Shirdi SaiBaba remains a popular saint and is worshipped mainly in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and of course world over. Debate on his Hindu or Muslim origins continues to take place. He is also revered by several notable Hindu and Sufi religious leaders. Some of his disciples received fame as spiritual figures and saints.
Sri SaiBaba left his physical body in October 15, 1918…. but he is believed to be with us even more now than he was earlier…
Shirdi Sai baba’s Background:
Although SaiBaba’s origins are unknown, some indications exist that suggest that he was born not far from Shirdi.
Historical researches into genealogies in Shirdi give support to the theory that Baba could have been born with the name Haribhau Bhusari. SaiBaba was notorious for giving vague, misleading and contradictory replies to questions concerning his parentage and origins, brusquely stating the information was unimportant.
He had reportedly stated to a close follower, Mhalsapati, that he has been born of Brahmin parents in the village of Pathri and had been entrusted into the care of a fakir in his infancy. On another occasion, Baba reportedly said that the fakir’s wife had left him in the care of a Hindu guru, Venkusa of Selu, and that he had stayed with Venkusa for twelve years as his disciple. This dichotomy has given rise to two major theories regarding SaiBaba’s background, with the majority of writers supporting the Hindu background over the Islamic, while others combine both the theories (that Sai Baba was first brought up by a fakir and then by a guru).
SaiBaba reportedly arrived at the village of Shirdi in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, India, when he was about sixteen years old.
Although there is no agreement among biographers about the date of this event, it is generally accepted that SaiBaba stayed in Shirdi for three years, disappeared for a year and returned permanently around 1858, which posits a possible birthyear of 1838.] He led an ascetic life, sitting motionless under a neem tree and meditating while sitting in an asana.
The Sai Satcharita recounts the reaction of the villagers: “The people of the village were wonder-struck to see such a young lad practicing hard penance, not minding heat or cold. By day he associated with no one, by night he was afraid of nobody.”
His presence attracted the curiosity of the villagers and the religiously-inclined such as Mhalsapati, Appa Jogle and Kashinatha regularly visited him, while others such as the village children considered him mad and threw stones at him. After some time he left the village, and it is unknown where he stayed at that time or what happened to him.
However, there are some indications that he met with many saints and fakirs, and worked as a weaver; he claimed to have fought with the army of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
Shirdi Saibaba Settled in Shirdi:
In 1858 SaiBaba returned to Shirdi with Chand Patil’s wedding procession. After alighting near the Khandoba temple he was greeted with the words “Ya Sai” (welcome saint) by the temple priest Mhalsapati. The name Sai stuck to him and some time later he started being known as SaiBaba. It was around this time that Baba adopted his famous style of dress, consisting of a knee-length one-piece robe (kafni) and a cloth cap. Ramgir Bua, a devotee, testified that SaiBaba was dressed like an athlete and sported ‘long hair flowing down to his buttocks’ when he arrived in Shirdi, and that he never had his head shaved. It was only after SaiBaba forfeited a wrestling match with one Mohdin Tamboli did he take the kafni and cloth cap, articles of typically Sufi clothing.
This attire contributed to SaiBaba’s identification as a Muslim fakir, and was a reason for initial indifference and hostility against him in a predominantly Hindu village. According to B.V. Narasimhaswami, a posthumous follower who was widely praised as Sai Baba’s “apostle”, recorded that this attitude was prevalent even among some of his devotees in Shirdi even up to 1954.
For four to five years SaiBaba lived under a neem tree, and often wandered for long periods in the jungle in and around Shirdi. His manner was said to be withdrawn and uncommunicative as he undertook long periods of meditation.
He was eventually persuaded to take up residence in an old and dilapidated masjid and lived a solitary life there, surviving by begging for alms and receiving itinerant Hindu or Muslim visitors. In the mosque he maintained a sacred fire which is referred to as a dhuni, from which he had the custom of giving sacred ash (‘Udhi’) to his guests before they left and which was believed to have healing powers and protection from dangerous situations.
At first he performed the function of a local hakim and treated the sick by application of Udhi. SaiBaba also delivered spiritual teachings to his visitors, recommending the reading of sacred Hindu texts along with the Qur’an, especially insisting on the indispensability of the unbroken remembrance of God’s name (dhikr, japa). He often expressed himself in a cryptic manner with the use of parables, symbols and allegories. He participated in religious festivals and was also in the habit of preparing food for his visitors, which he distributed to them as prasad. SaiBaba’s entertainment was dancing and singing religious songs (he enjoyed the songs of Kabir most).
His behaviour was sometimes uncouth and violent.
After 1910 SaiBaba’s fame began to spread in Mumbai. Numerous people started visiting him, because they regarded him as a saint (or even an avatar) with the power of performing miracles.
Sai Baba took Mahasamadhi on October 15, 1918 at 2.30pm. He died on the lap of one of his devotees with hardly any belongings, and was buried in the “Buty Wada” according to his wish.
Later a mandir was built there known as the “Samadhi Mandir“.