With the passage of time, Easwaramma, the chosen mother longed for another son and so she prayed and observed Sathyanarayana Puja, a special vow to win the favour of the Lord in the Name and Form of Sathyanarayana. Soon it was clear that she would be blessed with a child.
Since the grand father and his two sons were interested in village operas on the epics and scriptural stories, rehearsals were held in the house and a large tambura hung from a nail in the wall, with a maddala or drum on the floor beneath it. These were usually silent, but when it became clear that the birth of the longed for son was drawing near, the family would be awakened either at midnight or in the early morning by the tambura twanging melodiously with the maddala beating softly as being played by expert hands.
Seeking an answer to these mysterious occurrences Sri Pedda Venkapa hurried to Bukkapatnam where a learned Sastri told him that it was an auspicious occurrence and meant the presence of a “beneficent power” conferring harmony, order, joy and spiritual upliftment.
Thus it came to pass that at sunrise, on the twenty third of November 1926, a son was born—our Baba. Easwaramma was performing her Sathyanarayana Puja when she felt that it was time for the child to be born, and so the word was quickly sent to her mother-in-law, Lakshamma, who had gone to the home of the priest to perform the same rites. So confident of the grace of Sathyanarayana, so steadfast and disciplined was this old lady that she refused to interrupt her own prayers, so it was only after completing the entire ritual, that she returned home bringing with her some flowers, and sacred water with which the idol had been washed. Easwaramma wore the flowers in her hair and sipped the water. Within a few moments the child was born.
The villagers were chanting the names of Siva in remembrance that the day was a Monday of the holy month of Karthika devoted to the worship of Siva. The day was even more auspicious because the ascendant star was Ardra and on the rare occasions, when the month, the day and the star coincide special worship is performed in the temples of the Lord. The year was Akshaya the “Never declining, the Ever-full”
The little baby was lovely beyond description, and was born with all the spiritual powers, the scripture tell us an avatar has— the miraculous powers which He manifests out of His divine Will today.
A mat covered with a bedspread had been kept ready in a corner of the room. The baby was placed on it by the grandmother. Suddenly the woman noticed that the baby was moved gently up and down –The bedspread was rising up and falling down on either side of the baby! They watched with bated breath for a few seconds; and then as they quickly lifted up the baby they discovered to their astonishment a serpent coiled beneath the bed clothes— a serpent playing the role of Adisesha had provided a bed to the newborn incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
The baby was named Sathyanarayana as their cherished desire for a son had been fulfilled by their prayers to Lord Sathyanarayana. The baby smiled during the ceremony when the name was whispered in His tiny ear for indeed it was He Himself, the Lord in this small human form, who had suggested the idea in the first place!
Sathya means Truth and Narayana “God in Man”, for Baba has come to show man the path to Truth and to make him understand that God is within himself.
The grandfather had built a small hermitage for himself next to the family home, and the grandmother would carry the baby to the hermitage so that Sri Kondama Raju could place him on his lap and fondle Him. He would take Him to the puja room. The baby never disturbed his prayers; on the contrary, the old man realized that it was the presence of the child that filled his mind with peace and directed it towards God.
Very soon the child became the pet of the village. His charming smile attracted every one into wanting to fondle and feed Him and so Sri Pedda Venkapa’s house was always filled with visitors who lingered around the cradle of the little one who seemed to make them forget the dull chores of the day.
The house next to the Raju’s belonged to the Karnam, the hereditary village accountant. The Karnam was a Brahmin by caste. His wife Subbamma would pick up the baby, fondle Him and hold Him close. The baby would gurgle in delight and Subbamma would triumphantly carry Him back to her house. As she was an elderly lady and had no children of her own, Easwaramma’s compassionate heart did not protest. “This is a Brahmin child” the other women would twit seeing the alacrity with which Sathya let Himself be carried to Subbamma’s house! The child never burst in to such spontaneous hilarity in His own home, as He did at Subbamma’s. This inevitably led to Easwaramma being called ‘Devaki’ and Subbamma ‘Yasoda’ by the ladies of the village. Easwaramma was delighted to see her baby become the centre of everyone’s love and attention, as He grew sweeter with every passing day.
As little Sathya grew up it was noticed with wonder that he delighted in having the broad vibhuti(sacred ash) markings as worn by men on His forehead, insisting that they be replaced if they wore off. He also wanted to wear round kumkum dot in the centre of His forehead, often raiding His sister’s kumkum box for this purpose.He was Siva, He was Sakti “God and the power of God”. So therefore He wanted the sacred ash of Lord Siva and the red dot of the consort.
His aversion to non-vegetarian food was such that He naturally kept away from places where sheep, goat or cattle were killed or fowls and fish are trapped. He avoided kitchens and vessels used for cooking flesh and sometimes when He heard that a bird was to be killed for cooking purposes He would run and find the bird, hold it close within His arms and fondle it as if extra love be poured on it would induce the elders to spare its life. At such times, He would run to the Karnam’s house, for they were vegetarians, and would eat the food offered to Him by Subbamma–His Yasoda!
The neighbours called Him ‘Brahmajnani’ a ‘Realised Soul’ as His measure of love towards all creation became clear. Baba showed even at the tender age of three or four that He had a heart that melted at the sight of human suffering.
If a beggar appeared at the doorway, He would rush inside and force His sisters to produce some food. They would lose their tempers and sometimes drive the beggar away; If so, Sathya would weep and wail so loudly and for so long that the only way to keep Him quiet would be bring the beggar back again! Since the stream of beggars continues to come to the door, Sathya’s mother warned Him by saying “Look here, you may give them food, but you have to go without it.” But this did not daunt Him. He would still bring out food to the hungry, and stay away from His own lunch or dinner. No one could prevail upon Him to have the food which would be left untouched.
Sathya had a mysterious visitor who was feeding Him. When He used to refuse food for over a period of days, He would show no signs of starvation in His appearance, or fatigue in His activities. He would tell His mother that he had eaten, saying that an old man had fed Him on a feast of milk and rice! To prove it He would hold out His right hand so that His mother could smell the fragrance of milk, ghee and curds of a type she herself had never enjoyed!
When Sathya was grown up enough to play out in the street, He would look for and bring home the blind, the maimed, the diseased and those quite unable to work, His sisters have to fetch some food or grain to fill the beggar’s bowl, while Sathya looked on, happily.
Sathyanarayana was held up as perfect example of what a child should be by every parent in the village and soon His little friends referred to Him as their Guru.His own family came to know of this in a strange way. Late in one ‘Sri Ramanavami’ night, a procession wended its colourful way round the village.
There was a bullock cart covered with flowers, carrying a large picture of Lord Rama beside which sat the priest in order to collect the flower garlands and camphor offered by the households who were regaled by the music of the pipers and drummers.
Sathya’s household being awakened by this, found Him missing! Searching frantically for it was past midnight, their attention was diverted by the arrival of a bullock-cart carrying the picture of Lord Rama, at their door step. Imagine their surprise at seeing their five year old Sathya sitting with evident authority underneath the picture! His little companions when asked why he was seated and not walking with them promptly answered ‘he is our Guru’ Indeed he is the Guru of all the ages throughout the world!
In the village of Puttaparthi there was a small school that Baba attended as a child together with the other boys. To enforce punctuality rather a harsh punishment had been devised. The first two students who enter and greet the teacher were exempt but every other child coming late received the taste of the cane, the number of cuts across the hands depending upon the place in the list of latecomers! To escape this torture the children would gather under the eaves of the school house, shivering in the rain or fog, long before the sun rise. Little Sathya seeing their plight would bring them shirts and towels to make them more comfortable, until the elders in their household were forced to lock up clothes they could ill-afford to lose.
Sathyanarayana seemed to be a precocious child, who learnt His lessons by Himself far more quickly than other children. He could sing all the songs rehearsed at home for the village operas and plays; He was only seven year old when he composed songs for public presentation! So when He was eight years of age, Sathya was declared ready to proceed to the Higher Elementary School at Bukkapatnam two and a half miles from Puttaparthi. He had to walk all that distance in sunshine or the rainy season, crossing stony mounds or slushy fields, often wading knee deep in water, His bags of books held high over His head. Leaving early in the morning after a meal of cold rice with curds or chutney, he would walk the distance with His little friends carrying His afternoon meal in a bag.
Simple, unostentatious, honest and well behaved, very obedient, never speaking more than necessary, He set a good example to the other children by coming early to the class room where he would install a picture or image of God and conduct worship, distributing Prasad in one form or another.
The boys would gather around Him for the things which He took out of His empty bag and when asked about it He would say a certain ‘angel’ obeyed His will giving Him whatever He wanted.
A certain teacher had once to experience the force of that ‘Angel’! (Sathya’s Divine Will). One day in the class room a teacher noticed that Sathya was not taking down notes as were the other pupils, but was composing chants and copying them for distribution among His classmates. On being questioned about this Sathya said, “Sir! I don’t need to take down notes. I have understood what you have dictated. Ask me any question on it and I shall answer correctly.” But the teacher would have none of it. Sathya must be punished and so He was ordered to stand upon the bench until the last bell of the day. He obeyed. The class mates were unhappy at the thought of their ‘Guru’ poised uncomfortably atop a bench.
There was another teacher Janab Mahbub Khan who loved and respected Sathya beyond words. He taught English so well that every boy knew every lesson thoroughly! He felt from what he saw of the type of good example, Sathya set to the other children, that he was dealing with a great power and so he treated Him with a rare affection. He even cleaned his house before he invited his little pupil to partake of any food, knowing Sathya’s aversion to food having the remotest contact with non-vegetarian dishes. Mahbub Khan would quietly sit with Sathya for some time and stoking His hair used to whisper, ‘Oh Sathya! You are a wonderful boy, you will help thousands, and you are a great power!’
When he entered the classroom and saw his little pupil standing on the bench he felt pained. He noticed the teacher who had inflicted the punishment was still sitting down instead of vacating the chair for the next class. The Teacher whispered to him that he could not get up because when he did the chair rose with him!
The boys who caught the whisper, quietly laughed feeling that the teacher’s plight must be due to Sathya’s ‘Angel’. Mahbub Khan suspecting the same thing suggested that the teacher ask Sathya to step down. He did so, and the chair fell away!
Years later while relating the story Baba said He willed it to be so, not out of anger–for he had no anger in Him, but purely to demonstrate Himself gradually prepare men’s minds for the announcement of His Mission and Identity.
True to the nickname Brahmajnani or Knower of God which he has earned by His wisdom and purity, Sathya showed by what he taught and how He lived that the little joys of this limited world were quite inferior to the supreme bliss which is attained through prayers and Bhajans, devotion and contentment. He delighted only in stories of saints endowed with these qualities.
To be in His company even at that early age, it was necessary that the child be clean and honest in order to win Sathya’s approval and get the sweets he took out of an empty bag!