AN UNPRECEDENTED NUMBER of devotees were present in Prasanthi Nilayam who witnessed the divine phenomenon of Lingodbhava (emergence of the Linga) on the evening of 1st March 2003 by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The unique feature of this Sivarathri's Lingodbhava  was that first Bhagavan created a golden Hiryanagarbha Linga in response to the prayers of the devotees by His usual wave of hand. Nearly two and a half hours later, another Hiranyagarbha Linga emerged from His mouth during the course of Sivarathri Bhajan in Sai Kulwant Hall. 

Sivarathri celebrations started on the morning of 1st March 2003 with Nadaswaram music by the Anantapur College students when Bhagavan started from His abode in Poornachandra for the morning Darshan at 7.10 a.m. Prasanthi Nilayam Campus students also offered a grand welcome to Bhagavan by their Panchavadyam music when Bhagavan entered Sai Kulwant Hall which was fully decorated for the festive occasion. As soon as Bhagavan occupied His chair on the dais after the morning Darshan, the Institute students started the chanting of Stotras in praise of Lord Siva. These included Viswanath-ashtakam, Bilvashtakam and Sivashtakam. After the Stotras, the students sang beautiful devotional songs. After this presentation of divine music, the students started Bhajans which were followed in chorus by the devotees. A grand cake was brought by the overseas devotees on this holy occasion. Bhagavan graciously lighted candles on it and ceremoniously cut the cake. This was followed by distribution of Prasadam. The morning programme of Sivarathri came to a conclusion at 8.50 a.m. with offer of Arati to Bhagavan.

In the afternoon, the programme started at 3.15 p.m. after the arrival of Bhagavan Baba in Sai Kulwant Hall. In the beginning, Sri-A. V. S. Raju, Chairman, Nagarjuna Construction Company, regaled the devotees with his beautiful Telugu poems. After this, there was Veda chanting by the Institute students. Three speakers blessed by Bhagavan to share their views with devotees were then introduced by Dr. M. Sainath, a faculty member of the Institute. The first speaker of the afternoon was Sri Sanjay Sahni, Principal, Brindavan Campus of the Institute. Quoting from the immortal work "Viveka Chudamani" of Adi Sankara, Sri Sahni observed that there were three things which were rare on earth - human birth, aspiration for emancipation and the company of the noble ones. But all these became more accessible to man by the grace of God when He descended on earth as Avatar. This, he said, was the greatest good luck of man today when the Lord of the universe had incarnated on earth in human form of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba who was showering His unbounded grace on the entire mankind and was leading man to his goal of life. Man on his part should offer his mind to the Avatar to achieve this goal, and Sivarathri was the most appropriate occasion to do so, the learned speaker observed.

The second speaker was Sri B. N. Narasimha Murthy, Warden, Brindavan Campus, who in his scholarly exposition explained the nature of Divinity and extolled the sacredness of Bharat as the birthplace of sages, godmen, prophets and Avatars. Pointing towards the sea of humanity witnessed at Prasanthi Nilayam on the occasion of Sivarathri, Sri Narasimha Murthy observed that the Divinity of the Avatar acted like a most powerful magnet and attracted the entire humanity from all parts of the world without mundane distinction of caste, colour, creed or religion. Bhagavan Baba, he said, was the Neelakantha of this Age who had come to drink the poison of violence and rank materialism which were threatening the very existence of man on this planet earth. Sri Narasimha Murthy remarked that Bhagavan Baba had been taking upon Himself the pain and suffering of others. He therefore prayed to Bhagavan not to undergo the pain of materialising the Linga from His mouth as He could create it just by the wave of His hand.

As soon as Sri Narasimha Murthy concluded his fold, Bhagavan waved His hand and materialised an oval-shaped Hiranyagarbha Linga. Holding it aloft in His right hand, Bhagavan showed it to the ecstatic devotees amidst their prolonged loud applause. This unique event occurred at 4.32 p.m. to the delight of thousands of devotees who witnessed this rarest of rare divine play on the auspicious day of Sivarathri.

The third speaker Sri S. V. Giri, Vice Chancellor, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, congratulated the devotees on their witnessing the divine spectacle of manifestation of Hiranyagarbha Linga by Bhagavan who in His unlimited compassion had responded to the prayers of the devotees instantaneously.The grace of Bhagavan Baba was ever flowing in full and it was immediately attained when the devotees prayed with puNty and sincerity, said Sri Giri. The erudite speaker described the various ways in which Lord Siva was worshipped in many parts of the country and explained the significance of witnessing the manifestation of Hiranyagarbha Linga. Sri Giri narrated two beautiful stories from the Puranas to illustrate the teachings of Bhagavan Baba, the essence of which was "love all and serve all", as exemplified by Bhagavan Baba in His life.

After these speeches, Bhagavan blessed the devotees with His Sivarathri Message, exhorting them to experience permanent bliss by Satsanga. He said, "You should strive to attain Atmic bliss right from young age. That should be your only endeavour. Your thoughts, words and deeds should be aimed at this. This can be termed as true Satsanga. Worldly experiences, however long one may enjoy, cannot give eternal bliss. You can experience eternal bliss only in the company of God. All the worldly activities and experiences are bound to change. The Atma alone is changeless. This is referred to as Ritam in Sanskrit. In order to experience this eternal principle, you should give up body attachment and understand the truth that the Atma in you is the same as the one in others. Just as the same electric current flows in different bulbs, the same Atma is present in all beings. Ekatma Sarva Bhutantaratma (the one Atma is present in all beings). But today man does not have such broad-mindedness. In order to experience divinity, which is the very form of love, you have to become the very personification of love. Divinity and love are not separate." Bhagavan brought His Discourse to a close at 5.55 p.m. with the Bhajan "Sathyam Jnanam Anantham Brahma .;." which the huge multitude of devotees repeated with deep devotion. Sivarathri Bhajans started with this Bhajan of.Bhagavan. Boys and girls students of the Institute then led the Bhajans alternately and the devotees followed them in chorus.

Bhagavan occupied His chair on the dais at 6.35 p.m. while the entire Sai Kulwant Hall reverberated with chanting of the Divine Name. Soon after this, Bhagavan started sipping water and wiping His face with His handkerchief, the two symptoms which indicated the emergence of the Linga from Bhagavan's body. As Bhagavan sipped water and wiped His face more frequently, the symptoms of Lingodbhava became more evident. All eyes were now focused on Bhagavan as the Bhajan singing went on with deep devotional fervour. The multitudes gathered to witness this Divine phenomenon were feeling anxious as the emergence of the Linga was getting delayed. The blessed moment arrived at 7,07 p.m. when an oval-shaped Hiranyagarbha Linga emerged from Bhagavan's mouth with great force, sending the devotees into raptures. Soon after the emergence of the Linga, Bhagavan got up from His chair and showed both the Lingas (the one created earlier and the one that came out of His mouth) to the devotees holding each one of them in His two raised hands.

A few minutes after this, Bhagavan left for His abode in Poornachandra while the Sivarathri Bhajans continued throughout the night. Besides the students of the three campuses of the Institute, groups of devotees also led Bhajans at certain intervals. The devotees were ecstatic with joy when their night-long Bhajan singing and vigil was rewarded by Bhagavan's morning Darshan at 5.15 a.m. on 2nd March 2003.

After the morning Divine Darshan, the devotees were blessed with the second Sivarathri Discourse by Bhagavan Baba. Giving the example of the family of Lord Siva, Bhagavan gave the message of unity in the family and the world. "The message of holy Sivarathri is to spread the ideal and sanctity of this most auspicious day to one and all", said Bhagavan. Bhagavan began His Discourse at 5.45 a.m. and brought it to a close at 6.40 a.m. with two Bhajans "Prema Mudita Manase Kaho..." and "Hey Siva Shankar Namami Shankar..." At the end of the Bhajan, Arati was offered to Bhagavan. Soon after the Arati, Bhagavan stood at the edge of the portico of the Hall and showered His profuse blessings on the assembled devotees by raising both His hands in benediction posture. In the end, Prasadam was distributed to all the devotees. To add to the bliss of some fortunate devotees, Bhagavan gave them Prasadam with His own Divine Hands. Thus, the holy festival of Sivarathri came to a close filling the hearts of the devotees with piety, purity and blessedness.

sourced from Sanathana Sarathi - March 2003 Issue - Pages 92 to 95