Shirdi Sai Baba – If you were to ask anyone about their experience in Shirdi at the famous Sai Baba temple, you would almost always hear that it was a calming yet awe-inspiring experience that people have. Many people have rued about the temples where devotees and the deity take a backseat, and other trivial restrictions and money-spinning plots become of prime importance.
But unanimously, everyone experiences a feeling of calmness and devotion at the Sai Baba Mandir shirdi, Nasik Maharashtra. Although the main temple itself is not quite large in terms of square footage, thousands of people queue up at least 4-5 hours before the aarti and other auspicious times to get a glimpse of the statue of a man, who is revered as a God.
So, what is it about Sai Baba that makes people give up their hours of fun and frolic and stand in a long, heavily crowded queue to get his darshan? Read on to know more about the qualities of this astounding man, which have amazed scores of people around the world and will continue to do so for posterity.
“Aum Shirdi Vasaaya Vidmahe
Thanno Sai Prachodayath”
Early Days of Sai Baba
When asked about his birth place and origin, Sai Baba was known to be reclusive. In fact, he was first seen in Shirdi at the tender age of 16, but instead of behaving like a regular young man seeking pleasures of life or toiling hard for money, Sai Baba was known to be one of the strongest ascetics. He was able to sit under a neem tree for hours without eating or drinking anything, unmoved by people and animals around him. And oblivious to any change in weather too. He was able to carry out hard penance, and this attracted the attention of several other holy people, most of who were older than him. However, he was shunned by the people of Shirdi, and for a while, he had to leave that place.
He returned after 3 years to Shirdi and one of his most ardent devotees, Ramgir Bua, had claimed that Baba had returned wearing one of his Kafni robes (similar to a kaftan but made of coarse materials) and his head cap. He remained in Shirdi for the rest of his life and gained a lot of importance and fame there. The first temple in the dedication of Sai Baba was actually built in Bhivpuri, Karjat.
By then, his fame had crossed the borders of the small city in Ahmednagar and had even reached Mumbai. From there, the fame started spreading to the rest of India, and then, of course, to the rest of world. Even those who had never heard of the city of Shirdi have seen Sai Baba in their dreams or have found his statues in the ground while digging. When the statue was removed, enough water had been drawn to have created a small pond. Such are the miracles of Sai Baba that have effects all over the world!
Why Sai Baba is revered
In a country where every town and city has a famous personality known for his holy inclinations or because of his superior knowledge of religious matters, it is not uncommon to find small temples and societies being created to honour, such people. Some assume god-like status and many people become their devotees without knowing why or what special powers that person has. However, Sai Baba has no such doubts associated around him. Some people may discount the miracles that he had performed, but the vast number of devotees, who have benefited from him will not let anyone remain in doubt.
To begin with, Sai Baba was a famous man, who did not believe in riches. He, in fact, survived on the alms that he received from the people of the city he lived in. Every day and night, he walked around the street begging for alms and accepted with gratitude and love whatever was offered to him. People were known to have kept food ready just so they had an opportunity to be of service to this great yet humble man, and children used to have friendly fights about whose turn it was to feed Baba next.
Apart from this, Baba could have easily built a mansion thanks to the fame that he acquired over time, but he chose to continue to live in the mosque where he was first asked to live when he returned to Shirdi after a brief period of absence. He was known to have lived and died there amongst the love of his devotees.
The interesting thing about the mosque is that it does not have a traditional Islamic name, as one would have expected. In fact, Baba lived in a temple but had lovingly named it Dwarakamayee. Perhaps we all need to re-visit those times when a simple sage was able to understand that names, religions, and origins of buildings did not matter; what mattered was how you lived and what your good and bad deeds were. It is a known fact that Baba strongly opposed any kind of discrimination based on caste, religion, and even species. He was known to have great affection for animals and sometimes asked his devotees to feed them instead of hosting grand feasts for him.
Apart from his love for equality of all human beings and living things, Baba is known for his strong beliefs in both Hindu and Muslim teachings. He was easily able to explain various verses of both the Bhagwad Gita and the Quran and often explained his beliefs by relying on their texts. One of his famous sayings, “Sab Ka Maalik Ek Hai” was the literal short form of his teaching that all gods were one and preached the same things – love for all, equality, kindness, strength, spiritualism, being a good human, and survival.
Some of his miracles included curing many people with the use of his divine powers, love, and “udhi,” the ashes of the lamp that burnt and still burns in Dwarakamayee. He was known to love children a lot and used to play often with them.
People used to go to Sai Baba with their problems and ailments, big and small, and evenings in the courtyard of Dwarakamayee were known to be gathering time for all people from the city and other places too. Although Baba is no longer with us, several people are still blessed with his appearances in their dreams and through his teachings that have been compiled into several books, including the Shri Sai Satcharita.