LIFE HISTORY OF SRI SHIRDI SAI BABA By Ammula Sambasiva Rao
English Translation by Thota Bhaskara Rao
When our country was under foreign domination, the State of the Nizam with Hyderabad as his capital extended upto Aurangabad, presently in Maharashtra State.
In this State, there is a small village named Pathri, situated among green fields, trees and other natural settings and taking the villagers to divine heights.
The water flowing in the rivulet adjoining this village had the effects of the water from river Ganga, curing several ailments. In this village, there lived a pious couple named Ganga Bhavajya and Devagiri Amma. They lead a happy and contented life. They did not have any property worth the name.
Ganga Bhavajya used to ferry a boat in the adjoining river and lived on this meager earnings. Though, they were poor in terms of wealth, they were contented, tolerant, tactful and had peace. Ganga Bhavajya used to worship Lord Shiva and Devagiri Amma used to worship Gowri Devi. Under any circumstances, the worship of Lord Shiva and Gowri Devi would be done before the couple attended to other items of work for they believed that there was divine presence in their house, protecting them every moment. But sadly they were not blessed with children. So they used to pray to Shiva and Parvathi to bless them with children.
One day in Kailas, Shiva told Parvathi that the time for him to take birth on earth had come as promised to Bhoodevi. Then Parvathi pleaded with Lord Shiva that she be allowed to take birth on earth and assist Shiva in his Avatar. But he did not agree, that in his new Avatar, he proposed to practice strictly what he intended to preach and Parvathi would have no role to play in his `Fakir’ life. He then showed Parvathi, Ganga Bhavajya and Devagiri Amma on the earth, telling her that they are the couple to whom he would be born. Then Parvathi said that since she would not take birth on earth along with Lord Shiva, they should visit Ganga Bhavajya and Devagiri Amma now. He agreed and in the first instance sent Ganga Devi to fill Pathri village and its surroundings with water. There was a heavy downpour, inundating the village and surroundings. Fearing that the boats would be washed away in the floods, Ganga Bhavajya proceeded to the nearby river to take care of the boats after taking his night meal.
At about 9.00 p.m. in the night, there was a knock at the door of Ganga Bhavajya’s house. Thinking that her husband had returned, Devagiri Amma opened the door. But it was not her husband. An unknown old man entered the house. In this small village Devagiri Amma knew everyone. But this old man was unknown to her and that too coming at such a later hour. She tried to find out who he was. The old man pleaded with her to allow him to remain inside the house for sometime, as it was very cold outside. Being a pious lady, Devagiri Amma asked the old man to sleep in the verandah, while she went inside her room, locking the door from inside. After sometime, the old man knocked at her door. She opened the door. The old man said, “Mother, I am hungry. Please give me some food.” She felt helpless since whatever food she had cooked had been eaten and nothing was left. She searched in the house for some eatables but found only a small quantity of flour. She mixed this flour with curds and served it to the old man who gratefully ate it. She then went into her room and prepared to go to sleep, locking the door from inside. Again after sometime there was a knock at her door. She opened the door only to again find the old man standing there. He told her that his legs were paining and requested her to massage them. She was perplexed at the way in which a complete stranger was behaving when her husband was not in the house. She wondered whether the old man was really a human being or whether Lord Shiva had come to test her. Without knowing what to do under such circumstances, she wept and prayed to Parvathi. She went out through the back door to procure the services of two or three servants for massaging the legs of the old man. She was willing to pay them liberally, but found none. She returned home disappointed and wondered what to do now, whether she ought to massage the legs of the old man or not. Who was this old man? She prayed to Parvati wholeheartedly to show her a way out of this predicament. The old man knocked at her door again. Just then a woman entered through the back door and addressed Devagiri Amma, “Mother, it seems you came to my house to engage me for massaging the legs of an old man. But at that time I was not in the house. Now I have come, please tell me to whom I should do the service?”
Devagiri Amma felt very happy. She presumed that on hearing her prayers, Parvati must have sent this woman and she expressed her gratitude to the goddess. She sent the woman to the verandah to massage the legs of the old man while she went to her room and shut the door. After some time she opened the door again but she did not find either the old man or the woman sent to massage his legs. But in their place she saw Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Her happiness knew no bounds and she fell at their feet. Then Parvati blessed her, “You shall have one son and one daughter.” On hearing this, she again fell at the feet of Lord Shiva who blessed her, “Mother, I am pleased with your devotion, I will myself take birth as your third child.” By the time she got up, both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati had disappeared.
She lay awake the whole night, waiting for her husband’s return, to break the happy news of the visit of Lord Shiva and Parvati to their house. She saw only Lord Shiva and Parvati, whether she closed or opened her eyes. At daybreak, her husband returned home and she narrated everything to him. But he did not believe it. He told her sarcastically that she had gone mad or was dreaming. How could the gods come to their house? However much she tried to convince him about their visit he did not believe her.
In due course, Devagiri Amma gave birth to a male child and a female child a year after. As the children were born after so many years and that too blessed by Parvati Devi, Ganga Bhavajya started believing the visit of the gods to their house and the boons granted to his wife. From then onwards a lot of change came over him and he decided to do penance to have a vision and blessings of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. He began to think that family attachments were obstacles for his penance.
While such ideas were taking concrete shape in him, the third child started growing in the womb of Devagiri Amma. One day, Ganga Bhavajya took firm decision and informed his wife that he was retiring to the forests. As duty bound Devagiri Amma followed her husband. Without any money, placing complete faith in Lord Shiva and Parvati, they proceeded towards an unknown destination in thick forests. On one hand Devagiri Amma felt elated that shortly Lord Shiva would be born to her. On the other hand, she was worried and fearful of the aimless journey through forests. With these mixed feelings, they continued their journey.
It was the 28th day of September 1835, Ganga Bhavajya and Devagiri Amma were continuing their journey. The sun was rising throwing light red-coloured rays on the earth. Devagiri Amma went into labour pains. She slowly reached a big banyan tree and lay down on its shade. Goddess Parvati was beside her unseen, giving her courage. All other gods were witnessing from above, this unique occasion of Lord Shiva being born in human form on the earth. This new `Avatar’ would put an end to religious fanaticism, jealousies, hatred, arrogance, egoism and attachments prevalent in the humans and would generate peace, Jnana, love and equality among them. The gods showered flowers from above, unseen, and jubilant over the occasion. Great sages all over the world, for a moment became still and in that state witnessed the arrival of Lord Shiva in human form as Devagiri Amma’s child. Finally Devagiri Amma delivered the child. No one knew that the new born Avatar of Lord Shiva would one day be known as Shirdi Sai Baba and that he would respond at once to the prayers of devotees, that he would show the way to a number of devotees for attaining salvation by becoming their Sadguru, and that even after his Samadhi he would protect his devotees.
Devagiri Ammawas very happy that Lord Shiva himself was born to her. But Ganga Bhavajya was not satisfied by looking at the human child form of Lord Shiva. He was determined to see the real Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, as was seen by his wife. After sometime, he prepared to set out on his journey. It was a testing moment for Devagiri Amma. One one side was her husband and she was duty bound to follow him. On another side, it is the just born child, apart from her weakness due to delivery. Finally, she decided to follow her husband, leaving the child in the forest. She prepared a small bed of leaves and spread a soft cloth over it. She placed her newborn child on the bed. She began weeping as other mothers do and the warm tears began to fall on the child. These tears were the last attachment between mother and child. She wept bitterly for not being in a position to provide food and shelter for her child. Perhaps, she was not aware that Adi Sankara, who can protect all the creations, does not require her protection.
No such thoughts were in Ganga Bhavajya. His aim was to have vision of Lord Shiva only. For achieving this , family bonds and attachments would be hurdles. So he desired to be away from such attachments and go into the forest and do penance. He started to proceed towards his goal, his wife following him. For every step taken by her, the motherly love towards her newborn child began to melt into tears which flowed from her eyes continuously. She kept looking backwards at her child though advancing. The tears blocked her vision and she was able to see only a blurred image of her child. After proceeding for some more distance, she lost sight of her child completely and she followed her husband blindly. In the coming chapters, we shall see where and how their aimless journey ended.
On the golden Kailas Mountain, Lord Shiva should have been in the company of Parvathi and other gods. But in his new `Avatar’ he was under the banyan tree, as a newborn child, moving his legs and hands playfully and waiting for the person who would find him and look after him. Lord Shiva knew who that person was. That Mahatma named Roshan Sha came in the form of fakir (mendicant). When he was walking with his wife, he heard the cries of a small child. As they did not have any children, he picked up the child and gave him to his wife as a gift from `Allah’.
We find no words to praise Roshan Sha and his wife who bathed Lord Shiva and fed him. The child grew for four years till 1839 in the fakir’s house. The actions of God cannot be gauged. How and when some persons come together and again get separated is beyond the understanding of common people. The fakir died one day. His wife brought up the child affectionately as her own.
In those days there were clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Under such conditions, the behaviour of this boy used to be peculiar. He would suddenly enter into a temple one day and start yelling, “Rama is God, Shiva is Allah”. Both Hindus and Muslims used to admonish and punish him. On seeing this, Roshan Sha’s wife used to suffer a lot. Finally, unable to withstand the complaints against the boy, she decided to hand over the boy to a Sadhu by name Venkusa in a nearby village.
Om Shanti! Shanti! Shantihi”