LIFE HISTORY OF SRI SHIRDI SAI BABA By Ammula Sambasiva Rao
English Translation by Thota Bhaskara Rao
After giving birth to the child Avatar on 28 September 1835, Devagiri Amma and Ganga Bhavajya continued their journey aimlessly in the forests. Though he went with detachment, he observed the physical weakness and helplessness in his wife Devagiri Amma. Sympathy evoked in him, but he thought that he should not succumb to such weakness, and so started proceeding further. But Devagiri Amma was too weak to walk straight and her sight was getting blurred, her tongue drying up with thirst. She had no physical strength at all. But as a devout woman, she followed her husband slowly. With great difficulty, they moved ahead. Ganga Bhavajya stopped near a freshwater tank. He could not proceed further after seeing the condition of his wife. He tried to suppress his feelings unsuccessfully. All his feelings and sympathies for his wife gushed out and he thought Lord Shiva would not give him Darshan if he left his wife alone and proceeded. He went to her and started attending on her. After quenching her thirst, she went into deep sleep, fully exhausted. In the meantime, a banjara (a nomad) who was passing by saw them and told them that if they did not leave that place before dusk, there was danger from wild animals. So saying, he took them along with him for some distance and showed them a hut. He told them that this hut belonged to him and they could rest in it. After sometime, the banjara’s wife brought food for them and after serving them they all sat together. The banjara couple heard the story of their guests attentively. Then they addressed the guests.
“The norms for leading an ordinary type of life are prescribed in the Vedas. They are of four kinds, viz. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Every man should follow these four during his lifetime. The woman, while being the life companion, should assist the man in attaining them. This is the specialty in Hindu culture. But having brought forth three children, you left them mercilessly and took to the forests. Your action goes against the dharma. It is good to desire a vision of Lord Shiva. If that is life’s aim, one should be a sanyasi and not Grahastha (family man). But being Grahastha, forgetting one’s duties towards family, one should not seek God, for this is not correct. After performing all your duties only you should take to Vanaprastha (retiring to the forests) and then seek God. This is Dharma Marga. As you have already abandoned your three children you should now proceed. Though you are wife and husband, in future you should not have any bodily attachments, but concentrate on doing penance for Atma Sakshathkaram and then for the Sakshathkaram of Lord Shiva. There is a village named Nivasa about 150 miles from here and from there you proceed another 20 miles and do your penance.”
The words of the banjara were like the chanting of the Vedas and Bhavajya decided to do penance with his wife for the Sakshathkaram of Lord Shiva. In the meantime, the banjara gave them two wild fruits from the forest and made them eat, by which they got rid of all bodily ailments, attaining divine powers necessary for doing penance. Late in the night they slept. When Ganga Bhavajya woke up in the morning, he found neither the banjara couple nor the hut. All that had taken place the previous night appeared to them as a dream.
Devagiri Amma regained her physical health and was happy. After traveling for eleven days, they reached the place on the banks of Godavari River, as indicated by the banjara and started their penance for years. Many used to visit them and learn spiritual matters from them. The devotees named Devagiri Amma as Dwarakamayi. Devagiri means Govardhanagiri, the mountain lifted by Lord Krishna and the place surrounding it is Dwaraka, and Mayi means mother. Similarly, Ganga Bhavajya was named Gurudhan because he was imparting Jnana to the seekers. So, the names acquired by the parents of Baba, in the Jnana Marga, were Gurudhan and Dwarakamayi. As many people started visiting them, it caused disturbance for their penance, and so they shifted into the interior forest. Both used to be in a state of Samadhi for days together.
After reaching Shirdi, Baba lived for sometime under a Neem tree on the outskirts of the village. Some villagers with their unnecessary talk, were disturbing Baba’s meditation. For a long time, he used to go into the nearby forest and remain there all the day, eating fruits and other things available in the forest. After a certain period, some of the villagers noticed this boy who used to sit under the Neem tree under all extreme climatic conditions, and always meditating. Some of them asked the same question direct to the boy, thereby disturbing his meditation. While this was so, some people who were carefully observing him recognised him as a boy with unusual divine powers . But many used to talk about him critically and used to poke fun at him.
One day a blind person came and sat in the shade of the Neem tree. Some rowdies abused him and threw him aside and went away. This commotion disturbed the meditation of the boy. He found out the reason for the commotion. Feeling pity for the blind person, the boy with his divine hands cleaned both the eyes and catching the eyelids firmly with his hands passed his divine rays from his eyes into those of the blind man. Unable to bear the agony of burning eyes, the blind man cried aloud and fainted. The rowdies who had ill-treated the blind man earlier assembled there with some others. After a short time, the blind man regained his consciousness and found that he was no longer blind. Seeing this, the people assembled there were wonderstruck. From then onwards not only the villagers of Shirdi but also those from neighboring villagers started coming to the boy for getting their ailments cured.
Thus, a year passed. Sometimes, the boy used to take the juice of any leaf found nearbyand gave it as medicine. Whatever seed he found he used to ask the patient to make a paste of it and use it as medicine. If he touched the ailing limb of the body, the ailment would disappear. Slowly, people recognised him as a great physician. The entire daytime he used to treat the patients. In the nights some persons used to come and disturb him with unnecessary questions. As he was not able to meditate properly due to the conditions prevailing, one night he left Shirdi and proceeded eastwards along the bank of River Godavari. He reached Tryambakeshwar and finding the high mountains suitable for his meditation, he started doing penance.
The brick given to him by Guru Venkusa was his only companion, and the piece of cloth soaked with the blood of his Guru was his protector. He did penance for a year. Afterwards, he returned by the same route along the banks of River Godavari via Kopergaon and reached the place where he and his Guru Venkusa has parted on exactly on the same day of the same month. As two years had lapsed since then, he found that many trees had come up around the place like a thick forest. He found it difficult to exactly pinpoint the place. Then he took out the brick and tied it in the blood-soaked piece of cloth and prayed to his Guru. Immediately, the entire area became, as it was two years back. Instantly, he recognised the spot where his Guru had saved him from an attack to kill him. He prayed: `Oh Guruji! You shed your blood to save me ! I want to have your Darshan. But my power will always be protecting you.”
Then the boy said, “I do not have parents, brothers and other relatives. You are the only person for me. I must have your Darshan today as you have saved my life. Otherwise, I do not want to live further. I will take out my life by hitting myself with the same brick from which you saved me two years back.” So saying he hit his forehead with the brick. Suddenly, the hand of his Guru Venkusa appeared in between the brick and his forehead. Venkusa stood next to him and blessed him. He told the boy : “Because of your faith and gratitude towards me I had to get up from my Samadhi and come to you. I appreciate your devotion for your Guru. You will become Guru for the entire world. Like me you will also bless your devotees from your Samadhi. I am giving this boon to you . You have descended from Lord Shiva. The boon I give you now is only symbolic. Even after you attain Samadhi you will be saving your devotees from the Maya of Kali. This is possible only for Lord Shiva who drank poison and kept it in his throat. As I have come out of Samadhi, I will be with you for two years in an invisible form. Continue your penance.” So saying Guru Venkusa disappeared. The boy remained in the same place for two years doing penance. Whenever necessary, Guru Venkusa used to advise him in the invisible form. In the year 1858, again on a full-moon day in the month of Margashira, he gave him Darshan and told him to go back to Shirdi. He further told him that he would also be there in the form of a Jyothi (burning light) near the Neem tree in an underground structure.
The penance undertaken by Gurudhan (Ganga Bhavajya) and Dwarakamayi (Devagiri Amma) reached the climax stage. Pleased with their penance Shiva and Parvati appeared before them. Overjoyed at the Sakshathkaram, they pleaded with Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati to give them Moksha (salvation). Agreeing to this, Lord Shiva told them, “You will get Moksha as desired by you. But you two, in the form of Jyotis (burning lights) will remain permanently in the underground structure near the Neem tree at Shirdi. Another Mahatma by name Venkusa will also be there with you as Jyothi. Gurudhan will remain there permanently. In the coming days, I will keep Dwarakamayi in a nearby place in the form of Dhuni. Similarly, I shall arrange a suitable place for Venkusa. After my present `Avatar’ comes to an end, I will get the physical remains of my body placed in between you two. In this way, Shirdi will be the abode of four divine powers, and for the coming 500 years it will grow day by day and will be Kailas for the devotees.” So saying Lord Shiva put his hand (Abahaya Hastha) towards them. Immediately, two dazzling light rays emerged from the hand and entered the bodies of Gurudhan and Dwarakamayi, bringing out their inner life (prana shakti) in the form of jyotis and coming out from their upper skull. In an invisible form these jyotis reached Shirdi village and under the Neem tree in an underground structure remained there doing penance. Similarly Venkusa came out from his Samadhi at Selu and came to Shirdi in the form of Jyothi and joined the other two in the underground structure near the Neem tree.
There the boy (Baba), after having Darshan of Venkusa, proceeded till he reached a village called Dhoop near Aurangabad by sunset and took rest near a big boulder. At the same time, the Patel (Munsiff) of Dhoop village, Chand Bai, having lost his horse, started searching for it with the saddle on his shoulder. Having roamed for the horse, he became tired and wanted to relax and so came to the place where the boy (Baba) was taking rest.
Noticing Chand Bai, Baba questioned him, “What Chand Bhai! You seem to be tired after searching for your horse.” Chand Bai was surprised at how this stranger knew his name and about the missing horse. The boy replied that he knew everything and there was nothing he did not know. Then Chand Bai asked the boy to tell him where to find his lost horse named Bijli. The boy asked Chand Bai to proceed on the right side for some distance and there would be a small pond where he could find his horse Bijli gazing. Chand Bhai said that he had come from that side and had not found his horse there and there was no use going there again. To this the boy replied that his words would not go in vain and one should have complete faith to have result. No one can get the result with a doubtful mind. He asked him to go and get the horse. But this appeared unbelievable truth for Chand Bai. While they were discussing thus, the boy took out a smoking pipe and tobacco from his bag. To use the pipe for smoking, water was required and to light the tobacco, fire was required. The boy, with his metal rod-like instrument (sataka) struck the ground before him. Immediately water came out in the form of a jet. After preparing the pipe by filling it with tobacco, he struck for the second time at the same place on the ground with his sataka and fire came out this time. The boy then lighted the tobacco with this fire. He smoked from the pipe and passed it to Chand Bai for smoking. Dumbstruck by these acts of the boy, Chand Bai wondered whether what he was seeing was real or only a dream. After realising that this was not a dream, hand Bai ran towards the direction given by the boy earlier and found his horse `Bijli’ grazing near the pond. He came back with the horse and prostrated before the boy. He invited him to come along with him to his house. With great devotion he made the boy sit on the horse and he walked along beside the horse.
If the boy with such divine powers steps into his house, all the evils haunting would go away and peace and happiness would come to the place. So thought Chand Bai. The boy remained as guest of Chand Bai for 35 days, blessing the people of Dhoop Village. Afterwards, on a request from Chand Bai, the boy accompanied the marriage party of Chand Bai’s brother-in-law and came in a bullock cart to Shirdi, which was the bride’s place. Chand Bai thought that if they took this boy with the divine powers along with them there would not be any obstacles and the marriage celebrations would go on peacefully. The bullock carts of the marriage party were proceeding towards Shirdi.
In the evening cool winds started blowing and the bells tied round the necks of the bullocks were giving rhythmic sounds mingled with the singing of the birds. At dusk, the red rays from the setting sun from the west began to fall on the white clouds in the east and the scene was pleasing to the eyes. As if welcoming the Mahatma (Baba) sitting in front in the bullock cart, the birds started chirping and flying before the cart. From a distance the koel (nightingale) was singing as if saying: “God is coming to Shirdi personally to settle down there. Do not think under the influence of Maya that he is only an ordinary person. So you all please recognise him as God.” The moon appeared on the east as if to give light to the Mahatma. The entire marriage party was full of joy and enjoying peace every moment. Thus the marriage party proceeded towards Shirdi.
The entire nature was blooming to welcome this God incarnation from Kailas. Those of the marriage party who witnessed this were really lucky. Similarly, with a prayer that we should also get an opportunity to be with Baba at least for a few months either in this birth or in future births, we end this chapter.
“Om Shanti! Shanti! Shantihi”