Thursday, March 5, 2009

||chapter nine||

|| sri sai satcharitra ||

|| chapter nine ||

|| shirdi pilgrimage and other stories ||

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

In this chapter, Hemad Pant tells us the effect of compliance and non compliance of Baba’s instructions, pilgrimage to Shirdi, mendicancy and its necessity, Tarkhad’s family and other matters.


Shirdi is the place where Baba lived for more than 60 years. And it was because of this that Shirdi has gained a special aura in the minds of devotees. Going to Shirdi is considered a pilgrimage. The distinctive feature is that no one can enter or leave Shirdi without Baba’s permission - even today. It is only if Baba desires that anyone can go to Shirdi, and all those who have left Shirdi without His permission, have done so at their own peril. It was like that then, and it is so even now.

Once, Tatya Kote Patil was to go to Kopergaon to attend bazaar. He hurriedly went to Baba for His permission. Baba said, “Don’t worry about the bazaar. You can go later on. Don’t leave Shirdi now.” Tatya was in no mood to listen. Baba told him to take at least Shyama with him. Tatya told Him that he did not have time for all that and left.

Tatya was going in a Tonga driven by two horses. One of the horses was very active. As soon as the Tonga crossed the well in Sawul, the horse slipped, sprained and fell down. Because of Baba’s blessing nothing happened to Tatya, but he immediately recollected Baba’s warning. On one other occasion while going to Kolhar in a Tonga, he disregarded Baba’s precaution, and met with another accident. Once again, he was protected by Baba’s blessing, but had to return from Babulishwarm itself.


A European, living in Bombay, wanted to have darshan of Baba. He secured an introductory letter from Nanasaheb Chandorkar and arrived in Shirdi. He pitched a tent and stayed in it. His one great desire was to touch Baba’s feet in prostration and lightly kiss Baba’s hand. He attempted three times but was refused each and every time. Baba asked him to be seated in the courtyard below and have His darshan. The European was frustrated and wanted to leave Shirdi. He sought Baba’s permission to go. Baba asked him not to be in a hurry and wait till the next day. The others, assembled there, also gave him the same advice. His frustration was so much that he did not heed their advices. He left Shirdi same day in a Tonga. Initially the journey was smooth. The moment it crossed the well in Sawul, a bicycle came in front of the Tonga, the horses got frightened and the Tonga turned upside down. The European was dragged for some distance. Nothing serious happened to him, but he had to stay for some days in the hospital at Kopergaon for treatment. The result of disregarding Baba’s words was that he neither remained in Shirdi nor could he go to Bombay.

All those who heeded Baba’s words, were able to catch a train even when the departure time had long passed. Their journey was always smooth and comfortable. Those who chose to follow their own advice always ended up in discomfort.


Initially, Hemad Pant also did not pay attention to Baba’s precautions. Once, he had come with his family for Baba’s darshan. After his stay was over, he wanted to go back. Baba told him to have food and then leave. As the departure time for the train was fast approaching, he left Shirdi immediately in a bullock cart. Because of the short time, the cart was driven fast. One of the wheels got disengaged and by the time they could get the wheel fixed and bring the cart into action once again, time was running fast and they reached the station after the train had left. They had to find food in some small place and were made to wait in adverse weather till the next train arrived. Had they followed Baba’s advice, not only would they have got good food, but could have been more comfortable.


If Baba was such a great saint, even God Himself, and was granting the wishes of all His devotees, then why should He resort to begging for His own food? This doubt could arise in the minds of some of the devotees. The answer can be given at two different levels. The first level is to consider those who are eligible to beg. According to our scriptures, those householders who have got rid of or are free from the three desires of progeny, wealth and fame cannot cook food. Hence they are eligible to beg and the responsibility of feeding them rests on the other householders who are still after the three desires. Sai Baba was a sanyasi and did not come under this category. But, Baba showed that the entire universe was His home and hence He was eligible to beg. God Shiva Himself was a beggar, indeed, the first one - Adi Bhikshu.

The second level is to consider the five sins and their expiation. The preparation of food involves five processes - Kandani or pounding, Peshani or grinding, Udukumbhi or washing pots, Marjani or sweeping and cleaning, and Chulli or lighting the fire. During all these processes, unknowingly or knowingly, lot of small insects and creatures are destroyed. Because of this, the householders accumulate some sins. To expiate these sins, five sacrifices have to be done –

1. Brahma Yagna or offerings to Brahma, Vedaadhyana or study of Vedas,

2. Pitru Yagna or offerings to the ancestors,

3. Deva Yagna or offerings to gods,

4. Bhoota Yagna or offerings to beings and

5. Atithi Yagna or offerings to uninvited guests.

By doing these yagnas, the householders can effectively wash away their sins, purify themselves and acquire knowledge and self-realization.

By offering alms to Baba, the householders of Shirdi were performing Atithi Yagna and by being magnanimous enough to accept their alms Baba was purifying them of their sins and making them eligible for self-realization.

Like King Bali, blessed indeed are those who are able to give alms to God! Anything offered with devotion and love is accepted by God.

Patram pushpam phalam to yam yo me bhaktyaa prayachchati
Tadaham bhaktyupahrutam asnami prayataatmanaha
Ch.9 Sl.26
Whoever offers me leaves, flowers, fruits or fresh water with loving devotion, I accept the devotional offering with affection from that pure hearted being.

Baba not only accepted whatever was offered, but he reminded the devotees if they intended to offer something and later forgot about it. He made them offer the same and then blessed them.


Ramachandra Atmaram Tarkhad, also known as Babasaheb Tarkhad, was a specialist in cotton textiles and was secretary to Khatau Group of Mills. He was also a member of Prarthana Samaj. He first visited Shirdi in 1910 AD and since then he and his family became staunch devotees of Baba. His son, Jyotindra, had a mandir made of sandalwood, in which he kept a portrait of Baba and worshipped Him three times a day. He never touched food before he offered naivedyam to Baba. After the morning pooja, father and son would leave for their textile Mill at Byculla.

Once Babasaheb Tarkhad developed an urge to send cotton rolls to Baba so that he can make kafni out of it for his personal use. He suggested to Jyotindra to go to Shirdi along with his mother, Smt Satyabhama Bai and deliver the offerings to Baba. Jyotindra was unwilling to go, as he was sure that if he went to Shirdi, no one would perform Baba’s pooja in the house. His father being a member of Prarthana Samaj did not believe in idol worship. Only after the father promised that he would not touch food before doing Baba’s pooja, the son agreed to go. He and his mother left for Shirdi on Friday evening.

The next morning, as he had promised his son, Tarkhad woke up in the Brahmi muhurtham (90 minutes before sunrise), took bath and performed pooja exactly as his son used to do. He offered crystal sugar as naivedyam. The naivedyam was distributed at lunchtime. This continued till Monday evening. On Tuesday, when Tarkhad came for lunch he found that the crystal sugar was not there. He asked the servant about the naivedyam and was told that the naivedyam was not offered in the morning. Tarkhad was full of remorse. He fell at the feet of Baba’s portrait, asked Baba to forgive him. Then he wrote a letter to his son telling him all the facts and also requested him to ask Baba’s pardon for his lapse. This took place on Tuesday noon at Bandra.

There in Shirdi, at the same time, an interesting event happened. After the afternoon Aarati in Dwarkamai, when Mrs. Tarkhad and Jyotindra went to Baba to seek his blessings, Baba told Mrs. Tarkhad, “Oh Mai! I am very hungry today. As usual I went to Bandra, and I found the door was locked but no one can stop me as I entered from the narrow gap in the door but was totally disappointed as I could not find anything for lunch and I had to return on an empty stomach." Mrs. Tarkhad did not understand a word of what Baba said.

But her son instantly realized that his father must have forgotten to offer naivedyam to Baba during Morning Pooja time. He requested Baba to pardon his father for the grave mistake and sought his permission to leave for Mumbai instantly. Baba did not permit and asked him to stay for some more days. Jyotindra was very restless and wrote a letter to his father stating the details of what Baba had uttered. Both the letters crossed each other and were delivered next day to the father and the son. They both realized that Baba really keeps a track of His devotees. Nothing could be hidden from Him. It was also a reminder to them that He is very much present in that photo frame and that He accepts their daily offerings unfailingly.


During one of her visits to Shirdi, Mrs. Tarkhad had to stay with a friend there. Things were getting ready for the afternoon meals and she was about to start eating. At that time, a dog came there wagging its tail and indicating that it was hungry. Mrs Tarkhad gave the dog a roti. After the dog ate the food and went away, a pig totally covered with mud entered the dining place. Though it was not a good sight, Mrs. Tarkhad gave the pig also a roti. The pig ate the food and went away happily. Mrs. Tarkhad completely forgot about the incident.

As usual, when she went to masjid to see Baba, Baba affectionately called her to Him and told her, “Mai, today you have fed me sumptuously. My pangs of hunger have been satiated. Follow this always. It will do you immense good. Eat only after the hungry have been fed. Remember this and be blessed. I will not tell an untruth.” Mrs. Tarkhad did not understand a word of what Baba said. She confessed her ignorance to Baba. She said, “Baba you are mistaken! I have never given you food in Shirdi, as I do not cook any food over here. In fact, I myself eat the food in one of the restaurants over here run by Mr. Saguna and pay for it.” Baba’s affection for her increased. He said, “Oh mai! This afternoon when you were taking your lunch did you not offer food to a dog followed by an ugly looking pig? That food has reached me.The delicious roti you gave Me today really satisfied My hunger. The compassion you showed when you fed the hungry dog and the dirty pig filled me with happiness and contentment. Know that the atman, which is in those animals and the atman that is in Me is one and same. I assume various forms. Those who see Me in all those forms without any distinction are very dear to Me. Abandon the duality and the distinction and worship Me as you did today. That alone can please Me.” Listening to these words replete with knowledge and wisdom, Mrs Tarkhad’s eyes dimmed with tears of emotion. She understood that she was indeed blessed by Baba.


Another devotee of Baba, Raghuvir Bhaskar Purandare of Bandra, once went to Shirdi for Baba’s darshan. As Mrs Tarkhad knew Mrs Purandare, she took two big black brinjals (egg plant) to her and requested her to prepare bhareeta (roasted brinjals mixed with curd and spices) with one of the brinjals and kachariya (fried brinjal curry) with the other and feed Baba with them. Mrs Purandare agreed and took those brinjals to Shirdi.

During one of those days she prepared bhareeta with one of the brinjals and took it to Baba after the noon aarati. Baba found it very tasty and remarked that it would have been wonderful if kachariya was also there. Radhakrishna Mai was told to bring the kachariya. She did not know what to do, as it was not the season of brinjals in Shirdi. She found out that one Mrs. Purandare had brought the bhareeta. Radhakrishna Mai went to her and asked if she had kachariya. Mrs Purandare explained her that Mrs Tarkhad had given her two brinjals, one for preparing bhareeta and the other for preparing kachariya. She had prepared bhareeta that day and wanted to prepare kachariya the next day. She also told Radhakrishna Mai the reason for not making kachariya that day. She felt that as Baba liked brinjals, He may like to have the brinjal dishes on two separate days to double the pleasure of eating brinjals instead of eating both on the same day. Everyone was satisfied with this reply. On returning to Bandra, when Mrs. Purandare informed Mrs. Tarkhad about this incident, she was completely overwhelmed and thanked Baba from the bottom of her heart. This is another example of Baba’s intense love towards His devotee and also confirming to the devotee in return the receipt of devotion from him/her.


In December 1915 AD, Sri Balakram Mankar, one of Baba’s devotees, passed away at Shirdi. His son, Govind Balakram Mankar, who was in Bandra at that time, wanted to go to Shirdi to perform the obsequies of his father. He met Tarkhad before his journey. As he was going to Shirdi, Mrs. Tarkhad wanted to offer something to Baba. Even after a thorough search, she could not find anything. She saw a pedha, which was already offered, as naivedyam. She was in a dilemma. Those who are in the mourning period of eleven days, after the day of death, are supposed to be impure, and are prevented from touching anything connected with pooja items. She did not know whether Baba would accept anything from such a person. But her devotion for Baba outweighed all other emotions and she sent the pedha with Govind.

Govind went to Shirdi and saw Baba. As he was in the mourning period, he did not take the pedha, afraid that Baba would be angry. Baba waited, but Govind gave him nothing. When he went again in the afternoon, empty handed, to Baba, Baba could no longer wait and asked Govind if he had brought anything for Him. ‘Nothing’ was the reply. Once again Baba asked the same question and got the same answer. As He could not contain Himself any further, He asked directly, “Did not Mai give you something when you started?” The boy felt ashamed, ran to his lodging, brought the pedha with him and gave it to Baba. Baba was very happy to get the pedha and swallowed it immediately. He told Govind, “Tell Mai that it tasted very sweet.” Thus, Baba overrode all the prevailing social customs and acknowledged Mrs. Tarkhad’s devotion and affection.

Ye yatha maam prapadyante taam stataiva bhajamyaham
Mama vartmanuvante manushyaha partha sarvashaha
Ch.4 Sl.11
Whoever surrenders to me in whatever way, I accept them in that way. Hey Partha, all the people strive in all the ways to achieve me only.


‘Perceive Me in all beings’ was what Baba taught us in this chapter. By innumerable examples, some mentioned here and many not mentioned, Baba showed us how the precept of seeing God in all beings without any distinction or discrimination as taught in the holy scriptures of all religions could be put into practice in actual life.

With this the ninth chapter, called the importance of Shirdi pilgrimage and other stories, is complete. In the next chapter, Hemad Pant tells us about Sai Baba’s mode of life, His teachings, His miracles and other matters.

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

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