Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
In BABA’S MAHA SAMADHI WEEK everyday shall post an article or a slide show in honour of our BABA SAI. may His Life and teachings bring us out of darkness merging us into His Radiance. JAI BABA
Baba was big on miracles. He made it seem as simple and mundane as sipping chai. Day after day, miracles would take place in Shirdi, often multiple displays of miracles in a span of hours. Making the rain stop by just looking up at the sky and saying ‘hold on now, my children have to catch the train’ and the rain would halt. Or telling a falling roof ‘sabar, abhi nahi’ meaning ‘have patience, not now’, and then Baba would consume His lunch along with His inner most disciples, and then while walking out look back and then the baffled roof would come caving down. Or when oil was not available Baba would light oil lamps with water by consuming the water and then throwing up the water into the mud vessels that were meant to contain the oil for the lamps; lo and behold, the lamps flamed with radiance. Baba effortlessly knowing the past, present and future of all those who came to Him was not even considered a miracle by those who were used to other grand displays. Baba never got into any trance or shut His eyes or anything. He just casually revealed all as though He was talking about the weather, and through His general talk He would reveal that He knew all. He could read the minds of all those who were near Him or repeat words and promises made by the flabbergasted devotees years ago. He knew it all and He kind of loved seeing the completely shocked look on their faces and well the fact clearly revealed itself to you that one could hide nothing from Him. You and your life became an open book. The Akashik Records, one’s biography through all the life times and beyond, are for His perusal. He saving a child that was about to fall into the ironsmith’s bellowing fire far away, by shoving His hand into Dwarka Mai’s Holy Fire, and burning His hand badly and then days later thankful parents bursting into tears with gratitude for saving their child. I guess we all know that Baba is the Original Cool One.
In fact He was unassuming, so different and yet so The One that many took Him and His Powers at that time for granted. He loved theatrics. In fact loved showing off all that He had experienced with His inner most circle, but it was not to show His greatness but to reveal the wonders of The Fakir. Yes, He would go into fits of fury and thrash one and all, and people could not help bursting out in laughter seeing strong built men diving for shelter when Baba had His outbursts. Miracles, eccentricities, outbursts and pouring of love and compassion were common and they became so routine that eventually nobody batted an eyelid. Yes these miracles were important to create faith amongst the common salt of the earth…the general populace of Shirdi dwellers and those who came to meet Baba especially before 1910. Baba’s name spread far and wide after He came back into His body after a three day disappearing act when everybody but His inner circle thought He had passed away. But no. Back He was into His body and declaring that Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa had requested to have the privilege of merging with The Goddess, so Baba Sai had to return and wait for His turn, which would come after nearly two decades to drop His physical shell. And of course the next day newspapers covered the news that set the entire country into mourning of the passing over of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa.
But of course these miracles also got people in truck loads, not for the love of Baba, but for material gain, nothing wrong in that, only a person who cannot put food on the table for his or her starving children, understands the importance of money, but I guess even Baba realised that most people who approached Him did so for material benefits and many more had simply lost the plot. For every thousand who came to Baba, maybe ten or less, came to Baba for spiritual wellbeing and out of those ten, maybe one came because the person truly just loved Baba.
But beyond the miracles, wisdom, love, divinity, hysterical thrashings and colourful abuses, one thing that was constant with Baba was His strange dislike for change of routine and tremendous resistance towards change of any kind. Thus, Baba had a routine and this routine by itself was beautifully strange and amazing, and nothing short of a miracle or a disaster could bring about a change in His routine.
Baba rarely slept. Sometimes He would take forty winks, while all sang devotional songs and did the Arti, He appeared to take a snooze and then He would know exactly all that which transpired when He was apparently snoring His gorgeous and loving Head off.
At night too He would try His best to keep awake all night with His two disciples, Mahalsapati and Tatya keeping Him company. Once Tatya got married it was Baba and Mahalsapati who spent the night talking, joking, praying, keeping each other awake, so that one could remain in the state of Goddess and God Consciousness for longer periods of time, as sleep has a habit of separating us from this Consciousness.
Baba was awake long before dawn and He would always mutter some eternal chant to Himself. He would keep chanting, eyes shut, near Dhuni Mai, His back to the pillar, sometimes touching the pillar and very often His back would not even take the support of the pillar.
Baba followed the Sufi tradition, and I guess one of the tenants of Sufism is to make life a living hell for the one walking the Path, by avoiding all comforts, thus all recourse to making a life of ease, was to be clearly avoided. Embrace poverty, sleep less, eat less, and do all this happily, with gratitude. And then Sufis wonder how come one and all don’t want to join their ‘happening’ group.
Thus, before dawn itself Baba would sit near the Holy Fire and chant and nobody was allowed to come close to Him, sometimes not within a radius of fifty feet from Him. And most people were scared of Him as He could be as loving as an expecting mother and also as ferocious as an angry tiger. His thrashing and loud colourful abuses are legendary. Though now a days because we have become a collective consciousness of snobs and losers, we do not like to accept that Baba and like Baba innumerable Masters had various eccentricities that made Them more interesting but more human too. We don’t want our Masters to be human. They have to be prim and proper and bordering on being nauseously correct in every way.
After meditation Baba would chant words like Allah Maalik Hain, Yaade Haq, Allah Wali Hain.
Baba never brushed His teeth. He would gargle and that was that. He never took a bath every day. Once in a while He bathed but there was a divine fragrance that came from His body.
Baba would often say that there are various ways to have a bath. There was the Sun or Surya bath where you invited the Sun to cleanse you. Then there was the wind bath where the wind did all the cleaning up while I guess the yogis smoked on their peace pipes. Then there was a bath where you applied ash on your body. Then there was a bath which one took by manipulating your breath. And then you had the normal boring, hard water bath. For most Sages, the bath with water cleansed you the least.
These yogis I tell you, the chaps have to go all out and do things differently.
Baba would wash His face, hands and feet in the most tender manner and the bath water was then used by those suffering from leprosy to cure themselves and many got healed or their conditions improved dramatically by the water that had been blessed to wash Baba’s body. A number of those suffering with chronic illnesses would drink this water and even those suffering from mental disorders recovered.
Earlier Baba would bathe in Lendi Garden but later on He began to have a bath once a week sometimes once in a few weeks but in Dwarka Mai itself. Abdul or some attendant would bring two copper vessels, with hot boiling water and another two with cold water. Baba would mix the water and then have a bath, very slowly, very calmly, sometimes taking over an hour and a half to bathe. He would wear a langot or a native underwear, while He bathed, and then He would stand in front of Dhuni Mai, the Holy Fire, while His attendants dried His body. He would remove His underwear but first wrapped a green cloth or towel around His waist and then He would stand by the Fire and also His robe was put in front of the fire to dry and then He would wear the same robe.
As mentioned, this water was then used or consumed by number of those suffering from various physical, emotional and mental ailments, all recovering, depending upon their faith but most importantly, depending upon their love for Baba.
With or without a bath Baba was always neat and clean though His Kafni and bandanna were in various degrees of wear and tear. His Kafni was made of coarse cloth and stitched wherever torn and Baba Himself would stitch the torn parts and often the robe had stitched patches all over, but this is how Sufi’s wore their robes. It was the sign of embracing poverty with pride. Please don’t try this or the family shall be administering heavy medication to you.
When the blessed Kafni would have to be disposed off Baba would rarely give His Kafni to anybody but put it into the Holy Fire and when He wore a new kafni He would make sure He would donate new Kafnis to various Sufis and Sages present with Him at that time. To get our Old Man to discard the Kafni was another story altogether. Time and again His devotees would tell Baba to wear a new one or allow them to present Him one but He would smile and say no. But when His Kafni really got old and torn, Tatya would come close to Baba and then as though asking Him something, he would put his finger in one of the torn patches of the Kafni and then tug at it creating a bigger hole and then tell Baba that this Kafni was too torn to be worn and Baba would rant and rave and abuse and then exhale and smile.
Baba now left with no choice would call for the village cloth dealer, Kashinath Shimpri and He would tell him, ‘Kashya, get me a new Kafni.’
Kashinath would hasten and bring Baba His new Kafni and along with Baba’s new Kafni he would get more Kafnis, as he was aware of Baba’s habit of gifting other Sages and Sufis with new Kafnis and Baba would remove the old Kafni and first throw it into the Holy Fire but first by chanting prayers and then wear the new one. He would then pay Kashinath far more than the worth of the Kafnis.
On and off Baba would get His head shaved and moustache trimmed by Bala, the barber and pay the chap enough, for good man Bala, to retire for the day.
Then depending on where Baba slept that night, the early morning Arti would take place and all this would be over by eight in the morning, as all were aware that by eight in the morning Baba went out for His morning round of begging from five houses. Just goes to show how early Shirdi would be hustling and bustling as homes had already completed cooking for afternoon meals.
Baba would then go for His round to beg for food from five homes. He never ate in anybody’s home nor did He ever cook for Himself and neither did He ever keep food for the next meal. He had left all to The One, the same One who provides food for birds and all creatures, would provide food to this humble Fakir, was the faith He lived on.
Yes, there were times before 1910, when Baba still had time for Himself, He used to cook for His devotees, before the time when people from Mumbai, Pune and other cities hadn’t started to come in droves. He would shop for all the ingredients, haggle, win the haggling debate, then pay the vendor far more than what the person had initially demanded, wash everything, make the spices, then in big handis or pots would cook food. One pot would be for those who ate non vegetarian food and the other for those who ate only vegetarian food. When the huge pot would be on boil, Baba would roll up His sleeve and put His hand in the boiling broth and stir the broth with His bare hand. Told you miracles were a common place with Baba Sai.
But after 1910, there used to be so many devotees bringing food as Prasad that Baba stopped cooking hence forth.
Let us get back to Baba’s daily schedule. Baba would come out of Dwarka Mai, stand in front of Lord Hanuman’s Temple, sometimes even for more than twenty minutes, sometimes He would chant and sometimes He would make hand gestures and draw symbols and then look at the Chavadi. There was a bond so real and so ancient between Lord Hanuman and Baba Sai of Shirdi that it could not be missed. There are innumerable incidents where Baba Sai has abused various Gods and Goddesses but never ever Lord Hanuman. It is little wonder that He chose to stay at Dwarka Mai, the dilapidated Masjid, due to the proximity of Masjid Ayi to Lord Hanuman’s Temple. Whenever He went for a walk He would look at Hanumanji for long, sometimes even for twenty minutes and more, and make mystical signs to Lord Hanuman. It was immaterial whether Baba was a Hindu or a Muslim or belonged to some other religion. It was immaterial if Baba Sai knew the entire lineage of the Sufi Heritage and always chanted Allah Malik or made the Hindus read books written by Sant Dyaneshwar and Sant Eknath. One thing which was consistent with Sai Baba of Shirdi was His love for Lord Hanuman.
He would then beg at five houses, even that in order. First, He would go to Sakharam Shelke’s house and call out to Sakharam’s wife, ‘Itlayi bai, roti lao’, meaning ‘lady Itlayi, get roti’, then in front of Waman Gondkar’s house and then to Appaji Patil’s house where He would call out, ‘bhakri de’ meaning ‘give roti’, then He would go to Bayaja Ma and after she passed away, to her son, Tatya’s house and call out, ‘Bayaja Ma, jevan de, roti lao’ meaning ‘Mother Bayaja, give food, get roti’ and then conclude His journey at Nanduram Marwadi’s house, where Baba Sai, The King of The Universe, would call out, either to Nanduram, ‘Nanduram bhakri de’ or call out to his wife Radha, ‘bopidi bai mithai de’, meaning ‘Naduram give roti’ or ‘bopidi bai give a sweet meat’.
‘Bopidi’ means ‘to stutter’, so our Baba would call Radhabai as bopidi with love and she would leave all her work, make a proper sweetmeat for Baba and then Baba would put a small morsel of it in His mouth and then distribute it to all those who were with Him. Earlier Baba would go alone but once His fame grew, there was no chance, the poor Man couldn’t be alone anywhere, but in Dwarka Mai and Lendi Garden. Baba would love to nickname one and all and He said it with so much love that those being nicknamed would feel blessed.
Also Baba being Baba, He would go to the same houses, in the same order, and eventually bless them all by saying, ‘abaad-e-abaad, Allah bhala karega’ meaning, Allah will do good and keep you and your lot prosperous. There were also times when Baba would go to each house as many as eight times in a day. These are times when His routine did not come about.
There has to be a spiritual reason for Baba going to five houses. May be the five houses stand for the Five Perfect Masters, as explained by Avatar Meher Baba, and there was also a spiritual significance to it, and sometimes to go there so many times in one day had an universal impact.
He would keep a cloth hanging on His shoulder and hold the other end of the cloth. All dry food, rice, baked bread or roti, sweetmeats were put into this cloth. He would carry a tin, and all liquid, be it curd, cooked pulses, butter milk, anything liquid went into the pot.
Baba Sai would then halt at a particular place and feed dogs, crows and if there was any other animal and then return to Dwarka Mai, where He would offer either rice or roti to the sacred Dhuni Mai and then mix all the food in an open mud vessel or pot like structure which He called Hundi. Often animals and birds would eat from this pot, then sometimes beggars would come and take some, cleaners and sweepers would take some and Baba would smile and go about His chanting and sitting in front of Dhuni Mai and then He would put a few morsels in His mouth and then the food was distributed as Prasad or Holy Offerings or then It was mixed with the offerings which was brought by devotees and distributed to one and all as Prasad.
Sometimes Baba would send one of His devotees to beg at the five houses, and once He made a devotee who was dear to Him, G. G. Narke, go and beg for food, and the poor chap was wearing a three piece suit but the devotee did it so happily and with all humility, it pleased Baba so much that on and off for four months, when Baba was unwell, Narke would plead to be sent to beg and Baba would oblige, of course sometimes with loud abuses.
Baba did not care for food or the taste of the food. He begged for food till virtually two days before He took Maha Samadhi. In the last few days He could barely walk, but still managed to do so for the sake of His devotees. Often when unwell, He would make His devotees support Him and He would go and beg at the five houses. Obviously there was a huge spiritual significance of this five house Pilgrimage.
Also Baba suffered immensely all His life from asthma, constipation and intestinal issues. He never complained but often the pain and discomfort would be so gripping that those near Him would begin to cry and He would then comfort those by saying His Fakir knew best so keep calm and console them that He would recover. Once His dear disciple, Raghuvir Purandare, began to weep seeing Baba’s state and Baba told him, “Oh Raghu, why are you crying, nothing has happened to Me. Do not worry. It will be better shortly.” But though the pain and discomfort was so extreme He would go about His prayers, chanting, begging, meeting and blessing all those who came to Him.
For constipation He would make some broth with leaves of sona mukhi and other herbs and drink it and maybe due to His sense of humour He would make others drink it along with Him. For conjunctivitis, He would make paste of black pepper and apply the paste into His eyes.
Around eight thirty or nine in the morning, Baba would proceed towards Lendi Garden to defecate and clear His system. Earlier, He would go physically alone, but as Baba’s Name and fame grew, the entire journey to Lendi Garden became like a procession. He would step out of Dwarka Mai and then face Lord Hanuman’s Temple. He would spend time looking at Lord Hanuman and very often gesticulate certain signs which nobody could really fathom. As written earlier, there were times when He would stand for as long as twenty odd minutes looking at Lord Hanuman, Baba once told a devotee, ‘you want to know who My parents are, there see Him, Lord Hanuman’, thus it was very obvious that Baba was very attached to Lord Hanuman. The fact that He had told Shama, that both He and Shama were with Lord Rama during the time the bridge was constructed from India to Lanka, should signify a lot of His love and attachment or association with Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman.
Then He would halt at Gurusthan, a place where His Guru’s Samadhi is under the Neem Tree which throbs with Eternal Energy. When Baba Sai had first come to Shirdi, with Chand Patil, He was barely a sixteen year old lad. He used to sit and meditate for long hours under the Neem Tree, sometimes through the day and night. When the villagers had asked the village psychic who would channel Lord Khandoba, as to the identity of the young lad, Lord Khandoba through the village psychic had come through and had directed the villagers to the Neem Tree, and under the Neem Tree there was a path way, that led to a Samadhi, which was lit by eternal oil lamps. Though, Baba had told one and all that the Samadhi was of His Guru, many were certain that either the Samadhi was of Baba’s Guru, but not of this life time or the Samadhi itself was of Baba from another life time. Anyway, Baba would stand near the Gurusthan and would communicate with His Master, I assume in Spirit form, then Baba would begin His journey to Lendi Gardens.
The devotees who had come in droves from Mumbai and other towns and cities would all stand in line and those staying at the newly constructed guest houses, Wada’s too would come out on the streets, and Baba like royalty would walk through the columns of people, on either sides of the street, greeting, blessing and halting to talk to a few of them, most of the time asking each one about their wellbeing by addressing them with their name. He knew all and He knew the past, present and future of everyone. Bhagoji who suffered from advanced leprosy along with Abdul bhai served Baba, they would hold a ceremonial umbrella over Baba’s Head, with Nana on one side of Baba and Booty on the other, while Baba, a King in torn clothes, would walk slowly, His body now giving in but His smile and His eyes, what powerful eyes He had, Radiant as ever, the Sun paling in front of Baba Sai’s Splendour. An Emperor who lived by begging for His food. Royalty who had both the spirit world and the physical, at His feet.
Baba would only wear slippers when He went to Lendi Garden, and even then, often would go bare feet. Baba would then cross Lord Vitthal’s Temple, then cross Kanifnath’s Temple and then move towards the Lendi Garden.
Only Abdul was allowed to enter the Garden with Baba. There Baba had lit a lamp, which was meant to burn throughout. The lamp was put into a small depression, nearly two feet into the ground, and covered with a zinc sheet, and then around the depression and lamp, twenty odd curtains were draped, forming a tent around the lamp, and Abdul would stay here and look after the eternal burning lamp. As soon as Baba entered the Lendi Garden, Abdul would fill two vessels of water and place them near Baba. He would then go about cleaning the place while Baba sat with His back to the lamp, and would chant something or the other and sprinkle the water in all directions. Even Abdul was not allowed near Baba when He sprinkled the water in all directions and then Baba would move in one direction, stand and stare in that direction and then return and again move into another direction and do the same. Obviously, it was a spiritual practice which meant far more than just sprinkling water.
After an hour or so Baba would make His journey back to Dwarka Mai, following the same route which He had taken previously to Lendi Garden.
From ten to eleven thirty in the morning, Baba would sit in Dwarka Mai, and devotees would come and meet Him, be guided by Him, be blessed and nurtured by Him and of course on certain days a few would be abused and thrashed by Him too. When angry, Baba became like a lion, not withstanding age and health, tough men would flee rather than come in between Him and His rage. But He would get calm as quickly as He would light up like a rocket.
Musicians, magicians, street theater folks, Sufi singers, all would come and perform and Baba would bless them and send them off with gifts, money and food. Sometimes, Baba would once again go for a round to beg for food. The only thing that was not in routine was the number of times He begged for food at the five homes.
Later on when there were so many devotees, Baba would keep a little food in the mud vessel and also mix a little food which He had begged with all the other food brought by devotees and that food was distributed as Prasad or holy offering. Baba rarely ate food and when food was offered He would touch the food and that food was distributed to the devotees, Sufis, Sages, beggars, artists, all were fed, Baba loved to feed one and all. During the season of mangoes, He would get the mangoes cut, take a piece or two, and then distribute the fruit and often He would buy mangoes and get them distributed to all.
Baba was very fond of children and He would keep sweetmeats for the kids and make sure the children got sweetmeats and fruits first. Very often, if the kids were off to school or not present Baba would keep the sweetmeats and certain delicacies for the children and then He would personally give it to each one and joke with them and become a child with them.
With elders Baba did not speak much, unless He was in one of His moods. He would recount what experiences He had in the night, the spiritual, paranormal journeys He had undertaken, and in a few hours or a day or two, all that which Baba had spoken, which sounded like one of those fantastic stories, would be proved as the truth. Baba earlier would speak plainly and to the point, but as more and more people gathered around Him, Baba began to speak in parables and through stories. Mainly because He had to get His point across to a person, or a family, without everybody knowing for whom the story or parable was recounted. As He could not often speak to each and every devotee gathered personally, the art of speaking in parables began from the year 1910 and as most of the books on Baba were written after that year, many authors and books assume Baba only spoke in parables, which is untrue. He earlier spoke to the point and frankly and without any shadow boxing but desperate times need desperate measures.
At eleven thirty in the morning, the bells in Dwarka Mai would be rung which meant it was time for Arti or singing of the holy songs. This routine was started around the year 1903 and all would gather and with Baba as the presiding deity, the Arti would begin. Baba had earlier resisted to this ritual but seeing the love and devotion of His devotees He had given in and though the rigid Muslims had objected, saying for a Sufi, this was blasphemy, Baba had relented saying, for the love of His devotees, all is permissible. Thus all communities would gather for the Arti, even Muslims, and it was a sight to behold.
Baba seated as the presiding God of Masjid Ayi, and His devotees praying to Him. His eyes would glow. He would make signs, He would smile, He would often throw fierce glances, and devotees would smile, cry and be mesmerized by their loving God, the Fakir of Fakirs, the One and Only, Baba Sai of Shirdi, the King of the poor, the damned, the destitute and of one and all.
After this, all would be fed. Baba would wash His hands, face and feet, and then Baba would mix the food, one part food, one part milk, a little sugar, little roti and would mix the food well, all the time praying and then that food would be sent out as Prasad, which would be devoured hungrily by His devotees. Till Radha Krishna Mai was in the body, Baba would send food for her, as Mai only ate the food which Baba would send as Prasad.
Very often more than two hundred devotees would be fed a hearty meal and then sent home.
Baba would sit with ten to twelve of His inner circle and very often Tatya, Ramachandra Patil and Bayaji would sit on His left, while a fakir of Malegaon who Baba loved and would call Bade Baba, Shama, Booty and Kaka Dixit would sit on his right. Tatya, Ramachandra and Bayaji would eat from one single plate, and Baba and Bade Baba would eat from another plate. Baba was very fond of Bade Baba and not only would Baba not eat food without Babe Baba but also gift Bade Baba the maximum amount of money every day which He had got through dakshina. Many would wonder why Baba was so close to Bade Baba and Bade Baba later on developed an ego and sometimes would even talk to Baba without respect which the others would accord to Baba but Baba Sai would smile and brush it off. It was a strange relationship which most people could not fathom. Obviously a strong past life connect.
Strangely after Baba took Samadhi nobody wanted to do anything with Bade Baba and in fact nobody could fathom why the last few years Bade Baba had to beg for his food as he was left with no money. Why would Bade Baba be left with no money is a mystery, as Baba Sai would give him more than fifty rupees a day, which then was like a King’s ransom.
Baba would serve heaps of food for all those present and more so for those who had a family, and those present would eat their food, parcel the rest to be taken or sent to their families in Shirdi. Thus, Baba knew what to give to whom and how much. He was aware that Shama loved sweet meats and semolina pudding, and thus Shama’s plate would be heaped with semolina pudding. Baba barely ate a few morsels but He made sure all were fed to their heart’s content.
Then Baba would wash His hands and sit and be offered a glass of water and a beetle leaf with nuts and He would give dakshina of two rupees to Sagun Meru Naik, whose place of honour was to offer the beetle leaf.
Baba never took anybody’s service free of cost. He always paid far more than the service offered. Remember those days, two rupees was a lot of money.
From one to two thirty in the afternoon, Baba would sit all alone in Masjid Ayi. Nobody was allowed to be with Him during this time. All would be sent home while Baba sat and prayed, chanted, and meditated. He had a bag of coins and often at this time He would remove the coins and rub them gently and softly say, ‘this is for Kaka, this is for Shama, this is for…’ nobody knew why. If somebody would come inside, Baba would like a child quickly put the coins back and hide the bag. Nobody really understood the significance of this tradition but well Baba was Baba. He had His reasons and His reasons were good enough for one and all. Also during this time Baba would stitch His kafni, which so often was torn at various places. When Baba’s body had got old and feeble, to see Him make an effort to stitch His kafni would have been a heart breaking experience. Baba had the world willing to serve Him but Baba quietly served Himself. He is the Original Rock Star.
At two thirty in the afternoon once again He would go to Lendi Garden, following the same procedure and return around four in the evening. Once again His devotees would gather. Some were given permission to leave for their homes. Some were denied permission to leave. Some were ordered to give dakshina’s or offerings and some people’s hefty offerings were returned back to them. Baba followed no prescribed rules about how to go about with His devotees. He knew all and thus operated from Oneness and perpetual awareness. Blessings were given. Parables were narrated. Must have been lots of fun!
In the evening Baba would stand with His back to the boundary wall of Dwarka Mai and meet His devotees and passer by’s. He would inquire about their families. He was now in Shirdi for nearly sixty years. He was the presiding God and still considered by many as the mad fakir or the Great Fakir or an Avatar and He was loved by one and all and though virtually most of them had got their fair share of abuses and thrashings, Shirdi was Baba and Baba was Shirdi. Knowing He was with them, through the worst of times, the families living in Shirdi, had such a strong sense of security that famine, droughts, plagues, natural and unnatural disasters, all were taken in stride, with the imposing and all pervading presence of their Baba Sai; He was their Emperor and till He was with them, all was well.
Often when the season permitted, as He would not change His routine or timing for anything, Baba would watch the sun setting from afar and the glow of the setting sun would caress His face and body, as though seeking permission to set and Baba would be lost in the moment.
As Baba’s time approached for His final Maha Samadhi in this body, He would time and again tell one and all that He was tired, that the vendors troubled Him too much and that He was going to leave Masjid Ayi.
His devotees would then have to coax Him to return and like a child He would have to be cajoled into becoming calm and seated in Dwarka Mai.
When Baba said that He wanted to leave Masjid Ayi, He meant Baba wanted to leave His physical body. When Baba Said that He was tired of the vendors meant that He was tired of people only coming to Him for material gains and making spirituality into a business venture and that these vendors troubled Him. Baba also meant the illusions of attachment and the karmic grief of His devotees troubled Him. Yes, physically He was exhausted, taking on the sufferings of countless devotees and the responsibilities of those devotees had tired His physical frame.
Anyway, Baba would walk away and His devotees pleading and cajoling Him to get Him back into Dwarka Mai. Tatya would tell Baba, ‘I will thrash those vendors. You don’t worry. And if You have to go, let us both go tomorrow, now today it is already late, come rest now’ and Baba would curse, abuse and then relent.
Then in moments Baba would forget all the commotion He had created and would be smiling and talking to His devotees.
He would once again take a short stroll through the streets of Shirdi and all would be present in lines and He would inquire and bless one and all. At six in the evening again the bells would be rung and by six thirty in the evening Arti would take place. Then again Baba would sit with His devotees and once again singers, dramatists, various artists would perform in front of Baba and Baba would give each of them rupees two for their time and love, and then by eight at night He would distribute all the dakshina He had collected through the day, which would sometimes come to nearly four hundred rupees, which was a colossal amount in those days, to one and all present.
He used to give fifty five rupees to Bade Baba, thirty five rupees to Tatya, seven rupees to Jante, four rupees each to Bayaji Patil and Bhagoji Shinde and then to many Sufis, Sages, beggars and also one rupee each to the newlyweds. Every night Ramachandra Patil would give Baba four pieces of crystallized sugar and Baba in turn would give Him four rupees. The thirty five rupees each day given to Tatya allowed Tatya to buy land and become a prosperous personality in Shirdi. Baba would tell one and all, ‘eat but don’t defecate’, meaning use the money well and digest the money well. Eat, means consume, but don’t shit it out, means do not waste the money on various pleasures. Use what is given well. Those who did, prospered and even now do so. Those who did not, soon after Baba’s Samadhi became paupers like Bade Baba.
Baba barely kept a rupee for Himself, and that too, to buy oil for the lamps and tobacco for His chillum. So the One who was richer than the Governor of India during the day, slept as a humble Fakir at night. The British authority wanted to tax Baba for His income but realised how does one tax somebody who sleeps with barely a rupee in His pocket each night, though during the day could give all the Britisher’s a run for their money.
Tatya then around eight or eight thirty at night would get a roti with some milk and Baba would eat a few morsels and then making sure all those who were with Him were fed like kings, Baba would bless one and all and then send everyone home. If He stayed at night in Dwarka Mai, Mahalsapati would remain with Baba.
The alternate nights that Baba spent at Chavadi were slightly different. The celebration of Baba sleeping at Chavadi started on December 10th, 1913. After dinner Baba would sit while Abdul and when Radha Krishna Mai was still in the body, which is till two years before Baba took Maha Samadhi, would sprinkle water on the path on which Baba would walk from Dwarka Mai to Chavadi, so that dust not rise and disturb Baba and also because Baba suffered from asthma, the dust should not irritate or create a breathing problem for our Baba. Then, the street would be decorated with rangoli , which meant the street would be sprinkled with artistic coloured designs, and Tatya would come and request Baba to come to Chavadi. Baba would ignore Tatya. So Tatya would lift Baba tenderly and get Him on His feet and then place a gold coloured shawl around Baba’s shoulders. Tatya to Baba’s left and Mahalsapati to Baba’s right, all three would slowly leave Dwarka Mai but before leaving Baba would with His right foot feed more wood into the Holy Fire and with His right hand extinguish the oil lamp burning inside Dwarka Mai.
Tatya would hold Baba’s left hand and Mahalsapati would hold Baba’s right hand and they would start moving towards Chavadi which in reality is not more than thirty or forty feet from Dwarka Mai.
The moment Baba climbed down the stairs of Dwarka Mai, Pilaji Gurve would begin to play the shehnai and the devotees who had gathered there would start singing bhajans and Shamkarna who was Baba’s favourite horse was beautifully adorned would lead the procession. Even Shamkarna seemed to bask in the glory of the moment. Then the palanquin containing Baba’s padukas or holy foot-wear would follow Shamakarna.
This palanquin too has a story. Radha Krishna Mai wanted Baba to be accorded with all royal honour and thus she had organised the palanquin to be brought for the procession. The first time it had been brought, Baba had created a lot of fuss and after abusing one and all had allowed the palanquin to be placed in the court yard of Dwarka Mai and in the night robbers had stolen the palanquin and when Baba woke up He was as happy as a child not having to go to school and Shama had told Baba, ‘what kind of God are You that You allow Your own palanquin to be stolen under Your very nose’ and Baba had muttered that He did not need all this stuff but eventually He had to relent to the wishes of His devotees and thus allowed this elaborate routine every time He walked to Chavadi.
Thus, while Baba slowly walked to Chavadi, songs, music and the loud cry of ‘All hail Sai Baba, The King’ would resound in the air, while devotees threw flowers which Baba would step on, making certain that He did not have to walk on the wet mud. Baba would once again halt where He would look at Lord Hanuman and then make His way to Chavadi. Then Tatya would first enter Chavadi, which was decorated with coloured lit lamps and welcome Baba Sai. A seat would be placed for Baba and a plank for Him to lean His hand on. Then, Baba’s Feet would be washed by Jog in a silver tray and then Shama would make a chillum for Baba who would first take a few puffs then hand it to Mahalsapati and then the chillum would be shared by those who were present with Baba in Chavadi. Then Baba would be given a beetle leaf and He would say a short prayer and eat the leaf and touch the plate and then others would eat what was left in the plate. Then Baba would tell one and all to go home but He would look at Tatya and tell him, ‘go home but come in the night and see Me’.
The next day once again only after Tatya would invite Baba back to Dwarka Mai Baba would return to Dwarka Mai. He would never leave for Dwarka Mai unless invited, and then once again with all His devotees standing in line, welcoming Baba back to Dwarka Mai, Baba would return, where Baba would first halt in front of Lord Hanuman and then immediately take care of Dhuni Mai and light the diya once again.
This is how our dearest Lord spent His day.
Hail Sai Nath. The King of Kings.
Be blessed always.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha