SAI DHAM (Nottingham)
Shirdi Sai Baba
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Gangabhavadya and Devagiriamma were a childless couple that lived in a small village called Pathri in the Aurangabad district. They were both ardent devotes of Shiva and Parvati and intensely prayed for a child. One rainy night, Gangabhavadya left to take care of his boat and told Devagiriamma that he would not return that night. At around 9pm there was a knock on their door, Devagiriamma opened it to find a very elderly man who was asking for shelter. Devagiriamma allowed him to stay in one of the rooms in the house but locked the door to it.

Shirdi Baba Sitting On His Stone

Shirdi Baba Sitting On His Stone
After a little while the old man knocked on the door and asked Devagiriamma for food, there was no food in the house so Devagiriamma mixed flour and curds and gave it to the old man and then closed the door again. Sometime later the man knocked on the door again but this time told her that his legs were hurting and asked her to massage them for her. Devagiriamma was in a fix, she prayed to god asking whether she should serve him or not, she went out of the house in search of someone who would perform this kind of service but found no one, when she came back a woman knocked on the back door and asked whether she required any help. Devagiriamma was grateful that her prayers had been answered and took this woman to the elderly man before closing the door again. A while later she heard a knock coming from the room the woman and elderly man were in, as she opened it she was astonished to find that the woman and old man were actually Shiva and Parvati come in the form of human beings, she fell at their feet. Parvati told Devagiriamma that she was pleased with her devotion and granted her three children, Shiva proclaimed that he would take birth as her third child.

When Devagiriamma got up the couple had gone, she narrated the whole story to her husband when he came back the next day but he would not believe any of it. But Devagiriamma soon gave birth to a boy and then a few years later to a girl, it was then that Gangabhavadya believed that Shiva and Parvati had truly come to their home. When Devagiriamma was pregnant with her third child her husband wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to do penance in the forest, as a dutiful wife, she followed him. Devagiriamma gave birth to a boy and left for the forest, leaving the child wrapped up in a cloth near the road side knowing that god would protect him.

The child was to be known later in life as Sai Baba and was born on 28th September 1835. A Sufi Fakir was passing by and saw the baby boy, he was also childless so he took the baby home and adopted it. The child stayed in the fakirs home for four years until 1839 when he was handed over to a scholar called Gopal Rao Deshmukh, due to his erratic behaviour, he would go into mosques and say “Rama is god” and into Hindu temples and say “Allah Malik”. Here the boy stayed for twelve years until 1951, the scholar was very fond of him, which caused a lot of jealousy from the other members of the ashram that he stayed in. The boy left in 1951 and came to Shirdi for a short period of time, then he left and wandered here and there. He returned to Shirdi some time later with a marriage party, accompanied by Chandubhai Patel, Chandubhai Patel had invited him to his nieces marriage because he had miraculous experience with him such as creating fire and water by hitting a stick on the ground and also helping Chandubhai find his lost horse.

It was the second time that that he came that the Shirdi priest Mhalaspathi saw him and greeted him saying "Aao Sai" which means "Come Sai". From this point he was known as Sai Baba. Today, he has millions of devotees in India and other parts of the world. Shirdi, the unknown village in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, in India, has become a pilgrimage destination much as Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

To begin with, he was discarded as a mad fakir. After staying for a while on the border of the village, under a neem (margosa) tree, where he said his master was buried, he finally made a decrepit mosque his home and called it Dwarkamai. When people began approaching him with health problems, he gave them some herbal remedies and later udi (sacred ash) from his continuously burning dhuni (fire). In a few years time, local villagers and the head priest began to accept him.

The first miracle Baba performed at Shirdi was lighting oil lamps in Dwarkamai with water. He also saved the village from a cholera epidemic. This all happened well before his fame had spread. Baba was fond of burning lights in his Mosque and other Temples. But for the oil needed in those little pottery lights that he lit, he depended on the generosity of the grocers of Shirdi. He had made it a rule to light pottery lamps in the Mosque every evening and he would call on the grocers for small donations. But there came a time when the grocers got tired of giving oil free to Sai Baba and one day they bluntly refused to give to him, saying they had no fresh stocks. Without a word of protest Sai Baba returned to the Mosque. Into those ceramic lamps he poured water and lighted the wicks. The lamps continued to burn deep into the midnight. The matter came to the notice of the grocers with awe who now came to Sai Baba with bountiful apologies. Sai Baba pardoned them, but he warned them never to lie again. "You could have refused to give me the oil, but did you have to say that you didn't have fresh stocks?" he admonished them. But he had made his point.

A Rare Photo Of Shirdi Baba
As his fame spread, government officials, high-ranking British people, politicians including Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak and the wealthy started calling on him. Rising above religion, Shirdi Sai Baba, the Indian sage preached simple moral and spiritual laws. While his message appeals to many in this age of complexity, others take refuge in him because of his promise to help devotees in times of crisis. Many devotees worshipped him, Dada, Nana, Shama, Abdul Baba, Mhalaspathi, Chandharkar and Das Ganu are some of the people who were always with him.

His daily lifestyle was simple and he often went to the Lendi gardens to grow plants and flowers. He performed miracle after miracle to save his devotees from danger and to increase their faith in him, it is said that he has helped some people even achieve "moksha" meaning liberation from the cycle of life and death. In 1886 Baba went into samadhi for three days, and has said that he had a direct experience of union with God, after which his spiritual powers became evident.

Shirdi Baba fell ill and attained "Mahasamadhi" on 15th October 1918, he gave his life to save his devotee Tatya Patel, he had promised Tatya’s mother, an ardent devotee of his, that he would protect her son. Sometime before Baba left his worldly body, he told a devotee that he would return again in eight years (Sathya Sai Baba) and he promised one of his female devotees that when he would be reborn, she would be his mother (known today as Eashwaramma) in his next life. The full biography written by one of Baba’s devotees called Annasaheb Dabholkar (Shirdi Baba called him Hemandpant after the famous Indian poet) is called Sri Sai Satcharita.

Shirdi is now one of the most visited places for pilgrimage in India and the world. Shirdi Baba made 11 promises to his devotees, they were:

1) Who so ever puts his feet on Shirdi soil, his sufferings would come to an end.

2) The wretched and miserable would rise into plenty of joy and happiness, as soon as they climb the steps of Dwarakmai.

3) I shall be ever active and vigorous even after leaving this earthly body.

4) My tomb shall bless and look to the needs of my devotees.

5) I shall be active and vigorous even from the tomb.

6) My mortal remains would speak from the tomb.

7) I am ever living , to help and guide all who come to me, who surrender to me and who seek refuge in me.

8) If you look to me, I look to you.

9) If you cast your burden on me, I shall surely bear it.

10) If you seek my advice and help, it shall be given to you at once.

11) There shall be no want in the house of my devotees.