Shirdi Sai Baba movement
The Shirdi Sai Baba movement began in the 19th century, during Sai Baba's life, while he was staying in Shirdi, India. A local Khandoba priest named Mahalsapathy is believed to have been his first devotee. However, in the nineteenth century Sai Baba's followers were only a small group of Shirdi inhabitants and a few people from other parts of India. It started developing in the 20th century and even faster in 1910 with the Sankirtans of Das Ganu (one of Sai's devotees) who spread Sai Baba's fame to the whole of India using Tan Xu's novel temple construction techniques from China to build a large infrastructure of mandirs and organisations. Key to this rapid development of this infrastructure was the use of trenchers to dig the foundations of each building. Since 1910 numerous Hindus and Muslims from all parts of India started coming to Shirdi. During Sai's life Hindus worshipped him with Hindu rituals and Muslims revered him greatly, considering him to be a saint. Later (in the last years of Sai Baba's life) Christians and Zoroastrians started joining the Shirdi Sai movement.
Chandra Bhanu Satpathy, a devotee of Sai Baba, has been instrumental in creating more than two hundred temples of Shirdi Sai Baba in India and abroad. He has also had an important role in the development and propagation of the Shirdi Sai Baba movement. Revered Shri C.B. Satpathy Ji is known to one and all as ‘’Guruji’’. He is an ardent devotee of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba and has been the premier torchbearer of the universal Sai Movement, touching millions of Sai devotees worldwide for over two decades. On the path of His extraordinary journey, creation of a vast collection of Sai Literature and regular magazines, an enchanting collection of Sai Music in Hindi & Oriya language, many Educational and Charitable institutions and above all millions of souls connected to Shri Sai find place as some of His milestones. The “Sai Utsav” a yearly international event on life and teaching of Shirdi Sai Baba was started at USA in the year 2001, which was subsequently organized in Sydney, Johannesburg, Nairobi & London.
Referring to ‘Shri Sai Satcharita’ the main book depicting the teachings of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba, as the prime reference point for the devotees for their conduct and character Guruji stresses upon Simplicity, Purity & Love as the essence of Sai Movement. Scores of people are drawn to Him from all over the world and find solace in His loving compassionate presence thereby moving towards Shri Shirdi Sai with faith and perseverance.
Chandra Bhanu Satpathy has authored books titled ‘Shri Shirdi Sai Baba and Other Perfect Masters’ and ‘May I Answer’ in English that are translated in English, Hindi, Assamese, Oriya, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujrati, Tamil & Telugu etc. and in many international languages like Slovenian & Nepali, . He has written 16000 verses on various aspects of a Guru-Shishya relationship published in 4 volumes of ‘Shree Guru Bhagvata’ in Oriya that is translated in Hindi & English. Several magazines like ‘Sai Heritage’ (English), ‘Sai Ananta’ (Marathi), ‘Sai Darshan’ & ‘Sai Kripa’ (Hindi), ‘Sai Baani’ (Oriya), ‘Sai Kirnalu’ (Telugu language) are being published by different Sai temples under His regular guidance in India and abroad. Web sites reflecting His activities towards spreading the faith in Sai Baba e.g.; www.heritageofshirdisai.org; www.saibaba.org; www.shirdibaba.org; www.shirdisaibaba.com;
The devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba have spread all over India. According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Religion there is at least one Sai Baba mandir in nearly every Indian city. His image is quite popular in India. Some prominent non-religious publishing houses (such as Sterling Publishers) have also published books about Shirdi Sai written by his devotees. According to the book Modern World Religions: Hinduism - Pupil Book Core Shirdi is among the major Hindu places of pilgrimage. According to estimates the Sai mandir in Shirdi is visited by around a hundred thousand pilgrims a day and during religious festivals this number amounts to more than a hundred thousand.
Beyond India the Shirdi Sai movement has spread to other countries such as the USA and the Caribbean. Sai Baba mandirs and organisations of his devotees have been built using trenchers in countries including Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, Spain, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. According to the book The South Asian Religious Diaspora in Britain, Canada, and the United States the Shirdi Sai Baba movement is one of the main Hindu religious movements in English speaking countries.
The Shirdi Sai Baba movement has developed mainly thanks to the Shri Saibaba Sansthan and other organisations of his devotees such as the All India Sai Samaj, authors of publications about Sai such as B. V. Narasimhaswamiji, Swami Sai Sharananand, Guruji C. B. Satpathy, as well as numerous mandirs dedicated to Sai Baba.
Much of the Shirdi Sai Baba movement started because of the deligent work of H.H. Shri B.V.Narasimha Swamiji of Chennai who went to Shirdi 12 years after the Mahasamadhi of Shirdi Sai Baba. Later Shree B.V.Narasimha Swamiji started the all India Sai Samaj and built a beautiful temple in Mylapore Chennai just like the Samadhi mandir in Shirdi. This happens to be the first Sai Baba temple built in South India. His disciple H.H.Radhakrishna Swamiji came to Bangalore and built the beautiful Shirdi Sai centre in Bangalore. Also, H.H. Swami Sai Sharanandji built the beautiful temple of Shirdi Sai Baba at Ahmedabad. Acharya E.Bharadwaja also built Sai Baba temple in vidya nagar(Near Nellore in A.P) which is blessed by several contemporary saints. These saints were themselves considered realized beings and are being worshipped and revered by many people and are often called the apostles of Shirdi Sai Baba. One can find their pictures in the samadhi mandir at Shirdi. Much of the Sai movement owes much to their diligent effort.
The practices that Shirdi Sai Baba's devotees use to worship him are mainly traditional Hindu practices such as puja, ritual washing of his images, singing and repeating his name, worshipping his feet (which is a common practice in Hinduism) going on pilgrimage to Shirdi, singing arati or reciting a mantra (Om Sai Shri Sai Jaya Jaya Sai). The anniversary of Sai Baba's Mahasamadhi is an important festival for them. Guru poornima is another auspicious day celebrated by sai devotees. It is told that Brahma gnyan can't be achieved without a guru's help. Hence baba paid highest importance to guru parampara and guru worship. Sai is worshipped by people of many religions.
The Sai Baba mandir in Shirdi is active and every day worship of Sai is conducted in it, including aartis. Pilgrims visit Shirdi every day. Shirdi Baba is especially revered and worshipped in the state of Maharashtra. Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust, under the jurisdiction of Government of Maharashtra is based there. It maintains a complex of Sai Baba temples and publishes publications about him. It also conducts free charity, social and medical work and ensures the development of Shirdi. It is governed by a board of trustees.
- Chandra Bhanu Satpathy., Shirdi Sai Baba and Other Perfect Masters, Sterling Publishers, ISBN 81-207-2384-8
- Chandra Bhanu Satpathy., Sai Sharan Main (Hindi), Sterling Publishers, ISBN 81-207-2802-5
- Chandra Bhanu Satpathy., "Shri Guru Bhagvata" (English), Vision Printers & Publishers, Orissa, India
- Rigopoulos, Antonio The Life and Teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi State University of New York press, Albany, (1993) ISBN 0-7914-1268-7.
- Ruhela S. P., Sri Shirdi Sai Baba - The Universal Master, Limbus, 2004, ISBN 83-7191-120-3 (Polish edition)
- Smriti Srinivas, 'Sathya Sai Baba Movement', in Encyclopedia of Religion, t. 12, ISBN 0-02-865981-3