The Prasanthi Ashram Nilayam was founded by Sathya Sai Baba in 1950 and is translated as “The home of the highest world” and, according to another version – “The place of the highest peace”. It is located in the city of Puttaparthi , Andhra Pradesh , in the south of India.
In addition to the built Ashram, Sai Baba has also completely changed the face of his native village. Currently, Puttaparthi is granted city status and, on its main road, you will see two sides: a university, a music school, a primary and secondary school, a men’s hostel, a planetarium, a stadium and a school. sports palace and a Chinese museum. Everything is very beautiful, modern, colorful and, of course, with an Indian flavor.
Also in the city and surrounding areas, there is a local airport, a train station, a super hospital, a clinic, a museum of religions unity, a library of Shanti and a meditation room.
In the territory of the ashram, you will find a shopping center, a library, a book and CD shop, a telephone, a police, a bakery, three canteens, kiosks or canopies for selling freshly squeezed juices and packaged, cappuccino vending machines. Sounds good, but in fact, everything looks completely different from what we imagined … There was even a post office, but, in my opinion, it works now.
Many rooms (rooms) were built for different purposes, such as a conference room, an audience. The most important is Darshan Hall with the Mandir , where the darshans once took place – the exits of Sai Baba to the people. And now, people gather here to read the Vedas twice a day, sing bhajans , meditate, hold parties, concerts, rent Sai Baba. Such fees and now in the old way are called darshans. They are divided into two parts: the first is the reading of the Vedic mantras in Sanskrit, the second is the song of the bhajans (songs glorifying different names and forms of God), abbreviated bhajan . After an hour and a half, and if a public holiday passes, it can be delayed from 2 to 2.5 hours.
All rooms are located in buildings, with the exception of Darshan Hall, which is a huge separate building with no walls. In my opinion, I read that it is home to about 20,000 people. The Darshan Hall consists of a marble floor (very hot) and a domed roof resting on columns. Darshan Hall has a mandir – a built-in enclosed space to accommodate audiences, with something resembling a pedestal scene, where Sai Baba once sat. Its ash crypt has now been installed. Omkar goes into the mandir (repetition of the sound “Om” 21 times, meditations of 10 minutes for those who wish it in the evening).
The Darshan Hall is divided into two parts: a man and a woman with separate entrances and exits.
When July 15 was a holiday for teachers, the Darshan Hall was entirely decorated with flowers, balloons, rain, garlands and garlands of flowers. And, in general, for all vacations that are simply not measured here, the Darshan Hall is beautifully decorated and always in different ways. Flowers in general are always present in Darshan Hall, and the compositions are so original and harmonious that I would say they are composed of specially trained florists.
It seems to me that the incredible energy is concentrated in this place, at least I feel it all the time.
Women are admitted to darshan only by a line of sevadalok (domestic) and after having already searched. Men are searched, respectively, by sevadaly men . Many things can not be transported, even pens (there is a whole stand with pictures of prohibited items). Remove the prohibited items in two ways: either by leaving the room or by handing them to the reserve near Darshan Hall (women and men, respectively). In the reserve, your name (without last name), the name of the object are entered in a special book, and you put your signature. Some Indian women, who did not know how to write, replaced the signature left for the history of their fingerprint.
They sit on the ground in rows. In addition, sevadalki often indicate where to sit, but this can be bypassed by either gently smiling at them or shaking their heads stubbornly. In the extreme case, if they continue to insist, you can simply go down the hall.
Indians sit on the ground and strangers bring square cushions or a rigid seat, such as a foldable book, that can be bought both in the mall and outside the ashram in the shops. (In general, everything is for the customers!). Some Indian women are delighted with these sidushki : they smile, point and shake their heads. Sitting in these sidushki not only pleases Indian women, but all the others who do not use them.
At Darshan Hall, as well as in other public places, they are allowed only without shoes, which they leave in the street unattended, in places specially designated for this purpose. Therefore, it is advisable for everyone to walk in banal slaps, which everyone does. However, I saw that some of their sandals are tied with small, tight chains, locked with a key.
Coming to darshan and leaving it, by the way, is possible at any time during all the action.
There are many residential buildings (they are called Nords ): they have names on the cardinal points and a number, for example, West 4. Foreigners can only be installed in several buildings: family, man and woman. Most of the same buildings for Indians and Nepalese. In addition, from the common room for 100 people, where they sleep together, on the floor, on mattresses, and through decent-looking apartments for families. Of course, these family buildings are very different from others, even in appearance, and are located in the quieter part of the ashram. They have air conditioning in many rooms. Some of them appear to be destined for permanent residence.
There are also new buildings, also for the Indians, that were recently built and are on the periphery. They are not even visible. For a long time, I did not know they existed before our arrival. There are also buildings for students.
Separate bodies are built for several governments – ministers who are engaged all over India for a period of time: from a week to a month. In them, in my opinion, only the common rooms.
The food is vegetarian, very varied. There are two Indian canteens (one is drawn on the map with a pepper, the other with three). In the first I could not eat, not to mention the second, which I did not go at all.
I mostly ate at the western canteen, where the food is delicious, but something special, maybe because all the dishes are vegetarian and maybe because of its particular fat content. At first, because of the lack of meat, I was constantly hungry, I ate in the dining room by the stomach, but the food seemed empty and there was no satisfaction. Therefore, she started to take bread, tried to take potatoes.
In the dining room, there is always rice (three types), pasta (pasta, spaghetti or lasagna), a variety of steamed vegetables, morning porridge with milk and water, in the evening – soup. Make puddings, yogurt, kefir. Tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, onions, lettuce are cut and put each separately – you can mix yourself. Sometimes exposed avocado baked with or without sauce. Prepare excellent pastries in what they cook without eggs. In my opinion, I tried for the first time a spinach puff pastry, which turned out to be the most delicious. Sometimes they prepare pizzas with different fillings, but I have not come across good food.
Ware all iron, incl. and trays. With the exception of soups and vegetables, everything is placed directly on the tray, in which there are various fingerprints. In principle, it’s convenient – do not have fun with plates. We eat a lot of rice by hand.
In addition, in the dining room, there is an automatic machine that makes cappuccino from natural cereals. So, from a certain time, I started the tradition of having a cappuccino breakfast with pastries and sometimes taking porridge. According to the pervosti , it took a long time – for some reason, the machine would not give coffee ready after a while. The young man who was responsible for making coffee smiled to apologize and explained something. Interestingly, over time, the coffee making process accelerated to impossible: it was ready in just a few minutes. It was hard to say what was in the beginning … In general, the cappuccino of the western canteen was the most delicious coffee: I also tried in the stalls of the ashram, in the German Becker (bakery ) and in the Tibetan restaurant – no comparison possible!
After my bowels were upset, which happened far from immediate, but probably about three weeks after I arrived, I started to dine in Tibetan restaurants. It is comfortable, clean, they also prepare delicious vegetarian dishes and, what is important for me, without spices! The menu is written in Russian, including, but you should always order in English or by pointing to the desired menu item.
In a Tibetan restaurant, even Russian pop music sounded – slow, sweet. Of course, hearing it in such a place was very strange. But a record of French music and the soundtracks of the films ” Gypsy ” and “Midshipmen, Forward !” Impressed me particularly. When I heard this music, I cried sobbing in the restaurant! It was before the nap and in the restaurant, there were only two who, when leaving, told me the owner of the restaurant. Like an ambulance, with a sympathetic look, he pulled me to the ground torrents that covered me … but not immediately. And every time I heard that music over there, a terrible nostalgia attacked me both in Russia and in Russian, and we still do not know why …
It is this Tibetan who later told me that all I needed was to eat, sleep and cry! And it was absolutely true! It amused me so much: it looked a lot like the movie Eat , Pray , Love, especially since similar events have taken place with her heroine, as in my life: quit, let, meditate, learn to get along and find each other
A common national Tibetan dish is the momo : like our dumplings, only the dough is much thinner, without eggs, and various stuffings: spinach, potatoes, cheese, etc. or a combination thereof. Momo is usually served with a sweet sauce.
They also cooked delicious dads on water or milk, to which you could add a banana or other fruit, and if you asked for oil, it was just a miracle!
Tibetan crepes baked in the oven. In our opinion, it is rather a big thick bread. There, they also added all kinds of fruits and even chocolate. Such a pancake I ate belly, but it was very tasty!
There was also Tibetan bread, which looked more like our flat bread, but not rich, but very tasty.
Generally frustrated soups or dishes containing liquid. They do not have clear gold broth like ours! They have a terrible brown liquid because they add soy sauce – a disaster! An egg soup left an indelible impression: translucent gelatinous brownish liquid with a beaten egg (and there was nothing!). The Tibetan was upset to see the soup not consumed, which we told him: it’s not soup!
But when I was more or less used, I could just order what ingredients I wanted to see in the soup and, voila , the desire appeared on my table! I also played with momo : there was no momo with potatoes on the menu, but with a special order for me, there was momo with potatoes on the table. Surely, they make such special orders for each customer …
There was a curious case, when one of the last days I came to a restaurant with a great desire to eat porridge. But in this restaurant there was no porridge on the menu. By habit, I ask if it is possible to cook porridge? I answer: no problem, as they say, all the whims of your money. They bring me some porridge, and I look on a plate, apart from the porridge, a farm animal, and not one, but we can say that the porridge is pouring in, even if it is dead! I give it back and I feed a Tibetan crepe. If I understand correctly, as they do not have porridge in the menu, they do not cook it at all, respectively, in the croup, which has not been used for a long time, bugs were brought. So the special order of the special order is different! And when the next day I ordered the same soup there, I did not forget to ask, “Is it meatless?” (I did not know how to do in English with insects, insects). The Tibetan was in shock: what meat, vegetarian food !!! I had to clarify the question: “Is he without animals ?!”
In the streets of the city (commonly called “outsider” – in English means outside), you can buy all kinds of fruits: bananas, mangoes, papayas, peanuts, fruits like blackberries with a child’s fist, to inside which is a pile of bones like watermelon a little pulp, that you can actually eat (tasty), guava – same size, dense with tiny seeds in the middle of yellow fruits, grapes, watermelons, melons (Both are fun, not like ours: small watermelons elongated, melons like pumpkins), coconut hairy.
You can buy a green coconut without hair (bald) on the territory of the ashram and in an outsider. You open it with you and you can drink the juice of the straw. Sufficiently bland, almost tasteless, they say useful. It is divided into two types: one drinks only juice, and the second has a core inside: the white flesh, which can also be removed and chewed.
Inside the ashram, mix the mango juice, watermelon, grapes.
Tibetans hold a German bakery (!) In an outdoor position. Coffee, tea, fruit juice, pastries and hot dishes. It’s true that I loved pastries in our dining room. Everything is very clean compared to the Indians. The bakery is located on the roof of the building, probably on three floors. It blows pleasantly, but unfortunately the view does not open, only the noisy main street below.
All these Tibetan restaurants, the German bakery are far from being immediately! At first, you can hear something about it somewhere, then you’ll look endlessly at the endless feast of signs without finding anything, then one of the girls or you will see the corresponding sign and you’ll see either entrance, or you will ask merchants: where do you go to go to this wonderful restaurant on the fourth floor ?! And even after several trips to this place, I always confused the corridor in which I had to close the street. So I always prepared myself to be very attentive and focused and to orient myself according to certain signs or the type of merchants who were constantly walking in the street.
And the German bakery, for example, reported its presence in red (!) In color up to four copies, it was simply impossible not to notice it! However, we only found it two weeks after hearing about such a place! An important factor in this regard is probably the fact that at first solitary foreigners, especially women, can not afford to walk or walk slowly in the shopping streets – this will inevitably lead to the capture of a trader , beggars, good or just something that happens terrible! Therefore, the movement is either urgent or jerky from one store to another. And only after a while, when you are more or less accustomed to local customs and rules of conduct and get used to it, you can already go for a leisurely stroll, because your eyes are directly on you,
In general, the shopping streets of the city – is a separate song, or rather, a lifetime. Booths, bureaux de change, tourist agencies and others, hairdressers (men), Internet establishments, restaurants, succeed each other, sometimes on several floors, including basements. The buildings are not very high, everything is very flowery, narrow and narrow, sometimes dirty. In particular, if we consider that the cars circulate on the spot (they are less numerous), the automatic rickshaw, the people walk and there are trolleys from which they sell vegetables or jewels.
The main street is one – it’s called the main street. Two other main shopping streets separate it: Samadhi Road and Chitravati Road (the name of the river is Chitravati ).
Everything is very cheap, but there is no good quality either. The shops are mainly open from 9h to 10h with a nap break from 15h to 17h.
Twice a week, Saturday and Sunday, there is a bazaar, mostly vegetables. On the other side of the river, they saw that they were selling meat, chicken, including live chicken.
Many merchants speak Russian because there are many Russians here. In the ashram, the Russian speech is constantly heard. Yes, we can see them in appearance, although they are all dressed in national Indian clothes. The merchants unquestionably recognize the Russians and ask “Are you Russian?” I even started to believe that my nationality was written on my forehead. Certainly, Tibetans say they all claim a “Are you Russian?”, White and blond. In most cases, they guess it correctly.
Things here in the shops often give away without money. Many times I did not have money with me, so they said, “Later, you’ll wear it.” It is strange that they trust us because they are always deceiving us. And this despite the fact that the Indians are hungry for money.
We can also note that nowhere, at least in public, alcohol is not for sale. At the ashram, it’s just forbidden, but in town, probably out of solidarity. The truth is in the coolest European restaurants in luxury hotels that I have never seen, maybe they sell something more than kefir to a degree … And they smoke in the city in a secret way, by encrypting along the doors.