Baba, a personification of spiritual perfection and an epitome of
compassion , lived in the little village of Shirdi in the state
of Maharashtra (India) for sixty years. Like most of the perfect
saints he left no authentic record of his birth and early life before
arriving at Shirdi. In fact, in the face of his spiritual brilliance
such queries do not have much relevance.
He reached Shirdi as a nameless entity. One of the persons
who first came in contact with him at Shirdi addressed him spontaneously
as ‘Sai’ which means Savior, Master or Saint. ‘Baba’ means father
as an expression of reverence. In the Divine play it was designed
as such, that He subtly inspired this person to call Him by this
name, which was most appropriate for His self-allotted mission.
All that we definitely know of Sai Baba is that
his arrival at Shirdi was anonymous. He was first noticed in the
outskirts of the village Shirdi, seated under a ‘neem’ (margosa)
tree, about the year 1854. However, even this date is not definitely
noted. Sai Baba of these younger days remained a stranger staying
under the neem tree for some time and then suddenly he left
Shirdi to come back again sometime in 1858, and stayed on there
till he left his gross body in the year 1918.
The second advent of Baba at Shirdi, around 1858
was interestingly quite different from the first. This time he accompanied
a wedding procession as guest of honor. On the arrival at
Shirdi, he was immediately recognized by someone as the same
anonymous saintly personality who used to be seated under the neem
tree a few years earlier and, greeted Him as “Ya
Sai” – Welcome Sai.
In the early days of his stay at Shirdi he spent
his time either wandering in the outskirts of village and neighboring
thorny jungles or sitting under the neem tree totally self
absorbed. The first set of villagers who regarded this saintly figure
were Mhalsapati, Tatya Kote, Bayyaji Bai and few others. Bayyaji
Bai felt deeply motivated by this Divine Saint, and with her motherly
instinct she used to walk miles on end into the jungles in search
of him, carrying food in a basket on her head. Often she found Sai
Baba sitting under some tree in deep meditation, calm and motionless.
She would boldly approach him, serve the meal and return home.
After sometime as though out of compassion for
her, Sai Baba ceased wandering and moved into a dilapidated
mosque in the outskirts of the village. He referred to this mosque,
where He resided till the end, as ‘Dwarkamai’ (Dwarka was the place
where Lord Shri Krishna stayed to fulfill His divine Advent).
This mosque ‘Dwarkamai’ – abode of Sai Baba became Mother of Mercy
for all the time to come.
He had a body of athlete built and in his earlier
days he was fond of wrestling. Another aspect of Sai Baba’s personality
was his love for song and dance. In those early years of his life
he used to go to ‘Takia’ , the public night shelter for moslem
visitors to the village.
There in the company of sojourning devotees and fakirs, he used
to dance and sing in divine bliss, with small tinkles tied around
his ankles. The songs he sang were mostly in Persian or Arabic.
Sometimes he sang some popular songs of Kabir.
He donned a long shirt – ‘Kafni’ and
tied a cloth around his head, and twisted it into a flowing plait
like manner behind his left ear. He used a piece of sackcloth for
his seat and slept on it with a brick as his pillow. He always declared
that Fakiri (Holy poverty) was far superior to worldly richness.
He was no ordinary fakir but an ‘Avatar ’ (incarnation) of
a very high order. But His external appearance was of simple, illiterate,
moody, emphatic – at times fiery and abusive and at times full of
compassion and love. In the moments of towering rage people with
him thought it was ungovernable rage. But his anger never prevented
his compassion dealing with the devotees. His anger was evidently
directed at unseen forces. He enacted all these simple traits only
to hide His real identity as the God incarnate. Under the cover
of simplicity He silently worked for the spiritual transformation
and liberation of innumerable souls – human beings and animals alike,
who were drawn to Him, by an unseen forces.
begged for alms and shared what he got with his devotees and all
the creatures around him. He never kept any food in reserve for
the next meal. He maintained the ‘Dhuni’ – the perpetual
sacred fire and distributed its ash – ‘Udi’ as token of His
divine grace to all who came to Him for help.
Baba would ask for ‘Dakshina’ (money offered
with reverence to the ‘Guru’ or the master) from some of those who
came to see him. This was not because he needed their money but
for deeper significance, which the devotees realized at, an appropriate
Baba used to freely distribute all the money that
was received in the form of Dakshina to the destitute, poor,
sick and needy the very same day. This was one of Baba's methods
for testing out the devotees attachments to worthy things and willingness
ploughed up the village common land and raised a flower garden thereon,
he watered the plants, carrying pots full of water on his shoulders.
In the later years he spent a few hours in this Lendi garden which
he himself had laid out in the early days.
He was every moment exercising a double consciousness,
one actively utilizing the apparent Ego called 'Sai Baba' dealing
with other egos in temporal and spiritual affairs, and the other
- entirely superceding all egos as the Universal Ego or Over soul.
He was the common man’s God. He lived with them,
he slept and ate with them. Baba had a keen sense of humour. He
shared a ‘chillum’ (clay pipe for smoking) indiscriminately
with them to write off the cast superiority and orthodoxy in their
minds. He had no pretensions of any kind .He was always very playful
in the presence of children. Baba used to feed the fakirs and devotees
and even cook for them.
Saibabas perfect purity, benevolence, non -attachment,
compassion and other virtues evoked deep reverence in the villagers
around him. His divinity could not conceal itself for long. Initially
when people wanted to worship him
formally, Baba protested and dissuaded them. But gradually he allowed
it with the prescience that it would become the means for temporal
and spiritual benefits to millions of individuals for all time to
The Dwarkamai of Sai Baba was open to all, irrespective
of caste, creed and religion. As the days passed devotees from all
walks of life started streaming into Shirdi. The village Shirdi
was fast assuming prominence. As the gifts and presentations flowed
in, the pomp and grandeur of Sai worship also increased. But Baba’s
life of a fakir remained calm, undisturbed, unaltered and there
is the Saint’s spiritual glory.
He lived His divine mission through His pure self
in a human embodiment. The immense energy that was manifest in the
body of Sai was moving in a mysterious way, creating and recreating
itself every where beyond the comprehension of time and space.
This fountainhead of unsurpassed spiritual glory
shed His gross body on 15th October 1918. Every limb, every bone
and pore of his body was permeated with divine essence. Baba claimed
that though one day his physical body will not exist his remains
will communicate with all those who seek him with inner yearnings.
His self-allotted labour of love in His physical body was perhaps
over. Today He continues to work ever vigorously as the ‘Sai Spirit’.