One of the first ashrams I visited in India was Prashanti Nilayam at Puttaparthi in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Prashanti Nilayam was the home of the guru Sathya Sai Baba however he passed away on April 24th, 2011 and the ashram now houses his Samadhi (burial place).
Construction of the ashram was started in 1945 and since then it has grown into a sprawling and huge ashram which attracts many visitors and devotees from around the world. I was very fortunate to visit this ashram six times while Sathya Sai Baba was still alive and to experience his darshan (being in the presence of the guru) on many occasions.
Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings are universal and the ashram welcomes all religions and faiths. One of his great slogans is “Love all ~ serve all” and it is a wonderful mantra to embrace and live by. Whilst alive he gave many discourses on human values and ways we can all better lead our lives.
The ashram has wonderful accommodation. It has en-suite rooms and some dormitories at very cheap rates. You cannot pre-book before you arrive however don’t worry as they always have enough rooms. They also have an all-women building (N8) for ladies travelling alone or in a group which is fantastic.
The ashram has three dining halls. A south Indian dining canteen which is quite spicy. A north Indian canteen with delightful Indian food. The western canteen serves western type food such as pasta and pizzas and you can great a great coffee there. You can volunteer to do some seva (selfless service) at the western canteen. They welcome people to serve food and to dry up after the meal. Scattered throughout the ashram there are also little food outlets selling juice, soft drinks, samosas, coffees etc…
The ashram has a wonderful bookshop where you can purchase books, videos and photos of Sai Baba. There is a fantastic two storey supermarket which is open at specified times during the day. The times are separated for men and women. It sells lots of goods at very reasonable prices.
All ashrams have rules and Prashanti Nilayam is no different. They have a strict dress code which must be adhered to. When you book into the ashram you can familiarise yourself with these rules so as not to offend.
So what do you do at Prashanti Nilayam? There are no yoga or meditation classes here but they have some wonderful talks and discussions. Anil Kumar’s Sunday Satsang is especially good. The ashram is a perfect place for your own quiet, private meditation and contemplation. It is most importantly a place to visit the samadhi of a well known Indian guru.
All the gates into the ashram have seva dals (volunteer security) who check your bags and maintain a great level of security. These gates close at night at 9pm. The ashram has a lovely quiet, serene atmosphere and feels very safe.
Some added fun for the kids is the ashram elephant, a museum, space centre and library.
Sai Baba’s Samadhi is located in the Sai Kalwant Hall. You can view the Samadhi between 8-11am and 6-7pm each day. Security is strict to enter the hall. No large handbags, phones, books etc… are allowed. You must also be modestly dressed to enter.
A comprehensive internet site for everything about Sathya Sai Baba is www.saibabaforbeginners.com
More information on Sathya Sai Baba and shopping and eating in Puttaparthi to come…