The elderly grandfather of Sathya Narayana Raju (who took over the name Sai Baba) was a performer, as Prof. Kasturi stated in his official biography (Volume 1 (Satyam,Sivam, Sundaram). Under his guidance, the family troupe performed in villages around Puttaparthi. Prof. N. Kasturi refers to their activities in village dramas and musical groups, which appears to have been their main employment, since no other employment is ever mentioned. We read-
“Because the brothers and the father were all extremely interested in the village operas on the legendary histories of India, and since plays were very often rehearsed at home…” also “He could sing all the songs rehearsed at home for the village operas and mystery plays.”
In his religious and devoted fervour, Prof. N. Kasturi always embellished every fact about Sathya Sai Baba almost beyond recognition. “Village operas” sound nobler than “street performances” while “mystery plays” suggests what is now called ‘stage magic’. They were “open air” performances, as Kasturi also makes clear. Though his emphasis is heavily on the religious nature of all this , mentioning that proceeds were distributed to the poor – no secret is made of money being collected. Further, one notable incident Kasturi records proves that not all Sathya’s performances had any religious content. Kasturi report that Sathya imitated and reportedly improved on the gymnastic feat of…
“…a girl dancer whose stage name was Rishyendramani, who performed a series of gymnastic dances with music. Her highlight was a dance in which she kept time to the music while balancing a bottle on her head” “ Sathya’s sisters dressed him as Rishyendraman, complete with hair-do and personal decoration…” and so on.
Kasturi began to investigate Sathya’s childhood and youth only some years after he first met him in 1948. By then, Sathya was 22 years old (though the official school records indicate he was 3 years older) Kasturi gathered stories and based his ‘biography’ of those years almost entirely on hearsay. Those who know the extremely rumour-fulled atmosphere around Sathya Sai Baba, the strongly exaggerated talk and superstitious ideas held about him by uneducated villagers (that is, the great majority of Kasturi’s informants) are aware how blind devotion to Sathya Sai Baba causes suppression of all untoward and unsavoury facts about him. One partial exception to this rule is the book by Smt Vijayakumari (‘Vijayamma’) where she recounts her personal experiences of the young Sathya, herself a blind devotee from childhood.