Monday, March 2, 2009

||chapter six||

|| sri sai satcharitra ||

|| chapter six ||

|| sri ramanavami celebrations ||

|| Sri Ganeshaya Namaha || Sri Saraswatye Namaha ||
|| Sri Venkateshaya Namaha || Sri Sai Nathaya Namaha ||
|| Sri Sadgurubhyo Namaha ||

In this chapter, Hemad Pant tells about Sri Ramanavami celebrations and the renovation of the masjid.


It is only the sadguru who can take us safely across this endless ocean called samsara. Whether it is a material wish or a spiritual goal, if we submit to the sadguru, he will lead us to the destination. Whenever the thought centres on sadguru, we think only of Sai Baba. Sai Baba is always with us. It is as if He is standing in front of us, and applying the vibhuti prasadam to our forehead with extreme love and care. And when He places His hand affectionately on our head and caresses, tears of love swells from the eyes. An unknown, incomprehensible feeling overwhelms the entire body, gross as well as the miniscule. We lose sense of our ambience, the time in which we are living and are transformed to a totally different level. We become one with Him. The miniscule body, which carries all that we call as our own - emotions, feelings, pride - and is the cause of making us come to this world again and again, dissolves permanently. That is the effect of Baba’s touch. It is a feeling, an emotion, which can only be experienced, a bliss which is beyond description by any man made words.

The very sight of Baba’s stately and majestic figure, the benign “I am here to take care of you” look of Baba is enough to overwhelm us with an indescribable joy. All the eight different states of ecstasy - immobility, sweating, joy, incoherent speech, shivering, paleness, and losing awareness of the surroundings and unending flow of tears - are experienced at the sight of Baba’s divine figure. He comes to us as Rama, as Krishna and persuades us to listen to His stories. He compels us to quote His examples even in our normal daily conversations. That is the all pervading effect of a sadguru. If we start writing, not a single word comes out. If He wants us to write, the words come out in a never ending stream. Whenever the egoism raises its head in us, He crushes it mercilessly, gives us real power and takes us to our destination of self realization. By prostrating at His feet and submitting ourselves humbly to Him, all the four purusharthas - dharma, artha, kaama, and moksha - are ours without ever asking for them. It is that easy. To reach Him, there are four ways - karma, jnana, bhakti and yoga. All these paths lead us to our destination of moksha. Among these, the Bhakti way is the difficult one to travel. It is like the uneven path in a forest, full of thorns, pits and other hazards. It is only a sadguru who can take us through a smooth and safe way. That was how Baba used to advice the devotees.


When the mind is cleaned of all its impurities, detachment results. Knowledge accrues. The fear of birth and death vanishes and what remains is pure happiness. That eternal happiness, joy is Brahman. Brahman is God. His power is Maya. He created this world with Maya. The Creator, the Created and Maya - the power of the Creator - are all one and same. The Creator came into the world He created as Baba.


Sai Baba said, “My devotees will not suffer from shortage of food or clothing. Do not strive for them. I will always protect those who fix their attention on me, those who are devoted to me, and those who worship me.” Lord Krishna also said the same in Bhagavad Geeta.

Ananyas chintayanto maam Ye janaaha paryupaasate
Tesham nityabhi yuktaanaam Yogakshemam vahaamyaham
Ch. 9 Sl. 22

I will take care of the interests (yoga and kshema) of those who think of me with single minded devotion.

Leaving aside name, fame and desire, one should stand near the entrance to the court of God and beg Him with the mind turned towards Him and only Him. Only then His mercy will flow. Do not crave for worldly entrapments. Seek only the divine grace and blessings. Fix the mind only on Baba. Only then the mind will attain eternal bliss. Only then one should assume that one is in the right company. If the mind deviates, peace will disappear. Listening to Sai Satcharitra will fill the mind with devotion. The ever wandering mind will get solace and peace.


Gopalrao Gund, a circle inspector in Kopergaon, was a staunch devotee of Baba. Though he married three times, he was not blessed with a progeny. With Baba’s blessings, he got a son. Because of this happiness, he wanted to honour Baba with a special festival and suggested a “Urus” fair. Urus, in Persian language, literally means a wedding with God. In other words, it is the reunion of the soul with God at death. Hence, it is an occasion for great celebration and the departing saint’s spiritual power is supposed to be at its most powerful. During the Urus, two new flags would be brought in procession and hoisted at the two corners of the masjid. That was in the year 1897. Gopalrao discussed his intentions with other Sai devotees like Tatya Patil, Dada Kote Patil, Madhavarao Deshpande (Shyama). All of them gave their concurrence. Baba’s approval and blessings were also obtained.

To carry out a fair or to take out a procession, it was necessary to get the Collector’s sanction. The devotees applied for permission, but because of the village Kulkarni, it was denied. With Baba’s blessings, they applied once again and succeeded in getting the sanction. Though Collector’s sanction was obtained, there were other difficulties. Shortage of water was an acute problem in Shirdi. As Shirdi was a small place, the entire water supply was from two wells there. One of them used to dry up in the summer every year. The water in the other well was not drinkable. Baba dropped some flowers in the well and made the water potable. Even then, the quantity was not sufficient. So, Tatya Patil arranged transportation of water in mavots (leather bags) from a distant place. With the major hurdles over, the preparations for the Urus started in earnestness.

Major attractions of any fair are the shops - toy shops for children, shops for utensils, clothes and other varieties - as well as entertainment places for children and grown ups. All these shops were erected under the supervision of Tatya Kote. For the entertainment, wrestling bouts were planned. Gopalrao persuaded his friend Damu Anna Kasar to present a new flag. This Damu Anna belonged to Ahmednagar and had a similar problem, like Gopalrao, about progeny. He was also blessed by Baba and got a son. So, when Gopalrao asked him, he was very happy to present the flag. Gopalrao also succeeded in persuading Nanasaheb Nimonkar in presenting the other embroidered flag.

A Muslim devotee of Baba, Amir Shakkar Dalal, suggested that as part of Urus, a “sandal procession” should also be held to honour Baba. In the sandal procession, readings of Quran were followed by devotees carrying sandalwood paste in thalis and burning incense, going round the village to the musical accompaniment of band and finally plastering the sandalwood paste by hand over the niche in Dwarakamai. The sandal procession, or Chandanotsav, formed an integral part of the Urus celebrations for the next fifteen years.For the first three years, it was organised by Amir Shakkar Dalal and subsequently by his wife.


In the year 1912, certain changes were made to these celebrations. The poet, Krishnarao Jogeshwar Bhishma, who wrote Sai Sagunopasana, observed that Sri Ramanavami, normally held on a movable date depending on the Lunar Calendar, and the Urus were occurring very close to each other. He felt that instead of holding the two celebrations separately, they could be unified and celebrated grandly together. When Kaka Mahajani heard that, he liked the idea. The highlight of such a celebration would be the ‘kirtan’ – singing the glories of Sri Rama who was born on that day. The question that faced the organizers was to find the person who could sing the ‘kirtan’. After considerable consultations, Bhishma agreed to sing the ‘kirtan’ and it was decided that Kaka Mahajani should play harmonium. They also persuaded Radhakrishna Mai to provide the ginger powder prasadam.They decided to seek Baba’s approval and blessing. When Kaka was offering Pooja to Baba, Baba asked, “What is happening in the Wada?” Kaka could not grasp the import of Baba’s question. Baba then turned to Bhishma and asked him the same question. By this time Kaka got alerted and he narrated everything about Sri Rama Janmotsavam to Baba. Baba gladly consented to the unified celebrations. On every Sri Ramanavami day, the procession of the flags was taken out in the morning and the Chandanotsavam was done in the evening.

Next day, the masjid was decorated with flowers etc. A cradle was provided by Radhakrishna Mai and thus a beginning was made for one of the unique celebrations in not only Shirdi but elsewhere also. Bhishma got up for singing ‘kirtan’. Kaka Mahajani had already started playing harmonium. Audiences had also assembled in sufficient number for the ‘kirtan’. At that time, Baba came from Lendi and called Kaka. Kaka Mahajani was worried. He did not know what had gone wrong. Scared and anxious, he approached Baba. “Why this cradle is here?” Baba asked him. On hearing that it was for the ‘kirtan’, Baba felt very happy. He picked up a garland from nearby collection and garlanded Kaka. He gave another one to Bhishma. All those assembled were very happy. Then the ‘kirtan’ commenced. At the completion of the ‘kirtan’ people showed their happiness by shouting ‘Jai Sri Ram’. Everyone was overjoyed. They threw gulal (red powder) all around to mark the completion of the celebrations.

Almost immediately they heard a roar. It was Baba who was shouting and scolding everyone. He was red with anger, and people started running helter skelter. Those who were close to Baba went to Him and found out that some of the gulal had entered Baba’s eyes. The devotees thought that the gulal was only an excuse and Baba was really angered at the hardships Sri Rama had to undergo because of Ravana. They also thought that in His anger, He may break the cradle. On insistence of Radhakrishna Mai, Kaka went to unfasten the cradle. Baba stopped him. After some time, Baba cooled down. In the afternoon, when they went to seek His permission to remove the cradle, He did not agree. He told them that the celebrations were not yet over; they would be completed only when ‘Gopala Kala’ is performed after two days and that the cradle could be removed at that time. It was only after the ‘Gopala Kala kirtan’ was performed after two days, that Baba permitted the removal of the cradle. Poor feeding was very dear to Baba. During these celebrations, it was done on a very grand scale. In all these programmes, many of the devotees actively participated.


After 1913, the number of programmes on the Sri Ramanavami day increased. From Chaitra Shuddha padyami (9 days before Sri Ramanavami - on Ugadi day) itself, Radhakrishna Mai started Rama Nama Sapthaham – mass chanting of Rama’s name everyday for all the days. All the devotees invariably participated in it. The entire nation celebrates Sri Ramanavami, hence it was difficult to find a kirtankar who could sing ‘kirtans’ glorifying Sri Rama. As Bhishma was not available, Kaka Mahajani persuaded his friend Bala Buva Mali, known as modern day Tukaram, to do the ‘kirtan’ for that year. In the next year, Mahajani requested Balabuva Satarakar of Brihadsiddha Kavate in Satara District to do the ‘kirtan’. He acceded to the request as he could not perform in his own place. It was attacked by the epidemic plague. With Baba’s consent having been obtained by Kakasaheb Dikshit, Balabuva Satarakar performed in Shirdi. All the devotees were immensely happy with the celebrations. Baba presented Satarakar with Rs.150/- which was five times more than what he normally got in Kavate. Satarakar was also happy.

Baba solved the difficult issue of finding a different kirtankar each year, due to non availability of the earlier one, by entrusting the task to Dasganu Maharaj. He carried out the task as long as he was alive.

From then till now, these celebrations are conducted with great pomp and gaiety. Poor feeding is a regular feature and is carried out with utmost dedication. Joyous shouts of ‘Sai’ name reverberate everywhere. Even elephants were brought for the celebrations. With the efforts of Radhakrishna Mai, Shirdi was transformed into a Sansthan. In spite of all these grand celebrations going on, Baba was as aloof as ever. It was under His shelter that both Hindus and Muslims celebrated their functions so grandly without any hitch or quarrel. And it was because of His blessing that even though hundreds of persons assembled, there were no cases of fights or diseases.


Gopalrao Gund wanted to renovate the masjid. He had ordered dressed stones for re-laying the floor. Baba, however, did not consent to that. Though it was against His wishes, after repeated requests and intervention of Mhalsapathi He gave His consent for relaying the floor. One night when Baba slept in Chavadi, the entire flooring of the masjid was re-laid. From then on, Baba discarded the gunny bag and used a quilt for sitting.

The court yard (Sabhaa Mantap) where Baba used to receive His devotees, was also renovated in 1911, with great effort. The space in the court yard was small. Dikshit wanted to enlarge it and put a roof over it. With considerable expenditure, iron columns were brought and work started. Columns were erected during day time. When Baba returned next morning from His sleep in Chavadi, He used to pull them out and throw them away.

One day it so happened that while pulling out one of the columns, He saw Tatya Patil. Baba was so excited that with the column in one hand, He grabbed the neck of Tatya with the other. Tatya had a pheta (head wear) on his head. Baba forcibly caught hold of the pheta, set fire to it and threw it into a pit. Baba’s eyes at that moment were blazing like embers. No one had the courage to talk to Him or even look at Him. Baba took out a one rupee coin and threw it in the burning pit as if it was a sacred offering. Tatya was shivering with fright. No one thought of getting Tatya released from Baba’s grip. One of Baba’s devotees, Bhagoji Shinde, who was a leper, tried to go near Baba, but Baba beat him up. Even Shyama had the experience of being hit by brick pieces.

After some time, Baba calmed and He got a new embroidered pheta and placed it on Tatya’s head, as if He was conferring an honour. Everyone assembled there were spellbound by Baba’s strange behaviour, and could not understand why Baba did like that. We have to understand that Baba did this only to save Tatya from a grave danger and to subsequently bless him. Hemad Pant says, “There are so many events like the above. Do not know what to write and what not to write. I will write only what I can recollect. Baba will do the rest”.

With this the sixth chapter, called Sri Ramanavami celebrations, is complete In the next chapter, Hemad Pant discusses the point about Baba being a Hindu or a Muslim He also tells us about Baba’s Yogic Practices, His powers and other matters.

||Sri Sadguru Sainathaarpanamasthu ||Shubham Bhavatu||
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

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