LIFE HISTORY OF SRI SHIRDI SAI BABA By Ammula Sambasiva Rao
English Translation by Thota Bhaskara Rao
Without experiencing any kind of difficulties, the marriage party reached Shirdi safely. None of them felt tired or exhausted. Chand Bai Patil believed that because they had the fakir in the first cart, their journey was without any obstacles and ended happily. The bullock carts stopped by a big banyan grove by the side of Khandoba temple. The members of the marriage party alighted there and went to the houses provided for them by the bride’s parents. But the young fakir got down slowly from the cart after all others left and started walking with divine light.
On seeing the young fakir, Mahalasapati recognised him as God incarnation. He used to mostly read the poems (dohe) of Kabir. In his poems Kabir used to address God as `Sai’. Mahalasapati, who was the `Pujari’ of `Khandoba’ temple, on seeing the young fakir, came out of the temple and with folded hands addressed him as `Welcome Sai’. In this way, the fakir got the name as `Sai’ from Mahalasapati. Afterwards he became famous as `Sai Baba’. Baba means father.
Baba went to the Neem tree where he used to sit and meditate on previous occasions. The divine powers of Gurudhan, Dwarakamayi and Venkusa, which were in the underground structure in the form of Jyothis conversed with him. Ordinary persons would not see or hear them. In this way Sai Baba reached Shirdi for the second time, in the year 1858. For nearly two years, he used to beg for food from five houses daily and he lived under the Neem tree. During daytime he used to go to the nearby forest and remain alone. Sometimes, he used to remain in the forest for four or five days without food or water. There were two other saintly persons at Shirdi, named Devidas and Jankidas. They recognised Baba as a person with extraordinary divine powers and used to converse with him frequently. Mahalasapati also used to visit Baba under the Neem tree, now and then. Some people of Shirdi recognised Baba as the same person who had sat under this Neem tree a few years back, and cured the villagers of their ailments. So they started visiting Baba again for getting their ailments cured. Baba soon got the name of a doctor or Vaidya, with extraordinary divine powers. They shifted the residence of Baba from the Neem tree to a dilapidated mosque nearby, which they repaired making it fit for residence. Sometimes in the year 1860, Baba used to visit the following five houses daily, begging for food (1) Ganapathi Rao’s son Tatya Patil (2) Vaman Sakharam (3) Nandu Savai Rama Vani (4) Madhava Rao Deshpande (Shama) and (5) Appaji Patil.
There was an elementary school adjoining the mosque. Shama was working there as teacher. He used to be nearer to Sai Baba. Mahalasapati also used to visit Sai frequently and used to spend time with him till late in the nights, discussing several matters. Shama also used to join their discussions. Ganapathi Rao’s wife Baija Bai and his son Tatya developed immense love and respect for Sai Baba. They used to take their food only after Sai had visited their house and taken alms. But the village Munsiff “Bhate” had a different opinion about Sai. He used to talk evil of Sai, saying that he was a cheat and wasting others’ time by his lectures.
In the year 1861, during the rainy season, there was a severe cyclone. The small hut in which a leper named Bhagoji Shinde lived was swept away by the cyclone. A shivering Bhagoji approached some unknown persons for shelter, but none gave him shelter in their house fearing that they may contact leprosy. Not knowing what to do, he proceeded towards the mosque where Sai was, with the hope that Sai would come to his rescue. But on the way , due to severe cold and rain he fell down crying “Sai”. Sai immediately ran towards him, lifted him and carried him on his shoulders to the mosque. A fire was required immediately to keep Bhagoji warm. But no fire could be lit in that severe cyclone. So Baba called Mother Dwarakamayi who was in the underground structure near the Neem tree, in the form of a Jyothi. Immediately Dwarakamayi an invisible form came and lighted the firewood in the mosque. Bhagoji regained consciousness after getting warmth from the fire in the mosque. Bhagoji’s leprosy disappeared completely after Sai Baba touched his body, followed by the warmth given by Dwarakamayi.
Within minutes the news about Bhagoji’s cure of his leprosy spread in the village. The villagers of Shirdi who recognised `Sai’ till then as a doctor and a great person, started to worship him as God. From that day Baba named the mosque as Dwarakamayi. Gurudhan and Venkusa were there in the underground structure near the Neem tree in the form of Jyothis. Hence, Sai Baba named that place as Gurusthan. From that day, the fire which was started in Dwarakamayi (mosque) continues to burn and is called Dhuni. The ash (vibuthi or udi) from the Dhuni had the power to cure ailments and Sai Baba used to give it to the patients instead of medicines.
One day, Nanavalli came to Shirdi, and because of his old acquaintance with Baba, addressed him as Uncle, (Mama, Kaka) . Baba asked him to keep quiet, saying there was no place for old acquaintances or connections, the only connection being spiritual. Nanavalli understood Baba’s advice well and lived separately in Shirdi. He used to love Baba more than his life, and if anyone talked ill of Baba, he used to condemn them. Though he was younger in age to Baba, he was an Avadhootha.
Slowly all the villagers of Shirdi started coming closer to Baba. They used to start any work only after informing Baba. Though Baba was an adult, he used to play with the children sometimes. Sometimes, he used to roam about in the forest. Baija Bai used to bring food for Baba daily and only after Baba ate, she took her food. Sometimes, when Baba went into the forest, she used to go in search of him and only after giving him food, would she return to her house and take her food. Her son Tatya used to accompany her. He used to play on the shoulders of Baba, calling him Uncle.
Shirdi village became famous because of Sai Baba. He was highly intellectual and good-natured. He had no love for material things, but was always thinking of Atma. His heart was as clear as a mirror. He never bowed to desires. He never differentiated between the rich and the poor. Though he was living at Shirdi, he knew what was happening at distant places. Though he had all the powers (Siddhis) at his feet, he never used them.
The mere touch of Sai’s feet will detach us from worldly attachments and help us in getting Atma Sakshathkaram (self-realisation). His Pada Tirth (water with which his feet are washed) has the power of destroying the evil forces. His udi (vibuthi) will cure all types of ailments. His order or command is like one from the Vedas. He never appeared tired. He never exhibited displeasure or over joy. He was always in a happy mood. Everyone realised this true state of Sai Baba soon.
In the earlier days, Gowli Buva, who was a staunch devotee of Vittal, had expressed about Sai Baba as follows: “Baba has come into this world for the sake of orphans and the downtrodden.” At one time Baba had a bout of wrestling with Mohiuddin Tamboli and pretended to lose. But from that day the egoism in Mohiuddin was removed and he stopped wrestling bouts, slowly working towards self-realisation (Atma Sakshathkaram) . A false Guru named Jowahar Ali from Ahmednagar came to Shirdi and told everyone that Sai Baba was his pupil (shishya) and took him along with him to Rahata, a nearby village. Without any protest, Baba followed Jowahar Ali and served him as his pupil for about six months. Even though several defects were found in the false Guru, Baba, without complaining served him sincerely, thus showing to the world how a pupil should behave towards his Guru. Afterwards, the villagers of Shirdi exposed the false Guru and brought Baba back to Shirdi.
After experiencing Baba’s love towards them while he was at Shirdi, and missing it while he was away at Rahata, the villagers realised the greatness of him. They realised that Sai Baba was just like a mother to them and his words were full of nectar. Some devotees shed tears out of joy at Baba’s return to Shirdi from Rahata. Sai Baba gave them the following message.
“You should never think I am nearer to you or at a distant place. I will be knowing from any distance your actions. I am the ruler of your hearts. I am in every atom of all matter and living beings in this world. I am the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of this world. Whoever concentrates his thought on me will have nothing to fear. But Maya will punish those who forget me.”
On hearing authentically about Sai Baba’s true state and his words, which were like nectar, the devotees prostrated before him. Irrespective of age and sex, they started visiting him before attending to their works. Baba gave udi as prasad to all the devotees who visited him. Baba, with his huge personality used to wear a long shirt (Kafni) from top to bottom and tie the piece of cloth given to him by his Guru Venkusa, around his head. He used to carry a big bag (jholi) on his left shoulder. He rarely changed is clothes. Sometimes he used to give the clothes for washing, whenever his devotees insisted. He used to give some of the food he got from the five houses, to the domestic animals and birds, some he used to put in the Dhuni for his mother and used to eat only the remaining. Sometimes, the animals and birds used to put their mouths and beaks inside the pot in which the food was put, but Baba never objected.