St John gets a fully-equipped, $300,000 Ambulance from Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan

Tenth Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony brings together communities

Spiritual Leader and Guru of Shirdi Saibaba Santhan Dr Chandra Bhanu Satpathy presenting a model of the new, $300,000 Ambulance to St John Patron Richard Blundell at a special ceremony held at the Sansthan Complex in Onehunga, Auckland on February 9, 2024 (Photo by Madhav Pradhan)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, February 11, 2024

The Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan of New Zealand Inc became the first and only Indian organisation to donate an Ambulance to serve the growing needs of the Auckland communities as a part of its Tenth Anniversary Celebrations.

A model $300,000 Ambulance, fully-equipped Ambulance was handed over by Dr Chandra Bhanu Satpathy, the Spiritual Leader and Guru of Shirdi Saibaba Santhan worldwide to the St John Patron Richard Blundell at a special ceremony held at the Community Centre of the Sansthan on Friday, February 9, 2024.

Among those present will be Members of Parliament Carlos Cheung, Paulo Garcia (National), Dr Parmjeet Parmar (ACT), former MP Mahesh Bindra (NZ First), officials of St John, devotees and community leaders.

The Executive Committee, donors and devotees of the Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan deserve congratulations on this significant achievement in a short span of ten years, since the Sansthan established its own place of worship and community centre. The move will help St John to render its services with greater efficiency.

We also record with gratitude, the services rendered by Appayya Swaminathan (popularly known as Sam), a Chartered Accountant by profession. He was the Founder-Secretary of the Sansthan. He passed away at his residence in Auckland on June 13, 2013 after being ill for some time.

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Dr Chandra Bhanu Satpathy

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Chandra Bhanu Satpathy said that Shirdi Saibaba believed in peace and harmony and held Dharma as the core principle in life. While the approach to prayer and obeisance to God may differ between religions, all of them accept the supremacy of service and sacrifice for the betterment of society.

“I commend the Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan New Zealand for donating a fully-equipped Ambulance to St John which will help in rendering timely services to those in need. This service is in line with the teachings of Baba,” he said.

Dr Satpathy has always said that Shirdi Sai Baba’s teachings were directed towards the universal fraternity of men and women, coming together for the progress and development of societies and liberation from such negative qualities as jealousy and hatred.

St John Patron Richard Blundell lighting the traditional lamp, watched by Dr Chandra Bhanu Satpathy and Amal Alluri (Photo by Madhav Pradhan)

“He stood for the goodness in every human being and I am very happy that the Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan in Auckland has been following his principles of community service. The donation of an Ambulance is a great example of such service,” Dr Satpathy said.

He said that Simplicity, Purity and Love formed the essence of the ‘Sai Movement,’ which is spreading fast throughout the world. The Movement is unique, as it brings together people of varied faiths and religions, he added.

However, Temples also serve several good purposes in the community, creating avenues and opportunities for service, Dr Satpathy said.

About St John

Hato Hone St John (also often referred to as St John Ambulance of New Zealand) is a charitable organisation providing healthcare services to the New Zealand public. The organisation provides ambulance and other health services throughout the country.

The Saibaba Sansthan Ambulance will deployed in Auckland which accounts for the largest share of St John services in the country.

A branch of the St John Ambulance was first founded in Christchurch on 30 April 1885 and later in other cities. In 1946, due to the efforts of St John in New Zealand during the Second World War, the organisation was elevated to a full Priory, with the Governor-General of New Zealand as the Prior.

St John is a major health service provider, accounting for 90% of the emergency and non-emergency ambulance coverage, emergency care and first aid at public events support phone lines for the elderly and house-bound, hospital patient transport, public first aid training, health products and a youth programme.

To millions of devotees, Bagvan Shirdi Saibaba is the eternal example of Kindness and Service (The Main Deity at Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan, Auckland- INL Photo)

In June 2020, St John announced that it would be laying off staff due to a $30 million deficit caused by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in New Zealand. It could not secure a wage subsidy from the government despite a 40% drop in income.

The services of St John services include emergency and non-emergency ambulance treatment and transport, event medical services, first aid training, the sale of first aid kits and supplies, programmes offering non-clinical support for patients and their family and friends, medical alarms, caring callers who phone to check on someone’s well-being and health shuttles to help people with impaired mobility attend essential appointments.

Tenth Anniversary Events

The Tenth Anniversary festivities of Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan commenced on February 8 with Kakad Aarati at 7 am at the Temple Hall, followed by daily rituals and concluded at midday with Madhyan Aarati. The Temple will reopen at 5 pm, with Dhoop Aarati taking place at 6 pm, followed by a special welcome and Palki Seva for Satpathy. Songs and dances on Guru Bhagavath and Guruji Pravachan on Guru Bhagavath were held thereafter, with the final offering of Ashtothar, Shej Aarati and Mahaprasad.

The Tenth Anniversary Celebrations on February 9 were held at 6.30 am with Dwar Puja, followed by Kakad Aarati and the daily rituals leading to breakfast. The evening festivities included Madhyan Aarati, Palki Seva and a cultural programme.

The current Executive Committee comprises Rama Rao Kadali (President), Uma Rao (Vice-President), Subbarami Reddy Manubolu (Secretary), Ronnie Patrawala (Treasurer). Sainath Nethula, Laxman Sunkari, Ravi Pondicherry, Shivani Arora, Ramanathan Murugesu, Madhukanth Jogia, Sreeram Reddy Bobba, Sujel Surendra, Ezhilnilavan, Niti Tataparthi and Kunal Motwani (Members).

ACT Party List MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar and Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan Executive Committee Member Shivani Arora speaking at the event (Photo by Madhav Pradhan)

Humble beginnings

Indian Newslink is the only newspaper covering and supporting the activities of the devotees of Shirdi Saibaba since informal meetings and prayers began at the residence of Shivani Arora and Sunkari Luxman in 2000. In 2002, Bhaskar Reddy Duvvuru led the initiative of establishing Saibaba Sansthan as a charitable institution with weekly prayers held at Bal Mural Temple, later shifting to Mt Roskill. The weekly prayer meetings (Thursday) and special programmes such as Mata Chowki Pooja, Navaratri, Diwali and Holi have been bringing together thousands of devotees to the Shirdi Saibaba community. They include Hindus, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and others.

Mr Bhaskar Reddy said that Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan is funded by communities and not by one or two individuals or organisations.

“Ten years ago (on February 9, 2014), we began with a bank loan of $2.8 million, in addition to the weekly donations and contributions of devotees at special events. Since then, the Sansthan has witnessed approximately $8 million in turnover. We are confident of liquidating the existing loan of $350,000 soon. More than 1000 people attend the Temple prayers every Thursday and take the Mahaprasad served at the community hall downstairs,” he said.

ACT Party List MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar and Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan Executive Committee Member Shivani Arora speaking at the event (Photo by Madhav Pradhan)

The largest Temple

With an estimated $6 million investment in a variety of facilities and amenities, the Temple complex is arguably the largest Shirdi Saibaba Temple outside India. With the Main Prayer Hall, Community Centre and Dining Hall with a well-equipped commercial kitchen accounting for about 3500 sq metres of built-in area, this Complex has been attracting communities to organise not only their religious festivals and Poojas but also conduct marriages, cultural and entertainment programmes and other events.

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