at Sai educational institutions truly succeeds. Tens of thousands of alumni are privy to this. The experiences during the Sports Meet preparations and hostel life in general have helped them navigate the toughest of situations in the working world and family life.
Why does it work? Why go through this effort willfully? It is for one simple reason: to please Bhagawan Baba and make Him proud. The entire gamut of the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet for the students boils down to this singular focus. Bhagawan Baba—with His divine vision—reciprocates this and makes sure that these pure feelings of Love are translated into the pursuit of excellence in every facet of the students' evolution.
As He often said, The End of Culture is Perfection.
The morning session commenced at 8 a.m. with Bhagawan Baba’s car entering the Sri Sathya Sai Hill View Stadium with a beautiful photograph of Him was escorted by motorcycle escorts, and welcomed by the women’s brass band of the Anantapur Campus of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (SSSIHL). This was followed by an escort by the Slow March Squad, a special contingent that was led by the men’s brass band of the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus, SSSIHL. Following the ceremonial welcome to Bhagawan, the Vice-Chancellor, SSSIHL along with senior members of the Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions, offered salutations to Bhagawan.
The March Past that followed included each of the three thousand Sai students marching in unison towards the dais at Shanti Vedika where Bhagawan Baba sits, offering their salutations to their Revered Founder Chancellor.
This was followed by the hoisting of the University flag, which truly represents unity, and the promise to uphold the glory and honour of Sri Sathya Sai’s mission. This was followed by the unveiling of this year’s mascot – Nandi, the celestial bull known for its devotion to Lord Shiva. As the mascot flew into the main torch next to the Gods of Hill View, it marked the commencement of the 2019 Annual Sports & Cultural Meet. The brass band of SSSIHL, Anantapur Campus then played a piece, with the Institute Band members joining in unison, as they marched past Shanti Vedika, saluting their Divine Master into a slow retreat, giving way for the presentations to begin.
The first presentation was by the students of Brindavan Campus, SSSIHL. They offered three performances. The first was Shaolin Echoes, a display of the ancient Chinese martial art of Kung Fu, which exhibit the traits of speed, strength, agility and calmness of mind through synchronized Kung Fu styles, thrilling combats and brisk flag moves. This was followed by Drumebaaz, an admixture of energising Indian beats and spellbinding sounds of snare drums. The performance was a confluence of colour and rhythm. They concluded with the Red Stallions, who gave the audience a breathtaking display of motorbike stunts that truly challenged the stereotypes of ‘can’t be done’, with feats like the triple ramp jumps, wheels of fire, square crisscross and wheelies, amongst others.
They ended their performance with a moving human formation of the number 50 and SAI that symbolized the fifty years of the inauguration of the campus by Bhagawan Baba in 1968. A large replica of the main building of the campus in the backdrop highlighted the milestone.
The Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School and SSSIHL Prasanthi Nilayam Campus followed this with a combined presentation. Their first performance was Waves, a display of waves formation without props. It comprised of different types of waves using coordinated movements of body parts with an appropriate colour combination of dresses. A few gymnastic movements added to the spectacle of the presentation.
The Lion Dance, always a favourite of our Beloved Sai, then saw performers mimic a lion’s movements in a Chinese Lion’s costume. With acrobatic dance patterns, the lions performed many a daring feat to celebrate the ancient Chinese art form, echoing the promise of Sri Sathya Sai, “Why fear when I am here.”
Football, the most globalized sport, also took part in the event with The Prasanthi Strikers demonstrating various interesting soccer tricks and skills that a footballer develops that are helpful during the training and the actual game. Coached by a professional army coach, they displayed various kicks and stunts.
Next up were Stellar Starlings, a band of gymnasts that performed a sequence of formations and aerial acrobatics done using ropes and trapeze on a structure almost a hundred feet tall. Aerial basketball, yoga and other audacious feats were on display for the thousands of spectators in the stadium.
The creative use of sticks in various art forms is common to the various sub-cultures within India. Lathi Legion, a stick fight also known as Karrasamu in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and Bo Staff internationally, was on full display. Students also portrayed various acrobatic movements during their warrior fights.
The gymnasts then took on the field again with a display of Wheel Gymnastics, stunts and formations. These Wheel Wizards stretched themselves across the diameter of a large German Wheel using only the grips for support. Defying gravity, they showcased stunts coordinated in absolute unison and synchronicity.
They made way for the Dream Team, a band of brothers who made the slow march and soldier drills look outstanding with the help of guns that consisted of ripple wave effects and feedback movements. Dressed in red, they performed gun exchanges, salutes, marching and synchronized movements.
The concept of beats came alive with Body Percussion, a performance of various rhythms using just the body. Stomping their feet and clicking their hands, the performance gave everyone a visual and auditory treat.
The combined performances came to colourful end with the Incredible Gabrooze – A music-based combined depiction of Punjabi Ghatka and Bhangda with the requisite paraphernalia of props, costumes and fizz.
All students of both the institutions came together in front of a giant prop of Lord Krishna on the serpent King Kalia to bow in front of Lord Sai with the song, Sai sajayaenge tujhe hamare dil me.
The evening session began at 4 p.m. with the ceremonial procession welcoming Bhagawan Baba into the Sri Sathya Sai Hill View stadium.
The students of Smt. Eswaramma High School, ranging from I Std. to X Std., had the honour of the opening performance. Their overall theme, The Colours of Love, was truly exemplified through the six items they exhibited. They started with the young saplings of I Std. to IV Std. girls who come skipping, prancing, dancing and singing with colourful ribbons and hats, reminding us to cast away our egos and the pompous hats we wear and respond to the Call of Love.
The nimble gymnasts of V Std. to VII Std. boys then come together in a united display of strength, skill, focus and dexterity.
They were ably followed by the V Std. to VII Std. girls, who showed us The Power of Love. Their coordinated performance reminded us to bend to rhythmic tides, ever ready to overcome evil with the power of love.
The chirpy little characters of classes I Std. to IV Std. boys then brought home the reality of just how comfortable the current Generation Z is with technology with Sai Emoji, that presented an infinite variety of emoticons, reflecting our many moods and our alter selves.
Sai, The Captain saw the intrepid sailors from Russia present before their Master a spirited and exuberant dance. The students of VIII Std. to X Std. boys know for sure, that Sai, The Captain is always by their side.
The final piece was a semi-classical dance of a Thilana in Dhanashri raga – a blissful melody of love by the students of VIII Std. to X Std. girls.
Audiences were then treated to the performances of Sri Sathya Sai Primary School. The little bambinos, some as young as five years of age, put on the most colourful and adorable set of items. These included Invoking the Indweller, a tribute classical; The Master Gymnasts, an agile exhibition with the theme of bend the body, mend the senses and end the mind; Rainbow Delight in Resplendent Sunlight; Balancing Ballerinas, when the young artists displayed the art of perfect balancing; The Globe Trotters on The Rise, a performance on the rotating globe portraying the upward rise of the brilliant blazers; Maa Tuje Salaam – Nations may rise, Nations may fall, but the glory of our Bharat shall be sung forever and ever; Nature’s Exuberance, an ecstatic peacocks dance in sheer delight; Daring Feats on Poles, with the astounding attitude of soaring scalers that determined their awesome altitude and finally Wings of Hope and Love, a cry to say: Lord Sai, You are the wind beneath our wings. To Thee we lovingly offer these fragrant flowers of myriad hues.
The students of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, Whitefield, Bangalore then performed Sunyata, a presentation drill using props that highlight how every human being should achieve Sunyata – emptiness in the sense of recognition of good and evil with the Swami’s Love and Grace.
The women students of Anantapur Campus, SSSIHL gave us three items this year. The first, Rhythmic Synchronisers, brought to life Guan Yin, a Buddhist dance form eponymous to an ordinary lady who listens to the agonies of the deprived. The large-scale performance staged by 120 students was a confluence of synchrony, coordination, grace, unity and beauty.
The theme then turned to the devotion and veneration towards Lord Shiva. Natyobics, a mass drill, was a fusion of natya (dance), yoga and aerobics. The performers demonstrated a series of formation as an offering to Nataraja.
Bringing together the aspects of unanimity, agility and confidence in every movement, they instilled a consciousness of divinity that is latent within each one of us.
The final performance, Twirling Spinners, highlighted the complexity and benefits of Gymnastics as a sport that involves the performance of sequences of events, combining physical skills such as body control, coordination, dexterity, gracefulness, endurance, hand/ muscle coordination, strength with tumbling, and acrobatic skills performed in an artistic manner. Gymnasts displayed split leaps, cartwheels and head stands in rhythmic moves performed with hoops as apparatus. They also exhibited adventurous feats performed on a magnificent structure, much to the delighted of the audiences. Their final display was a human formation of the term, Our Saga of Love.
The final slot of the evening was reserved for the students of Muddenahalli Campus, SSSIHL, who brought the event home. Their expansive item, Igniters, was a fire-based event using Sticks, Poi, Jaal, Dragon Staff, Cubes and Fans with an underlying theme that ‘All are Sparks of the Divine’.
The programme ended at 7:10 p.m. with Mangala Aarati offered to Bhagawan Baba.