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 6

 

speeches eulogizing Baba; the performance of Arti by six young women in light-blue saris, waving camphor lamps; bhajans, or devotional songs, by native musicians; and a repetition of the Arti by R. K. Gadekar, one of Baba's disciples from Poona.

 

Then came the main event of the program, the darshan and the giving of prasad, which means "a gift from God," to what seemed like an endless procession of men, women and children, flowing for eight hours past Baba, who had seated Himself on the lower edge of the platform, and who gave to each who passed a handful of sweetmeats, while they tried to touch His feet either with their heads or with their hands. The multitude, which had gathered early in the morning, was continually being augmented by new arrivals, even after Baba had left, with kirtans * being sung until ten o'clock at night, and by the time the program was concluded, 60,000 people had received their "gift from God."

 

The swiftly flowing stream of humanity that wound past Baba was at first smooth and orderly in its rhythm, a graceful procession of women in colorful saris, lovingly presenting their children to their beloved Master. Towards noon the orderly flow of women and children was interrupted by a gigantic tidal wave of turbaned men, who, impatient for their turn, pressed forward on their side to the edge of the platform, in spite of all efforts by the Ahmednagar police and Baba's Mandali to restrain them. It seemed, for a few minutes, as if they would inundate Baba. The din was terrific, both on the floor and on the platform, where exhortations by Sarosh, Pardeshi and others for the men to return to their places were shouted into the microphone and broadcast throughout the huge pandal. Finally, Baba mounted His seat on the platform and motioned for them to go back, which they reluctantly did, and the stream flowed on again in swift but orderly fashion.

 

As the procession continued, Baba would now and then pat some child on the cheek, some man or woman on the head, or recall some woman who had been pushed ahead before He could give her prasad. In the early afternoon His right hand grew so weary that He started giving out the sweets with His left. When some of His disciples asked Him to rest, He replied, “This is My rest." Every so often He would glance about the platform at us, sometimes smiling, sometimes gesticulating, as the occasion seemed to warrant.

 

*Devotional Songs.

 

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