Set like a tiny gem in a ring of hills on the banks of the Chitravathi river, with its temple bells echoing from the surrounding hills, lies the small village of Puttaparthi, the birth place chosen by the Avatar, Sri Sathya Sai Baba. In the past it was the cradle of poets, scholars and heroes and considered to be the abode of the Goddesses of Fortune and Eloquence!

Many are the legends that surround the name of this quiet little village in Southern India. Putta means “an ant hill in which a snake has taken up its abode” and Parthi means ‘multiplier’.

A long while ago this village was known as Gollapalli or the “Home of Cowherds”, the name reminding us of the playful boyhood of Lord Krishna. It was a happy place filled with the laughter of the cowherds. The cattle were sleek and strong, the cows yielded creamy milk, thick and sweet beyond compare and every home was rich in butter and ghee.

The people were peaceful and prosperous, until one day a cowherd noticed that his favourite cow had no milk to yield when she returned from the grazing grounds in the hills. Determined to find the reason for this, he hid himself from view, and watched the astonishing behavior of the cow, who left her tiny calf and walking out of the shed made straight for an ant Hill on the outskirts of the village. The cowherd followed her only to see a cobra come forth from the mound, raise itself on its tail, and calmly proceed to drink up all the milk!

Greatly angered at the loss to which he was put by this cunning trick the boy lifted a large stone over his head, and taking aim, sent it crashing down upon the cobra. Writhing in pains the serpent cursed the cowherds and the village and foretold that the place would be full of anthills which would multiply endlessly, and become the home of snakes.

And so it happened! The cattle declined in health and numbers, while anthills spread all over the place. The villagers renamed the place Valmikapura which meant “the ant Hill city” as the name gave them some consolation; Valmiki being none other than the poet saint who gave the world the immortal epic “Ramayana”.

Today, in Puttaparthi the villagers still show as proof of this sad legend a thick round stone, dented on the side which struck the cobra. It bears a long red streak believed to be the mark of the cobra’s blood. The stone soon became an object of worship, perhaps to help avert the curse and help the cattle to prosper; also it was looked upon as a symbol of the Lord of Cowherds Sri Krishna; so a temple was built and the stone installed, to be worshipped by generations of men and women. Some years ago in order to reveal an unknown feature of the stone, Baba directed that it be washed and smeared with sandal paste on the dented side. When this was done a sculptured picture of Sri Krishna leaning against a cow, the flute on his lips was revealed. Village dwellers still say that they can hear the melodious notes of the flute.

From that day, Puttaparthi became a prosperous little village once more, with healthy thriving cattle. To the east, one may still see the Tower of the old Fort, an indicat on of Puttaparthi’s mastery over the surrounding areas and the power of its chieftains.

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