Sai Baba of Shirdi
|shri Sai Baba of Shirdi|
Photograph of Sai Baba (c. 1915)
28 September 1835|
Pathri, Maharashtra, India
|Died||15 October 1918
Shirdi, Maharashtra, India
|Philosophy||Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Self-Realization|
|Notable disciple(s)||Mhalsapati, Madhav Rao (shama), Nanasaheb Chandorkar, Tatya Patil, Kakasaheb Dixit, Hemadpant, Bhuti, Das Ganu, Lakshmi Bai, Nanavali, Upasni Maharaj, Abdul Baba|
|Quotation||Shraddha - Saburi (faith - patience)|
Sai Baba of Shirdi (28 September 1835 – 15 October 1918; resided in Shirdi), also known as Shirdi Sai Baba, was an Indian spiritual master who was and is regarded by his devotees as a saint, fakir, and satguru, according to their individual proclivities and beliefs. He was revered by both his Hindu and Muslim devotees, and during, as well as after, his life it remained uncertain if he was a Hindu or a Muslim himself. This however was of no consequence to Sai Baba himself. Sai Baba stressed the importance of surrender to the guidance of the true Satguru or Murshid, who, having gone the path to divine consciousness himself, will lead the disciple through the jungle of spiritual training.
Sai Baba is worshiped by people around the world. He had no love for perishable things and his sole concern was self-realization. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to God and guru. He gave no distinction based on religion or caste. Sai Baba's teaching combined elements of Hinduism and Islam: he gave the Hindu name Dwarakamayi to the mosque he lived in, practised Muslim rituals, taught using words and figures that drew from both traditions, and was buried in Shirdi. One of his well known epigrams, "Sabka Malik Ek" ("One God governs all"), is associated with Hinduism, Islam and Sufism. He also said, "Trust in me and your prayer shall be answered". He always uttered "Allah Malik" ("God is King").
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No verifiable information is given regarding Sai Baba's real name, place or time of birth. When asked about his past, he often gave elusive responses. The name "Sai" was given to him upon his arrival at Shirdi, a town in the west Indian state of Maharashtra. Mahalsapati, a local temple priest, recognised him as a Muslim saint and greeted him with the words 'Ya Sai!', meaning 'Welcome Sai!'. Sai or Sayi is a Persian title given to Sufi saints, meaning 'poor one'[page needed] and in Banjara language, "sayi" means good one. The honorific "Baba" means "father; grandfather; old man; sir" in most Indian and Middle Eastern languages. Thus Sai Baba denotes "holy father", "saintly father" or "poor old man". Alternatively, the Sindhi and Urdu word "sāī.n" (سائیں), an honorific title for a virtuoso, a saint, or a feudal lord (i.e. a patron), is derived from the Persian word "sāyeh", which literally means "shadow" but figuratively refers to patronage or protection. The Hindi-Urdu word "sāyā" comes from the same borrowing. Thus, it could also mean "Master Father." However, Sāī may also be an acronym of the Sanskrit term "Sakshat Eshwar", a reference to God. Sakshat means "incarnate" and Eshwar means "God".Some of Sai Baba's disciples became famous as spiritual figures and saints, such as Mahalsapati, a priest of the Khandoba temple in Shirdi, and Upasni Maharaj. He was revered by other saints, such as Saint Bidkar Maharaj, Saint Gangagir, Saint Janakidas Maharaj, and Sati Godavari Mataji. Sai Baba referred to several saints as 'my brothers', especially the disciples of Swami Samartha of Akkalkot.
Sai Baba's biographer Narasimha Swamiji claims that Sai Baba was born as the child of Brahmin parents:
"On one momentous occasion, very late in his life, he revealed to Mahalsapathy the interesting fact that his parents were Brahmins of Patri in the Nizam's State. Patri is Taluk in Parbhani district, near Manwath. Sai Baba added, in explanation of the fact that he was living in a Mosque, that while still a tender child his Brahmin parents handed him over to the care of a fakir who brought him up. This is fairly indisputable testimony, as Mahlsapathy was a person of sterling character noted for his integrity, truthfulness and vairagya." —Narasimha Swamiji, Life of Sai Baba.
According to the book Sai Satcharita, Sai Baba arrived at the village of Shirdi in the Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra, British India, when he was about 16 years old. He led an ascetic life, sitting motionless under a neem tree and meditating while sitting in an asana. The Shri Sai Satcharita recounts the reaction of the villagers:
The people of the village were wonder-struck to see such a young lad practising 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 he was regularly visited by the religiously inclined, including Mahalsapati, Appa Jogle and Kashinatha. Some considered him mad and threw stones at him. Sai Baba left the village, and little is known about him after that.
There are some indications that he met with many saints and fakirs, and worked as a weaver. He claimed to have been with the army of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. It is generally accepted that Sai Baba stayed in Shirdi for three years, disappeared for a year, and returned permanently around 1858, which suggests a birth year of 1838.
Return to Shirdi
In 1858 Sai Baba returned to Shirdi. Around this time he adopted his famous style of dress consisting of a knee-length one-piece Kafni robe and a cloth cap. Ramgir Bua, a devotee, testified that Sai Baba was dressed like an athlete and sported 'long hair flowing down to the end of his spine' when he arrived in Shirdi, and that he never had his head shaved. It was only after Baba forfeited a wrestling match with one Mohiddin Tamboli that he took up the kafni and cloth cap, articles of typical Sufi clothing. This attire contributed to Baba's identification as a Muslim fakir and was a reason for initial indifference and hostility against him in a predominantly Hindu village.
For four to five years Baba lived under a neem tree and often wandered for long periods in the jungle 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 mosque 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 gave sacred ashes ('Udhi') to his guests before they left. The ash was believed to have healing and apotropaic powers. He performed the function of a local hakim and treated the sick by application of ashes. Sai Baba also delivered spiritual teachings to his visitors, recommending the reading of sacred Hindu texts along with the Qur'an. He insisted on the indispensability of the unbroken remembrance of God's name (dhikr, japa), and often expressed himself in a cryptic manner with the use of parables, symbols and allegories.
After 1910 Sai Baba's fame began to spread in Mumbai. Numerous people started visiting him, because they regarded him as a saint with the power of performing miracles or even as an Avatar. They built his first temple at Bhivpuri, Karjat.
Teachings and practices
Sai Baba encouraged his devotees to pray, chant God's name, and read holy scriptures. He told Muslims to study the Qur'an and Hindus to study texts such as the Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, and Yoga Vasistha. He was impressed by the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita and encouraged people to follow it in their own lives. He advised his devotees and followers to lead a moral life, help others, love every living being without any discrimination, and develop two important features of character: devotion to the Guru (Sraddha) and waiting cheerfully with patience and love (Saburi). He criticised atheism.
In his teachings, Sai Baba emphasised the importance of performing one's duties without attachment to earthly matters and of being content regardless of the situation. In his personal practice, Sai Baba observed worship procedures belonging to Hinduism and Islam; he shunned any kind of regular rituals but allowed the practice of namaz, chanting of Al-Fatiha, and Qur'an readings at Muslim festival times. Occasionally reciting the Al-Fatiha himself, Baba enjoyed listening to mawlid and qawwali accompanied with the tabla and sarangi twice daily.
Sai Baba interpreted the religious texts of both Islam and Hinduism. He explained the meaning of the Hindu scriptures in the spirit of Advaita Vedanta. His philosophy also had numerous elements of bhakti. The three main Hindu spiritual paths — Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Karma Yoga — influenced his teachings.
Sai Baba encouraged charity, and stressed the importance of sharing. He said: "Unless there is some relationship or connection, nobody goes anywhere. If any men or creatures come to you, do not discourteously drive them away, but receive them well and treat them with due respect. Shri Hari (God) will certainly be pleased if you give water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked, and your verandah to strangers for sitting and resting. If anybody wants any money from you and you are not inclined to give, do not give, but do not bark at him like a dog."
Worship and devotees
The Shirdi Sai Baba movement began in the 19th century, while he was living in Shirdi. A local Khandoba priest, Mhalsapati Nagre, is believed to have been his first devotee. In the 19th century Sai Baba's followers were only a small group of Shirdi inhabitants and a few people from other parts of India.
Because of Sai Baba, Shirdi has become a place of importance and is counted among the major Hindu places of pilgrimage. The first Sai Baba temple is situated at Bhivpuri, Karjat. The Sai Baba Mandir in Shirdi is visited by around 20,000 pilgrims a day and during religious festivals this number can reach up to a 100,000. Shirdi Sai Baba is especially revered and worshiped in the states of Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. In August 2012, an unidentified devotee for the first time donated two costly diamonds valuing Rs 11.8 million at the Shirdi temple, Saibaba trust officials revealed.
Sai Baba left behind no spiritual heirs, appointed no disciples, and did not even provide formal initiation (diksha), despite requests. Some disciples of Sai Baba achieved fame as spiritual figures, such as Upasni Maharaj of Sakori. After Sai Baba died, his devotees offered the daily Aarti to Upasni Maharaj when he paid a visit to Shirdi, two times within 10 years.
Sai Baba's disciples and devotees claim that he performed many miracles such as bilocation, levitation, mindreading, materialisation, exorcisms, making the river Yamuna, entering a state of Samādhi at will, lighting lamps with water, removing his limbs or intestines and sticking them back to his body (khandana yoga), curing the incurably sick, appearing beaten when another was beaten, preventing a mosque from falling down on people, and helping his devotees in a miraculous way. He also gave Darshan (vision) to people in the form of Rama, Krishna, Vithoba and many other gods depending on the faith of devotees.
According to his followers he appeared to them in dreams and gave them advice. His devotees have documented many stories.
In various religions
During Sai Baba's life, the Hindu saint Anandanath of Yewala declared Sai Baba a spiritual "diamond". Another saint, Gangagir, called him a "jewel". Sri Beedkar Maharaj greatly revered Sai Baba, and in 1873, when he met him he bestowed the title Jagad guru upon him. Sai Baba was also greatly respected by Vasudevananda Saraswati (known as Tembye Swami). He was also revered by a group of Shaivic yogis, to which he belonged, known as the Nath-Panchayat.
According to B.V. Narasimhaswami, a posthumous follower who was widely praised as Sai Baba's "apostle", this attitude was prevalent up to 1954 even among some of his devotees in Shirdi.
Meher Baba, who was born into a Zoroastrian family, met Sai Baba once, during World War I, in December 1915. Meher Baba was a youngster named Merwan Sheriar Irani, when he met Sai Baba for a few minutes during one of Sai Baba's processions in Shirdi. This event is considered as the most significant in Meher Baba's life. Shri Sai Satcharita (Sai Baba's life story), makes no mention of Meher Baba. But in Lord Meher, the life story of Meher Baba, there are numerous references to Sai Baba.
Meher Baba credited his Avataric advent to Upasni, Sai Baba, and three other Perfect Masters: Hazrat Babajan, Hazrat Tajuddin Baba, and Narayan Maharaj. He declared Sai Baba to be a Qutub-e-Irshad (the highest of the five Qutubs, a "Master of the Universe" in the spiritual hierarchy).
Sacred art and architecture
There are many Sai Baba temples in India. There are also temples located in countries outside India, including in the United States, Netherlands, Kenya, Cuba, Canada, Pakistan, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan. In the mosque in Shirdi, in which Sai Baba lived, there is a life-size portrait of him by Shama Rao Jaykar, an artist from Mumbai. Numerous monuments and statues depicting Sai Baba, which serve a religious function, have been made. One of them, made of marble by a sculptor named Balaji Vasant Talim, is in the Samadhi Mandir in Shirdi where Sai Baba was buried.
Film and television
Sai Baba has been the subject of several feature films in many languages produced by India's film industry.
|1955||Shirdi Che Sai Baba||Unknown||Kumarsen Samarth||Marathi||Won All India Certificate of Merit at 3rd National Film Awards|
|1977||Shirdi Ke Sai Baba||Sudhir Dalvi||Ashok V. Bhushan||Hindi||Also featuring Manoj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Hema Malini, Shatrughan Sinha, Sachin, Prem Nath|
|1986||Sri Shirdi Saibaba Mahathyam||Vijayachander||K. Vasu||Telugu||Dubbed into Hindi as Shirdi Sai Baba Ki Kahani, into Tamil as Sri Shiridi Saibaba. Also featuring Chandra Mohan, Suthi Veerabhadra Rao, Sarath Babu, J.V. Somayajulu, Rama Prabha, Anjali Devi, Raja.|
|1989||Bhagavan Shri Sai Baba||Sai prakash||Sai prakash||Kannada||Also starring Ramkumar, Brahmavar, Vijaylakshmi.|
|1993||Sai Baba||Yashwant Dutt||Babasaheb S. Fattelal||Marathi||Also featuring Lalita Pawar|
|2000||Maya||Sai Baba||Ramanarayanan||Tamil||Also featuring S. P. Balasubrahmanyam|
|2000||Sri Sai Mahima||Sai Prakash||Ashok Kumar||Telugu||Also featuring Murali Mohan, Jaya Sudha, Sudha, P.J.Sharma|
|2001||Shirdi Sai Baba||Sudhir Dalvi||Deepak Balraj Vij||Hindi||Also featuring Dharmendra, Rohini Hattangadi, Suresh Oberoi|
|2005||Ishwarya Avatar Sai Baba||Mukul Nag||Ramanand Sagar||Hindi||Composite movie drawn from Sagar's Sai Baba (TV series).|
|2010||Malik Ek||Jackie Shroff||Deepak Balraj Vij||Hindi||Also featuring Manoj Kumar, Divya Dutta, Rohini Hattangadi, Zarina Wahab and Anup Jalota as Das Ganu.|
|2012||Shirdi Sai||Nagarjuna Akkineni||K.Raghavendra Rao||Telugu||Released on 6 September 2012. Also featuring Srikanth (actor), Srihari, Kamalini Mukherjee, Rohini Hattangadi, Sharat Babu, Brahmanandam|
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- Narasimha Swamiji, Life of Sai Baba, p 16
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- Parthasarathy, Rangaswami (1997). God Who Walked on Earth: The Life and Times of Shirdi Sai Baba. Sterling Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 81-207-1809-7.
- To Balakrishna Upasani Shastri, "I was at the battle in which the Rani of Jhansi took part. I was then in the army." Quoted in Narasimhaswami, B.V. (1986). Sri Sai Baba's Charters & Sayings. All-India Sai Samaj, Madras. p. 209.
- Rigopoulos, Antonio (1993). The Life and Teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi. SUNY. p. 45. ISBN 0-7914-1268-7.
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- Sai Ananta – Kaka Saheb Dixit Trust of Shri Sai Baba at http://www.saiananta.com
- Rigopoulos, Antonio (1993). The Life and Teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi. SUNY. p. 139. ISBN 0-7914-1268-7.
- Dabholkar/Gunaji Shri Sai Satcharita/Shri Sai Satcharitra chapter 27.
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- Dabholkar/Gunaji Shri Sai Satcharita/Shri Sai Satcharitra chapter 3 
- Warren, Marianne (1999). Unravelling The Enigma: Shirdi Sai Baba in the Light of Sufism. Sterling Publishers. p. 29. ISBN 0-7914-1268-7.
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- Dabholkar (alias Hemadpant) Shri Sai Satcharita Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Shirdi, (translated from Marathi into English by Nagesh V. Gunaji in 1944) available online or downloadable
- "Temple Complex". Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2007.
- "Unknown person donates diamonds worth Rs 1.18 crore (approximately $240,000) at Shirdi". 1 August 2012.
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- Hinnels J. R. Zoroastrians Diaspora: religion and migration p. 109
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