LIFE HISTORY OF SRI SHIRDI SAI BABA By Ammula Sambasiva Rao
English Translation by Thota Bhaskara Rao
There was a village named Jambavavi, now in the State of Maharashtra, under the rule of a Nizam in those days. In this village, there was a pious Brahmin named Keshava Rao and his wife. Both were devotees of Venkateswara Lord at Tirupathi. As they had no children, they always used to pray to the Lord to bless them with a child. One night, the
Lord appeared to Keshava Rao in a dream and told him that one Ramanand Yogi of Kashi would be born as their son shortly. After this Keshava Rao’s wife became pregnant. He used to read the Holy Scriptures to his wife and explain them in detail. This was an exercise undertaken by him to impart Jnana to the child who was in the womb of his wife. His wife gave birth to a male child on an auspicious day. The parents named him Gopal Rao, and imparted several types of education. When the boy reached marriageable age, they performed his marriage with a suitable girl.
Gopal Rao was a person of tact, strength, patience and knowledge. Above all this, he was a person with a helping nature and service. Pleased with his strength and courage, the Peshwas gave a paragana named Jintur as jagir to Gopal Rao to rule over this place. Gopal Rao loved the inhabitants of this place as his own children and ruled over them. He shifted his place of residence to the centrally located village Selu and developed it a lot. He inherited from his father, abundant devotion to Lord Venkateswara. Now and then, the Lord would appear in his dreams. He established an ashram in his fort and gave opportunity to several people to lead saintly lives. One Evening, when he was taking a stroll in the fort, he found a young lady undressing for taking bath and Gopal Rao’s mind had evil thoughts for a moment on seeing her naked form. Immediately regretting his perverted thoughts, he pierced both his eyes with a needle and lost his sight.
Because of this, he could not discharge his duties as jagirdar properly. On the advise of his friends, he performed special Puja to Lord Venkateswara and regained his lost eyesight with the blessings of the Lord. From that day, he came to be known as Venkudas (Lord Venkateswara’ s Slave). Roshan Sha’s wife wanted to hand over the four-year-old boy to the care of Venkusa. But Venkusa was on a pilgrimage. He did not practice discrimination on account of religion, caste or creed. All were equal to him. He used to visit not only temples but also the dargahs and gurudwaras while on pilgrimage. Once, when he visited the Sawaghahi Dargah in Ahmedabad, he heard the following words coming from there: “Salaam alekum Maharaj! You are born with a purpose. A hundred miles from Selu Village, there is another village by name Manwat. There Allah, who is born for setting this world right, is being brought up in a fakir’s house. After you go back to Selu from your pilgrimage, the boy will be brought to you. You must accept this boy as your pupil and teach him. This is God’s work. The boy will grown up in your care and will become `Guru’ for the entire world.”
Venkusa returned to Selu after the pilgrimage. Roshan Sha’s wife brought the boy and handed him over to Venkusa. Thus the boy (Baba) came under the care of Venkusa in his fifth year. Roshan Sha named the boy Majida and there are proofs that the boy grew under Venkusa with the name Majida.
Venkusa taught Venkusa taught the boy all kinds of Shastras. The boy who was born with natural Godliness learnt all of them in his early age. Venkusa took the boy along with him to other villages. In the year 1842,during summer, they both came to Shirdi village and they stayed there for 7 days. They took their food in the house of Bayija Bai and slept in the small temples of the village. This means Baba came to Shirdi first in the year 1842. Perhaps because of the food provided to him by Baija Bai, Baba used to call her Sister. Similarly, Baba in his young age came into contact with Nanavali. Nanavali was younger than Baba. He used to do service at the Samadhi of a great person by name Nanavali, near Aurangabad. Hence, he got the name of Nanavali and was known only by this name. During the tours of Venkusa along with Baba, they met Nanavali for the first time in 1849. Nanavali used to address Baba as Uncle. Having been brought up by Roshan Sha who was a Sufi saint, and later by Venkusa who was a devotee of Lord Venkateswara, Baba understood the important aspects of Islam and Hinduism and also the blind customs in both. Though Venkusa was a Hindu, he used to take Baba to the Samadhis of great persons of both the religions and explain their teachings and theories in detail.
Years rolled by. The boy, who was born with a purpose, the incarnation of Lord Shiva, learnt everything related with physical, philosophical and other fields. He also learnt about “Pancha Bhuthas” and the importance of the eight directions. He was able to feel the divine power, which created this universe, and notice the unstable condition of life, soul, mind and arrogance. He also learnt the connection between these and the sensory organs and how to control desires and command the divine power in the body. A divine light in his eyes, sensibility in talk, calmness in his actions and mature thinking were found in him.
For Venkusa, his joy knew no bounds, for the boy whom he brought up acquired so many divine powers. He used to stare at the boy motionless, and tears would roll down from his eyes. Night and day he would keep the boy with him. He used to bathe him, dress him, feed him and put him to sleep. If sometimes he could not attend on the boy personally, he would suffer mentally. Whether it was natural love for the boy or whether it was the effect of the incarnation of Lord Shiva in the form of this boy, we do not know. Whatever it was, Venkusa’s life was blessed he acted as Baba’s guru, protector, friend, mother and father. Though we do not know what Venkusa looked like, let us imagine and prostrate at his feet for having brought up our Sai, for having moulded him and presented him to crores of devotees throughout the world, let us prostrate at his feet for the second time. Sai is not merely a Guru. He is Samartha Sadguru. For having acted as Guru for such a Samartha Sadguru, let us prostrate at the feet of Venkusa for the third time.
Since Venkusa was teaching the boy the secrets in Shastras, the other ashramites posed unnecessary and irrelevant questions, which diverted the attention of Guru Venkusa. As he was not able to pay proper attention under such disturbed conditions, he took the boy into the forest and taught him in the different fields of education. The ashramites discovered the place where Venkusa was and sent a few disciples to bring him back to Selu. Suspecting that they were jealous of the boy and hated him, probably might harm him, without loss of time he inducted into the boy some of his powers on Suddha Dashami Day of the month of Asweeyuja. The boy who was just completing 16 years of age appeared fully mature, with divine powers.
Venkusa told the boy that he had done his duty as per God’s decision and the day was not far off when they would be separated. He also told him that having achieved his goal, he would go into Samadhi. As per the Shastras, a disciple should not witness his guru attaining Samadhi, but if he went back to Selu or the neighboring villages, the people there might harm him. If they continued to be together then also the people who were jealous of them would be haunting them. Therefore, it was necessary that they be separated. On a full-moon day, Venkusa inducted into the boy all his remaining powers. It was decided that Venkusa would return to Selu and the boy would proceed along the shores of Godavari River. The plan was found out by some spies from Selu and the news was carried over to Selu. From Selu, Venkusa’s successors secretly came to the forest and watched their movements.
The people of Selu, thinking that Venkusa had left his family, ashram and properties for the sake of this boy, planned to kidnap the boy so that Venkusa would return to Selu. Sensing such a move, Venkusa protected the boy by staying with him every moment. Since the village people found that it was very difficult to kidnap the boy, they decided to kill him. That night was Chaturdashi, a day prior to full moon. The conspirators were discussing the methods of killing the boy. They had not brought knives or sticks with them. There were no big stones nearby. While this was the situation, Venkusa and the boy prepared to go to sleep.
The boy had peaceful sleep, whereas Venkusa could not sleep as he was preoccupied with thoughts of the boy. One of the conspirators, with a view not to delay their plan further, took a brick, which was lying nearby, and wanting to kill the boy at one stroke, proceeded towards him. Venkusa, who was half asleep, suddenly opened his eyes and found the brick coming towards the boy’s head. He at once put his own head in the path of the brick, which hit his forehead and caused bleeding. With blazing eyes, Venkusa cursed him, who fell dead the next moment. Hearing the commotion the boy woke up from his sleep and observed everything. The other two conspirators who were at a distance ran away, lest they also die by the curse of Venkusa.
The boy tore off a piece of cloth from his dress and cleaned the injury suffered by Venkusa. They were staring at each other with different thoughts in their minds. While Venkusa was thinking that even at the risk of losing his life, he would hand over the boy as Guru to posterity, the boy was thinking how to repay the debt to his Guru for having protected him. Thus the hearts of Guru and disciple became one, ideas became one, with love and affection in harmony. Such should be the binding force between Guru and disciple.
The sun began to rise in the east with the red rays spreading over the sky. Venkusa and the boy both took their bath in the river. Venkusa milked a nearby cow and purring the milk into the hands of the boy, imparted all the remaining powers he had and commanded the boy to bring to life one of the conspirators who lay dead due to the curse given by Venkusa. The boy washed the toe of the right foot of the Guru and sprinkled this water on the dead person who came alive, saying he regretted his attempt to kill the boy and sought his pardon.
Venkusa wanted to give the boy all the valuable ornaments he was wearing but the boy declined to have them. Instead he requested Venkusa to give him the brick, which had hit him on his forehead while saving him (boy) from the murderous attack. Overwhelmed by his request and with tears rolling down from his eyes, Venkusa gave him the brick with his blessings. He wished that the brick always be the boy’s companion and life partner. The boy also requested Guru Venkusa to give him the piece of cloth drenched with blood while cleaning his injury. Moved emotionally by such a request Venkusa tied the cloth piece around the forehead of the boy and declared that it would protect the boy at all times. He told him to proceed along the banks of river Godavari and the place where he found complete peace would be abode. He also advised him to keep away from women and wealth. Afterwards Venkusa proceeded to Selu along with the revived person.
After walking for three days along the banks of River Godavari, the boy reached a place called Kopergaon in the year 1854, Margashira month on the third day after full moon. After taking rest for a day, he again proceeded and reached the village of Shirdi by evening. Not willing to approach anyone for shelter, he began to live under the shade of a big Neem tree.
“Om Shanti! Shanti! Shantihi”