(He was affluent, holding honorary positions, the first person to settle down in
Shirdi, left all his property & positions and always found in the company and service
of Baba. Though ignorant of Sanskrit, he had learnt it & became an expert in Sanskrit
language, only with the Grace of Baba).
Shankarrao Raghunath Deshpande alias Nanasaheb Nimonkar was from Nimon which was
a small village 20 miles from Shirdi. Balwantrao,who was father of Shama, was Nimonkar’s
uncle. Nanasaheb Nimonkar was Inamdar of Nimon. As he came from Nimon village, he
was called Nanasaheb Nimonkar.
Nanasaheb Nimonkar was a special Magistrate of Sangamner and Village Chief of 5
villages in and around Nimon. He also owned many acres of land in Nimon village
and was very affluent and a very influential person. He was married to Jayaji who
hailed from Belapur. He left everything in his ancestral village and went along
with his wife to Shirdi and settled there permanently to do service to Baba. Nana
used to address Baba as “Deva” and Baba used to address Nana as “Matare Kaka” .
Nana served Baba till his Mahasamadhi with utmost love and devotion.
Nanasaheb Nimonkar first met Sai Baba at the Maruthi Temple at Rahata in 1890. Nanasaheb
Chandorkar, Personal Assistant to the Collector of Ahmednagar first met Baba in
Shirdi in 1891. Nana Saheb Nimonkar was the blessed devotee to whom Baba gave his
Holy Padukas in the year 1898.
Once Balwantrao took Nimonkar to Baba saying, "People believe he is a mad fakir.
I doubt if he is really mad, but you had better go with me, see him and give me
your opinion." Whenever Balwantrao had gone to see Baba the latter kept him at a
distance by taking up a brickbat and either flinging it or threatening to fling
it at him. Thus He kept him away from going into the mosque. But when Balwantrao
and Nimonkar went to see him, Baba did not fling any stone and they went near Baba.
Nimonkar was attracted to Baba as soon as he saw Baba and on his return to home
he told his uncle with certainty that Baba was a divine saint and not a mad fakir.
Balwantrao could not understand as to why stones were hurled when he went to Baba
earlier but not on the present occasion. For this Nimonkar said, "That is because
you doubted if Baba was mad, but I did not”. From that moment onwards, Nimonkar
visited Baba several times.
Sri Ramanavami celebrations were permitted by Baba in the year 1911 in Shirdi. Every
year, two new flags were ceremoniously carried in the procession and tied to the
dome of the Dwarakamai by fixing permanently. Damodar Sevalram Rasane, a staunch
devotee of Baba was supplying the green flag and Nimonkar was providing embroidered
flag at the time of these celebrations. This tradition was continued by the descendants
of Damodar Sevalram Rasane and those of Nimonkar for the supply of the respective
flags. After Baba’s Mahasamadhi, these flags were kept on Baba’s Samadhi and Aarti
was performed to them. After Lalkari Laghu Aarti was performed, then all the flags
were taken in procession through the village with much dancing and merriment to
Dwarakamai. Finally, the two flags were fixed on the top of the Dwarakamai, while
the Ochere flag was fixed inside the Dwarakamai.
As Nanasaheb Nimonlar was a special Magistrate in Sangamner, he was frequently meeting
Nanasaheb Chandorkar (the Collector’s Personal Assistant) who was also a devotee
of Baba and both of them used to talk about Baba. When Nanasaheb Chandorkar started
the idea of renovating the dilapidated masjid and collected subscriptions, Nimonkar
also contributed some amount and in addition, he supervised the entire renovation
work. Baba would not allow the workmen to do the work and thus the renovation work
was being prevented by Baba. Baba however had great trust in Nimonkar who took it
up when Baba slept at the chavadi and thus Nimonkar got the renovation work completed
Baba also showed his faith in Nimonkar by making him his banker during the years,
1916-18. As and when the funds were received, Baba used to hand them over to Nimonkar
for safe custody. But Shama mistook that money given to Nimonkar as gifts. However,
Nimonkar was affluent and was not in need of any monetary gifts. He kept Baba’s
money safely and intact. Nimonkar was getting an annual income of about 500 rupees
from his estate and his son, Somanath Shankar Deshpande was Inspector of police
in Pune who was also sending him money. Nimonkar did not want temporal gifts from
Baba. But he desired and got gifts from Baba, far superior to monetary gifts, in
the shape of his spiritual advancement. Out of the money he kept on behalf of Baba,
Nimonkar was paying for Baba’s expenses like buying Burfi sweet for distribution
as presents to the people in the masjid and firewood
for the dhuni and the like. Everyone in Shirdi called him "Kaka," and also Baba.
Once Nanasaheb’s wife Jayaji wanted to go to Belapur as her son was seriously ill
and stay there for some time. She made preparations to go there in consultation
with Nimonkar. She consulted Baba for permission and Baba permitted her to go to
Belapur. She informed Nana about the same. Nana agreed but asked her to return to
Shirdi on the next day itself. Jayaji was not willing to return on the next day
as the next day happened to be Amavasya Day and travelling on Amavasya Day was considered
as inauspicious. Hence, she was in a dilemma. However, she wanted to take leave
from Baba and went to Baba when he was standing near Sathewada on his way to Lendibagh.
Nimonkar and others were also present near Baba. At that time, Jayaji came and prostrated
to Baba and asked permission to leave. Baba immediately told Jayaji to visit and
stay in Belapur for 4 days and come back to Shirdi after meeting everyone there.Baba’s
words solved the dilemma in her mind and Nimonkar who was standing there also understood
Baba’s views. Thus both of them were satisfied with Baba’s direction.
When Shama was bitten by a snake on his small finger, that part became poisonous.
Somebody suggested that he should go to Shiva temple. At that moment, Nimonkar who
was present there, said that he should first take Udi from Baba and then go. Then
Shama ran to the masjid and Baba immediately saved him from the jaws of death just
by simple words of command, instructing the poison to get down.
Once Captain (Dr.) Hate from Gwalior, who visited Baba in Dec, 1911 and who was
a staunch devotee of Baba, had sent some money by post to his friend who was in
Shirdi. He asked him to buy good qualityShidha and some quantity of Valpapadi (a
variety of beans) from that money and offer the remaining balance as dakshina to
Baba. As per Hate’s desire, his friend purchased all the required items except Valpapadiwhich
he could not find in Shirdi. But all of a sudden, at that moment a woman was carrying
some Valpapadi on her head for sale. Hate’s friend purchased all the items from
that woman and offered them, on behalf of Hate, with reverence to Baba. Then Baba
gave them to Nimonkar and asked him to cook for naivedya for the next day. The next
day when Baba sat down to eat, he did not touch any of the items like the dal, rice
or other items already kept for Baba as
naivedya but he took only Valpapadi and ate it with relish. When Hate came to know
about this from his friend he was extremely happy.
In the Chavadi Procession that used to take place between the masjid and chavadi,
Nimonkar held over Baba’s head, the white Umbrella which moved in a circle on its
supporting stick with its pendants and tassels. While going in the procession, Baba
would stop opposite to Maruthi Temple and wave his arms mystically, some fifteen
or twenty times and would mutter some words, addressed to Maruthi. Baba was also
doing similar things whenever he sat before the dhuni early morning every day. It
was interpreted that Baba by doing these hand movements and muttering some words,
was having communion with the Gods.
Nimonkar’s daughter-in-law was in the family way and in 1916, her delivery was expected
and Nimonkar and his wife started for Poona and visited Shirdi which was on the
way. After Baba’s darshan, they wanted leave to go to Poona, but Baba refused permission.
Baba also told Nimonkar.that he should stay by Baba's side, bury him and then leave
Shirdi. Asked about the delivery, Baba replied, "Why are you anxious? God will help".
Then Nimonkars stayed in Shirdi. And at Poona, no body was there to help his daughter-in-law
and when she got pains, she was taken to a hospital and there within an hour, she
delivered a male child without the assistance of a doctor or nurse and the child
was in good health. At that time in Shirdi in the masjid, Baba told Nimonkar that
there was a woman who was taken to the hospital where she delivered a male child
safely and Nimonkar understood that this matter referred to them.
Once Somnath Shankar Deshpande, CID Inspector at Poona and son of Nimonkar, started
to go to his ancestral home in Nimon in 1917 where his brother's wife had recently
delivered a child and on the way, he visited Shirdi and had darshan of Baba. When
he took leave from Baba, Baba gave him udhi and asked him to save the child. But.
Somnath took this advice of Baba as referring to his own boy travelling with him
and gave him the udhi and left for Nimon. When he reached Nimon, his brother's new
born child was in very bad health and the child’s survival was doubtful. Then he
remembered Baba's words at his parting time and felt that the matter referred to
this child only and he immediately looked for the udhi. But it was not available.
Then he took the child on his own lap and prayed to Baba with lot
of faith and devotion. Miraculously in a short while, the child picked up health
and became normal. How kind was Baba to protect devotees and their children. The
child was named Padmakar and when the child was taken to Shirdi after few months,
Baba took the child in his lap and said, “Here is my Dutta” and hence Padmakar’s
name was changed as Dutta.
Nimonkar and Shama used to serve food daily to the devotees in the masjid. After
all the food brought by devotees were mixed and offered to God and consecrated,
Baba used to fill the platters and give them to Nimonkar and Shama for distribution
to the devotees present in the masjid. Everyday these two had the fortune of serving
the food with their hands in the masjid. The two considered the distribution of
the naivedya as their regular religious duty and performed the task with great love
All these details came to light when Somnath Shankar Deshpande was interviewed in
1936 by B.V.Narasimhaswamiji about Nimonkar’s and Somnath’s experiences with Baba.
As regards the spiritual benefit Nimonkar received with Baba’s Grace, Somnath said
that his father had a desire to read the religious books in Sanskrit as Pothi for
parayana purpose, but he did not know Sanskrit. Baba once asked, on his own, Nimonkar
to read religious books as Pothi, but he said that he did not know Sanskrit. Baba
then asked him to read religious books in Sanskrit even though he did not know Sanskrit
as Masjid Mother (Masjidmai or Dwarakamai) would teach him Sanskrit. Then he started
reading Shrimad Bhagwat and its commentary, both in Sanskrit without understanding
any word in the books. As he continued reading the books, after some time, he started
understanding what he had read. Thereafter he read Jnaneshwari also. Thus he became
proficient in Sanskrit and at one time when Dixit and Jog had doubts in these Sanskrit
books, he cleared their doubts. It would be surprising to observe that both Dixit
and Jog were learned Sanskrit scholars. But Nimonkar with Baba’s Grace, had attained
that level of proficiency in Sanskrit so as to clarify the doubts of Sanskrit scholars
in understanding Pothis written in Sanskrit.
Somnath also said that he was fortunate enough to serve Baba for four days when
his father went to Ahmadnagar and stayed there for four days for giving evidence.
He said though he was young compared to his father’s age and in spite of this, he
felt that service to Baba during the four-day short period itself, was physically
taxing for him. The only difference between his
service and his father’s service was that his father was doing service while sitting
and he, being young, was doing service while standing. Thus Somnath felt that his
father doing service to Baba during his entire life time, by being always at the
beck and call of Baba, was really credit worthy and was an eloquent testimony of
his father’s unswerving devotion to Baba.
In “Shri Sai Sahasranamavali” & “Ashtotharam” composed by B.V. Narasimhaswamiji,
special mention was made in verse 521 about the Granting of Holy Padukas by Baba
to Nana Saheb Nimonkar and its meaning reads as “One who has bestowed spiritual
bliss to Nimonkar by granting Padukas”.
In Oct, 1918, Baba had stopped moving around in the Lendibagh and also stopped his
begging rounds, but only was sitting in the masjid. Baba was very much conscious
to the last moment of his human life. He did not give any hint to any one about
the exact time of his departure. Dixit and Booty were always dining daily with him
in the masjid. But on 15th October after arati puja, Baba asked them to go to the
wada for dining. At that time, Laxmibai Shinde, Bhagoji Shinde, Bayaji, Laxman Bala
Shimpi, Nanasaheb Nimonkar and Chandrabai Borkar were present in the masjid and
Shama was sitting down on the steps. Then Baba gave Rs.9/- to Laxmibai Shinde. Then
Baba said that he did not feel well in the masjid and that he should be taken to
the Dagadiwada (stone building) of Booty where he would be alright and with these
words, Baba leaned on Bayaji's body and went to Mahasamadhi. Bhagoji observed that
his breathing had stopped and he immediately told this to Nanasaheb Nimonkar who
was sitting below. Nimonkar brought some water and poured it in Baba's mouth and
it came out. Then he shouted out loudly, ”'Oh Deva.” Then Baba seemed just to open
his eyes and said, “Haa” in a low tone. The news of Baba's passing away spread like
a wild fire in the village of Shirdi and all people ran to the masjid and began
to mourn this loss in various ways. After discussions for 36 hours, all the people,
despite the different view expressed by some of them, have finally agreed unanimously
by Baba's inspiration, for the proposal of interment of Baba’s body in the Dagadiwada.
On Wednesday evening Baba's body was taken in procession and brought to the Wada
and was interred there with due formalities. In fact Baba became the Murlidhar and
the Bootywada became a temple and a holy shrine.
From 1890 onwards much before other important devotees started visiting or staying
in Shirdi, Nanasaheb Nimonkar, though affluent and also a Special Magistrate, an
Inamdar of Nimon, the Village Chief of five villages and also owned several acres
of land in Nimon village, discarded all the assets and ignored all the positions
and came with his wife and settled in Shirdi much before others, in the service
of Baba till Baba’s Mahasamadhi. He was always found to be with Baba either in the
masjid or when Baba was moving within the Shirdri village. He was also with Baba
even in the Chavadi Procession or in the celebrations of Ramanavami Festival. Such
was his greatness and devotion he had displayed towards Baba and he was, therefore,
a blessed devotee of Baba of the highest order. After Baba’s Mahasamadhi, Nimonkar
left Shirdi went to Nimon and then to Ahmednagar and from there he went to Poona
where Somnath was there and in Poona, Nimonkar passed away in January, 1919.
Even though the Holy Padukas were given by Baba in the year 1898 to Nimonkar, they
were not allowed for public darshan till the year 2008. .Nandakumar Revannath Deshpande
(great grandson of Nanasaheb Nimonkar) got a dream in the year 2008 in which Baba
instructed him to allow the public to have darshan of the Holy Padukas. Hence, .Nandakumar
obeyed the orders of Baba and started allowing the public to have darshan of the
holy Padukas from the auspicious month of Shravan in the year 2008. The centenary
celebrations of Sri Ramanavami Festival were performed in 2011 in Shirdi and Nandakumar
had the fortune of hoisting the Flag on the top of Dwarakamai and Nandakumarcontinued
the legacy of his Great Grand Father with equal zeal and devotion.