The book: Shree Sai Satcharita Author: Shri Govind Raghunath Dabholkar alias Hemadpant alias Annasaheb
Shree Sai Satcharita: Chapter 5, The Re-appearance of Sai
The last chapter (4th) announced the short term arrival of a young ascetic in Shirdi who takes the tiny hamlet by storm with His austere ways and divine aura. Today we revere Him as Sai Baba. The fifth chapter establishes the presence of the same ascetic, when he reappeared in Shirdi, took a ‘stay-over’ at Rahata and then returned to His chosen village, much to the joy of the simple residents.
Today comes Chapter 5 for you! Here goes 👊:
This one is action packed. 👊 Multiple stories adorn the pages; shared by the village priest Mhaslapati with Hemadpant, the chapter entails several occurrences at different times but each related to Baba Sai.
Summary: While Baba’s presence in Shirdi is for a short period in the fourth chapter and He is known to just a handful of residents the fifth begins with: “…. Baba disappeared from Shirdi and reappeared with Chand Patil. Listen to how all this happened.” (Ovi 1)
A sequence of events one after the other are suggestive of how much happened right after the re-arrival of Baba. Welcomed reverentially with an ‘Aao Sai’ 🌹🤗by the village priest Shri Mhaslapati, Baba came to be addressed the same way! He became Shirdi’s beloved ‘Sai Baba’! This time too His arrival was sudden though He came with Chand Patil in a wedding procession (that of his wife’s nephew).
How did Chand Patil meet Baba? For a truly fascinating story, read on! A well-placed Muslim of Dhupked, Chand Patil lost his prized mare and set off in search of it. He covered a long distance but since his search was in vain, Patil was compelled to resume his return journey. About 10 miles from Aurangabad, the distraught Patil saw a fakir seated under a mango tree. The ascetic who was wearing a ‘kafni on his body’ and ‘cap on his head’ caught Patil’s attention with his action of filling a chillum with tobacco. The fakir called out to Patil asking him to stop for a puff and rest in the shade during the blistering afternoon. Moreover, the saddle in Patil’s hand with no horse in sight invited a question! On hearing the story of his lost mare, nonchalantly, the holy man directed him towards the close-by stream. Something in the manner of the fakir and his tone made Patil obey him. To his amazement, Patil saw the mare grazing peacefully by the stream. Both ecstatic and grateful, Patil returned to the fakir to share a puff or two. Patil had understood the fakir’s prowess. He asked the kindly ascetic to accompany him to Dhupkhed village. This was the beginning of Baba’s journey to Shirdi. Could all that transpired then have been Baba’s Leela? Leave you to it! 😊
After Mhalsapati’s warm welcome, Baba set himself up in the dilapidated masjid and engaged in the spiritual realm.
Thereon began the uplift of Shirdi and its residents! Baba converted an infertile, barren land into a beautiful garden for which he brought plants from Rahata. He tended these lovingly imparting a lesson in love, patience and importance of doing tasks oneself. Waman Tatya provided unbaked earthen pots daily which Baba used to water the plants.
An important story which brings out the importance Baba held in the lives of villagers pertains to a holy man, Jawahar Ali who declared himself Baba’s self-appointed Guru. Baba accepted this humbly and began serving Jawahar Ali day and night as a follower would. Jawahar Ali arrived in Shirdi of his own volition after some mishaps in his earlier place of residence. When the Guru opted for Rahata, Baba followed him there, as a shishya should!
A few months on the residents had had enough and they wanted Baba back. A few representatives went to Rahata to bring Baba back to Shirdi. When Sai refused to move they negotiated with Jawahar Ali and then both the Guru and shishya returned with the group. 😀
Though Baba was playing along, the villagers were fed up of this sweet talking Jawahar Ali who had ‘hypnotised and bewitched’ Baba Sai! So they devised a plan. A debate between the learned Devidas (who was in Shirdi before Baba arrived) and Jawahar Ali displayed the latter’s shallow understanding of spirituality. Needless to say, Jawahar Ali lost the debate miserably and then left the village out of shame, much to the relief of Shirdi niwasis! Annasaheb informs us that Ali returned years later and made amends by acknowledging Baba’s superiority and bowing to Him.
In his early days at Shirdi, Baba sat in the masjid (size of two small rooms) on a sack and gazed at the dhuni he had started. He surrendered His pride, ego, passion. ‘Allah Malik’ was on His lips all the time. Soon a miracle (perhaps the first one) took place in this masjid, a rather run-down structure then. Every evening, Baba lit lamps in his masjid. He collected oil as alms, from the grocers.. Fed up, the grocers decided not to give him any oil one day. Not uttering a word, Baba returned to the masjid, poured water into the empty oil canister, drank a few sips from it and then filled the lamps with the water. The wicks which he Himself made with rags of cloth were also placed. The peeping grocers and other onlookers were stunned when the lamps filled with water, began emitting a glow as soon as Baba put a light to the wicks. This occurrence spread like wild-fire, bringing hordes of people from the neighbouring areas to his divine feet. 😇😇😇
Interspersed between these major occurrences are several short anecdotes. Hemadpant apprises the readers that Shirdi was blessed by the sacred presence of saints like Devidas, Jankidas, and Anand Nath who took up residence there as well as Gangagir buva who visited it frequently and later left for his math in Puntambe.
It is said that Baba was fond of wrestling and once called for a match with one Mohideen Bhai. The bulky man easily defeated Baba who decided to quit wrestling and devote all energies towards the service of the Almighty! Humbled Sai donned the kafni and declared “ Poverty is better than Kingship, far better than riches. The Lord is the befriender of the poor.” (Ovi 68).
Annasaheb concludes: Just as the sun cannot stay in darkness, so the man of enlightenment cannot remain in duality. For him the whole Universe is the reincarnation of his own self. He dwells in unity (advaita)” (Ovi 161)
Interpretation: Chapter 5 comprises multiple stories. Since narrated to Annasaheb by Mhalsapati, the stories are stringed together by a single common factor Baba Sai. We learn about the situation in Shirdi in the days when Baba arrived and how it changed over the years due to His presence. It gives us an insight into the transformation in Baba who experienced dispassion during wrestling and opted to don the robes of an ascetic.
The story of the lamps suggests to us, Baba’s humility, his ways of giving a lesson, not about words but action and also his simplicity. The lesson of how everything can be used and reused is also evident in Baba’s use of rags to make wicks and using a gunny bag to both sit and sleep. A lesson in eco-friendly ways and that of minimalism, for a world ravaged by blatant consumerism and the desire to own more. A similar lesson that no task is too low for anyone is imparted via the building of the beautiful garden. Significance of mother Nature and associated tenderness may have also been the intent.
The presence of multiple saints before the arrival of Baba suggests Shirdi being conducive for spiritual ventures in its seclusion and quietude!
That Baba had his own unique ways of driving a point home is evident from the story of Jawahar Ali. He remained patient even as a man less learned treated Him like a follower. Baba’s patience and strength of virtues is apparent. This incident also throws light on the importance Baba had for Shirdi residents who agreed to suffer the boastful Jawahar Ali but wanted their Baba back!
The first story in the above summary links Baba and His sudden arrival in Shirdi, a second time. Could it be that Chand Patil was the medium Baba used to arrive in Shirdi? Did Patil witness the first of Sai miracles when Baba tapped the ground to let out water from dry ground and pulled out embers when he thrust the tongs in it? Both for his chillum! Little is known about the earlier events! Chapter 5 initiates us on the path of learning about Baba’s greatness, setting the stage for things to come later!
A medley of unconnected stories though has a common link- Baba’s arrival in Shirdi and setting base in the masjid! 🥰🙇♀
Ya Sai! 🌹🤗Come to us Baba! We thirst for more and more of you!