Shirdi Sai Baba
Sri Sai baba, popularly known as Sri Shirdi Sai baba, was born on the 27th September 1838 in the forest near Patri village in Aurangabad District of the Maharastra state of India (Ruhela 1). It was claimed that Shirdi Sai Baba was a saint that was worshiped by both Hindus and Muslims. The first person that was in contact with baba addressed him impulsively as Sai. Sai is a term of Persia origin, usually attributed to Muslim ascetics, meaning “holy one” or “saint.” (Rigopoulos 3). Baba, on the other hand, is a Hindi term attributed to respected seniors and holy men, and literally means, “father” (Rigopoulos 3).
It was stated that Baba was born into to a high caste Brahmin family. His father’s name was Ganga Bhavadia and his mother was Devagiriamma (Ruhela 1). They had taken renunciation and detachment and therefore had left Baba under a banyan tree in the forest. Baba claimed not to remember his parents or where he came from (White 868). In the same village Baba was left in, there lived a man named Roshan Shah Miya, who was a Fakir (which is a Muslim or a Hindu mendicant that travels between village reciting scripture and performing various physical feats). Roshan Shah Miya had no children and one day when he saw Baba left under a tree, he adopted him and took him home. Roshan died when Baba was the age of four. At the age of five, he was known to have a hindu guru named Venukusa who lived a few doors down from where baba used to live (White 868). Venukusu looked after children who were orphans, poor boys, or children that have been abandoned. He took care of Baba for twelve years until it was time for him to take samadhi (Which is the highest state of concentration attained from meditation). It was claimed that Baba stayed in Shirdi for three years and then had disappeared for a year and came back permanently.
There were special features that differentiated Baba from others. First of all Baba was 5”8 (Satpathy, 21). He wore a Kafni, which is a robe, and tied a cloth around his head, which he twisted into a ponytail behind his ear (Satpathy, 21). Baba was a very thin and flexible man who was so energetic that he could walk non-stop (Satpathy, 21). An additional characteristic of Sai Baba’s personality was the love he had for dance and music (Satpathy, 21). Many of baba’s devotees believed he was an incarnation of Lord Dattatreya, which is the three-headed deity known as Brahma, Visnu, and Mahesh.
He was living as a humble villager in the place called Shirdi for the last sixty years of his life and he dressed as a Muslim Fakir (Satpathy, 2001). He lived in a Mosque, which was called the Dwarka Mai Masjid. There he performed a kind of Hindu ritual with lights and incense (White 869). Baba kept a fire burning perpetually in a Dhuni (and his followers to this day keep it burning) in the manner of a Nathpanthi pir (White 869). It was claimed that Baba’s ritual practices included both Hindu and Muslim prayers and offerings.
Sai Baba lived on alms that were collected from five specific families (Rahel 25). He was to always share his food generously with followers as well as mammals such as birds, cats, dogs, etc. He fed the thousands who were hungry. He would also collect daksinas (which were cash gifts and he would allocate it amongst the poor’s and the devotees). After Sai Baba’s death, his body was cremated in a temple.
It was claimed that Sai Baba was against any affiliation that was dedicated to religion or the caste. Even though baba himself lived his life as a Spartan, he would instruct his followers to live a normal ordinary family life. It was stated that Sai Baba inspired his followers to pray, recite god’s name and read the holy books. Baba advised the Muslims to recite the Qur’an and the Hindus to recite the Bhagavad Gita or Ramayana. It was claimed that Baba adapted both Islamic and Hindu religious texts. Baba’s ways of teaching were not confined to words or verbal sermons. He could act, represent, teach and impart lessons to his devotees through entire living and non-living beings or matters (Rahel 129). During his teaching he merged the two cultures (Hinduism and Islam) together to attain harmony between the two cultures. He talked about the three different spiritual paths in Hinduism, which are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
According to his legendary accounts Baba went on a 72 hours samadhi to get rid of his asthma attack 1886. One day when sitting along with his devotee Mahlsapathy in the Dwaraka Mai, Baba said that he was going to Allah and that consequently for three days his body was to be looked after because he might return to his body. Sai also said that if in case he did not return back to his body, it should be interred near the mosque, presently Baba’s body became a corpse (Rahel 77). As baba went into deep Samadhi he stopped breathing and his pulse rate stopped beating. All the villagers believed that Sai baba had left his prana (which means the vital life leaves the body). The villagers were prepared to bury his body, but as Bhagat had promised, he kept taking care of his body and stopped them. He had Sai Baba’s body on his lap and guarded it for three days. Sai baba came to life at three in the morning as they saw him breathing again, his body started to move and he opened his eyes and became conscious. After the villagers saw baba at the time of his Samadhi, they had started to support him from then on. (Rahel 77).
The Shirdi Sai Baba Temple is located in Shirdi, Maharashtra, India. This place attracts thousands of devotees of different religions, creeds and castes. The Temple is an attractive memorial that was constructed in remembrance of Shri Sai Baba. Another memorable part of this town includes Gurustha, Dwarkamai (mosque), Chanvadi, Lendi, Chawadi, Vaug, Maruti Mandir, and Samadhi of Abdulbaba. These places have a high significance on the pilgrims and are also highly honored. There are temples in his honor that has been distributed far from the center of his cult. For example there are temples in (Bhopal, Jharkhand, Pondicherry, Madhya Pardes, Etc ) The History of Shirdi is intently connected to the life of Sai Baba who was a saint that died in 1918.
Sai Baba established himself as a saint through the performance of miracles; and it is chiefly because of his renowned Siddhis, preternatural powers, that his reputation has continued to grow long after his death (White, 868). There are many volumes that people could read that provides information on the experiences of his followers who have believed that it was the direct intervention of Sai Baba contributing medicines, wealth or health in some pressing life state. It has stated that he used the ash from the Dhuni (purifying fire that symbolizes divine light) as a sacramental substance for the working of his miracles (White 869). This ash is called the Vibhuti and it can be rubbed into the forehead or throat, swallowed, cast into a wound, or used in various ways to effect changes. (White 869)
It is claimed that Satya Sai Baba is a reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba. Satya Sai Baba was born on November 23, 1926. Satya was born in the state of Andhra Pradesh in the village of Puttaparthi in 1926 (Babb 116). He was born into the Raju caste, his birth name Satyanarayana Raju (Bassuk 87). It was said that Satya Sai Baba was different from all the other children around him, and his behavior and actions were really strange. He was a vegetarian, unlike the rest of his family. He lived a completely different life compared to his parents in a way that was nothing close to the way his parents were living. In 1940, Sai Baba had an epileptic seizure and began acting in a bizarre manner (Urban 79). Exorcists were brought in to try to cure the boy, but failed (Urban 79). The community thought an evil spirit had possessed him. After this incident happened he told his family that he was an incarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba. It was claimed that Sathya Sai Baba’s name was recognized when the stories of his miracles were spread out. Some of the miracles that have been attributed to Sai Baba include the curing of illnesses, being able to leave his body and be in more than one place at once, raising the dead, knowing intimate details of those he helps without being told, being able to fly, and multiplication of loaves of bread and fish (Spurr 119 and Babb 174). There are many people that are influenced by Sathya Sai baba. He has thousands of supporters that have resided by his teachings and words of Sathya. His Devotees believed that Sathya Sai Baba has been living his life to the fullest and it is revealed within his teachings and words. Considering the fact that Sathya Sai Baba has many followers, it is recognized that his emotions and thoughts have manipulated millions of people throughout the world.
Throughout the life of Shirdi Sai baba, it has stated that he has done many good deeds, which makes him a saint to remember. Baba lived his spiritual mission due to his pure self in a human incarnation. His flawless purity, non-attachment, benevolence, and compassion evoked a higher level of respect in the villagers around him. Baba would advise against and protest the people who primarily worshipped him.
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Bassuk, Daniel E. (1987), “Six Modern Indian Avatars and the Ways they Understand Their Divinity” Dialogue & Alliance.
Ganguly, H.S. (2002) Saibaba of Shirdi: New Delhi: Diamond Pocket Books
Rahel, Satya Pal (2000) Sri Shirdi Sai Baba:The Unique Prophet Of Integration. New Delhi:Diamond Pocket Books.
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Satya Sai Baba
Article written by Krupa Parekh (Spring 2012), who is solely responsible for its content.