Monday, April 6, 2009

||chapter thirty-seven||

|| sri sai satcharitra ||

|| chapter thirty - seven ||

|| chavadi procession ||

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

In this chapter, Hemad Pant tells us about the Chavadi Procession and other matters.


Baba’s life was very difficult for anyone to understand. His life was an enigma and full of riddles. At times He appeared totally immersed in brahmananda (divine joy). At other times He appeared content with self knowledge. Some of the times, He appeared to be doing several things at the same time, but He also appeared to be totally unconnected with the things He was doing. At some other times, He looked calm and quiet like a deep sea, doing practically nothing, but He was not idle or sleeping. He was always thinking of the welfare of His devotees. How can anyone describe His ineffable nature? He always considered women as sisters or mothers, and men as brothers. He never discriminated his devotees on the basis of sex, creed or caste. He treated all alike. He was equally interested in the welfare of all. Protection of His devotees was the only criterion for Baba. After protecting them from difficulties and dangers, He gives what all they ask from Him. And then, depending on their individual capabilities, gives them knowledge, guiding them finally on to the spiritual path. We are also helped to a great extent in acquiring the knowledge by reading Satcharitra. Most complicated and complex philosophical concepts are explained by very simple stories of people who underwent these experiences.

Hemad Pant then narrates lengthy discussions on some of the abstract concepts of Vedanta. He himself considers this as a digression and then describes one of the grandest scenes, the Chavadi procession.


Baba followed the practice of sleeping one night in the masjid and then one night in the Chavadi (a small building containing one or two rooms near the masjid). Thus, on alternate nights He slept in the Chavadi. He maintained this practice till His Mahasamadhi.

From 10 December 1909, devotees began worshipping Baba in the Chavadi and the tradition of the Chavadi procession was started. On the night on which Baba slept in the Chavadi, devotees carried out Bhajans for more than two hours and when it was time for Baba to sleep, the devotees took Baba in a grand procession from the masjid to the Chavadi. It is a scene which remains permanently etched in the memories of all Sai devotees. Come; let us also join the procession. People have gathered near the masjid. Some are performing Bhajans in the courtyard. Behind them is a beautiful Ratha (chariot). To the right is the Tulsi brindavan In front is Baba. All those interested in Bhajans are coming and joining the group. Both men and women are there. Some have Tal, some have chiplis, and others have kartal, mridang, khanjari and ghol (all are musical instruments) in their hands and are in frenzy doing Bhajans. Baba is the prime force drawing all the devotees to Him here.

Outside of this group there are some persons who are holding divatyas (torches made of heavy cloth wrapped at the end of stick and soaked in oil) and are trimming it so that the flame is uniform. There are some others who have gathered round the palki (palanquin). They are decorating it tastefully with flowers and some leaves which give it a very beautiful look. There are some who have sticks in their hands and trying to control the crowds, so that when Baba comes out, the passage is clear. They are also shouting ‘Sainath Maharaj Ki Jai’. Small earthen lamps with small wicks and oil in them are kept all around the masjid and are giving a strange glow to the masjid. In the dark night, these lamps are twinkling like the bright stars in the sky. Baba’s horse, ‘Shyamakarna’ is standing near the door fully decorated. Someone is tying small trinkets around its legs, so that when it paces forward, musical sounds are heard. All the children are in new clothes, and their mothers are in new sarees.

Tatya Patil has just entered the masjid. He has gone to Baba and is asking Him to be ready. Baba told him that He is ready and is waiting for him. Baba is wearing the usual kafni. He has His satka under the armpit. He took a small puff from His chillum, kept it in His hand. Then He put a shawl over His shoulder. After finding out that everything is fine, Tatya Patil came back to Baba and said, “Mama, shall we go?” Baba said, “Yes”. Tatya placed a beautiful gold embroidered shawl over the shoulders of Baba. With the shawl draped over both the shoulders, Baba is looking very attractive. Baba got up and with His right toe moved the firewood burning in the Dhuni further inside. With His right hand He has extinguished the burning lamp. When Baba Himself is self illuminating, where is the necessity of the lamp?

He has come to the threshold of the masjid and is waiting for come one. Seeing Baba come out, all those playing musical instruments, baaja, band etc have raised their pitch higher. The noise made by the shouting of ‘Sainath Maharaj Ki Jai’ is reaching the sky. Slightly further away, some one has started fireworks. The night is illuminated by the multi coloured hues of the crackers, and other fireworks. All the devotees, both male and female, have started moving ahead singing Baba’s name and performing Bhajans to the accompaniment of mridang and veena. Baba is slowly getting down the steps of the masjid and the uniformed escorts are loudly announcing Baba’s name. Tatya has come back and is holding Baba’s left hand. He is tenderly guiding Baba down the steps. Mhalsapathi has come just now and has taken Baba’s right hand. Bapusaheb Jog is behind Baba and is holding the chhatri (umbrella) over Baba’s head. Long folded sheets of white cloth have been spread on the ground from the threshold of the masjid to the threshold of the Chavadi. Baba will walk on these sheets. Devotees do not want that the feet of their God should get dirty by walking on the road. With the fully decorated Shyamakarna leading the way and all the others, the Bhajan singers, music players, and the crowd of devotees coming behind, Baba slowly walked down the steps of the masjid towards the Chavadi. The Hari Nama chanted to the accompaniment of music rent the skies. Everyone is shouting ‘Sadguru Sainath Maharaj Ki Jai’ deliriously at the top of their voice. With this entire joyous atmosphere, the procession has slowly moved up to the corner of the masjid. People are happy and delighted. The procession has stopped now. Why is it not moving further? Let us see why.

Baba has stopped suddenly. He is facing the Chavadi with great lustre radiating from every inch of His body. His face is shining like the glory of the morning sun. He is facing north and looks like He is searching for someone. Yes, there is Kakasaheb Dixit with a silver plate in his hand. The plate contains various flowers and gulal (coloured soft powder). Everyone is keenly watching. Kaka has taken the flowers and has started sprinkling on Baba. He is also sprinkling the gulal. Baba has again started moving slowly towards the Chavadi with His right arm moving up and down. The musical instruments have once again picked up the high pitch and are blowing at their zestiest. Baba’s face is beaming with steady radiance and beauty. All the people around are very happy and preserving this image of Baba safely in their hearts, thus purifying their lives. Words just fail to describe the happiness prevalent in the atmosphere. Mhalsapathi is so excited that he has started dancing small slow steps in circles with his hands clapping to the rhythm of the Bhajans. With all this noise and Bhajans etc, it is surprising that Baba’s concentration has not changed even slightly. Meanwhile, Tatya who had left the procession earlier has secured a lantern and is holding it in his hand and walking on the left side of Baba and is very near to Him. Mhalsapathi has stopped his dancing and is walking behind Baba holding the hem of Baba’s garment. What a beautiful procession and such adulation and devotion! Everyone in this procession is really very lucky to participate. Baba is walking slowly and the procession has now reached the Chavadi. There is joy and only joy everywhere in the air.

The Chavadi is very tastefully decorated. The ceiling has been recently whitewashed. Many lamps are decoratively hanging from the ceiling. Big mirrors have been placed all around on the walls. With the reflections coming from the mirrors of the hanging lamps, the place appears to be illuminated like a moonlit night of the full moon. Let us welcome the procession, which has come near the doorstep. Tatya has come inside the Chavadi. He is spreading an asana (seat cushion) for Baba to sit. He has also placed a bolster on the asana for Baba to rest his back. Mhalsapathi has brought Baba inside and Tatya has also joined them. Both Tatya and Mhalsapathi are helping Baba to sit comfortably on the asana. Sitting on the asana, Baba is looking relaxed. There is a mild smile on His face. Tatya has draped another shawl on Baba’s shoulders. The devotees are slowly coming, one by one, to worship Baba.

This is the most beautiful scene. Some one has placed a crown with a tuft of peacock feathers on Baba’s head. He is now looking like Lord Sri Krishna. A devotee has brought plenty of garlands. Baba is now being garlanded. Some one is decorating Him with a necklace of jewels. With all these decorations, Baba is really looking very stunning. Oh, another devotee has come forward and is applying musk mixed vertical lines and a circle below, typical of Vaishnavite tradition. That devotee has moved slightly to the left and seeing how Baba looks. Satisfied and happy, he has now gone back. Baba understands the devotees’ enthusiasm and is meekly submitting to all of their whims and fancies without a single objection or disapproval. He looks completely at ease and extremely beautiful.

Nanasaheb Nimonkar has taken over the Chhatri from Bapusaheb Jog. Nanasaheb is behind Baba. He is occasionally turning the Chhatri round so that the small trinkets attached to it will make pleasant sounds. Bapusaheb has brought a silver plate and kept it below Baba’s feet. He is slowly lifting Baba’s feet and keeping it in the plate. Now that Baba’s feet are in the plate, Bapusaheb is washing the feet with water and offering ‘arghya’. He is now chanting Sai Namas and formally performing pooja to Baba. He is applying chandan paste to Baba’s arms, cheeks and feet. With that over, Bapusaheb is offering tambulam (betel leaves). He is now prostrating at the feet of Baba. It is now the turn of Tatya to prostrate. He has completed it and has moved slightly back. Others are coming one by one and falling at the feet of Baba. Some of the devotees are fanning Him with chaamaras on either side of Baba.

Meanwhile, Shyama has prepared the chillum and given it to Tatya. He has drawn a flame out of it by inhaling a deep breath through it and is giving it to Baba. Baba took a puff from that and handed over the chillum to Mhalsapathi. Mhalsapathi has inhaled it, it is being passed around for others. Some more devotees have brought garlands. They are garlanding Baba now. Some are applying scent on His hand. Some have offered Him flowers. Except submitting to their various worships, Baba is as aloof as ever. Being totally dispassionate and completely non-attached to any of these adulations, Baba is in perfect equanimity. Out of real love to His devotees, He is allowing them to have their own way. All are standing aside, after the prostrations at the feet of Baba are over. Bapusaheb has brought the arati and is offering to Baba. The entire atmosphere, with the cool breeze of the night flowing and the musical instruments playing the devotional arati, was filled with a divinity unparalleled. Everyone’s heart was singing in chorus and praying that Baba should bless them all and protect them always. The arati is over. The devotees are coming to Baba and taking leave of Him. One by one everyone has left, only Tatya is there.

Tatya is offering the chillum, and then attar (perfume) and rose water. He is getting up to go. Baba has stopped him and saying something to him. Let us go slightly closer. Baba is saying, “Go, if you want. But, come back sometime in the night and look after Me.” Assuring Him that he would, Tatya has left the Chavadi and went home. Being left alone, all the devotees having gone, Baba is preparing the bed Himself. He spread 50 or 60 bedspreads one on another. He is testing if it is comfortable. Having satisfied, He is lying down on the bed, prepared by Himself, and begun to take rest.

That scene and those days are gone for ever, never to come back. We cannot see any of them now or in the near future. We can only recall those scenes, think of those people who had unflinching, passionate faith in Baba and surrendered everything to Him and showed us what devotion and dedication is. By refreshing those scenes everyday, we can bring solace and comfort to our minds. Let us read this chapter and think of Baba before going to bed in the night, so that one of these nights, Baba will bless us by coming in our dream. He is our only solace in this turbulent and vicious world. Sri Samarth Sadguru Sainath Maharaj Ki Jai!!!

With this, the thirty seventh chapter, called as Chavadi Procession, is complete. In the next chapter, Hemad Pant tells us about Baba’s Handi, disrespect of shrine, Kala or hodge-podge, the cup of buttermilk and other matters.

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

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