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Shiradee Sai Baabaa

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Shiradee Sai Baabaa
Unknown (1838?)-Oct 15, 1918 = 80 yrs
Read a   Story About Sai Baabaa

Sai Baabaa was regarded a Guru, Faqeer, saint both by Hindu and Muslims equally. Some regard him the incarnation of Krishn, while others regard him the incarnation of Dattaatreya. His real name is not known. Sai title was given to him when he came to Shiradee - a town in Mahaaraashtra. A local temple priest recognized him as a Muslim saint and greeted him "Ya Sai" (means "Welcome Sai"). Sai, in Persian to a Soofee saint; and Baabaa means father, or grandfather, or an old man.

Shiradee town is situated in Rahata Tahasil in Ahmednagar District of Mahaaraashtra State (India). It falls on Ahmednagar-Manmad State Highway No. 10 at 83 Km. from Ahmednagar, and 15 Km. from Kopar Gaaon. It (the Ahmednagar -Manmad road) was a very busy route in the old times. It is located at 185 Km to the East from Western Seashore line.

A Yogee named Premaanand was dedicated to practicing of Yog. The real meaning of Yog is melting and merging in the Divine. Premaanand practiced Yog for the real purpose and found difficulties in attaining his goal. Some one advised him to visit Shiradee and meet Sai Baabaa, who was one with Supreme soul and that he would be the right person to guide him. Listening to them Premaanand visited Shiradee. When he came near Dwaarakaamaai, he saw Sai Baabaa sitting with devotees and eating. He noticed that Sai Baabaa took bites of onions with the food. Onion was a favorite food of Sai Baabaa. Premanand's mind immediately rebelled against this. He knew that the Yogee have to stay away from the onions due to its Taamasik properties.

He was still a little far away from Sai Baabaa. Sai Baabaa did not want him to leave like that, and since he knew everything and every person's thoughts, he spoke out loudly, "Onions should be eaten by the ones who can digest them, to those the Taamasik properties cannot influence. For those getting influenced by the Taamasik properties should not eat them, that is also true." These words and the Divine attraction of Sai Baabaa removed the doubts of Premaanand. He stayed in Shiradee for a long time and benefited beyond his expectations.

Reported Miracles by Sai Baabaa
Sai Baba's millions of disciples and devotees believe that he performed many miracles such as bi-location, levitation, mind reading, materialization, exorcisms, making the river Yamunaa, entering a state of Samaadhi at will, and lightning lamps with water, removing his limbs or intestines and sticking them back to his body (Khandan yoga), curing the incurably sick, appearing beaten when another was beaten, after death rising on third day like Jesus Christ, preventing a mosque from falling down on people, and helping his devotees in a miraculous way. He also gave Darshan (vision) to people in the form of Raam, Krishn, Vithobaa and many other Gods depending on the faith of devotees. According to his followers he has appeared to them in dreams also after his death, and gave them advice. His devotees have documented many stories.

By lighting the lamp, you are getting rid of your sins. Read an incident from Shiradee Sai Baabaa's life:
When Shiradee Sai Baabaa first came to Shiradee, he used to go from home to home and from shop to shop begging for oil in a tin cup. With that oil, he would light numerous lamps in the nearby mosque. Later some mischief-mongers created a problem concerning his religion, after which no one offered to give him oil anymore. Then he filled his mouth with some water and went to the mosque and emptied the water into his tin cup. With the water, he lit all the lamps. By then, everyone had gathered to watch this miracle. Baabaa told them, "You people don't realize why I light these lamps getting oil from you. I do it only for your sake. I am burning your sins by lighting these lamps in the oil that you give!"
Baba had promised that, "I shall be active and vigorous even from the tomb," and it is perhaps in the Mandir that we can most fully experience the phenomenon of Sai Baba and the remarkable way he has touched the hearts and lives of millions of people from all over the globe. Baba's omniscient presence is felt when one has Baba's glance, when one sits at Baba's feet. At any given point, the shrine is full of devotees eagerly queuing up to have Baba's Darshan. People carry flowers, garlands, sweets, or fruit to offer Baba at His Samaadhi. Some may have personal items - such as a shawl, book, key to new possession, etc, for which they want to get Baba's blessing by offering it at his feet and having it touch his tomb.

Samaadhi Mandir
"Sri Satchidaanand Sadguru Sai Naath Maharaj ki Jai !" (Hail the great Sadguru, Lord Sai, who is being-consciousness-bliss!) is the chant on the lips of most of His devotees while most others may sing Bhajan or whisper prayers. At busy times, especially during festivals, the queue for Darshan used to stretch for hundreds of meters along the village streets, though the recently constructed Queue Complex has changed this. People may wait up to eight hours just for the opportunity to pay brief homage to their Lord. The atmosphere of fervent and one-pointed devotion reaches its zenith here. "Attention one and all" commands the noon Aaratee psalm, "Come, come quickly and make obeisance to Sai Baba!" This is exactly what the devotees are hastening to do, and to be part of this torrent of emotion is a powerful experience. In this form, thousands of people a day are able to take Baba's Darshan and pay their homage to Him.

Origins of the Samaadhi Mandir
The shrine which houses Baba's tomb was originally constructed as a Baadaa (large private house) during Baba's last years in his physical body. It is built on some land that Baba had tended as a garden. Sai Baba seemed to like growing plants and in his early days. He cleared and leveled this land, which had been used as dumping ground. Using seeds that he had brought from Rahata, he planted it with jasmine and marigold. For about three years Baba would water the plants every day and distribute the flowers to the local temples. Now that his tomb is here and Baba is receiving so many devotees, it seems that he is nurturing plants of a different nature – and still sowing seeds.

The shrine was built by a wealthy devotee from Naagpur, Gopalrao Booty. The "Sri Sai Satcharitra" describes him as a "multimillionaire". He was introduced to Baba by SB Dhumal about ten years before Baba's Mahaa-Samaadhi. The Baadaa was originally intended as a rest house and Mandir. The inspiration for the building came to Booty in a dream, when he was sleeping beside his friend and fellow devotee, Shama, Baba appeared and told him to build a house and a temple.

Excited by his vision, Booty immediately woke up and pondered its significance. He noticed that Shama had tears in his eyes and asked him what the matter was. It transpired that Shama had just had the same dream and was deeply touched by it. He told Booty, Baba came near me and said distinctly, "Let there be a Baadaa with a temple so that I can satisfy the desires of all." Together then they drew up some rough sketches, showed them to Dixit for approval, then took them straightaway to Baba to ask His permission to go ahead with the plan. Baba responded warmly and gave his blessing to the project. The work began around 1915. It was built in stone and was therefore known as Dagadee (stone) Baadaa. Shama supervised the construction of the basement, ground floor and well. Later, Baapoo Saaheb Job took over supervising the work.

When Baba passed the site on his way to Lendee, he would sometimes offer suggestions. As the building progressed, Booty asked Baba if he could include a temple on the ground floor with an statue of Muraleedhar (a form of Krishn). Baba readily gave permission, and said, "When the temple is built, we shall inhabit it and ever afterwards live in joy." Shama then asked Baba if that was an auspicious time to start the work and Baba replied that it was. Shama immediately fetched and broke a coconut as Muhoort (good omen) and the work was begun. The foundation was quickly laid, a pedestal prepared and an order placed for the idol. However, the significance of Baba's comment was appreciated a few years later.

Baba's Unforeseen Moving-in
It was around this time that Baba fell ill and His devotees feared the worst. Booty also felt dejected, wondering whether Baba would live to even see the completed Baadaa, never mind grace it with His presence. The whole construction seemed pointless to him if Baba was not going to remain there in his body. However, Baba was to move into the Baadaa in a way that had not been foreseen by others. His health rapidly deteriorated and on 15 October 1918 he lay with his body fading fast. His last words were ,"I am not feeling well in the Masjid. Carry me to the Dagadee Baadaa". Baba was indeed carried to the Baadaa, and was buried in the place where the image of Murleedhar was to have been placed: an edifice was later raised over the tomb.

Baba's Mahaa-Samaadhi
The day that Baba took Mahaa-Samaadhi, Tuesday 15 October 1918, was a very auspicious one for Hindu ; it also happened to be the Muslim month of Ramzaan. October 15 was the Hindu festival of holy Vijayaa Dashamee, a few minutes into Ekaadashee (a significant lunar cycle in the Hindu calendar). Two months previously Baba had sent a message to Banne Miyaa Fakeer, saying that "On the 9th day, of the 9th month, Allaah is taking away the lamp he lit". He also sent some offerings to the Fakeer Shamsuddeen Miyaa and a request to do Moulu, Qawwaalee (both are types of devotional singing) and Nyaas (poor feeding). Thus right up until his final moments in the body, Baba was embracing both communities.

The news of Baba's passing spread quickly, and thousands came to Dwaarkaamaaee for a final Darshan, queuing for five or six hours. The body was kept on the handcart all night, while preparations – digging a pit and building the platform went on. Before the burial, Baba's Kafanee was removed and he was given a final bath. It is reported that even at this stage, his body remained soft, as if he were merely sleeping, Earlier, while the body was in the wheel chair, his nose started to bleed (usually impossible for a corpse).

36 hours after he had left his body, Baba was finally interred. Certain personal articles were buried with him: the broken brick, now mended with gold and silver wire, one of his Satkas, a Chilam, needle and cotton (Baba would mend his clothes until they were a mass of repairs, a cause of affectionate amusement among close devotees), some spices to preserve the body, and an old cloth bag that Baba never allowed anyone to touch, but which devotees investigated after his Mahaa-Samaadhi and found that it contained a green Kafanee and a cap. The burial was completed by very early Thursday morning. A photograph of Sai Baba was placed on a throne on the platform of the tomb. It remained there until the statue was installed in 1954. That picture is now kept in the recess of the Samadhi Mandir where some other things of Baba's are on display.

The Mandir that we see now is about twice the size of the original building, having been later extended back from the stone arches. As the temple authorities try to find new ways of coping with the ever-increasing flow of visitors, various alternations are made. In 1998 a hall was added to the back of the Mandir, so that it has again almost doubled in size. A big beautiful hall, connecting Masjid (Dwaarkaamaaee) has been built up.

For pilgrims to Shiradi, Darshan at Baba's tomb is the climax of their visit and the statue of the tomb represents the living, breathing God. As such, it is the focus of all their longings, hopes and desires, and a concrete form to which they can express their love. The statue is admired as an extraordinary and exquisite image, exclUdeeng grace and benevolence. Baba sits relaxed, natural and majestic, gazing benignly on the millions of diverse visitors who flock to him for succor. Many have commented on the lifelike quality of the eyes, as these are typically the most difficult feature to portray in a stone sculpture. In this statue, they really do seem to be looking at us and responding.

Baba repeatedly assured devotees that he would never cease to answer their call, and that his mission is "to give blessings". The pull of the tomb above which the idol sits, is powerful and intense and is drawing seekers to Shiradee in numbers that increase by the week. Here, devotees address their heartfelt prayers, beg for help, give thanks and offerings for prayers answered and wishes fulfilled, sign their devotion, and pay humble obeisance to their beloved deity. For them, the idol does not merely represent God, it is God; and the opportunity to prostrate before it and make oblations may be fulfillment of a lifetime's ambition.

The Statue
The statue, which has become such a famous and well-loved image of Baba, was not installed until 1954, 36 years after his Mahaa-Samaadhi, and there is an intriguing story behind it. Some white marble arrived from Italy at the Bombay docks, but nobody seemed to know anything about it who it was for, or why it had come there. In the absence of a claimant, the dockyard auctioned it and the purchaser offered it to the Shiradee Sansthaan (temple authorities). Impressed by the quality of the marble, they wanted to use it for the idol of Baba and gave the commission to a sculpture from Bombay, Baalaa Jee Vasant Talim. However, the latter had only one black and white photo of Baba as his model, and was struggling to get the likeness. One night Baba came to him in a dream, remarked on his difficulties and then showed him his face from various angles, encouraging Talim to study it thoroughly and remember it well. This gave Talim the fillip he needed and after that the work flowed easily and the result exceeded all expectations.

The statue was installed on 7 October 1954, on Vijayaa Dashamee day. As the main object of adoration in Shiradee, the idol is accorded all due honors. Out of their love for Baba devotees wish to provide every comfort and respect they can. Accordingly, Baba is given a hot water bath in morning, offered breakfast, lunch and dinner, has his clothes changed four times a day before each Aaratee and is adorned with a silver or gold crown for the Aaratee worship. At night a mosquito net is hung and the tomb is spread with a special white cloth, of plain cotton, of the kind that Baba's Kafanee was made. Each morning at five o'clock, Baba is awaken up, the mosquito net is removed, and incense is offered (this ritual in known as Bupaalee). A glass of water is also kept by his side.

After the first Aaratee of the day, an Abhishek (ritual bathing of the idol with water, milk curd, ghee etc) is performed. Devotees may sponsor the Aabhishek by contacting the Sansthaan. Visitors may also donate cloth for Baba, which will be wrapped around the statue. Later all the cloth that Baba has "worn" is put on sale in the Sansthan shop which is at a few minutes walk from the Mandir. Many people like to buy cloth that has been sanctified in this way and use it for their altar or some other sacred purpose.

The Display Of Baba's Belongings
In the Museum some things associated with Baba are on display. These include three pairs of sandals (though Baba was almost always barefoot), his folded clothes in a glass fronted cupboard, several Chilams, ornaments for Shyaam Sunder the horse, cooking pots and a silver palanquin. There is one other item here which, though insignificant looking, perhaps holds the greatest fascination for Sai devotees, and that is Baba's Leelaa. It is not that Baba gave it so much importance (as he did, say, to the brick), but whenever someone or something was to be chastised or driven out, we usually find that the Satakaa is there, being shaken, waved threateningly, or beaten on the ground. For example, when a sudden cyclone hit Shiradee, trapping the devotees in the mosque and causing them to fear for their lives, crops and livelihoods, Baba upon being appealed to, simply shook his Satakaa and ordered it to stop. In a similar way, he once commanded the wildly leaping flames of the Dhoonee to be calm. The Satakaa was also used to intimidate the group of Muslims waiting to attack Mahalsapati outside the mosque.

On another occasion, Baba used the Satakaa for healing purposes. He had warned Mahalsapati that some misfortune would hit his family, but that Mahalsapati should not worry as he would take care of it. Soon after, several of Mahalsapati' s family fell seriously ill. Some devotees who were doctors offered Mahalsapati medicine, but Baba discouraged him from using them, saying simply that the sick should stay in bed. With that, he walked around the mosque waving the Satakaa exclaiming, "Come on, show us your power. Let's see it, such as it is, and I will show you the power of my Satakaa if you (dare to) come and face me." This was the way Baba treated the disease and cured it without any other medicine.

Arati is a form of congregational worship with music and lights, which is celebrated with particular elan in Mahaaraashtra and especially in Shiradee. For many who come to Shiradee, attendance at arati is one of the highlights of their visit. It is perhaps during arati that we can most easily experience the essence of Shiradee and the power of Baba's presence. Some people experienced a heightened state and speak of a dissolution of the sense of separation, the erosion of the boundary between self and God. Others say that this is the time when Baba comes "alive" for them and answers their questions and prayers. Of the thirty or so devotional songs sung in the Aaratee, about half were specially composed for Baba and the remainder are traditional Aaratee songs by the medieval poet saints of Mahaaraashtra. Most of them are in Marathi with a couple of each in Hindi and Sanskrit.

Aaratee is held four times a day at Baba's Samadhi: at 5 am, noon, sunset (around 6.30 pm) and at 10 pm. A siren resounds throughout the village a few minutes before the noon and sunset Aaratee, and at 4 o'clock in the morning. The bell is also rung in Dwaarkaamaaee and the ceremony is broadcast by an amplified system throughout the village. To attend Aaratee it s best to go early and join those waiting in the Queue Complex, where there will be a separate line from the regular Darshan queue. It was in Dwaarkaamaaee that Aaratee was originally performed to Baba and devotees still flock here to fervently join in the Aaratee worship.

Baba was a simple fakir. He was a model of dispassion and holy poverty. His personal possessions amounted to little more than a few pieces of cloth, some Chilam pipes, a stick, a begging bowl, and a change of Kafanee – and not even always that.

Dwaarakaamaaee (Samaadhi Mandir)
To the devotees of Sai Baba, Dwaarakaamaaee is one of the treasures of Shiradee. The spirit of tolerance, acceptance and welcome for all is very much alive there. Baba has said that merely going inside the mosque will confer blessings, and the experiences of devotees confirm this. Sai Baba respected all religions and creeds, and all had free access to the mosque. It is typically unique of Sai Baba that he regarded a place of worship – the mosque – as a mother. He once told a visitor, "Dwaarakaamaaee is this very mosque. She makes those who ascend her steps fearless. This Masjid Maaee is very kind. Those who come here reach their goal !"

Here a great diversity of devotional expression is noticed. Some people will be kneeling before Baba's picture of making offerings, others will be praying before the Dhoonee (perpetually burning sacred fire), some may be doing Jap or reading from sacred texts, and others will be sitting in contemplation. If we spend some time here we may become aware of a mysterious phenomenon.

The atmosphere is so homely there but what is perhaps more remarkable, is that his homeliness co-exists with a powerful experience of the sacred and transcendent. The spirit is profoundly moved by "something" – something indefinable, something great, something mysterious, something magnetically attractive. As we explore Sai Baba's Shiradee, this aspect of Baba – at once the concerned mother and the Almighty – is shown again and again. Many devotees relate to Baba as a mother, and many as a God supreme. That these two are so perfectly synthesized in Baba – it is perhaps the most beautiful and unique aspect of Shiradee Sai.

When Sai Baba moved into this mosque it was an abandoned and dilapidated mud structure, much smaller than the one we see today. It was rather a hazardous place to live! Once when Baba was sitting in the mosque, eating with a few devotees, there was a loud crack overhead. Baba immediately raised His hand and said, "Sabar, sabar," ("Wait, wait"). The noise stopped and the group carried on with their meal, but when they got up and went out, a large piece of the roof came crashing down onto the exact spot where they had been sitting. In spite of all this there was no need for any alterations in it. Once, in the mid-1890s, a devotee had some building materials delivered to the mosque, with the intention that they should be used for repair work, but Baba had them redirected to a couple of local temples that were in need of restoration. But eventually he permitted to acquiescing and allowing the work to go ahead and the construction team resorted to working at night, and then only on those alternate nights when Baba slept in Chavadee. By about 1912 the renovation work was complete and all that remained to be done was the metal roofing for the courtyard. For this, one of Baba's most intimate devotees, and some others, arranged for materials to be brought from Bombay. They then set about the work, inclUdeeng digging a trench for the erection of some iron poles, without asking Baba's permission.

When Baba returned from Chavadi to the mosque and saw what was happening he appeared to be furious, demanding, "What is going on ? Who had done this ?" He promptly ripped out the poles with his own two hands (though it has taken several people to carry them), and threw stones at the laborers to drive them away. Then he grabbed his devotee by the scruff of his neck until he was unable to speak and almost choking, and violently berated him. Still he insisted on the need to make repairs. Baba finally relented and by evening he cooled down. Some time after this event, the original mud floor was also replaced with tiles and the work was complete.

When Sri Sai Baba moved into the mosque permanently, he had already been in Shiradee for a number of years, staying mostly under the Neem tree, with an occasional night at the mosque or in the near vicinity. It could be said that Baba's settling in the mosque marked a turning point in his life, or rather, in that of the village itself, as the shift brought him into closer contact with the local people.

Baba's Fondness for Lamps
Although Baba had been healing people since his early days in Shiradee and was sometimes called "Hakeem" (doctor), it was a specific and dramatic event which brought him to the attention of the local populace, and it took place in the mosque. Throughout his life Baba displayed a fondness for lights and lamps and would regularly light Diyaa (small earthenware pots with cotton wicks and oil) in the mosque and certain local temples, in accordance with the Hindu and Muslim view that places of worship should be illuminated at night. For this he depended on the generosity of a few local shop-keepers from whom he used to beg oil. One day, however, both suppliers brusquely refused to give him any oil, claiming that they were out of stock. Baba took this calmly and returned to the mosque empty-handed. The shopkeepers followed him, curious to see what he would do. What they witnessed brought them to their knees in awe and wonder. Baba took some water from the pot kept in mosque, and put it in the jar he used for collecting oil. Shaking it up he drank the oily water, then took another jar of water and filled the four lamps with it. Next he lit the lamps, and – to the shopkeepers' astonishment – they not only burned, but remained alight all night. Afraid of being cursed by a man of such powers, the shopkeepers begged Baba's forgiveness. This was freely given, but Baba pointed out the importance of speaking the truth – if they did not want to give, they should simply say so directly and not lie about it.

The wondrous nature of this event, which is said to have taken place in 1892, and the many such Leelaa which followed, precipitated an influx of visitors to the Shiradee mosque that has never stopped growing. To this day, lamps are burnt continually in Dwaarakaamaaee, providing us with an unbroken link to Baba and the lamps that he himself started and lovingly kept alight.

Association with Dwarakaa
During Baba's time Dwaarakaamaaee was always referred to simply as "the Masjid" or mosque. The name "Dwaarakaamaaee" came into popular vogue only after Baba passed away but was first coined when a devotee once expressed a wish to make a pilgrimage to Dwaarakaa, a town in Gujarat sacred to Krishn. Baba replied that there was no need as that very mosque was Dwaarakaa. "Dwaarakaa" also means "many-gated", and "Maaee" means mother, hence "the many-gated mother" (and Baba did often call it the "Masjidaaee"). The author of Sri Sai Satcharitra, identified another definition of Dwaaarkaa given in the Skand Puraan – a place open to all four castes of people (Braahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shoodra) for the realization of the four corresponding aims of human existence (Moksh or liberation, Dharm or righteousness, Arth or wealth and Kaam or sensual pleasure). In fact, Baba's mosque was open not only to all castes, but also to untouchables and those without caste.

Dhoonee: the Yagya
For many visitors, the Dhoonee is the most significant part of Dwaarakaamaaee, as it is so intimately associated with Baba. The Dhoonee is the sacred, perpetually burning fire that Baba built and which has been maintained ever since, though today the fire is much bigger and is enclosed behind a wire cage. Yagya produces ash which the purest substance on earth and has the power to destroy whatever evil and impure. Baba very generously distributed Udee (ash) to his devotees for protecting them from maladies.

Many other sects also maintain Dhoonee, such as Zoroastrian, Soofee and Hindu (especially the Nath sect). Fire was also important to Baba, as wherever he stayed – whether under the neem tree, in the forest, or in the mosque – he always kept a Dhoonee. Baba did not confine himself to burning only wood on the Dhoonee, but would throw his old clothes on it once they were worn out, and he would adjust the fire with his foot (in Indian culture it is considered disrespectful to touch or point to anything with the foot). One day, the fire in the mosque got wildly out of control, with flames leaping up to the roof. None of those present with Baba dared say anything to him but they were nervous. Baba responded to their uneasiness, not by prayer or supplication, but by majestically rapping his Satakaa (stick) against a pillar and ordering the flames to come down and be calm. At each stroke the flames diminished and the fire was soon restored to normal.

When Baba returned from his morning begging-rounds with a cloth bag of food and a tin pot of liquids, he would first offer some of it at the Dhoonee before taking any himself. We may not be able to discern exactly why or how Baba used the Dhoonee, but it is evident that despite the apparent informality around it, the fire was an important part of his routine. According to the Sri Sai Satcharitra, the fire symbolized and facilitated purification and was the focus of oblations, where Baba would intercede on behalf of his devotees. Once when Baba was asked why he had a fire, he replied that it was for burning our sins, or Karm. It is reported that Baba would spend hours sitting in contemplation by the Dhoonee, facing South, especially in early morning hours after getting up and again at sunset. At these times "He would wave his arms and fingers about, making gestures which conveyed no meaning to the onlookers and saying "Haq" which means "God."

Today the Dhoonee is maintained in a carefully designed structure lined with special fire-bricks, in the same place that Baba used to have it. Baba made an intriguing comment about this spot, saying that it was the burial place of one Muzafar Shah, a well-to-do landowner, with whom he once lived and for whom he had cooked. This is recorded in Charter and Sayings of Sri Sai Baba, but as so frequently when Baba speaks about his personal history, we do not know to which life he was referring to. In 1998 the Sansthan undertook the rebuilding of the Dhoonee pit and re-designed the chimney to its distinctive shape.

The spot where Baba used to sit is marked by a small pair of silver Paadukaa. This was the spot where Baba stood and sat, his finger on the pulse of the universe, controlling, effecting, giving, protecting, never resting but constantly seeing to the needs of his devotees, for as he said, "If I don't take care of my children night and day, what will become of them?"

Udee -
From the earliest days, Baba would give Udee – holy ash from the Dhoonee – to his visitors. The healing power of Baba's Udee is well documented and there are numerous cases of people being healed of pain or sickness by taking Baba's Udee both before and since his Mahaa-Samaadhi. Baba would sometimes apply Udee to his devotees when they arrived, or when they were taking leave of him, and he often gave out handfuls of it which he scooped up from the Dhoonee. The Sri Sai Satcharitra tells us that "when Baba was in a good mood" he sometimes used to sing about Udee "in a tuneful voice and with great joy" : "Sri Ram has come, Oh he has come during his wanderings and he has brought bags full of Udee." Udee is still collected from the fire for distribution. Since this is a continuation of Baba's own practice, and the Udee comes from the very fire that Baba himself lit and tended, it is considered extremely sacred. Today a small tray of Udee is kept for visitors near the steps. For devotees of Sai Baba there is an emotional attachment to Udee as a tangible form of Baba's blessings, a vehicle for Baba's grace and a link to Baba himself. People usually put it on the forehead and/or in the mouth. Udee is available in small packets from a small booth outside the Samadhi Mandir.

The Kolambaa and the Water Pot -
In the southwest corner of the mosque by the Dhoonee is a water pot on a stand, and below it, an earthenware dish known as a Kolambaa. Baba used to beg for his food at least twice a day. He generally visited only five houses and stand outside them calling for alms. Baba would collect the solid food in a cloth bag and any liquid offerings in a small tin pot. When he returned to the mosque he would offer some at the Dhoonee, he would empty it all into a Kolambaa and leave it available for any person or creature to take from, before eating a small quantity himself. In continuance of this tradition, a Kolambaa is still kept here beside the water pot. People leave Naivedya (food offerings) here as a gesture of offering Bhikshaa to Baba, and take it as his Prasaad. As Baba used to keep one or two water pots by the Dhoonee (for drinking and performing ablutions), this tradition is still maintained. Devotees like to take the water a symbol of Baba's teerth (holy water).

The Nimbaar -
On the Western wall of the mosque – in the direction of Mecca – is a Nimbaar or niche, with a set of lamps in front of it. The Nimbaar is a standard feature of all mosques, but the lamps were put there by Baba. In Dwaarakaamaaee this spot, which is near where Baba used to sit, is decorated with a garland of flowers. The Sri Sai Satcharitra relates that it was here that Baba used to have his midday meal, sitting behind a curtain with his back to the Nimbaar, and a row of devotees on either side of him. This is also the place where Baba would sleep with his head pointing towards the Nimbaar, with Mahalsapati on one side of him and Tatya Kote Patil on the other.

The Grinding Stone and Bag of Wheat
A grinding stone – a common household item in rural India – is kept in the north corner of the western wall. Baba apparently had two or three such stones (another is on display in the Samadhi Mandir), which he occasionally used for grinding wheat. The most famous of these became the inspiration for Hemadpant's celebrated Sri Sai Satcharitra. It is described as follows :

"One morning, some time after the year 1910, while I was in Shiradee, I went to see Sai Baba at his mosque. I was surprised to find him making preparations for grinding an extraordinary quantity of wheat. After arranging a gunny sack on the floor he placed a hand-operated flour mill on it and, rolling up the sleeves of his robe, he started grinding the wheat. I wondered at this, as I knew that Baba owned nothing, stored nothing and lived on alms. Others who had come to see him wondered about this too, but nobody had the temerity to ask any questions. As the news spread through the village, more and more men and women gathered at the mosque to find out what was going on. Four of the women in the watching crowd forced their way through and, pushing Baba aside, grabbed the handle of the flour mill. Baba was enraged by such officiousness, but as the women raised their voices in devotional songs, their love and regard for him became so evident that Baba forgot his anger and smiled.

As the women worked, they too wondered what Baba intended doing with such an enormous quantity of flour... They concluded that Baba, being the kind of man he was, would probably distribute the flour between the four of them… When their work was done, they divided the flour into four portions, and each of them started to take away what she considered her share. "Ladies, have you gone mad!" Baba shouted. "Whose property are you looting? Your father's? Have I borrowed any wheat from you ? What gives you the right to take this flour away ? Now listen to me," he continued in a calmer tone, as the women stood dumbfounded before him. "Take this flour and sprinkle it along the village boundaries." The four women, who were feeling thoroughly embarrassed by this time, whispered among themselves for a few moments, and then set out in different directions to carry out Baba's instructions.

Since I was witness to this incident, I was naturally curious as to what it signified, and I questioned several people in Shiradee about it. I was told that there was a cholera epidemic in the village, and this was Baba's antidote to it ? It was not the grains of wheat which had been put through the mill but cholera itself which had been crushed by Sai Baba, and cast out from the village of Shiradee.

To this day, a grinding stone is kept in the mosque with a sack of wheat beside it, as it was in Baba's time. This tradition goes back many years to the time when two devotees – a farmer (Balaji Patil Nevaskar) and his landowner – came to Baba for arbitration. Although Nevaskar had been cultivating the land for decades, the owner wanted it back. Baba advised him to comply with the owner's wishes, but instead of giving the crop to the owner he sent the whole of it to Baba, keeping none for himself? Baba took a small portion of it, which he kept beside him all year, and returned the rest. In this way the custom was born and the ritual was repeated every year. These days a bag of wheat is kept in a glass case by the grinding stone throughout the year, and is replaced annually on the festival of Raam Navamee.

The Chilam
In the corner by the grinding stone you will see a cupboard. It was in this niche that Baba used to keep his Chilam. He was fond of smoking tobacco through these clay pipes and used to pass the pipe around to this close devotees. At such times he might tell stories and the atmosphere was one of good humor and friendliness. As with many of the apparently ordinary things around Baba, there was more to the Chilam as a means of bestowing grace. GS Khaparde observes in his Shiradee Diary that one day Baba "was very gracious and repeatedly gave me smoke out of his pipe. It solved many of my doubts and I felt delighted." There are also reports of Baba using the pipe for healing purposes. Hari Bhau, for example, suffered from asthma. He had never smoked before Baba offered him the pipe one day. Because it was given by Baba, he took it and smoked. From then on, his asthma was cured and never bothered him again. None of the pipes can be seen in Dwaarakaamaaee now, but a few are on display in the Samadhi Mandir. Baba received many pipes in his lifetime and would often give them away.

Baba's Portrait
Baba would spend much of his time in the mosque sitting in front of the Dhoonee, often with his arm leaning on a little wooden balustrade. A large portrait of Baba, sitting in the same posture, is now to be found here. The picture is kept on a throne-like platform and is the focus of worship, just as Baba himself was when he sat here. Baba sits relaxed and calm, looking out at us with a warm, welcoming, almost amused expression; at the same time the gaze is both penetrating and searching. On seeing the finished work, Baba is reported to have said, "This picture will live after me."

Something of that freshness is evident when we look at the portrait here. No matter how many times we take its Darshan, we feel that Baba is greeting us a new. For that, we are indebted to the artist, SR Jaikar from Bombay. The original picture was painted under commission from a close devotee (MW Pradhan). At first, Baba did not give permission for the work, claiming that he was just a simple beggar and fakir and what was the point of painting such a person. It would be better for Shama (who relayed the request to Baba) to get his own portrait done, suggested Baba. Luckily for future generations though, Baba later relented and Jaikar actually painted four pictures, one of which was touched by Baba. The picture was installed in Dwaarakaamaaee after Baba's Mahaa-Samaadhi. The painting that we see now is a recent copy of Jaikar's original, which has been moved to a Sansthaan office to preserve it from the drying effects of the Dhoonee.

Baba's Paadukaa
In front of the portrait is a pair of silver Paadukaa which was installed later. Here it may be worth adding a note about the significance of Paadukaa. They are used throughout India, but particularly in the Datta cult in Maharashtra. Paadukaa may be a pair of carved "footprints" or a pair of shoes used by the saint. It is the former which we mostly see in Shiradee. Paadukaa signify the presence of the saint – wherever the feet are, the rest of the body will be ! – and thus they are revered.

In Dwaarakaamaaee alone, there are five sets of Paadukaa, symbolizing Baba's presence and giving us the opportunity for remembrance and worship. Taking the lowest part of the saint's body, we touch it with the highest part of our own (the head) as a gesture of obeisance and respect, in an act of Namaskaar. When we bow down we are adoring our Beloved, affirming our hallowed connection, and in this way, asking for continued blessings.

Baba has told his devotees, "I am a slave of those who always remember me in their thoughts and actions and do not eat anything before offering it to me." If you are in Dwaarakaamaaee around midday, you may see people offering food to the portrait. After being offered, the food is then taken back to the person's house and shared as prasad or distributed among those in the mosque. The Sansthan also offers food to Baba here (as well as at Gurusthan and the Samadhi Mandir). Afternoon arati, it is given out to all those present in Dwaarakaamaaee.

In the context of offering food to Baba's portrait, we may recall the story in the Sri Sai Satcharitra of the Tarkhad family. Mrs. Tarkhad and her son were planning to visit Shiradee, but the son was reluctant to go, as he was afraid his father would not properly carry out the daily worship to the large picture of Baba he lovingly kept at their house in Bandra. His father assured him that he would, and mother and son left for Shiradee. For three days all went well, but on the fourth day, although Mr. Tarkhad performed the puja, he forgot to offer the customary few pieces of lump sugar. As soon as he remembered his omission, he postrated before the shrine, asked for forgiveness and wrote a letter to Shiradee. Meanwhile, around the same time in Shiradee, Baba turned to Mrs. Tarkhad and said, "Mother, I went to your house in Bandra to get something to eat, but the door was locked. I managed to get in somehow, but found that Bhau [Mr. Tarkhad] had left nothing for me to eat so I have returned unsatisfied. " Mrs Tarkhad did not understand what Baba was talking about, but the son immediately realized and asked Baba if he could go home, Baba refused, but let him do his Poojaa in the mosque. The son wrote to his father imploring him not to neglect the Poojaa and the two letters crossed in the post and were delivered the next day. This shows that in a mysterious and inexplicable way, when we offer something to a picture of Baba, it is not merely symbolic, but we are offering it to Baba himself.

Dakshina Box or Hundee –
Lots of Dakshinaa is given by way of donation to Baba. Baba used to accept or not accept according to his wish money as Dakshinaa from devotees for retrieving them from their evil effect of sins. Life becomes pure and rich by sacrifice. This is the preaching from Upanishad – which means learning by sitting at the feet or in the company of Sat Guru. Until around 1909, Baba almost never asked for Dakshinaa and rarely accepted any monetary offerings, except occasionally a few small coins which he used for buying fuel. Then, for some reason, Baba did start asking, although he had no personal need or desire for money, and by the end of each day he had always given away whatever he had received that day, remaining true to his principles of non-attachment and poverty. A few devotees were even given a fixed amount every day. Baba's purpose in asking for Dakshina was always to benefit a particular individual by, for example, driving a (frequently moral) point home, balancing a forgotten debt or conferring a special blessing. "I do not ask from everyone," he said, "but emblem of Muslim-Hindu unity. The provision of the Tulasee in a Muslim place of worship is an example of the many ways in which Baba fused Muslim and Hindu elements and resisted being identified exclusively with one religion, while persistently challenging sectarian divisions and prejudices.

Baba's Photograph and the Stone
Baba always wore "white" Kurta (not 'saffron') as a symbol of light. His posture is 'Niralambaasan' – Nir – without, Alamba – dependence. This means that Baba as a supreme eternal power does not require any physical matter to rest upon. Another significant thing about Baba's posture is that Baba never raised his hand to give his blessing. However his right foot is parallel to ground so that devotees' can have his Charan Darshan vision of his right foot and bare left foot on ground).

On the eastern wall opposite the steps leading up to the Dhoonee, hangs a large framed picture of what is probably the most famous image of Baba. It is a painting of an original black-and-white photograph. He is seated on a large stone with his right leg crossed over the left thigh, his left hand resting on the crossed foot. Baba is wearing a torn Kafanee, a headscarf knotted over his left shoulder, and he sits relaxed yet alert, leaning forward slightly. His expression is at once intense, all-knowing and compassionate, but above all, unfathomable. To Sai devotees, this is probably the most familiar image of Baba. The picture is treasured by Sai devotees as one of only six or seven photos that we have of Baba.

Until Baba sat on it, the stone was used by devotees for washing their clothes (remember that in those days, the mosque consisted of only the raised area around the Dhoonee, so the stone was outside). One day Baba happened to sit down on it and someone took the opportunity to photograph him. Once he had sat on it, the stone was considered sacred and no longer used for washing. It is that stone, set with a pair of marble padukas, which is now under Baba's photo. The owner of the original painting of this photo, D. D. Neroy from Bombay, gave the painting to his guru, Kammu Baba, who later gave it to the Sansthan. It is likely that this was the picture that the Sansthan gave as a model to the sculptor who carved Baba's statue for the Samadhi Mandir.

Darshan of Baba
Devotees meditate on and worship this picture. Baba has said that there is no difference between his physical self and his image. Indeed, he even proved this on a number of occasions. When Balabua Sutar came to see Baba for the first time in 1917, Baba said that he had known him for four years. This puzzled Sri Sutar, but then he remembered that he had prostrated to a picture of Baba in Bombay four years previously, and it was to that which Baba was allUdeeng. Even more dramatically, Baba once came to Hemadpant in a vision and told him he would be coming for lunch that full moon festival day. In an extraordinary chain of events, a picture of Baba was unexpectedly delivered to Hemadpant's house just as the midday meal was about to be served!

The Animal Statues
On each side of the photo is a statue of an animal – to the right a tiger and to the left a horse – Tiger is the carrier (Vahaan) of original cosmic energy which takes female form of Devee – Aadi Maataa – (Mother) Horse is the symbol of complete masculinity (Purushatwa) Nandee in front of Baba is the carrier of Shiv (cosmic purity). There is a remarkable history behind each of these.

The Tiger - Just one week before Baba's Mahaa-Samaadhi, a band of traveling Darvesh brought a tiger to him for exhibiting. The animal had fallen sick and was described as "very ferocious". After trying various remedies in vain, the Darvesh brought him to see the renowned saint of Shiradee hoping he would be cured by Darshan of a Mahaatmaa. The group paid obeisance to Baba and told him about the tiger's condition. "I shall relieve him of his suffering," said Baba. "Bring him here !" The Daravesh wheeled the cage into the courtyard of the mosque. The tiger, which was tied up tightly with chains, was taken out for Baba to see. The tiger approached the steps and stared at Baba, who returned his gaze. It then thrashed its tail on the ground three times, gave out a terrific roar and fell down dead.

The Darvesh were dismayed at losing their means of livelihood, but later they were reconciled to it and recognized the tiger's exceptionally good fortune in dying in the presence of a saint (in India, this is commonly thought to confer Moksh or liberation). Baba consoled them saying that the tiger was "meritorious" and that it had been destined to die there on that day and had achieved permanent bliss by doing so. "The tiger's debt incurred to you in a former birth is now cleared," said Baba. He also helped Darvesh financially by giving them 150 Rupees. Baba told the Darvesh to bury the tiger in front of the nearby Mahaadev Temple and you can see its Samaadhi by the Nandee. The statue of the tiger was erected much later (on 12 November 1969)

The Horse - The story of the horse is equally remarkable. Once a horse was given to Baba in fulfillment of a vow by a horse dealer named Kasam, in about 1909. Kasam's mare had not produced a foal for a long time and so he resolved to give her first-born to Baba if she foaled. This came to pass and that Shyaam Karnee (meaning with black ears - Baba's name for him) mare became a great favorite with Baba who lavished much love on her. Shyaam Karnee (also known as Shyaam Sundar, "Black Beauty") was an integral part of the Chavadi procession. Extravagantly decorated, he would lead the procession each time. He was present at Poojaa and is also said to have been trained to do Namaskaar to Baba. One day, when Baba was in the mosque, he suddenly exclaimed in pain, "Oh they're killing that horse, go quickly and fetch him." It turned out that the trainer had been beating him severely, but perhaps what is more extraordinary was that when Baba revealed his back, the livid marks of a whipping could be seen on his own skin. Shyam Sundar outlived Baba.

The Tortoise Tile
Tortoise is regarded as one of the God incarnations in Hindu religious philosophy. On the floor of the mosque, about two-thirds back from the steps, you will notice a white marble tile with a tortoise carved in relief. The tile is said to mark two things : the place where Shyam Sunder bowed down to Baba, and the original location of the stone on which Baba sat, which was moved when the mosque was extended after Baba's Mahaa-Samaadhi. According to Hindu mythology, it is a tortoise which bears the weight of the world on its back. As it is already underfoot, it cannot be defiled by being trodden on, so is an appropriate symbol to use here.

The Cooking Hearth and the Wooden Post
To the left of the courtyard area of the mosque is the small hearth where Baba sometimes used to cook. Like most things here, it is now enclosed in a wire cage but in Baba's time and until recently, it was open. Here Baba would occasionally prepare large quantities of sweet milk-rice, Pulaao and other food for distribution among visitors. He would supervise the whole process himself, including Udeeng shopping, grinding spices, and chopping the ingredients. The food was cooked in huge copper pots – enough for 50-200 people – which are now on display in the Samaadhi Mandir.

An outstanding aspect of Baba's cooking style was that rather than use a ladle or a spoon, he would stir the scalding food with his bare hand, without causing himself any injury. The Sri Sai Satcharitra describes in great detail how and what Baba would cook, "then with his own hands, serve very lovingly to all, with great respect. And those desirous of eating would happily partake of the food till quite full, even as Baba pressed them to have more, saying lovingly, "Take, take some more !" "Oh, how great must have been the merit of those who partook of this most satisfying meal ! Blessed, blessed were those to whom Baba served, himself."

Beside the stove is a three-foot tall wooden post, which Baba would lean against while cooking. Though it is unremarkable looking, it is thought to be invested with healing properties, since Baba once advised a close devotee (Sai Saranananda), who was then suffering from severe knee pain, to touch the post with his knee and then do Pradakshinaa around it. After doing this the pain disappeared. To this day, people with bodily aches and pains also like to lean against the post as a means of receiving Baba's blessing for their healing.

Baba's Paadukaa Again -
Just behind the cooking area is the place where Baba would stand every day leaning against the mud wall, usually before he went to Lendi. He would watch the villagers passing by and call out to them in a friendly way, "How are you ?" "How's the crop coming along ?" "How are your children doing ?" Following Baba's Mahaa-Samaadhi, a pair of Paadukaa was installed in this spot and a small shrine placed over them. In the wall above is a smaller set of Paadukaa placed where he is said to have leaned his hand.

Guru Sthaan
Guru Sthaan means "place of the Guru". It is both where Baba spent most of His time when he first came to Shiradee, and also where, according to Baba, the tomb of his own Guru is located by the Neem tree. Guru Sthaan is therefore one of the most important places in Shiradee.. From underneath the Neem tree there is an underground tunnel or passage leading to the place of Dwaarakaamaaee as told by an old lady. The huge Neem tree has many medicinal properties, though its leaves are notoriously bitter. However, some people once reported that the leaves of one of the branches tasted sweet. For them it was a sign of Baba's grace; others see it as evidence of the tree's exceptional sanctity.

One incidence concerning the Neem tree illustrates how practical and down-to-earth Baba could be. In the early 1900s, after Baba had moved to the mosque, construction work on Sathe Wada was hampered by a long branch of the tree. However, nobody wanted to remove it, as this tree had been sanctified by Baba's stay under it. When Baba was approached for his advice he told the villagers, "Cut off however much is interfering with the construction. Even if it is our own fetus which is lying across the womb, we must cut it !". But despite this clear instruction from Baba, none dared meddle with the tree. Eventually Baba himself climbed up and lopped off the branch.

Perhaps the villagers did not prune the tree because some time back a boy had climbed the tree to trim it, and had fallen to the ground and died. At that moment, Baba, who was in the mosque, sounded a note of distress, blowing Shankh with his cupped hands. Baba sometimes did this when a person was in great danger, although he could not have "seen" from the mosque what was occurring at Guru Sthaan. Villagers linked the boy's death with his attempt to cut the tree, and became afraid to do anything to it that might have been a sacrilege.

Today at Guru Sthaan, in addition to the Neem tree, there is a pair of marble Paadukaa on a pedestal, a 'Shiv Ling' and a statue of Baba. The statue, carved by the grandson of the sculptor of the Samadhi Mandir statue, was installed in 1974; the other things were set up in Baba's time.

Guru's Ancestors
Once when some villagers were digging the foundations for Sathe Wada just behind the Neem tree, they came across some bricks in the soil and what looked like the opening of a tunnel. Uncertain whether to proceed or not, they asked Baba what they should do. He told them that this was the site of the tombs of his ancestors and that it would be better not to disturb them.

There are several references to Baba's Guru recorded in the literature, but they are somewhat enigmatic, and it is not clear whether He was referring to a Guru in His present lifetime, or a previous one.

The Paadukaa were made in Bombay and sent to Shiradee. When they arrived, Baba commented that they were "Allah's Paadukaa" and should be placed in Guru Sthaan on a particular day. The Paadukaa were duly installed on the August Full Moon day (15th) of 1912. The Shiv Ling was installed in Guru Sthaan the same year. During Baba's lifetime, Guru Sthaan was completely open and looked quite different from the fully paved and enclosed area it has now become. Shri Sai Baba said that whoever burns incense and cleans here on Thursdays and Fridays would be blessed by Allah (Thursday is sacred to Hindu, and Friday to Muslims). We assume that out of love and respect for his Guru, Baba wishes the place to be venerated and kept clean. A small Dhoonee on a stand is kept in front of the shrine here. Until recently it was kindled every day by embers brought from the main Dhoonee at the mosque, but this is now done only on Thursdays and Fridays.

Finally, before we leave Guru Sthaan, let us return to the mighty Neem tree. Since the 1980's more and more devotees have started doing Pradakshinaa around the tree (and thereby the tomb). Now, one can often see large numbers of people going around throughout the day and night.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 10/20/12