(A noted kirtankar and an itinerant minstrel who propagated about Baba across Maharashtra
State. He disliked going to school in his childhood. But he wrote several books
and note-worthy commentaries and some of his books were prescribed as university
text books in Bombay and all this had happened with Baba's Grace. He wrote “Bhakta
Leelamrut” in 1906 describing the fascinating life history of Baba in three chapters
& this is the first documented writing about Baba & the credit goes to Das Ganu
Ganpat Dattaraya Sahasrabuddhe, popularly known as Das Ganu Maharaj or simply Ganu
(Baba used to call him as Ganu) was born in 1867 to Dattatray and Savitribai in
Akolner, a village 15 kms from Ahmednagar. He had long ears and big tummy. After
his 8th year, he was initiated to education; however he disliked going to school.
He belonged to a well to do family. He was very much interested in music and village
theater. He was always surrounded by a number of music lovers. He did not pay much
attention to his family business. In 1891, he married at the instance of his family
members who thought that he would change for the better after marriage; but there
was no improvement in his behaviour and did not get any sense of responsibility.
The bride was from a royal family of Akolner. She was a very well cultured, intelligent,
disciplined and pious lady. Since her husband was a happy go lucky type of a person,
she spent most of her time in devotion.
Das Ganu on the other hand developed liking for folk stage shows and other songs
eulogizing heroic deeds and folk songs with erotic content in Marathi, called "lavani"
for village dramas known as Thamasha and even started composing them. He was very
much fond of Tamasha and became almost a vagabond. He was acting in female roles
in village theaters. He left his family and went on loitering from one place to
another. Seeing his hefty personality, one of his relatives got him a job in Police
Department. He later met his Guru, Vaman Sastri who taught him Shiv mantra. He was
a Havaldar in the Police Department. He was an expert in composing impromptu poems
in Marathi. He once wrote a poem on Chatrapati Shivaji in 1898. A police constable
in active service, composing a poem on Shivaji, had resulted in a treason charge
by the British Govt. which constituted an enquiry.against him. An enquiry was conducted
and Ganu told the enquiry officer that it was an impromptu composition without any
motive and to convince the enquiry
officer, he also composed an impromptu couple in Marathi verses on the enquiry officer
and then the enquiry officer dropped the charges. He also loved village drama in
which he occasionally acted also
In 1894, Nanasaheb Chandorkar took him as his orderly to Shirdi. Initially Das Ganu
did not have faith in Baba, but visited as an orderly attached to Nanasaheb. Das
Ganu was not a man to believe any body’s words and would test every thing and then
believe. Thereafter, Das Ganu, on Baba’s advice, stopped acting in village theater.
Das Ganu promised Baba that he would shortly resign his police job. He encountered
some serious charges in his service but however he wriggled out of them with Baba’s
Grace.. He was fond of becoming a Fouzdar and then only thought of resigning. Thus
he went on postponing his resignation matter. Baba knew his obduracy.
Later on, one Kanu Bhil, an extremely dangerous and notorious dacoit, having a large
and well organised gang and also maintaining his own intelligence service, committed
his predations in some districts, including Ahmednagar. Ganu was asked to keep a
constant vigil on Kanu’s movements. Ganu disguising himself as a Ramadasi or kirtankar,
was wandering and keeping a watch on Kanu’s movements. Kanu with his secret service,
knew that Ramadasi was no other than Ganu and started killing Ganu’s assistants
and threatened to kill him also for his spying. Ganu at this stage with Baba’s Grace
escaped death from Ganu’s hands. Though saved, Ganu did not resign his job; but
on the other hand, he arranged a large armed police force which arrived and surrounded
the hill of Kanu’s hiding and this had happened in 1898 or 1899. However, Kanu escaped.
Ganu was afraid of imminent danger to his life from Kanu any moment and got himself
relieved of detective work. Ganu was later involved in an embezzlement for which
he was not really responsible but was suspended. In the enquiry concerned, he pleaded
his innocence, promised to pay the money and submit his resignation. At this stage,
he left the service in 1903 and this happened five years after Baba asked him to
Nobody knew unequivocally about Baba’s parents, his birth and birth place, though
Das Ganu now and then heard Baba saying his connection with Selu village and Venkusa
Guru. About Baba’s origin, nothing is certain due to absence of any proof and also
due to contrary indications. In this regard the contribution made by Das Ganu, who
made extensive enquiries about the
antecedents of Baba at Selu village is worth mentioning.Das Ganu by his nature,
would not accept any statements/views expressed by anybody as granted unless tested
by him and he would accept only after examining them critically after enquiries.
While he was in service he went to Selu village and made enquiries from the villagers
and also from Srinivasa Rao, the Subedar of Selu in 1903 about Baba’s early life
and Baba’s Guru, Venkusa and in the enquiries he came to know that Venkusa was no
other than Gopalrao Deshmukh. Das Ganu was in the Police Department and was also
doing detective work at that time and consequently he developed a questioning mind.
The villagers also told Das Ganu that there was an old saint with a boy who was
being trained up by the Saint. Then the Saint passed away by Ascension and the boy
left the place. In the enquiry, the villagers told him that this had happened some
100 years ago, as expressed to Narasimhaswamiji who interviewed Das Ganu in 1936
when Das Ganu was 78 years of age. This revelation by Das Ganu helped bring out
clearly about the early life of Baba for which all the devotees are ever thankful
to him. Das Ganu made enquiries while in service in 1903 and left the service during
the later part of 1903. The villagers of Selu told him in 1903 about these incidents
about Baba which took place some 100 years back as told by them, i.e. must have
happened around 1803 and during that year Baba was seen as a boy with the Saint
by the villagers of Selu as stated by the villagers and this indicates that Baba
was there prior to 1803. This also proves that no body knew the birth details of
Baba and his age precisely and unequivocally.
On Baba’s advice, Ganu went and settled in Nanded town where he wrote kirtans and
took to discourses on religious themes and became a noted kirtankar and preacher.
Ganu became an itinerant minstrel. In 1910, Das Ganu dressed himself with a head
dress, long flowing coat with a shirt inside etc. started performing kirtans. But
on advice from Baba, he followed Naradiya Paddhati and dressed below waist, a garland
around neck and chiplis. He had a wonderful, metallic and tinkling voice and used
to dance enraptured narrating kirtans about Baba.Ganu always carried with him a
framed photo of Baba, prominently displayed during his kirtans and discourses, visited
all the places in Maharashtra and spread the message of Baba without expecting any
contribution either from the audience or elsewhere.
Das Ganu did not like onions and only after Baba insisted, he started eating onions
except on auspicious days. Das Ganu was not in the habit of drinking thirtham at
the time of aratis performed in the masjid except sprinkling on the head. Also when
Ganga water was flowing below Baba’s feet, he took the water and sprinkled it on
his head but did not drink. Though Baba knew all these things, he did not say any
thing, but allowed Ganu to follow his own belief and tradition.
On instructions from Baba, he wrote three hagiographical books, containing the biographies
of modern saints.Das Ganu wrote several books and commentaries and some of his books
were prescribed as university text books in Bombay and this had happened with Baba's
Grace despite his low education.
He wrote “Bhakta Leelamrut”, published in 1906 with financial support from H.V.Sathe,
which describes the fascinating life history of Baba, described in three chapters.
This was the first book, containing three chapters on Baba's life which was documented
and the entire credit of first writing about Baba, goes to Das Ganu Maharaj. This
was the earliest book written on Baba. He also wrote “Santh Kadhamrith” on Baba
and other saints, which was published in 1903. He wrote “Arvacheena Bhakti Leelamruth”
which is a hagiography, was published in 1906 and has 45 chapters. In this book,
Ganu narrated the lives of many great saints. Among them, there are three chapters
devoted on Saibaba forming “Satya Sai Katha”. Here it is interesting to note that
one by name Bhimaji Patil as a gratitude to Baba, was observing every Thursday Satya
Sai Vrata (Puja) and was reading Saicharita from Das Ganu’s “Arvachin Bhakti Leelamruth”.
He wrote "Shri Sainath stavan Manjari in 1918. Ganu also wrote “Bhakti Saramruth”,
narrating Baba’s life in chapters: 52 and 53, which was published in 1925.
He also wrote a commentary on Isha Upanishad in Marathi at the instance of Baba.
He worked on it strenuously and completed the translation in full, but still had
got unresolved doubts anddiscussed the matter with a few well versed persons. As
all of his doubts were not resolved, he then approached finally Baba who instantaneously
asked him to go to the house of Kaka Dixit at Vile-Parle, Bombay where Dixit’s maid
servant, Malkarni by name would solve the doubts. The point which was not clear
was-how human happiness or sorrow arose. Did they depend on external environments
or were they
embedded in the human mind itself? Ganu visited Kaka Dixit’s house and saw the maid-servant
who was dressed in tattered clothes and but was singing a song happily unmindful
of her tattered clothes on one day. She also sang the same song with the same happiness
when dressed in beautiful saree which was given to her at the instance of Ganu and
she continued singing the songs with the same happiness irrespective of her dress,
whether in a beautiful saree or in tattered clothes. She thus demonstrated that
happiness or misery was in-built in the mind and did not depend on the external
conditions impinging on the mind. Ganu got his doubts clarified through this demonstration.
Wonderful were the ways of Baba in teaching his bhaktas through simple means.
In 1948, Das Ganu Maharaj participated as the President in the All India Sai Devotees
Conference held in Coimbatore under the aegis of Narasimha Swamiji.
At the age of 95 years, he passed away in October, 1962 peacefully on an Ekadasi
day. He lost his wife in 1919. He had no children and hence adopted a son called
Damodar. In Nanded, he was given the title of “Sant Kavi Das Ganu Maharaj” with