Bhishma prepared a booklet entitled “Shri Sainath Sagunopasana” which contained,
besides the arati-psalms composed on Baba and sung at the time of Arati to Baba,
some traditional hymns from the Hindu liturgy like, Purusha Suktam, Sree Suktam,
Mantra Pushpam & Sri Lakshmi Ashtotharam. In all, there are thirty psalms in the
Krishnashastri Jageshwar Bhishma (K.J.Bhishma) was a resident of a village called
Bori in the district of Nagpur. He lived on the income derived from his farms. He
became restless after the death of his second wife. His relatives, friends and well
wishers advised him to remarry again but he declined. During 1908, on one night,
he had a dream in which he saw a person of dark complexion in traditional dress
with tripundra mark on his forehead, sandal-wood paste mixed with saffron was applied
to his body and puja was performed at the feet of that person who appeared as a
vaishnava holy man. In the dream, that holy man gave Bhishma a newspaper and Bhishma
desired to know who he was and enquired; but the holy man did not reply but pointed
to the newspaper on which “Sat-Chit-Ananda” (Being-Consciousness-Bliss) was printed
in bold letters. When Bhishma wanted to know what it was, the holy man again simply
pointed to the newspaper wherein appeared another set of words, “Mantra va shikava”
which means “chant mantra and learn”. It was not clear to Bhishma and Bhishma wanted
to know further about him. But both the holy person and the newspaper had disappeared..
Bhishma could not make out anything and before he posed another question the Vaishnava
saint vanished with his mystic scroll. Bhishma was puzzled and totally confused,
but in the meantime he heard a knock at the door and his dream ended. He immediately
recorded the dream and was thinking about the import of the dream for some time,
but was unable to unravel the mystery and significance of the dream. After some
time a sadhu, a devotee of Ganesh, visited Bori. Bhishma narrated his dream to the
sadhu who told him that “Sat-Chit-Ananda Swami” was his guru,and gave him the mantra
After sometime Bhishma happened to visit Amraoti where Dadasaheb Khaparde, his friend,
was preparing to visit Shirdi. He asked Bhishma whether he would like to accompany
him to Shirdi. Bhishma agreed and accompanied Khaparde to Shirdi. Khaparde was in
the habit of maintaining diaries and there is a mention about Bhishma in Khaparde’s
to his second visit to Shirdi. Khaparde stayed for a long time in Shirdi beginning
from 6th December, 1911. When Bhishma went into the masjid for Baba’s darshan, Baba
uttered with folded hands, “Jai Sat-Chit-Ananda”. Bhishma, though perplexed initially,
was wonder-struck as to whether the holy man of his dream was Baba himself. But
he thought that the holy man of his dream was a Vaishnavite while Baba appeared
to be a Muslim. In spite of this, why Baba uttered those words was not clear to
him. A thought appeared in his mind that Baba might be the holy man who appeared
in his dream. But, he thought that the holy man who appeared in his dream was a
Vaishnava saint while Baba in Shirdi was a Muslim Guru.He further reconciled thinking
that due to his orthodox proclivity, he was unable to identify the holy man of his
dream with Baba whom he considered as a Muslim. While at Shirdi though he saw many
Brahmins devoutly receiving Baba's pada teerth without any orthodox scruple, he
gently avoided taking Baba’s pada teerth. Baba was in the habit of smoking tobacco
from a chillim and as he smoked he used to offer a puff to the devotees present.
Bhishma was apprehensive at heart at the possibility of smoking a chillim polluted
by the lips of a Muslim. As per his internal thought, for the first few days, Baba
never offered a puff to Bhishma even though he was sitting very close by.One day
while Baba was narrating a parable to a group of devotees including Bhishma, a devotee
got the chillim ready and gave it to Baba. Baba held it out to Bhishma and directed
him to smoke after merely touching the chillim to his mouth. Bhishma followed Baba’s
order without any demur and had a puff and then returned it to Baba. Baba accepted
it and remarked, “I roam everywhere, my friend – Bombay, Pune, Satara, Nagpur; all
those towns are filled with the presence of Rama”. Then he suddenly said to Bhishma
in a complaining tone, "Well, Why do you eat theladdus all yourself without offering
a single piece to me? At least now give me five laddus!"
As Baba spoke those words something happened which changed the basic outlook of
Bhishma. His mental outlook and orthodox proclivity suddenly got changed, as if
blown away in the single puff he had from Baba'schillim. Baba’s remark had created
the desired effect on Bhishma and it resulted in the disappearance of the distinction
between the Vaishnav Saint who appeared in his dream and Sai Baba of Shirdi. He
was also convinced that
Baba only appeared in his dream in the garb of a Vaishnav holy man. Then he himself
asked for Baba'spada teerth and wholeheartedly placed his head on Baba's feet. Baba
blessed him by placing his hands on his head for a few moments which brought about
a strange ecstasy in his mind which was only felt by him and which could not be
described in words. Then he went to the wada and started worrying as to how he could
prepare five laddus in a new place where he himself was a guest. But he was still
thinking in his mind about Baba's cryptic remarks about the five laddus. He did
not take Baba's words literally. He also could not understand what actually Baba
meant by “five laddus”.
In the beginning, there was no regular worship of Baba except accepting garlands
brought by the devotees. In one of Nanasaheb Chandorkar’s visits to Shirdi, his
second son, Mahadeo alias Bapurao Chandorkar at the age of 4 years took the liberty
of performing puja to Baba by decorating Baba’s head with flowers and this happened
in 1900. At the age of 4, he also started applying chandan to Baba’s forehead and
this became the practice subsequently. Only Bapu Rao was permitted at that time
to perform puja to Baba and this became a practice later on. It was Mhalasapati
who first started a formal puja to Baba in the masjid. But later on, Baba started
allowing devotees to apply sandal-paste to his fore-head, and offer him flowers.
It was Tatyasaheb Noolkar who introduced for the first time puja to Baba by offering
arati by waving of five lighted lamps around Baba in an arch and this practice started
on a Guru Pournima Day and later this became the regular practice. Thus, the regular
worship of Baba with arati and with singing of Arati song, composed by Madhav Adkar
and playing of musical instruments started at that time which was continued further.
After Noolkar, Megha started offering arati to Baba in some more traditional and
rigorous way. Whenever Megha was performing puja to Baba, he used to stand on one
leg and perform the puja with utmost devotion. After Megha, Bapusaheb Jog continued
these aratis till Baba’s Mahasamadhi.
In the beginning, there were not many psalms which were especially composed on Baba
except a few psalmscomposed by Madhav Adkar and Das Ganu Maharaj. Most of them were
adaptations of the traditional arati-psalms composed by the mediaeval saint-poets
of Maharashtra on Lord Vitthal of Pandharpur. It was only about a year after the
traditional aratis at Shirdi, a number of arati psalms were composed.
After Bhishma’s arrival in Shirdi, on the next day in the morning, he got up seized
by an overwhelming impulse to write a poem, which he started composing immediately.
He continued his efforts of composing further poems also and thus he composed five
poems in all as if under a divine inspiration of Baba. When he offered those five
songs to Baba in lieu of the five laddus he had asked for, Baba approved them and
also blessed him. After completing the five poems,, he tried very much to compose
further poems, but he was unable to do despite his serious attempts. And perhaps
this was due to Baba’s five laddus order.
After some time, Bhishma composed further four more arati songs with Baba’s Grace.
In all, Bhishma composed nine songs. Thus, after the arrival of Bhishma, a shape
was given to an Arati-Psalm-Book, by incorporating the arati psalms composed by
him and also collecting several other arati songs written on Baba by other devotees.
The entire credit of giving a formal shape by way a book for all the Shirdi Arati
songs, goes to Bhishma. Thus, Bhishma prepared a booklet entitled “Shri Sainath
Sagunopasana” which contained, besides the arati-psalms composed on Baba and sung
at the time of Arati to Baba, some traditional hymns from the Hindu liturgy like,
Purusha Suktam, Sree Suktam, Mantra Pushpam and Sri Lakshmi Ashtotharam, intended
for use in the daily worship of various deities. Then all these songs were published
and Khaparde had paid all the expenses for the publication. After Baba's Mahasamadhi,
the book was adapted as the official “Book of Daily Worship” at the Samadhi Mandir.
Khaparde continued to bear the expenses for the publication of the arati-palms booklet
till 1922, Shri Sai Baba Sansthan, Shirdi, made, in consultation with Bhisma, some
additions in the book and had taken up the publication of the revised edition of
“Shri Sainath Sagunopasana” from 1923 onwards.
Madhavrao Adkar was one of the earliest composers of hymns on Baba. He was a very
good friend of Das Ganu Maharaj. Both of them considered Baba as their spiritual
guru. Both of them were gifted with a sweet metallic voice and used to sing spiritual
and religious songs. They became an excellent medium for popularizing Baba through
their compositions and kirtans. It was Das Ganu, who took Madhavrao Adkar to Baba.
Mahavrao Adkar treated with respect Das Ganu as his elder brother. Madhavrao managed
offering private tuitions. In the year 1903-04, when he was in Shirdi, he was fully
immersed in devotion to Baba and due to his ecstasy, he suddenly composed a poem
in the form of arati song. He wrote it on a piece of paper which was read by Das
Ganu who became very happy. Thus he wrote the earliest arati song on Baba.
In all, there are thirty psalms in the Book of Shirdi Aratis for daily worship of
Baba. Out of these thirty psalms,only sixteen were mainly composed on Baba. Out
of the remaining fourteen, thirteen are traditional arati-psalms composed by the
mediaeval poet-saints of Maharashtra and the fourteenth one is a Vedic hymn.
Out of the sixteen psalms mainly composed on Baba, as many as nine psalms were composed
by Bhishma, three by Das Ganu Maharaj, one each by Madhav Adkar, Upasani Maharaj,
Mohini Raj and B.V. Dev.
Of the fourteen traditional psalms, five were composed by Sant Tukaram Maharaj,
two each by Sant Namdev and Sant Janabai, one each by Shri Ramjanardhan Swami and
Shri Rameshwar Bhat. Shri Janardhan Swamy was a Minister in Devgiri kingdom, a Rigveda
scholar and a staunch devotee of Lord Dattatreya and also a Guru to saint Eknath.
Shri Rameshwar Bhat was the main disciple of Sant Tukaram Maharaj. From out of the
remaining three psalms, one is a Vedic hymn and the other two are traditional prayers.
Incidentally Sant Janabai was the maid servant in the house of Sant Namdev whose
unswerving devotion towards Lord Vithoba of Pandharpur attracted her more to the
Lord of Pandharpur. She was a famous woman-saint in Maharashtra who composed many
abhangas (short spiritual poems) about the Lord and the closet follower of Sant
Namdev. Sant Tukaram Maharaj, Sant Namdev and Sant Janabai were born in lower castes
and had attained the highest spiritual progress through continuous devotion and
ultimately got merged with the Lord.
Incidentally a few words about devotee-varkaris: Varkaris are devotees who were
visiting every year, the temple of Lord Vithoba in Pandharpur as a tradition in
the pursuit of their devotional approach. All people belonging to all castes can
become varkaris. Prominent among them are Jyaneshwar Maharaj, Tukaram Maharaj, Namdev,
Janabai and other saints and Jyaneshwar Maharaj was the leader of the Varkari group
during their times.
Linguistically, of the thirty arati psalms, twenty five are in Marathi, two in Hindi,
two in Sanskrit and one in a bilingual anthology expressed in Marathi and Sanskrit
The annual Urus festival, started in 1897, went on till 1912 and the Hindus and
Muslims participated in the festival with equal fervor. After the arrival of Bhishma
to Shirdi, Bhishma mooted just before the Urus festival, the idea of celebrating
Ramnavami festival in 1912. Bhishma suggested to Kaka Mahajani and both of them
approached Baba for permission which Baba approved. Thus Urus festival and Ramnavami
festival were combined in 1912 and the celebration of both the festivals was performed
with great zeal and on a grand scale. Bhishma was thus instrumental in celebrating
the Ramnavami festival in Shirdi. Bhishma is remembered for his composition of Saisagunopasana-arati
hymns on Baba. He passed away in Mohra in Nagpur Dt. in Aug,1929.