The Saibaba temple is situated in the heart of Shirdi village spreading in approximately 200sqmts, attracting thousands of pilgrims from across the world.
Saibaba was a spiritual leader and is regarded by his devotees as a saint, a fakir, a satguru and an incarnation (avatar) of God. He is revered by both his Hindu and Muslim devotees during, as well as after his life. He lived in a mosque and after his mahasamadhi his body was cremated in a temple.
His philosophy ingrained 'Shraddha' meaning faith and 'Saburi' meaning compassion. According to him Shraddha and Saburi were the supreme attributes to reach the state of godliness.
At a tender age of 16 yrs, Saibaba arrived at the village of Shirdi in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra and remained their till his mahasamadhi. He found shelter in Khandoba temple, where a villager Mahalsapathi in the temple addressed him as Sai or Saint.
Saibaba of Shirdi lived an extremely simple and austere life, sleeping on the floor of temple and later taking a ruined mosque as his shelter. With his arrival to Shirdi, in no time he began exhibiting a hypnotic attraction among people as they began flocking to him. He is attributed many miracles doing things that were beyond a mortal's power. He never discouraged these attributes and soon his fame spread like wild fire. Many pilgrims came seeking his blessings. Such was his hypnotism that even the mundane of his activities attracted large crowds.
Popular among both Hindus and Muslims, Shri Saibaba became a great building force between the two disparate communities. He regularly recited Hindu and Muslim prayers. His Hindu followers considered him to be an avatar or reincarnation of Shiva and Dattatreya. Sai Baba did not leave any written works. All his teachings were oral and catchy. His sayings were short, crisp and in layman language with which the common mass could easily associate.
Saibaba encouraged charity and said, "Unless there is some relationship or connection, nobody goes anywhere. If any men or creatures come to you, do not discourteously drive them away, but receive them well and treat them with due respect."
Saibaba was unique in the sense that he lived his message through the essence of his being. He lived among the common people adorning a torn kafni (long robe), sleeping over a mat while using brick as his headrest and got his food by begging. Such was his smile that radiated a mystical charisma and deep seated inward look that hypnotized the people who visited him.
His most concise message for one and all alike was "Why fear when I am here".Saibaba said that he was a slave in the service of those who loved him. He was ever living to help those who turn to him and that he has to take care of his children day and night.
Saibaba's mission was to restore belief in god and according to him, "I give people what they want in the hope that they will begin to want what I want to give them (knowledge of the Ultimate)." He then taught values of total surrender to the Almighty Master (ALLAH MALIK EK- The only ONE) and experiences his grace.
Today, Shri Saibaba has millions of devotees in India and abroad. Shirdi, the obscure village in Maharashtra has become a pilgrimage destination. With over 25,000 pilgrims thronging in here each day the number of pilgrims climb to over a hundred thousand on holidays and festival days. There are over 2,000 major Sai temples in different parts of India and 150 abroad in places as far-flung as USA, Canada Kenya, Singapore and England.
Mahalsapati was the one who owes the name of Saibaba as we know it today. He uttered 'Ya Sai,' when Baba made His first appearance at the Khandoba temple along with the marriage party of Chandbhai. Saibaba used to call Mahalsapati 'Sonarda,' and later on 'Bhagat' i.e. close disciple.
Mhalsapati, who had the benefit of forty to fifty unbroken years with Sai Baba, may be considered among the foremost of his devotees. He was the first to worship Baba, the first to greet him on his arrival in Shirdi and to address him as "Sai" (Saint). Only Mhalsapati and one other (Tatya Kote Patil) were allowed to stay with Baba in the mosque at night.
Mhalsapati was the hereditary priest of Khandoba Temple, and hereditary goldsmith of Shirdi (though later he gave up this trade). His education was minimal, but he was noted for his piousness. He also used to receive and help visiting fakirs, and sadhus such as Devidas and Janakidas. His income was so scant that he and his family would sometimes have to go without food, but absorbed as he was in his religious practices, this did not seem to disturb him unduly. Mhalsapati was so identified with his God, Khandoba, that he sometimes entered trances and talked as if possessed by him. In this way, he fulfilled the role of village shaman and villagers would put questions to Khandoba, via the medium of Mhalsapati.
In 1886 Mhalsapati was entrusted with a very important responsibility that was literally a matter of life and death, and which had far-reaching implications. Baba, who had been suffering from breathing difficulties, told him that he was "going to Allah", and that Mhalsapati should look after his body for three days. "If I do not return," said Baba, "then get it buried near the neem tree." On uttering these words, Baba passed out. Mhalsapati sat for three days with Baba's body on his lap. When village officers held an inquest and declared Baba dead, Mhalsapati remained steadfast and refused to allow them to take the body for burial. After this, Baba revived to live for another thirty-two years!
Mhalsapati survived Baba by four years. During that time he continued to sleep in the mosque, perform daily worship of Baba and Khandoba, observe mouna (silence) and sit in meditation. Baba had moulded this simple and conservative yet dedicated priest into a paragon of spiritual excellence. An indication of his attainment is the mode of his death. On an auspicious ekadasi day, Mhalsapati gave instructions to his family and told them that he would "close [his] earthly life and go to heaven" that day. With his loved ones around him chanting Ramachandra japa, and himself uttering the word "Ram", he left consciously and peacefully. It was a fitting end to a lofty life of spiritual endeavour.
Mhalsapati's remains are interred in his modest house, where his great grandson now lives. It is open to visitors and some people like to worship at the samadhi and take darshan of the things here that Baba gave Mhalsapati. One of Baba's kafnis, one of his satkas, three coins, some udi and a pair of Baba's padukas are kept here. The house is located just beyond Laxmibai Shinde's place, a little further up the lane at the next opening. The walls are painted and there is a sign above the door.
Madhav Rao (shama)
Shama was among the most intimate devotees of Baba, and acted like a personal secretary to him. Baba once told Shama that they had been together for seventy-two generations. Shama's parents had moved to Shirdi from Nimon (five kilometres away) when Shama was only two. He became a school teacher in a room next door to the mosque and his interest in Baba was kindled there.
Shama's house is a few metres from Dwarkamai - take the lane opposite and bear immediately right following the narrow winding lane. There is a sign on the building and it is still occupied by Shama's daughter-in-law. His son, Uddhavrao, passed away in 1998.
Bayajabai Kote Patil
The moment Baba saw Bayaja Bai, he said, “She has been my sister for the last seven births”. Right from the time she met Baba as a young lad sitting under the neem tree, the parental feelings were aroused for Baba as if He was her son. Mrs. Bayaja Patil showered love and cared for young Baba who abruptly would rush to the cactus jungle, an unknown old isolated place. Bayaja Bai, used to go to the woods every noon with a basket on her head containing bread and vegetables. She roamed in the jungles koss (about 3 miles) after koss, trampling over bushes and shrubs in search of the mad Fakir, and after hunting Him out, fell at His feet. The Fakir sat calm and motionless in meditation, while she placed a leaf before Him, spread the eatables, bread, vegetables etc. thereon and fed Him forcibly. She give Him bread (Bhakari) and salty smash of chana dal (Jhunka) and onion and chilly, simple food items which Baba cherished most. Baba also used to pay a visit to Patil’s house to have lunch (bhojan) of His choice.
Later Saibaba used to go for bhiksha (begging food) to selected houses. One such place was Bayaja Bai’s place. Baba used to stand outside the gate and say loudly “Abade Ajaad Bayaja mami, Roti lao” (God bless you Mother Bayaja, please give bread). Then Bayaja Bai used to invite him into the house but Baba sat in the veranda only. Tatya used to play with Baba against the wish of his mother. Baba never felt for the child like behaviour of Tatya. Bayaja Bai is remembered for her service to Sai with or without knowing his divinity.
When Bayaja Bai, became physically weak due to old age and was not in a condition even to get up from bed, Baba ordered Tatya to remain at the bedside of his mother and do service to her. Now and then He would send Tatya’s close associates like Shama also to be with Tatya. Bayaja Bai was nearing her end. She wanted to see Baba once. Immediately, Baba appeared near her head. His appearance at this last moment gave her divine bliss. Some unexplained joy came to her. She felt that her Atman was happily going towards heaven. Perhaps, this feeling was due to the complete divine darshan Baba gave her. She wanted to say something but words did not come out of her. She took her son Tatya’s hand and put it on Baba’s hand. Having understood her thoughts, Baba assured her that he would look after Tatya from that moment more than his life. She knew that his words were God’s words. After hearing those words from Baba, her Atman left her body and merged in the universe.
When Bayaja expired Baba lamented over her demise. So was the unthinkable tie of love between Bayaja Bai and her family, and Baba the love incarnate.
The present generation of Patil family, still observe meticulously and very religiously the ritual of giving offerings of Thali (Naivedya) containing the above mentioned food items to Baba at Dwarakamayi.
Tatya Kote Patil
Tatya Kote Patil’s family was one who loved Baba for Himself and not for what they got from His divinity. Tatya was the first amongst the devotees who was fully soaked in the gentle rain of Baba’s love. Tatya Kote patil was a little boy of six or seven years old when Baba first came to Shirdi. Tatya used to call Baba ‘Mama’. Baba used to treat him like His own nephew. Baba used to watch his childish behavior with motherly love. Sometimes Bayajabai scolded Tatya for his unseemly behavior, but Baba would remonstrate with her to leave Tatya alone. Baba used to call Tatya “Tatya or Kotya or Kote chaa Ghod Mukhya (Horse-faced-one)” Tatya received Rs. 35 everyday from Baba. The Income-tax authorities levied tax upon the regular recipients of Baba’s daily doles such as Tatya Patil, Bayyaji Patil and Bade Baba.Tatya Kote Patil belonged to a middle class farming family. Initially as a result of his hard work, and later on with the money given to him daily by Baba, Tatya became a big farmer in the village. He had six pairs of oxen working in his fields, which in those days meant a big land holding.Tatya had a helping nature and was very co-operative with other villagers. Tatya’s was one of the houses from where Baba used to accept the alms.Tatya’s mother never sent Baba away with empty handed, no matter how many times He went for alms. When there was a famine in 1876 in the state, Baba went for alms only to Tatya’s and Nanduram Marwadi’s houses. At the age of 17/18 Tatya went to many places to participate in Nama Sapthaha with Gangagir Maharaj, who praised Sai Baba as “Precious Jewel”. When Tatya told Baba about attending the Nama Saptahas, Baba was very happy about it. Sri Tatya Kote Patil passed away in 1945. Sri Tatya Kote Patil’s samadhi is located between the entrance gate to Lendi garden and the powerhouse of Sri Sai Baba Sansthan. Tatya was widely regarded as the light in the eyes of Sri Sai Baba. Perhaps his Samadhi being adjacent to the powerhouse giving light to the whole of Shirdi is the divine will of Sri Sai Baba and not entirely a coincidence.
Hari Sitaram Dixit alias Kakasaheb Dixit was born in a Brahmin family in a taluka named Khandva in Madhya Pradesh in the year 1864. His primary education was completed in Khandva and Hingan Ghat, after that he took admission in Alfiston College of Mumbai and became L.L.B. at very tender age of 19. After that, he appeared in Solicitors examination and at the age of 21 only, he joined a solicitors firm by name Little & Co. Then he started his own solicitors business. Due to sharp intelligence & good presence of mind he started earning good amount of money. He built a bungalow of his own in Lonawala from the wealth he earned. He was well versed in English language similarly he had good knowledge of Sanskrit too. He had a practice of reading Ramayan, Mahabharat, Yog Vashit and Jnaneshwari.
Once Kakasaheb Dixit went to London for some social service, while trying to board a fast train he missed a step of the train and fell at platform. There was sprain in his leg. It was a deep wound. Due to this reason he was not able to walk straight. He went through many treatments in London, operation was also undergone, still he was not able to walk properly and this remained till his end.
When Kakasaheb Dixit returned with his lame leg to India, Sai Baba's name was not known to him. In the year 1909, once he went to Lonawala to spend vacation and stayed in his bungalow. There he met Nanasaheb Chandorkar his 'separated classmate'. After school education, Nanasaheb got engaged in government service and Kakasaheb started his own business. After many years they met in Lonawala.
Kakasaheb narrated his leg problem to Nanasaheb in detail. Nanasaheb said, "When all the dava (medicines) stop working then only Duaa (prayers to God) work.Kakasaheb said, "Nana, I agree with you totally but today true saints are rare to find. If by chance we are successful in finding one, then it is only we have to repent in the end."
Nanasaheb answered, "Let me tell you something and hope that you will trust me truly. I am a disciple of one Guru Maharaj. His name is Sai Baba and he lives in Shirdi a small village near Kopergaon. You take his refuge, your lameness of leg will be cured and also the fickleness of your mind be destroyed. I have shared my views and opinion with you. My Guru Maharaj always said - If a sparrow's leg is tied to thread and pulled it is drawn to us without any effort, in the same way I draw My men towards Me from any corner of this earth. Those persons whose good fortunes have not risen are not called to Shirdi."
He met Madhavrao later in Ahmednager who was Baba's devotee and he told him, "My mother in law is now well due to Baba's grace, so leaving behind the advantage of darshan of Baba, now there is no need for me to stay here. I am leaving by today night's train". Kakasaheb Dixit thought that Shirdi is not very far from Kopergaon. The work of election can be done anyday. When the golden opportunity of Madhavrao's company is in front of me, I cannot miss it”. They boarded in train at 10 o'clock from Ahmednagar and when they alighted at Kopargaon, they saw Nanasaheb Chandorkar standing on the platform.
As soon as Kakasaheb stepped in Dwarkamai, Lord Sai Baba said, "O Welcome Langda Kaka!". After that Lord Sai Baba started calling him Langda Kaka and other people of Shirdi started calling him Kakasaheb.
Dixit died on an Ekadasi day, considered auspicious, and in the way Baba had predicted for him. He had come to the railway station with his friends for the journey to Bombay where he had met a friend. Although they were late they succeeded in getting on the train as it was also late. Dixit said: “See, how merciful Baba is. He has given us this train this minute. He has not made us wait even for a minute. Baba had made the train come late and enabled us to catch it or else we would have been stranded here.” He said this sitting opposite to his friends and then appeared to fall asleep. Dabolkar, his friend, thought Dixit was sleeping and going near him shook him and asked:”Are you sleeping?” But there was no answer, for Dixit was dead. As Baba promised Dixit had been taking away in virmana to heaven.
One evening, in 1907 Sai Baba was sitting in Dwarkamai, with his hand leaning on the wooden rest. The sun was moving slowly towards the setting point. The cattle were moving towards their shade after grazing in the nearby fields. At that time, at near distant was a building called Chavadi. The building was in a dilapidated condition. More than that all the sides were open. One could see the horizon from the Masjid Mai or Dwaraka Mai. Around the Dwarka Mai there was no fencing of any kind. At that time Sai Baba’s eyes saw at a distance, a figure, clad in white clothes, moving towards Dwarkamai.
Sai Baba kept on gazing in that direction, as if waiting for someone. As the figure came closer and closer one could see that it was a female, in white clothes. A cloth bag was hanging on the back of her shoulder. In one hand was an ektara, a musical instrument similar to guitar, with just one string. And in other hand was kartaal yet another musical instrument. On her forehead was a tilak according to Madhva Sampradaya, a long line with black colore and on both the hands were bangles made of Tulsi beads. Also the neck was decorated with Tulsi garland. The dark hair was hanging from her head, reaching below her knees. As she came nearer to Dwarkamai, all the eyes fell on her. Though the clothes she wore were not very tidy, one could see the charm in her face, which would demand respect at once.
Reaching near Dwarkamai the lady unburdened her shoulder by putting the cloth bag on the land of Shirdi. She also put off the musical instruments from her hands. Without climbing up the stairs of Dwarka Mai, the lady bowed down, touched her head on the sacred land of Shirdi and then joining both her hands, she did Namaskar to Sri Sai Baba, who was sitting in Masjidmai. From her cloth bag she took out a beautiful idol of Radha Krishna. ( Krishna symbolizes God and Radha the lover of God, the name of Radha (lover of God) is taken before the name of God in Hindu tradition, signifying the importance of God lover, such lovers of God are rare, who craves for Only God’s Love). The beautiful metallic idol was of brass, of about 9 inches in size, she gathered two bricks from around, placed them together, covered them with a vastra (piece of neat cloth), placed the idol over it and sat with the Kartaal in her hand.
Radhakrishna Mai used to prepare morning breakfast for Sai Baba, other than that she did not have to worry about cooking. In the afternoon she would eat whatever Sai Baba used to send her as prasad to eat. In the evening prominent devotees of Sai Baba like Bapusaheb Buti would bring their food and everybody used to partake the food brought by everyone. Thus Radhakrishna Mai spent most of her time in devotion, singing devotional songs with ektara (a single string musical instrument). The melody could be herd in the Dwarkamai.
Das Ganu Maharaj, one of the close associates of Baba, was responsible for the spread of his name and fame in Maharashtra through his ballads and discourses. His full name is Ganpat Rao Dattatreya Sahasrabudhhe. He was a constable orderly attached to Chandorkar and had the opportunity to visit Shirdi with Chandorkar and meet Baba. Das Ganu had various experience with him. Narsimha Swamiji says that for a long though Ganu had high regard for Baba, he could not accept Baba as a God or a Guru. Baba brought about a great transformation of his mind although at first it was unwilling arrived in Shirdi in 1890 he had little education and was employed as an actor in village dramas in which he played the official ladder and became a sub-inspector in the police department. Baba, however, had other plans for him. He was determined that Ganu’s character, calling and work should be totally changed.
Baba wants Gunu to left his police service. But, Gunu avoid his decision. Baba gave him various experience and create difficult situation i.e. pariksha. After sometimes, Ganu obeyed Baba’s order.Baba thus achieved his aim of getting Ganu out of the police department which he thought stood in the way of Ganu’s spiritual progress. Ganu told Baba:”I have left government service and I and my wife have no stand in the street as we have no property or income.” Baba said:”I shall provide for you and your family” and he did. In later years he became a rich man acquiring land and property and he was never in want.
Baba advised him to concentrate on his ballads and discourses. Ganu was good in singing kirtans. He had a metallic voice and held big audiences spellbound with his singing which sometimes went on for eight hours. As he sang and spoke Gunu would keep a picture of Baba by his side and even though his discourse might be on a Tukaram, Namdev and Jyneshwar, he could find opportunity to mention Baba and hail him as a saint, or a Satpursha whose darshan would be a blessing to anyone who sought it. This resulted in hundreds of people rushing to Shirdi to receive Baba’s blessings.
Baba gave them a mantra of “Vishnu Saharsranama” and “Sri Rama, Jaya Rama, Jaya Jaya Ram”.Due to this mantra people get wealth, power, fame, glory and success if he is without these.Das Ganu wrote various Grantha which is famous like Amritanubhava, Upanishad (Marati translated), Santakathamritha (1903), Lilamritha (1906) and last book was Bakthi Saramritha (1925).
Das was not only a good singer but also a great writer. This is possible only because of Sai Baba. Das Ganu spread his Sai Leela thourgh kirtans and his poetry work. And people always remember him for his nobal cause.
Annasaheb Dabholkar 1856-1929 alias Hemadpant
Annasaheb Dabholkar is most notably known for being the author of the beloved work The Sri Sai Satcharitra. He lived in Bombay and, although he was not a greatly educated man, he rose to being a magistrate in the Bombay government. He was a poet by heart and long before he began his noted work, which he started in 1922 with Baba’s blessings and completed it in 1926. It was Baba who called him Hemadpant after a well known 13th century poet..