Shirdi Sai Baba


Sai Baba of Shirdi (September 28, 1838 – October 15, 1918), also known as Shirdi Sai Baba, was an Indian guru, yogi and fakir who is regarded by his Hindu and Muslim devotees as a saint. Hindu devotees consider him an incarnation of Lord Shiva or Dattatreya. Many devotees believe that he was a Sadguru or an elightened Sufi Peer or a Qutub. There are many stories and eyewitness accounts of miracles he performed. He is a well-known figure in many parts of the world, but especially in India, where he is much revered. Sai is from Indian origin, meaning "Sakshat Eshwar" given by the priest Mahalsapati (a close devotee of Sai Baba) during the evening when baba returned to shirdi after leaving shirdi earlier in his teen days (reference to it could be found in Sai Charitra). Although the priest Mahalsapti confesses the fact that he also does not realise him giving the name of "Sai" to Baba. Baba (honorific) is a word meaning "father; grandfather; old man; sir" used in Indo-Aryan languages. The appellative thus refers to Sai Baba as being a "holy father" or "saintly father". His parentage, birth details, and life before the age of sixteen are obscure, which has led to a variety of speculations and theories attempting to explain Sai Baba's origins. In his life and teachings he tried to reconcile Hinduism and Islam: Sai Baba lived in a mosque which he called Dwarakamayi, practiced Hindu and Muslim rituals, taught using words and figures that drew from both traditions and was buried in a Hindu temple in Shirdi. One of his well known epigrams says of God: "Sabka Malik Ek " ("One God governs all") which traces its root to the Bhagavad-Gita and Islam in general, and Sufism, in particular. He always uttered "Allah Malik" ("God is King"). He had no love for perishable things, and was always engrossed in self-realization, which was his sole concern. Sai Baba taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace,and devotion to God and guru. His teachings combined elements of Hinduism and Islam and tried to achieve communal harmony between these religions. Sai Baba remains a very popular saint and is worshipped by people around the world. Though the debate over his Hindu or Muslim origins continues to take place, his personal religious practices such as belief in the unity of God, reciting Al-Fatiha among other Quranic verses, liking Namaz as a way of prayer, and other individual preferences such as the attire of a Muslim saint with head covered, consumption of meat and abstinence from alcohol point more to him being a Muslim. There is still mosque in Shirdi where he regularly used to visit and live. According to Purdom, when Kulkarni Maharaj strongly requested Upasni Maharaj to pay a visit to Sai Baba, Upasni replied 'Why should I go to a Muslim?' He is also revered by several notable Hindu and Sufi religious leaders. Some of his disciples received fame as spiritual figures and saints such as Upasni Maharaj, Saint Bidkar Maharaj, Saint Gangagir, Saint Jankidas Maharaj and Sati Godavari Mataji. Details of the time and place of Sai Baba's birth are unknown. Various communities have claimed that he belongs to them, but nothing has been substantiated. It is known that he spent considerable periods with fakirs, and his attire resembled that of a Muslim fakir. Baba reportedly arrived at the village of Shirdi in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, India, when he was about 16 years old. Although there is no agreement among biographers on the date of this event, it is generally accepted that Baba stayed in Shirdi for three years, disappeared for a year and returned permanently around 1858, which posits a possible birth year of 1838. Some claim Baba was born on 29 September 1835, but there is no apparent reason on how the date was arrived at. In any case, the only agreement amongst historians and his devotees is that there is no conclusive evidence of his birthday and place. He led an ascetic life, sitting motionless under a neem tree and meditating while sitting in an asana. The Sai Satcharita recounts the reaction of the villagers: The people of the village were wonder-struck to see such a young lad practicing hard penance, not minding heat or cold. By day he associated with no one, by night he was afraid of nobody. His presence attracted the curiosity of the villagers, and the religiously inclined such as Mhalsapati, Appa Jogle and Kashinatha regularly visited him, while others such as the village children considered him mad and threw stones at him. After some time he left the village, and it is unknown where he stayed at that time or what happened to him. However, there are some indications that he met with many saints and fakirs, and worked as a weaver; he claimed to have fought with the army of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.


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In 1858 Sai Baba returned to Shirdi with Chand Patil's wedding procession. After alighting near the Khandoba temple he was greeted with the words "Ya Sai" (Marathi:welcome saint) by the temple priest Mhalsapati. The name Sai stuck to him and some time later he started being known as Sai Baba. It's also widely believed that he was either already known as Sai, or looked like one to the priest as it's improbable for a Hindu priest to address a saint perceived by him to be a Hindu by a Muslim title of Sai. It was around this time that Baba adopted his famous style of dress, consisting of a knee-length one-piece robe (kafni) and a cloth cap. Ramgir Bua, a devotee, testified that Baba was dressed like an athlete and sported 'long hair flowing down to his buttocks' when he arrived in Shirdi, and that he never had his head shaved. It was only after Baba forfeited a wrestling match with one Mohdin Tamboli that he took up the kafni and cloth cap, articles of typical Sufi clothing. This attire contributed to Baba's identification as a Muslim fakir, and was a reason for initial indifference and hostility against him in a predominantly Hindu village. According to B.V. Narasimhaswami, a posthumous follower who was widely praised as Sai Baba's "apostle", this attitude was prevalent even among some of his devotees in Shirdi, even up to 1954. For four to five years Baba lived under a neem tree, and often wandered for long periods in the jungle in and around Shirdi. His manner was said to be withdrawn and uncommunicative as he undertook long periods of meditation. He was eventually persuaded to take up residence in an old and dilapidated mosque and lived a solitary life there, surviving by begging for alms and receiving itinerant Hindu or Muslim visitors. In the mosque he maintained a sacred fire which is referred to as a dhuni, from which he had the custom of giving sacred ash ('Udhi') to his guests before they left and which was believed to have healing powers and protection from dangerous situations. At first he performed the function of a local hakim and treated the sick by application of Udhi. Baba also delivered spiritual teachings to his visitors, recommending the reading of sacred Hindu texts along with the Qur'an, especially insisting on the indispensability of the unbroken remembrance of God's name (dhikr, japa). He often expressed himself in a cryptic manner with the use of parables, symbols and allegories. He participated in religious festivals and was also in the habit of preparing food for his visitors, which he distributed to them as prasad. Sai Baba's entertainment was dancing and singing religious songs (he enjoyed the songs of Kabir most). His behavior was sometimes uncouth and violent. After 1910 Sai Baba's fame began to spread in Mumbai. Numerous people started visiting him, because they regarded him as a saint (or even an avatar) with the power of performing miracles, they built his first ever temple at Bhivpuri, Karjat as desired by Sai Baba. The Shirdi Sai Baba movement began in the 19th century, during his life, while he was staying in Shirdi. A local Khandoba priest - Mhalsapati Nagre - is believed to have been his first devotee. However, in the 19th century Sai Baba's followers were only a small group of Shirdi inhabitants and a few people from other parts of India. It started developing in the 20th century and even faster in 1910 with the Sankirtans of Dasganu (one of Sai's devotees) who spread Sai Baba's fame to the whole of India. Since 1910 numerous Hindus and Muslims from all parts of India started coming to Shirdi. During his life Hindus worshiped him with Hindu rituals and Muslims revered him greatly, considering him to be a saint. Later (in the last years of Sai Baba's life) Christians and Zoroastrians started joining the Shirdi Sai movement. The Sai Baba Mandir in Shirdi is active and every day worship of Sai is conducted in it. Pilgrims visit Shirdi every day. Shirdi Baba is especially revered and worshiped in the state of Maharashtra and in Gujarat. A religious organization of Sai Baba's devotees called the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust is based there. The first ever Sai Baba temple is situated at Bhivpuri, Karjat. The devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba have spread all over India. According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Religion there is at least one Sai Baba mandir in nearly every Indian city. His image is quite popular in India. Some ordinary non-religious publishing houses (such as Sterling Publishers) publish books about Shirdi Sai written by his devotees. Shirdi is among the major Hindu places of pilgrimage. The Shirdi Sai Baba movement is partially organized. Only a part of his followers and devotees belong to the Shri Saibaba Sansthan or to other religious organizations that worship him. Beyond India the Shirdi Sai movement has spread to other countries such as the U.S. or the Caribbean. Sai Baba mandirs and organizations of his devotees have been built in countries including Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the USA. The Shirdi Sai Baba movement is one of the main Hindu religious movements in English-speaking countries. According to estimates the Sai mandir in Shirdi is visited by around twenty thousand pilgrims a day and during religious festivals this number amounts to a hundred thousand. Sai Baba had many disciples and devotees: 1. Nana Saheb Chandorkar: Deputy Collector – legend has it that Baba saved his daughter Mayna from labor complications. 2. Ganapath Rao: Popularly known as Das Ganu, police Constable, later resigned to become an ascetic. 3. Tatya Patil: Kote Patil and Bhaija bai's son had immense faith in Sai Baba and served him until Sai Baba took samadhi. He's also known to be Sai Baba's younger brother. 4. Bhaija Bhai kote patil: Sai Baba treated her as his mother. 5. Madhav Rao Deshpande: Later known as Shama, one of the staunch devotees of Sai Baba who had relations of 72 births with Sai Baba. 6. Hemadpant: Baba allowed him to keep memos and write Sai Sat Charitra. 7. Mahalsapati Chimanji Nagare : A priest of Khandoba Temple,Vanjari by Cast, who had relations of 72 births with Sai Baba. 8. Dasganu: Dasganu was like a messenger of Sai, he moved from place to place spreading Sai Baba's fame. 9. Shravani and her family: Great devotees of Sai Baba. They have immense faith in him.


, INDIA

Posted By : Vinod Jindal on Dec 16, 2010


 
 

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