Shirdi Sai Baba
Unknown – October 15, 1918
Sai Baba of Shirdi (Unknown – 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. Many Hindu devotees -
including Hemadpant, who wrote the famous
- consider him an incarnation of Lord
Krishna while other devotees consider him as an
incarnation of Lord Dattatreya. Many devotees
believe that he was a Satguru, an enlightened Sufi
Pir, or a Qutub. No verifiable information is
available regarding Sai Baba's birth and place of
Sai Baba's real name is unknown. The name "Sai" was
given to him upon his arrival at Shirdi, a town in
the west-Indian state of Maharashtra.
local temple priest, recognized him as a Muslim
saint and greeted him with the words 'Aayo Sai!',
meaning 'Welcome Sai!'. Sai or Sayi is a Persian
title given to Sufi saints, meaning 'poor one'.
However Sāī may also refer to the Sanskrit term "Sakshat
Eshwar" or the divine. The honorific "Baba" means
"father; grandfather; old man; sir" in Indo-Aryan
languages. Thus Sai Baba denotes "holy father",
"saintly father" or "poor old man".
Sai Baba remains a very popular saint, especially
in India, and is worshipped by people around the
world. He had no love for perishable things and his
sole concern was self-realization. He taught a moral
code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity,
contentment, inner peace, and devotion to God and
guru. Sai Baba's teaching combined elements of
Hinduism and Islam: he gave the Hindu name
to the mosque he lived in, practiced
Hindu and Muslim rituals, taught using words and
figures that drew from both traditions, and was
buried in Shirdi. One of his well known epigrams, "Sabka
" ("One God governs all"), is associated
with Islam and Sufism. He always uttered "Allah
Malik"("God is King").
Some of Sai Baba's disciples became famous as
spiritual figures and saints, such as Mhalsapati, a
priest of the
in Shirdi, and Upasni
Maharaj. He was revered by other saints, such as
Saint Bidkar Maharaj, Saint Gangagir, Saint
Janakidas Maharaj, and Sati Godavari Mataji. Sai Baba referred to several saints as 'my
brothers', especially the disciples of Swami
Samartha of Akkalkot.
Return to Shirdi
1858 Sai Baba returned to Shirdi. Around this time he
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 Sai Baba was dressed like an
athlete and sported 'long hair flowing down to the end of
his spine' 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, 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 up to
1854 even among some of his devotees in Shirdi.
For four to five years Baba lived under a neem tree, and
often wandered for long periods in the jungle 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 gave sacred ashes ('Udhi') to
his bhakats before they left. The ash was believed to have
healing and apotropaic powers. He performed the function of
a local hakim, and treated the sick by application of ashes.
Sai Baba also delivered spiritual teachings to his visitors,
recommending the reading of sacred Hindu texts along with
the Quran. He insisted on the indispensability of the
unbroken remembrance of God's name (dhikr, japa), and often
expressed himself in a cryptic manner with the use of
parables, symbols and allegories.
Sai Baba participated in religious festivals and was also in
the habit of preparing food for his bhakats, which he
distributed to them as prasad. Sai Baba's entertainment was
dancing and singing religious songs.
After 1910 Sai Baba's fame began to spread in Mumbai.
Numerous people started visiting him, because they regarded
him as a saint with the power of performing miracles, or
even as an Avatar. They built his first temple at Bhivpuri,
Sai Baba left behind no
spiritual heirs and appointed no disciples, and did not even
provide formal initiation (diksha), despite requests. Some
disciples of Sai Baba achieved fame as spiritual figures,
such as Upasni Maharaj of Sakori. After Sai Baba died, his
devotees offered the daily Aarti to Upasni Maharaj when he
paid a visit to Shirdi, two times within so many years.
Sai Baba had many devotees, and the most notable among
Deputy Collector – legend has it that Sai Baba saved this
man's daughter from labor complications.
police officer who resigned to become an ascetic, and also
known as Das Ganu. He was an itinerant who spread Sai Baba's
had immense faith in Sai Baba and served him until Sai Baba
took samadhi. Sai Baba used to treat Tatya Patil as His
kote patil: Sai
Baba treated her as His elder sister and equivalent to
mother. She was Tatya Patil's mother.
baba: He served
Sai Baba until Sai Baba died in 1918.
known as Shama, one of the staunch devotees of Sai Baba.
Raghunath Dabholkar (Hemadpant):
Sai Baba allowed him to write the Shri Sai Satcharita.
A priest of Khandoba Temple.
Mai: A great
devotee of Baba, cleaned the temple every day and looked
after Baba's needs.
108 Shirdi Sai Baba Slogans (mantras) are sung by devotees
in praise of him as worship.
Sai Baba's 11 Sayings
01. Whoever puts his feet on Shirdi soil, his sufferings
would come to an end.
02. The wretched and miserable would rise into plenty of joy
and happiness, as soon as they climb steps of my samadhi.
03. I shall be ever active and vigorous even after leaving
this earthly body.
04. My tomb shall bless and speak to the needs of my
05. I shall be active and vigorous even from the tomb.
06. My mortal remains would speak from the tomb.
07. I am ever living to help and guide all who come to me,
who surrender to me and who seek refuge in me.
08. If you look to me, I look to you.
09. If you cast your burden on me, I shall surely bear it.
10. If you seek my advice and help, it shall be given to you
11. There shall be no want in the house of my devotees.
Sai Baba's Leelas ( Miracles )
Lighting lamps with water
before Sai Baba's fame spread, he was fond of burning lights
in his Masjid and other Temples. But for the oil needed in
those little earthenware lights that he lit, he depended on
the generosity of the grocers of Shirdi. He had made it a
rule to light earthenware lamps in the masjid every evening
and he would call on the grocers for small donations. But
there came a time when the grocers got tired of giving oil
free to Sai Baba and one day they bluntly refused to oblige
him, saying they had no fresh stocks. Without a word of
protest Sai Baba returned to the masjid. Into those
earthenware lamps he poured water and lighted the wicks. The
lamps continued to burn deep into the midnight. The matter
came to the notice of the grocers who now came to Sai Baba
with profuse apologies. Wouldn't Sai Baba kindly pardon
them? Sai Baba pardoned them, but he warned them never to
lie again. "You could have refused to give me the oil, but
did you have to say that you didn't have fresh stocks?" he
admonished them. But he had made his point.
Premonition of burning fields
Once, harvesting in Shirdi had been completed and the
foodgrains of the entire village had been stored in a yard.
The summer was on. The heat was intense as only those who
have lived in Shirdi know. One afternoon Sai Baba summoned
Kondaji Sutar and said to him: "Go, your field is on flrel"
Frightened, Kondaji ran to his field and. frantically looked
around for any sign of fire. There wasn't any. He returned
to the masjid and informed Sai Baba that he had looked
everywhere but had found no trace of fire and why did Baba
have to frighten him? Unfazed, Baba said : "You better turn
back and look again." Baba was right after all. Kondaji
noticed that a sheaf of corn was indeed on fire and smoke
was billowing from it. A strong wind was fanning the fire
and word had gone round to the villagers who now came
running to the scene. "Sai Baba," the people shouted "help
us, help us put the fire out!" Thereupon, Sai Baba walked
casually towards the yard, sprinkled some water on a stack
of sheaves and said: " There now! The fire will die down!"
And so it happened.
Stopping the rain
There is the story of one Rao Bahadur Moreshwar Fradhan who
had come to Shirdi to take Sai Baba's darshan along with his
wife. As the couple were about to leave, it began to rain
heavily. Thunder and lightning rent the air. As the Pradhan
couple looked round in dismay, Sai Baba prayed. "Oh Allah!"
he intoned, "let the rains cease. My children are going
home. Let them go peacefully!" The storm thereupon ceased,
the downpour reduced to slight drizzle and the Pradhans were
able to reach their destination safely.
Raising the water level in well
When Sai Baba first came to Shirdi it had of no basic
facilities. There was a well put only in name. It had no
natural spring water and if ever there had been one, it must
long ago have dried up. Water had to be fetched from a
distance. When, therefore, Sai Baba gave his permission to
the villagers to celebrate the Ram Navami Fair, (Baba's
Birthday) the big problem facing the organizers was one of
water supply. So What should they do but go to Sai Baba with
their problem? "'Oh yes," said Sai Baba, 'so you want plenty
of water, do you? Here, take this and drop it in the well
and wait and see." "'This," turned up to be a platter of
flowers on which some prasad (blessed food) had been placed
along with the remnants of alms Baba had received earlier in
the day. The villagers had no qualms about doing as they
were did. Their faith in Sai Baba was total. No sooner had
that platter of leaves been dropped in the well, it is said,
water rose from the bottom as if by divine command and
completely filled it. And great was the rejoicing of the
Saving a child from drowning
One report has it that word had spread that the 3-year old
daughter of a poor man called Babu Kirwandikar had fallen
into the well and had been drowned. When the villagers
rushed to the well they saw the child suspended in mid-air
as if some invisible hand was holding her up! She was
quickly pulled out. Sai Baba was fond of that child who was
often heard to say : I am Baba's sister!" After this
incident, the villagers took her at her word. "it is all
Baba's Leela", the people would say philosophically. They
could offer no other explanation.
Flow of Godavari (river) from Baba's feet
These were instances of things they had seen with their own
eyes. It was not secondhand information they had gathered.
Sai Baba was to them as real as their homes and their fields
and their cattle and the distant hills.Das Ganu once had an
unforgettable experience. On a festive occasion, he sought
Baba's permission to go to a place called Singba on the
banks of the Godavari to have a bath in the holy waters.
"No," Baba replied resolutely, "where is the need to go all
the way when the Godavari is here right at my feet?" Das
Ganu was vexed. He was willing to concede that Ganga the
holy river (Baba frequently referred to Godavari as Ganga)
rose from the feet of Sri Narayana (one among the Hindu
trinity of Gods) himself, but his faith was not deep enough
to believe that the waters of the Godavari could spring form
the feet of his master, Sri Sai. Baba who was reading Das
Ganu's mind decided that this was the time to strengthen Das
Ganu's faith. He told his devotee: "come closer to me and
hold the hollow of your palms at my feet!". As soon as he
did so water flowed freely out of the toes of the master's
feet and filled the hollow of Das Ganu's palms in no time.
His joy knew no limits. He sprinkled the water on his head
and his body and distributed some more among the assembled
devotees as tirtha (holy water).
There was that other occasion when many thought that the
masjid which housed Sai Baba itself would be consumed by
fire from the flames which leapt up from the dhuni. All that
Baba did was to take some swipes at a wooden pillar in front
of him. With every blow the flames subsided and the fire
died down. "Miraculous," said his devotees. Often they would
notice him stirring some hot concotion over the kitchen
fire, not with a ladle but with his bare hands. There never
was a time when his hand was scalded. What supernatural
powers did he have? On yet another occasion, Sai Baba was
partaking of food with three of his devotees in the masjid
when, without any cause for provocation, he exclaimed-
"Stop!" Then, as if nothing had happened, the four continued
with their meal. Lunch over and the dishes cleared, they
stepped out of the masjid, when large chunks of the ceiling
fell on the very spot where they had been seated only a few
minutes earlier. Did Sai Baba's powers extend even to
inanimate matter, the devotees wondered. Instances have been
quoted by his devotees as to how Sai Baba commanded the
rains to stop and the winds to cease.
Understanding Sai Baba
Baba always maintained the "Dhuni" or the perpetual fire.
The realisation that all the phenomenons of the nature are
perishable and unworthy of our craving, is signified by "Udi"
which Sal Baba distributed to all. Baba never left Shirdi.
He talked to people who came to see Him. Sal Baba would
often speak in symbols and parables leaving his devotees to
work out the answer - such as, "A man had a beautiful horse,
but no matter what he did, it would not run in harness. An
expert suggested that it should be taken back to the place
from where it had come. This was done and it become tracable
and useful". The explanation of this story is that the horse
is the Ego. As commander of the physical and mental powers
of man, it is useful but self-willed and therefore cause
endless trouble. Taking it back to its source is
re-absorbing it in the spirit source which it arises. It is
the return to the source which purifies and enlightens. From
there the ego issues forth again, no longer an ego, but a
conscious agent of the spirit.
Baba would ask for Dakshina (money offered with respect to
the Guru) from some of those who came to see Him. This was
not because he needed their money. This was one of Baba's
methods for testing out the devotee's attachment to worldly
things and willingness to surrender his ego. Once one has
surrendered himself totally to Him, Baba takes care of all
His spiritual and temporal needs.
Baba regarded money like everything else, in a symbolical
manner. He once said, " I ask only from those who the fakir
(God) points out and in exchange I give them ten times as
much". By the end of the day, all the money Baba had earned
was distributed to the destitute, poor, sick and the needy.
Baba used to feed the fakirs and devotees and even cook for
them. For those who were accustomed to meat, he cooked meat
and for the others vegetarian fare.
The Dwarakamayee of Sai Baba was open to all, irrespective
of caste, creed or religion. Among those who came to see him
and got his darshan (establishing spiritual contact with the
Guru) and blessings were ministers, government officials,
business people and village folk. He was the common man's
God. He Stayed with them, hejoked with them, He slept and
ate with them, he smoked a chillum (pipe) with them, he sang
and danced with them, having no pretensions of a God. But
all of them Knew that He protected them. Even today, though
He has left his gross body, they feel his presence and
realise his worth all the more. Baba would also refer to the
sounding of the drum of the beginning of eternity within the
soul. This "anahat" sound emerged from Baba's heart from
every limb, every bone and pore of his body. It was
permeated with divine essence and Baba claimed that though
one day his physical body will not exist, his remains will
communicate with from the grave.
Therefore, the most important place in Shirdi is Baba's
temple - the Samadhi Mandir is his grave, which
literally millions have visited and still continues to draw
1. 1977 Shirdi ke Sai Baba (Hindi)
2. 1986 Sri Shirdi Saibaba Mahathyam (Telgu)
3. 1989 Bhagavan Shri Sai Baba (Kannada)
4. 1993 Sai Baba (Marathi)
5. 2001 Shirdi Sai Baba (Hindi)
6. 2005 Ishwarya Avatar Sai Baba (Hindi)
7. 2010 Malik Ek (Hindi)
8. 2012 Shirdi Sai (Telgu)
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