In the year 1896, Gopal Rao Gundu was the Revenue Inspector of Kopargaon circle. In spite of having three wives, he had no children. With the blessings of Sai Baba, children were born to him. Out of gratitude to him he thought of celebrating Urs festival every year. Baba agreed to do this. It was decided to celebrate the festival on Shree Ramanavami day.
Urs-Shree Ramanavami Festivals
In the year 1897, the Urs celebration was started in Shirdi for the first time on Ramanavami Day. Simultaneously the Muslim devotees started the Sandal Utsav. A devotee, Amir Shakkar, belonging to the village Korah, got the Sandal Utsav performed at Shirdi. They put sandalpaste in the big plate and took it in a procession and with drums and symbols to Dwarakamai. They smeared the walls of Dwarakamai with sandalpaste.
During Sandal Utsav and Ramanavami Utsav, they got two flags prepared with silk cloth and zari borders; they brought them in a procession and planted them on either side of the mosque. The festival, thus started, had become a full-fledged Ramanavami festival from the year 1912 at the instance of Sree Krishna Rao Jogeshwar Bhishma. The celebrations included Hari Kathas, cradle function and spraying coloured powder called gulal on one another. Next day, they hung a pot from a considerable height. This pot contained curds, riceflakes,etc. Whoever tried to catch it was sprayed with water jets. Baba moved among all the devotees, blessing them. People thought that Lord Rama had come in the form of Sai Baba. Baba used to cry aloud with anger whenever the gulal powder fell in his eyes. Actually those cries were directed against the evil spirits moving around there.
After the festivities were over, Gopal Rao Gundu wanted to get the mosque repaired and put stone slabs for the flooring of Dwarakamai. But Baba gave away the stone slabs to the temple in the village for undertaking repairs.
Vasu Devananda Saraswathi
In a ‘Tapovan’ near Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh, there was a great saint with divine and supernatural powers. He was Vasu Devananda Saraswathi. Thousands of devotees visited him. Das Ganu, a native of Nanded, along with four others went to visit this Yogi. After hearing about Shirdi and the name of Sai Baba from Das Ganu, Vasu Devananda was overwhelmed with joy and told them "Children! My elder brother is there in Shirdi. Why did you come here instead of visiting him? People are under the impression that Sai Baba is a Muslim fakir . But he is my elder brother. Please give this coconut to him with my salutations." So saying he gave a coconut to Das Ganu. They returned with Das Ganu to Nanded and after fifteen days started for Shirdi via Manmad and Kopargaon. After reaching Manmad they learnt that the train to Kopargaon was running late. So they sat near the rivulet nearby, to eat the fried riceflakes brought by them. As they found the riceflakes too pungent, they broke the coconut given to them by Vasu Devananda Saraswathi and after crating it, mixed it with the riceflakes and ate it. While eating they suddenly remembered that this coconut was intended for Sai Baba and feared the consequences.
When they reached Shirdi, Sai Baba called Das Ganu and asked him about the coconut given by Vasu Devananda. Surprised as to how Baba knew about it, Das Ganu narrated everything and sought the pardon of Baba. He rose to go to the shop to get another coconut. But Baba prevented him and told him. "Child, do not go. Can the coconut which you intend to bring now be equal to the one sent by my brother ? Do not worry. You are also my children. All my possessions are yours. I do not have anything against you". So saying, he blessed them.
Kaka Saheb Dixit heard about the miracles and leelas of Sai Baba and came to Shirdi for the first time in the year 1909. While in England, his leg was injured in a train mishap and so he came to Shirdi with the hope that Baba would cure him. But after visiting Baba he prayed to Baba to make him emotionally stable rather than physically.
He saw the miracles and leelas of Sai Baba and decided to permanently settle down at Shirdi. He purchased a piece of land to the north of Gurusthan and constructed a rest house. He kept the first floor for himself while the ground floor was for the visiting devotees. This building was called Dixit Wada.
Bala Saheb Mireekar
Bala Saheb Mireekar was the tahsildar of Kopargaon. On his way to the village Chitili, he came to Shirdi to visit Sai Baba. He went inside the mosque and after salutation to Baba, sat by his side. Baba told him, "The place where you are sitting now is Dwarakamai. The mother is very kind-hearted. She is more than a mother to sincere devotees. Those real devotees who sit on her lap are relieved of their difficulties and anxieties. " So saying he put his hand in the shape of a snake’s hood, warning him that the snake was very dangerous. But as long as Dwarakamai protected her children, the snake could do no harm to you."
After sometime, when Bala Saheb got up to leave the mosque, Baba called Shama and ordered him to accompany Bala Saheb to Chitili. Though Bala Saheb did not agree to this, yet Baba told him, "We wish for your good. But who can change one’s fate?" Reluctantly Bala Saheb agreed to Shama coming with him.
They took rest in the Hanuman temple near Chitili at about 9 o’ clock in the night. Bala Saheb read the newspaper. Shama noticed a snake on the upper cloth of Bala Saheb. Bala Saheb was very frightened. The snake slid down and slithered away. The nearby people gathered there and killed the snake. Baba had foreseen this and cautioned Mireekar, also assuring him that nothing would happen. Furthermore, he had sent Shama with him for his protection.
When we pray to Baba and seek his protection, he foresees our coming difficulties and gives us the required protection, and with his blessings, reduces the intensity of our difficulties. According to the theory of Karma if one had to undergo the difficulties, Baba would lessen the difficulties and alleviate our suffering. In the above story, there must have been danger from snakebite for Bala Saheb as per the Theory of Fate. But Baba’s assurance to Bala Saheb was more powerful, and though the snake went up the upper cloth of Bala Saheb,it could not do anything. Some devotees fully believed in Sai Baba, but no miracles or leelas happened to them and Sai Baba did not do anything for them. But Sai Baba foresaw their difficulties and tried to prevent them . In the eighth chapter, we had seen how Baba had saved Shama from snakebite, by ordering the poison to come down. From these stories, the readers can imagine how Baba protects his devotees with his motherly love.
The need for a Guru
In any Yuga, the need for a Guru was there for spiritual advancement. Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, regarded as incarnations of God, also had Gurus. Any high caste person or wealthy or strong person or a person with knowledge of the Vedas, etc. cannot have spiritual advancement unless he has a Guru. Mere book knowledge is not sufficient to know the path for God-realisation. A Sadguru will be useful for us like a guide in a forest. We shall now learn about this in Baba’s words.
One day Dixit came to Baba and sought permission to leave Shirdi. Baba gave him his permission. Someone there asked, "Where to?" and Baba said, "To a place very far up. There are several ways to reach that place. From Shirdi also there is a way. This is a very difficult one. There are tigers, wolves, etc. in the forest. If you take a guide along with you, he will safely take you to your destination, making you escape from the wild animals. If there is no guide accompanying you, you can get killed by the wild animals, or you may fall in some pit. You can get salvation only by the Guru’s teachings."
The gist of Baba’s teaching is that life’s journey is like travelling through a thick forest. Jealousy, selfishness and hatred will infest this jungle like wild animals. We do not know which moment we may fall prey to them. To move forward avoiding these pitfalls, the help of a Sadguru is very essential.
Shirdi Sai Baba is the incarnation of Lord Shiva, come down to this world from Kailash to show the materialistic people the Jnana Marga and the way to salvation. It is not at all difficult to have the blessings of the Sadguru. Baba said, "If you look to me, I look to you... If you come one step towards me, I will come ten steps towards you.... I shall give you help or advise, the moment you ask for it." Even after leaving the physical body, Sai Baba remained in this world in the form of Guru. All Sai devotees should consider him as their Sadguru. He is the form of all gods in one. He is the creator and preserver of this world. Let us put everything at his feet and benefit from his human birth.
Das Ganu’s Holy Bath
On Shivarathri day in the year 1905 Das Ganu wanted to bathe in the nearby Godavari river, and sought the permission of Baba. Baba told him, "Why should you go to such a distant place ? Godavari water is at my feet," Das Ganu knew that Baba was the incarnation of Lord Shiva and Ganga Devi would be always with him. But he thought that the satisfaction of bathing in a river would not be there. Knowing the thoughts inside Das Ganu, Baba asked him to hold both the palms of his hands together and put them near his feet. When Das Ganu did this, holy water flowed from the toes of Baba’s feet. Wonderstruck at this,Das Ganu sprinkled the water on his head with joy and got the satisfaction of having bathed in River Ganga.
Das Ganu was not able to understand the gist of Isha Upanishad and therefore approached many persons who too could not explain it to him properly. Thereupon, he decided to go to Shirdi and take the help of Sai Baba in understanding the Upanishad properly. Baba blessed him and told him not to be in a hurry to know the gist, saying, "In your return journey, if you go to the house of Kaka Saheb Dixit at Vile Parle, his servant girl will clear your doubts." The other devotees there wondered how an illerate servant girl could clear his doubts when so many learned people could not do this. But Das Ganu took Baba’s words as divine truth.
On his return journey he stayed in the house of Dixit. He found the servant girl wearing a torn dress and singing happily and attending to the household work. He wondered at the poor servant girl in such a happy mood. He presented a saree to her through his friend Pradhan. The servant girl wore the new saree and sang and danced with joy with other girls. Next day she put her new saree in her box and came to work with the torn dress that she had earlier worn. But there was no change in her behaviour. She was as happy as she was when wearing the new saree. After observing this, Das Ganu realised that sorrows and happiness depend on one’s own moods and thinking and this was the central idea of Isha Upanishad. In this world everything is the creation of Ishwar. But according to one’s mind and thought, one is happy when one has what one wants and unhappy when it is not with one. The cause of sorrow and happiness is one’s mind and thinking and not the creator Ishwar.
What Gautama Buddha realised, sitting under the Bodi Tree was only the above truth. For those who have conquered their minds there will not be sorrow but only happiness. He would always be a contented and happy person. This is the state called Brahmananda.
Today Sai Baba is not with us in flesh and blood. Then how will he teach us Jnana. This question may be in your mind. The way how he taught Das Ganu through a servant girl, in the same manner Baba would also teach us Jnana through our own actions and through the actions of the people around us. But we should have the true desire and understanding capacity. Sai Baba will give us these qualities only if we surrender ourselves completely to him.
Sai Baba will be observing how far you are able to assimilate anything while doing Parayana of his life history. When you have devotion to Baba and are sincere in the Parayana everything will automatically be grasped by our minds. Then Baba will show his leelas . So,if you want to experience the love of Baba towards you, you should do Parayana in the above mentioned manner. This is something you yourself have to practise where others cannot help.
Let us end this chapter with a prayer to Sai Baba to impart Jnana to those who read his life history with devotion and also to stay in their hearts permanently and make their houses a Sai Nilayam.