Babajan hailed from Afghanistan (Central Asia) and was the daughter
of well to do Afghan of noble lineage. Her maiden name was
Gulrukh (rose faced) and her early training was that befitting
the status of an Afghan aristocrat. At a very early age
she learned Quran by heart and later became conversant with Arabic,
Persian, Pushtoo and Urdu. From early life she developed
mystical tendencies, and unlike girls of her age, she used to
pass a good deal of her time in prayers, meditation and solitude.
This mystical aspect in her asserted itself,
as when coming of age, she was found to be against any idea of
marriage. The parents could not understand her and to them
the idea of a Pathan girl remaining unmarried was extremely scandalous.
Finding the situation no longer tenable and the parents bent upon
forcing the issue of matrimony on her. Gulrukh managed to
escape and came to Peshawar (India) and then to Rawalpindi.
For a Pathan girl brought up under the strictest discipline of
the Parda system, wandering at the age of 18 years, was not an
easy undertaking. Surely it was her spiritual destiny landed
her safely into India unscathed and undetected.
At Rawalpindi, Gulrukh led an ascetic life for
some years, and eventually came into contact with a Hindu saint,
who initiated her into the spiritual path. After this initiation
she went into seclusion in a nearby mountain outside Rawalpindi
and underwent very severe penance for nearly seventeen months.
Thereafter she came down to Punjab and stayed a few months in
Multan. It was in Multan, while Gulrukh was 37 years of
age, that she contacted a Muslim saint – a Mazjoob (immersed
in Divinity) who put an end to her spiritual struggle by giving
her God-realization. Gulrukh once again wended her way to
Rawalpindi, and there she was again spiritually drawn to the same
Hindu saint, responsible for her first initiation. The saint
helped her to come down from the super conscious state of God-realization
to the normal consciousness of a Master.
Hereafter for Gulrukh began a long trail of journeys
from one part of India to another. In one of her itineraries
she visited Bombay, and after a few months' stay in Bombay, went
back once again to the Punjab, and spent a good number of years
at different places in Northern India. It was at this time
that she happened to utter in a moment of ecstasy words connoting
her divine state. This was treated as blasphemy by orthodoxy,
which, with the connivance of the church, got her buried alive
Gulrukh miraculously, survived this ordeal, and finding the country
unsafe for her she bade good bye to the Punjab and Northern India
forever. She travelled south to Bombay took up her abode
in a locality know as Chuna Bhatti near Byculla. Bombay
however, was not to be graced by her presence for long and the
enviable honour of manifesting Gulrukh's spiritual greatness goes
to Poona, that the sepoys of the Baluchi Regiment, which had only
recently arrived from the North and who knew that Gulrukh was
buried and dead, had a surprise of their life to find her all
alive and seated underneath a neem (margosa) tree at a
place called Malcolm Tank within Cantonment limits. The
Baluchi sepoys looked upon this as a great miracle, and thus feeling
convinced of her spiritual greatness, gave Gulrukh an ovation,
by bowing to her reverently. After this incident her saintly
fame spread far and wide, and she came to be universally known
as Hazrat Babajan.
Sometime after her entry into Poona about the
year 1903, Babajan had no fixed place of abode. She was
seen sitting or resting at odd places in different parts of the
city and cantonment. Although shabbily dressed, there was
something magnetic in her personality very unusual in a street
mendicant that she looked, that no passer-by could resist giving
her a second glance. She was seldom seen moving about or
sitting anywhere all alone. Her bodily requirements were
very few, and food she ate very sparingly at long intervals.
She was very fond of tea, which was offered to her very frequently
by visitors. While walking in streets, on whomsoever her
eyes feel that person could not but halt or stand up reverentially
unit she passed by.
An unsettled life of some years in and around
Poona saw Babajan at last settled at a spot near Char Bavadi,
Malcom Tank, underneath the neem (margosa) tree.
At this time the locality mentioned was a picture of dirt, desolation
The Cantonment authorities became alive in the
situation, and had it been possible they would unhesitatingly
have had Babajan shifted to some out of the way spot. But
they dared not risk a public demonstration in the matter.
By now Babajan's fame as a saint hand spread far and wide and
'Char Bavadi' became a place of pilgrimage for people from all
over India. In place of Babajan's shabby shelter.
When the new structure which was only a few feet away from Babajan's
original seat was ready to every one's surprise, she refused to
be moved there. The awkward situation however, was got over
by extending the structure a little more so as the include and
embrace Babajan's original seat, as well as the neem tree.
When Babajan first came to Poona people surmised
her age to be not less that 90 years, and thereafter even 30 years
added to her life in the city wrought no changes in her personality.
Short in stature, firm and agile fair and sunburn, face broad
and heavily wrinkled, high cheek bones, liquid blue eyes possessing
great depths, head covered with a silvery crown of thick white
hair hanging loose up to the shoulders, deep sonorous voice, all
conspired to make her personality very unique and unworldly.
Her attire was simple, consisting of a long apron extending below
the knees, a pyjamas narrowed round the legs and a linen scarf
thrown carelessly round the shoulders.
Babajan slept very little, one day she would
feel out of sorts, at times even high fever, and the next day
she would be her usual self without recourse to any medication.
Young and old, male or female, she used to address everyone as
Bachcha or Baba (child).
Her method of healing was quite unique and entertaining.
When anyone approached her for a cure, she would hold between
her fingers, the painful or diseased part of the person concerned,
and calling upon some imaginary being, simultaneously ordering
the troublesome entity to quit. Surprisingly enough, this
funny operation would impart instantaneous relief.
A Zorastrain child aged about 10 years had lost
his eyesight altogether. His guardians brought him to Babajan,
and when told of the sorry plight of the child, Babajan mumbled
some words, and blew her breath upon his eyes. The child
immediately recovered his eyesight and began to jump about joyfully
saying "I can see now, I can see".
One Hindu woman, a devotee of Babajan very humbly
and supplicatingly submitted to Babajan that she was married over
ten years, but was not yet blessed with an issue. She requested
Babajan's blessings in her case. Babajan blessed her, and
said. "Your first issue would be a son.". Exactly
after a year and half, the lady returned and placed the male baby
at the feet of Babajan. Babajan took up the child in her
arms, played with it for some time, and allowed the mother and
the child to depart with her blessings.
Babajan's love and charity towards humanity was
supremely Divine in expression; it could not but reclaim a most
confirmed sinner and subdue the cruellest of minds. Articles of
clothing and other presentations to Babajan, people would remove
without her permission. Once a man tried to steal a costly
shawl covering her body while asleep, but he found its removal
rather risky, as some portion of it was held underneath her body.
Babajan instinctively raised herself bodily a little, thereby
helping the thief to achieve the purpose. On another occasion,
a person from Bombay, in token of his fulfilled desire, placed
two bangles of solid gold round Babajan's wrists. At the earliest
opportunity, an unknown person snatched away the bangles so very
roughly that it gave her wrist a nasty cut which bled profusely.
A lyrical show was to be staged in a theatre
at Talegaon, a small town about 2 miles from Poona. That particular
night, owing to the popularity of the cast in the play, there
was an unusual rush, and the theatre was choked to its capacity,
that management had no go but to lock the doors.
Hazrat Babajan's spiritual status in the hierarchy
of saints is that of Qutub. Literally the word Qutub
means a peg or a pin, and a Qutub functioning
on the physical plane is the hub round which the universe revolves.
After a spiritual sojourn of about 35 years in Poona, Hazrat Babajan
left her mortal coil on 21st September 1931 at the ripe old age
of 125 years. Her funeral procession was tremendous affair,
never accorded to any dignitary or royalty in the annals of Poona.
Her remains were laid at rest at the very spot underneath the
neem tree where she sat and dispensed Divine Grace for
such a long number of years.
Babajan's seat being in the Cantonment area,
everyone though that the military authorities would refuse permission
for Babajan's burial within their limits. The trustees saw and
proposed many sites in different parts of the city, but there
was no unanimity amongst them about any one particular spot. One
day they decided to approach Babajan herself and settled the question
of her burial ground direct. No sooner they approached her, Babajan
flew into rage at the sight of them and said, "Get away from here.
How can the dead show concern for the living? I am not going
to leave this place." Thus Babajan decided the question
of her burial ground at the same time conveyed to them that materially
– minded people are more dead than alive.