There was an epidemic of cholera spreading across the village. A saintly old man was grinding powder in his stone grinding wheel. Everyone around the him were earnestly looking at the significance of the sight in front of them. The saint instructed people around him, to spread the powder on the outskirts of the village. Soon after the same was implemented the epidemic disappeared from the village..All the devotees understood that grinding of powder was just a metaphor and the epidemic had eased due to blessings of the saintly person.. Who was this saintly person and which period did he live in?? The name of the saintly person is Sai Baba of Shirdi, a place in the western part of India.
Sharing my recent experience when I went with my mother to Shirdi to take blessings from my Guru and eternal friend Sai Baba (Shirdi Sai Baba should not be confused with the other Sai Baba from Southern part of India). My other Guru is of course Guru Goenkaji ( please refer to my earlier article on mindfulness meditation) to whom I had paid homage in my previous article. I had visited for a peaceful world and for my personal blessings.
Sai Baba arrived in Shirdi during the late 18 century and stayed in Shirdi for about half century until he took his Mahasamadhi in Shirdi. He stayed in Dwarkamai, a holy place for many Indians in Shirdi. Sai Baba has the last major saint in the western part of India ( esp. Maharashtra) after long chain of Spiritual Gurus prominent among them Swami Samarth, Tukaram,Dnyaneshwar,Gajanan Maharaj to name a few.
Just before Mahasamadhi, Swami Samrath advised one of his disciples to worship Shri Sai at Shirdi saying that he (the Swami Samarth) would stay at Shirdi in future. (Source:http://www.shreeswami.org/swami-samarth-of-akkalkot)
I remember I was in my early teens when my father brought home a photo of Shirdi Sai Baba and I was immediately attracted to Sai’s outward countenance ( strong connection from previous births). I would soon visit Shirdi and love the ambience around Shirdi. As we delve into Sai’s life, we will understand the great aspects of why Sai Baba was an eminent saint during the early part of nineteenth century in India without giving any importance to miracles performed by Sai Baba.
I wanted to drive down to Shirdi from Pune (which is about 200 kms) and wanted to take my father’s car. But my mother objected since I had not driven alone by car to long distance and so we agreed to take a driver along. Myself along with my mother started by 8 am from our place to Shirdi in my father’s car. My mother has insisted that we stop at Smile Stone, a food court enroute to Shirdi (near Ahmednagar, a city enroute to Shirdi from Pune). The food court had a wide menu of vegetarian food including my favourite south indian food. The place is on the left hand side of the highway and has a scenic view including gardens, rabbits and peacocks. Travellers could look at it while travelling to Shirdi especially for clean and hygienic food.The highway got much worse when we turned towards Shirdi on the Ahmednagar bypass road. The road is full of potholes and repairs needs to be done at the earliest. Its takes about 3-4 hours time to reach Shirdi on an average depending on traffic and time of day. I had arrived to Shirdi after about 2 years and found the place much improved with better infrastructure. The place around the temple was much cleaner and well regulated.
(With co driver in the pic down) One needs to buy tickets for entry INR 100 if you need to use the VIP gateway ( this gateway is less crowded), otherwise the entry is free. The tickets can also be bought over internet including for aarti which is three times a day if i am correct. One in the morning, one at noon and one in the evening AT 6.30 PM. We had arrived late for aarti and since it was Monday it was not very crowded. (Google the link for online booking for aarti and VIP gate).
Video of original Sai Baba Aarti in Marathi
After a long queue we were able to reach the place of Sai Baba’s Samadhi.
I am a follower of Gyan Marg which in English would mean the path of self realization and wisdom as preached by Lord Buddha while my mother follows Bhakti or devotional path. My mother was praying all the way to Shirdi while I was mindfully remembering Sai or driving my car for a while. I tried to live as much in the present moment when I was in Shirdi and meditated for sometime while I was in the temple.
Mobiles and cameras are not allowed inside so no photos. The temple is huge with a neem tree also present in the premises where Sai Baba meditated during his lifetime. I tried to recall Sai Baba’s life, he had come to Shirdi at the age of 16 years and nothing much was known about his past apart from that he had spent most his early years meditating.
Sai Baba would then live most of his life in Shirdi and occasionally travelled outside Shirdi. Sai Baba live the life of an ascetic all his life, meditating quietly, helping people in and around Shirdi in his own divine manner. The greatness of Sai Baba was that his disciples were both Hindus and Muslims who worshipped or befriended him on their own terms and both communities lived happily in and around Shirdi. Sai Baba lived in a masjid and both Hindu and Muslim festivals were celebrated with zest by everyone. Is this not a great part due to the blessings of the great Sai Baba? Sai Baba spent most of his time meditating or spreading compassion among everyone. There were occasions when Sai Baba got angry but his anger was out of compassions for his devotees like a mother’s anger is out of compassion for her child. I remember when I was in my 20’s I once had a heated discussion with one of friends who was a Muslim. We were debating about Sai Baba’s religion with both of us claiming Sai to be of the religion suiting our own religious affiliation. Today I feel how ignorant and stupid I was arguing about something so irrelevant. If one worships or admire Sai Baba, it hardly matters what religion he was born in but rather try to imbibe Sai’s qualities or his compassion for everyone regardless of caste, creed and religion. Compassion is universal, preaching of Shirdi Sai Baba.
(Original Sai Baba Pic Source: Sai Baba of India)
Sai Baba meditated which helped him immensely, it is sad this meditation technique has been lost to the world and might be known to few people only. On your way out from the temple, one comes across samadhi of Sai Baba’s prominent devotees including those of Hindu and Muslim next to each other, is an unparalleled tribute and legacy left behind by one of the greatest saints in modern times.
Pic Source: Wikipedia.org ( Shirdi Sai Baba with devotees)
(Life of Shirdi Sai Baba is covered in Sai Satcharita by a prominent devotee Shri Govind Raghunath Dabholkar alias Hemand Pant. The book was originally written in Marathi and is also available in English at Rs 95 and has gone through few revisions from the earlier version). A must read for anyone who would like to known in detail about Shirdi Sai Baba’s life.
There is also a nice museum within the premises of the temple which displays Sai Baba’s paraphernalia among other objects including his kafni ( robe worn by Sai Baba).
Before leaving Shirdi, I was giving alms to some needy beggars, when by providence I came across two little girls. When I met them, I felt I needed to do more than feed them. They requested me to treat them to snacks which I obliged lovingly. I couldn’t do much at that time since my mother wanted to rush back home since it was already evening and was a long drive. On the way back, I was thinking what would Saibaba want me to do? I cannot adopt them now since I am myself struggling financially, a bachelor and with a career as an author, writer and blogger along with plans of going abroad, is not a viable option. But what I will do is to rehabilitate them in a NGO so they get a chance for a decent life going forward.
This is what Sai Baba would want me to do. I have got in touch with Maher India, a NGO headquartered in Pune
(Refer to my previous article on humanitarianism in archives). Sister Lucy who is heading Maher, India is presently travelling and shall be back soon. I will make my personal mission in life to make all effort to help and rehabilitate these little angels. Looking back if I had married when I was planning, my daughter would have been about the age of the younger girl. Maybe it’s good I am not married otherwise I would have been busy with my own family..I would love only my child..After all it’s me, myself and I..When I looked into the little child’s innocent eyes, I had felt a wave of compassion. Maybe the purpose of my visit was to meet them by providence and help them. That is what that made me go to Shirdi, a place which I have been visiting on periodic basis ever since I was in my teens.
Please circulate this article so that someone in Shirdi can identify these girls and help them. We all need to do our part..Don’t worry little angels everything will be fine and I will be back..I will be back..You will get all the opportunities in life and go on to be great individuals..Education is power..Knowledge is empowerment..
I will be back..Thank You..Sad Guru Shirdi Sai Baba..Thank You..Thank You