The Ratnakaram Raju Family
Raju family of Puttaparthi was noted for its piety since the
days of the renowned sage, Venkavadhootha, a saintly ancestor
who was looked upon as a Guru in hundreds of villages around.
Not only did the family build and endow the Gopalaswami Temple
(dedicated to Lord Krishna), but Sri Ratnakaram Kondama Raju,
the grandfather of Bhagawan's physical frame, dedicated a
temple to Sathyabhama, consort of Lord Krishna, a deity to
whom this type of homage is seldom offered in any part of
India. Peasants by vocation, they were known for their musical
and dramatic talent and were much involved in the propagation
of the sacred scriptures through village plays and musicals.
Consequently, the family was given the name ‘Bhat Raju’
(Bhat – priest).
Sri Kondama Raju was a pious soul who lived
out his hundred and ten years of earthly existence in the
unceasing contemplation of the Lord. His wife Srilakshmamma
predeceased him by twenty years. They had two sons who were
both named after Sage Venkavadhootha - Pedda Venkama Raju
and Chinna Venkama Raju. Pedda Venkama Raju, the elder son,
was married to Easwaramma, daughter of Sri Meesaraganda Subba
Raju of Kolimigundla of Kurnool district. Pedda Venkama Raju
and Easwaramma were blessed with a son and two daughters in
that order, Seshama Raju, Venkamma, and Parvathamma.
years passed and Easwaramma longed for another son. She prayed
to the village gods, performed Sathyanarayana Puja and observed
a number of rigorous vows. One day, an extraordinary incident
occurred that heralded the descent of the divine into her
womb. Easwaramma had gone to the village well to draw water.
There, she noticed a strange bluish glow that transformed
itself into a luminous orb. The ball of light then glided
towards her and entered her being. Shortly thereafter, to
the joy of her family, Easwaramma found herself in the family
a while, mysterious indications of the impending incarnation
occurred in Pedda Venkama's house. For example, there was
the twang of the tambura! Since the brothers and the father
were all interested in the village operas, there was a big
tambura (a string instrument) and a maddala (drum). As the
birth of the son for whom Mother Easwaramma prayed, announced
itself as imminent, the house was awakened at midnight, and
sometimes even later, by the tambura twanging automatically,
and the maddala beating rhythmically as if an expert Hand
was playing on it! One Shastri (Vedic scholar), whom Pedda
Venkama Raju approached for an explanation, said that it was
an auspicious occurrence: it meant the presence of a Shakthi,
a beneficent Power, conferring harmony, spiritual elevation
23rd of November, 1926, the Hindu year of
Akshaya, meaning, the Never-declining, the Ever-full. It was
the time of sunrise and the villagers were chanting the names
of Lord Shiva, remembering that the day was still Karthika
Somavara, a Monday of the Holy Month of Karthika, devoted
to the puja (worship) of Shiva. That day was made even more
auspicious for Shiva worship, because the ascendant star was
Ardra (the star of Shiva). On this day, when these rare and
propitious signs came together, the people thronged the temples
of the Lord to offer special pujas and pray for His benediction.
The Mother had also just finished her Sathyanarayana
Puja in accordance with her vows, for, even while she
was going through the final rituals, the pangs forewarned
her. When Easwaramma announced the pangs, word was sent to
the mother-in-law, Lakshmamma, the pious lady of the house;
but, it became known that she had gone to the house of the
priest to perform the Puja of Sathya Narayana; the messenger
discovered her there and urged her to return; but she was
so confident of the Grace of Lord Sathyanarayana, so steadfast
in her devotion, so disciplined in her religious adherence,
that she refused to be hustled!
She sent word that she would bring with her
the sacred offerings after the Puja and that on no account
would she allow her prayers to be interrupted! She finished
the entire ritual with full concentration, came home and gave
her daughter-in-law the flowers and the sacred water. Easwaramma
partook of the blessings of the Lord. Next moment, the Lord
was born and the Sun rose above the horizon!
The Divine Child
A very significant event occurred soon after
the birth of the child, which revealed the divinity of the
baby. One day, it was noticed that the bed of clothes on which
the baby was lying was being moved up and down in a peculiar
way by something underneath. They watched with bated breath
and when they looked under the bed they found a cobra underneath!
The snake was playing the role of Sesha to the Seshasai! [Sesha,
according to Hindu belief, is the serpent on whose bed of
coil Lord Vishnu rests.]
The baby was named Sathyanarayana because
there seemed to be a significant relationship between the
worship to that God and the realisation of the mother's cherished
desire. When the Namakaranam (Naming Ceremony) was performed
and the name was whispered in the ear; it seems the baby smiled,
for the suggestion to give that name must have emanated unobtrusively
from Itself! The embodiment and exponent of Truth could not
give Himself a more appropriate name.
Little Sathya soon became the pet of the
entire village of Puttaparthi and the farmers and cowherds
vied with each other in fondling it and feeding it and playing
with its lovely silken curls. Its charming smile attracted
every one. Like a lighted lamp, Sathya moved about the house
and laughter tinkled in the street when He lisped His sweet
vocabulary of sounds.
The villagers soon started referring to
Him as “Brahmajnani”, the knower and proponent
of Brahman or Godhood. Even at a young age, Sathya was known
for His extraordinary love and compassion towards creation
and aversion towards harming any creature. His heart melted
at human suffering. Whenever a beggar appeared at the door
and raised his cry, Sathya abandoned His play and rushed in,
to force His sisters to dole out grain or food. The elders
in the house tried to dissuade Him saying, "Look here!
You may give him food; but, mind you, you will have to starve."
That did not daunt the child; He used to run inside and bring
food to the hungry man at the door; and stay away from dinner
or lunch, himself. Nothing and nobody could persuade Him to
come to His plate, which was left untouched!
While others in the family relished non-vegetarian
food, little Sathya would advise them to desist from such
cruel habits. Whenever such food was cooked in the household,
the boy used to run to the Karnam's (village chief) house,
and partake of the food offered by Subbamma, the aged lady
residing there, for they were Brahmins and vegetarians.
So distinct was His behaviour that a wag
once nicknamed Him "the Brahmin child"! Yes, it
was a fitting description. Little did that wag know that,
while in the previous body, this child, so laughed at now,
had declared at Shirdi, "This Brahmin can bring lakhs
of men on the White path and take them to their destination!"
The early school days
the age of eight, Sathya was declared fit to proceed to the
Higher Elementary School at Bukkapatnam, about two and a half
miles from Puttaparthi. He had to start early, after a meal
of cold rice and curds or cooked ragi (maize), rice and chutney,
carry the afternoon meal in a bag, and with His companions
make the arduous trek daily to Bukkapatnam.
Sathyanarayana was a precocious child, learning
more things than anyone could teach Him and much quicker than
most; He could sing all the songs and Stotras (prayers) that
were recited at the village operas. He even composed at the
tender age of seven or eight, some touching songs for the
cast, which were gladly accepted by them for public presentation!
The Pandhari Bhajan group
When He was about ten years of age, Sathya
formed a 'Pandhari Bhajan' group in the village of Puttaparthi.
The group consisted of about sixteen to eighteen boys dressed
uniformly in ochre clothes, holding each a flag in the hand
and wearing jingling anklets. They all danced to the tune
of folk-songs and ballads, describing the yearning of pilgrims
for Lord Panduranga's Darshan. He also added some Bhagavatha
songs of His own. It was noticed that He added to these traditional
themes, songs on a pilgrimage to a new shrine of which no
one had heard, and the majesty of a new Deity of whom they
had not even the faintest idea, Shirdi and Sai!
Moreover, it was observed that when an infection
of cholera swept like a poisonous miasma over the area and
wiped out entire families in the surrounding villages, Puttaparthi
did not feel the blast of death. Wise men told one another
that the Divine Atmosphere generated by the Bhajan group was
responsible for saving their lives.
had to move to Kamalapuram, a small town about 200 kilometres
from Puttaparthi, with His brother Seshama Raju. His parents
planned to give Sathya a college education, so that He may
become an officer! And hence, they were prepared to part with
their beloved son and send Him to Kamalapuram to the Board
Middle School there, so that His studies could be continued.
Sathya was a quiet, well-behaved boy and
the favourite of His teachers. Once, He sang the prayer song
before the curtains went up on a drama in the town and those
who heard His sweet voice spread the news that a 'fine musician'
had come to town. Prayer songs at functions like public meetings
became His monopoly thereafter.
A merchant by name Kote Subbanna who sold
medicines, tonics, glassware, umbrellas, etc. came to know
of Sathya’s talents and approached Him for a ditty to
market his new product. He gave Him the necessary information
and by evening, Sathya was ready with an attractive Telugu
song, which was sung in chorus by His friends and Him. They
used to march along the streets, with placards in their hands,
singing Sathya’s slogan-filled jingle and evidently
enjoying their task!
A word may be said about Sathya and His involvement
in the theatrical activities at school. Sri Thammi Raju, the
teacher in-charge, once asked Sathya, who was only twelve
years old then, to produce a play in Telugu. Sathya plunged
into the work very enthusiastically. The drama was a great
success, not only because the hero of the play was a little
boy, a role enacted by Sathya himself, but, chiefly because
it had as its theme the eternal sin of man – hypocrisy.
The title of the play was "Cheppinattu
Chesthara?" meaning "Do we practise what we
Meanwhile, Seshama Raju was transferred to
Uravakonda. He decided to take Sathya along with him with
the intention of admitting Him at the Sri Karibasavaswami
District Board High School there. Accordingly, Sathya accompanied
His elder brother to continue His studies at Uravakonda. The
town of Uravakonda would be witness to the grand and mysterious
events that would mark the momentous transformation of the
young child into a great spiritual master who would change
the very destiny of mankind.
Mysterious Turn of events at Uravakonda
was sought after by people who had lost articles of value,
for He had brought with Him to Uravakonda the reputation for
intuitive perception, which revealed to Him the place where
anything was! Baba says that in those days, He used to give
His friends only the first and last letters of the names of
the persons with whom the lost articles could be found. He
left them with their own resources to recover the goods.
On March 8, 1940, the whole town was shocked
to hear that a big black scorpion had stung Sathya in the
twilight hours of the evening. However, Sathya slept that
night without any sign of pain! Every one felt relieved, only
to become anxious once again when the next evening, Sathya
fell unconscious and became stiff; He would not speak and
breathing appeared faint. Seshama Raju brought in a doctor,
who gave an injection and left behind a mixture. Sathya was
apparently unconscious throughout the night. The doctor came
again in the morning and declared that the boy was out of
An incident happened in the night which showed
that Sathya was not 'unconscious' but, that He was actually
supraconscious! Some one suggested that the local deity be
propitiated, because the condition of the boy may be due to
some evil spirit that possessed Him. So, volunteers hurried
to the temple and offered worship, placed flowers and incense,
and broke a coconut at the altar. At that very moment, Sathya,
who was to all intents 'unconscious', said, "The
coconut has broken into three pieces," and when
the volunteers came home with the offerings, they had with
them three pieces and not the usual two!
got up in a day or two and began to behave in an extraordinary
way. Baba has said that He Himself initiated the process of
manifestation, for He could not wait any longer, playing about
as a mere boy, with 'brother' and 'sister' and 'classmates'
and other secular bonds. He wanted to demonstrate that He
was beyond both ‘Visha’ and ‘Vishaya', that
neither the poison of the scorpion nor worldly attractions
could ever affect Him.
Meanwhile, Sri Seshama Raju had informed
his parents at Puttaparthi about the state of affairs at Uravakonda.
He had written that Sathya was not answering anyone who spoke
to Him, that it was a herculean task to make Him accept food,
that He was spending the time mostly in silence but, sometimes
bursting into song and poetry or reciting long Sanskrit slokas
(hymns) and at times, expounding the highest Vedantic philosophy.
The parents took about a week to reach the place, because
of unforeseen and inexplicable difficulties.
Seshama Raju got nervous as to why the parents
had not arrived. He decided to send someone to Puttaparthi
to find out the reason for the delay. But, Sathya interposed
and said, "You need not send for them now, they will
be here in half an hour," and true to His words, they
came in exactly thirty minutes later.
parents were beside themselves with worry at the condition
of Sathya; He sang and spoke and behaved in such a queer manner.
It was all so mysterious. At that time, someone gave information
to the worried parents that there was an expert exorcist before
whom no evil spirit dare wag its poison tail! He will cure
Sathya perfectly and make Him fit to go to school, they assured.
The exorcist was a gigantic figure, terrible
to behold, with blood-red eyes and untamed manners. He tried
all his craft which he dared not experiment even with strong
adult patients! For example, he shaved the head of the boy
and, with a sharp instrument scored three ‘X’
marks on the scalp, from the top towards the forehead. Sathya
sat through the pain without wilting. With the scalp injured
and bleeding with those markings, the witch doctor poured
on the open wound the juice of lime, garlic, and other acidic
The parents who were watching the proceedings
in utter despair were surprised, for there was not even a
tear, or a gasp of pain from the boy! But the exorcist was
unrelenting and put the boy through even more terrifying trials
until the parents could bear to see it no more. They wanted
to save the boy from the jaws of that Yama (God of Death)
in human form; they had seen and suffered enough. They paid
him full fees and also gave some unasked gifts, and thanked
him for all the 'learning' he had utilised.
asked later as to why He chose to go through this diabolical
adventure, Bhagawan remarked, "Even after seeing
all that fortitude and the miracle of a little boy passing
unscathed through all that terror, even now, you are not convinced
that I am Baba; how then would you have reacted if I just
made the announcement one fine day? I wanted to make known
that I am Divine Stuff, impervious to human suffering, pain
Meanwhile, Sri Krishnamachari, a lawyer-friend
from Penukonda, heard of these occurrences in the Raju household
and came to the village to study the situation and offer what
help he could. He had a good look and told Venkama Raju, “It
is really more serious than I thought; take Him immediately
to the Narasimha Temple (Lord Narasimha – the Man-lion
incarnation of Lord Vishnu) at Ghatikachalam; that is the
last chance". On hearing these words, Sathya said, "Funny,
is it not? I am already there at Ghatikachalam and you want
to take Me to Myself!" The lawyer had no further inclination
I am Sai Baba
23rd May 1940, Sathya rose from bed as usual, but after some
time, He called the members of the household around Him, gave
them sugar candy and flowers taken from nowhere. At this,
the neighbours too rushed in. He gave them each a ball of
rice cooked in milk, flowers and sugar candy concretised by
a mere wave of the hand. Meanwhile, Sri Venkama Raju came
and he was incensed by what he thought was a trick, hiding
things somewhere and producing them by sleight of hand. He
wanted the chapter to be closed before it lengthened into
So, arming himself with a stick, he accosted
Sathya and asked, "Are you a God, a ghost or a madcap?
Tell me!" Prompt came the answer, the Announcement, that
had been held back so long, “I am Sai Baba."
At this, Venkama Raju was stunned into silence;
the stick slid from his hands. He stood staring at Sathya
trying to grasp the implications of that announcement - “I
am Sai Baba." But, Sathya continued, “I
belong to Apasthamba Sutra; I am of the Bharadwaja Gothra;
I am Sai Baba; I have come to ward off all your troubles;
keep your houses clean and pure."
elder brother, Seshama Raju went near Him, and asked, "What
do you mean by 'Sai Baba'?" He did not reply, but only
said this much - "Your Venkavadhootha prayed
that I be born in your family. So, I came." The
father felt that Sai Baba was a Muslim spirit speaking through
the boy and so, he asked, "What are we to do with you?”
Prompt came the answer; "Worship Me!"
"When?" "Every Thursday! Keep your
minds and houses pure."
One Thursday, someone challenged Sathyanarayana
and asked Him, “If you are Sai Baba show us some proof,
now!" Baba replied, “Yes, I shall"
and asked for some jasmine flowers. With a quick gesture,
He threw them on the floor and said "Look."
They saw that the flowers had formed, while falling, the Telugu
letters, ‘Sai Baba’!
On an invitation from some townsmen in Hospet,
Seshama Raju decided to take Sathya on a picnic to see if
it might improve the mental health of the boy. Hospet is a
few miles away from the ruins of Hampi, the capital city of
the Emperors of ancient Vijayanagara Kingdom in what is now
the state of Karnataka.
they visited the temple of Lord Virupaksha, the patron deity
of the Vijayanagara royal family. While the others in the
party went into the temple to offer worship at the sanctum
sanctorum, Sathya stood outside admiring the height and majesty
of the Gopuram (tall pyramid-shaped roof of a temple). When
the priest waved the flame of camphor before the Lingam (ellipsoid
structure worshipped as Lord Shiva), they saw to their utter
amazement, Sathya there inside the shrine! He was standing
in place of the Lingam, smiling and accepting their salutations.
Thinking that Sathya may have slipped into
the shrine evading everybody's notice, Seshama Raju went outside
to verify whether He was still there. Yes, indeed Sathya was
there, leaning on a wall and staring at the horizon! He rushed
inside the sanctum sanctorum and, yet again, he found Sathya
standing there and blessing everybody.
This incident confirmed their faith in Sathya
as a Divine Manifestation. They offered special Puja (worship)
to Him that day. Hospet was on its toes with expectation and
excitement. The story that He was seen as Virupaksha had spread
to that town long before they reached it. The next day He
cured a chronic tuberculosis patient by His touch and made
him get up and walk a mile; He materialized a variety of articles
for the devotees and the enthusiasm of the people knew no
bounds. Bhajan and Namasankirtan (singing the name of God)
continued far into the night.
the 20th day of October, 1940, the day after they all returned
from Hampi, Sathyanarayana started for school as usual. However,
within a few minutes, He returned to the house. Standing on
the outer doorstep, He cast aside the books He was carrying
and called out, “I am no longer your Sathya.
I am Sai". The sister-in-law came from the kitchen,
only to be blinded by the splendour of the halo around Baba's
head! He addressed her, “I am going; I don't
belong to you; Maya (delusion) has gone; My Bhaktas (devotees)
are calling Me; I have My Work; I can't stay here any longer."
When the brother hurried home on hearing
all this, Baba only told him, "Give up all your
efforts to 'cure' Me. I am Sai; I do not consider Myself related
In spite of repeated pleas, Sathya would
not step into that building again. He moved in into the garden
of the Excise Inspector Sri Anjaneyulu's bungalow, and sat
on a rock in the midst of the trees. People came into the
garden from all directions bringing flowers, fruits, incense
and camphor to worship Him. The garden resonated with the
voices of hundreds singing bhajans (devotional singing) and
following the lines of the first prayer that Sri Sathya Sai
“Manasa Bhajare Gurucharanam Dusthara
Bhava Sagara Tharanam “
(O Mind! Meditate on the Feet of the Guru,
which will take you across the wearisome sea of Samsara or
A photographer came with a camera to capture
a beautiful picture of the young Swami. He wanted to remove
stone that was right in front of Him, but Baba did not heed
to the prayer. He clicked nevertheless and lo! When the photo
was developed, the stone had become an image of Shirdi Sai
A few days later, Baba left Uravakonda for
Puttaparthi. There, He shifted to the house of Karnam (the
village headman) whose aged and devout wife Subbamma attended
on Him with love and affection and welcomed all devotees into
her spacious house; she spared no effort to make their stay
happy and comfortable. Baba often speaks about her dedicated
service, working incessantly from dawn to dusk, cooking and
making other arrangements for the hordes of devotees who began
to land in Puttaparthi every day. As the number of devotees
swelled, a mandir (temple) was constructed in February 1947,
where He began to reside and grant darshan. On 23rd November
1950, Prasanthi Nilayam (The Abode of Supreme Peace) was inaugurated,
which remains till today the central venue for Bhagawan’s
darshan and the festival celebrations that take place in His
Sri Sathya Sai Avatar
This was the story of the Advent of the Avatar
and the early years of His life and mission, a mission that
would bring millions to His Lotus Feet to taste the bliss
of Divine Love and thus transform their lives. In a letter
He wrote to His brother Sri Seshama Raju way back in 1947,
Bhagawan emphatically declared the grand purpose for which
He has come.
I have a Task: To foster
all mankind and ensure for all of them lives full of Ananda
I have a Vow: To lead all
who stray away from the straight path, again into goodness
and save them.
I am attached to a Work that I love:
To remove the sufferings of the poor and grant them what they
I have a reason to be proud,
for I rescue all who worship and adore Me.
The decades that have rolled by since that
epochal letter was written have been witness to the grand
manner in which His vision has taken shape. The world class
hospitals that offer tertiary level medical care free
of charge, schools and colleges that impart values-based education,
the mammoth drinking water supply projects and the numerous
other service projects undertaken by Him stand as a testimony
to His selfless Love and His compassion for humanity. However,
even more significant than these activities have been His
tireless efforts towards spreading the message of spirituality
and inculcating love and brotherhood throughout the world.
Through the Sri Sathya Sai Centers and the Education in Human
Values (EHV) programmes, thousands all over the world have
sanctified their lives by putting into practice His precepts,
and by participating in service programmes such as Narayana
Seva (feeding of the poor) and free medical camps. Truly,
the Sathya Sai Avatar has heralded a Golden era in the history