(She was an erudite scholar in religious scriptures, but her behaviour was very
peculiar and was not consistent. She was a woman of resolute will and assertive
temperament. She was an organiser of an uncommon ability. She served Baba diligently
and with devotion; and managed many things in Shirdi and introduced several arrangements
in such a short span of 9 years which others could never think of doing in the entire
span of their life time. She wanted Baba to have all the grandeur of Vittal, the
Lord of Pandharpur. She made a humble beginning for the foundation of Sai Baba Sansthan
and many of the practices introduced by her are being continued by the Sansthan
now. Jankibai Tample was equally devoted and maintained the then existing systems).
Her name was Sundrabai Ksheersagar and she was born in 1882. Originally she was
staying in Ahmednagar and knew Bhikubai who was also residing in Ahmednager. In
1899 when she was 17 years of age, her marriage took place but she lost her husband
on the eighth day of marriage and this calamity affected her mentally and emotionally.
She was broken and shaken from the very roots of her existence. As the time passed
it did not heal the mental and emotional agony she was undergoing. She was sent
to the house of her paternal grandfather, Babasaheb Ganesh who was a lawyer so that
the change in outer environment might bring about a healing touch in her conditions.
Even that did not help. One early morning in the year 1902 A.D. she woke up and
started running from her paternal grandfather’s house, never to return. The feeling
of Vairagya (dispassion towards worldly life) had enveloped her strongly. For about
five years she roamed about several places including several pilgrimage centers
all over India, under tough conditions.
She came to Shirdi from Pandharpur with the assistance of Nanasaheb Chandorkar in
1905. When she came to Shirdi, she was in white clothes with a bag hanging on her
shoulder, a musical instrument, with bangles of Tulasi beads and a Tulasi garland
around her neck and approached the masjid where Baba was sitting and took out from
her bag an idol of Radhakrishna and then sang a melodious song, entreating God,
seeking the mercy of God, repenting for her earlier karmas and expressing her deep
pain and anguish. Baba was moved by her song and pitiable position and asked her
to stay in Sala(school) which was vacant, located between the masjid and the chavadi.
Radhakrishnamai was living in a small thatched house. Her belongings consisted of
a small and simple bed with a mosquito net, a nine inch idol of Radhakrishna, a
musical instrument and two Marathi books, one-Saint Tukaram’s Abhangas and another-Jaydev’s
Geet Govind. She used to carry with her always the idol of Radhakrishna wherever
she went. She was cleaning the masjid when Baba was not in the masjid and was also
cleaning the roads where Baba used to walk.
Prior to the arrival of Radhakrishnamai in Shirdi, one by name Balaji Patil Nevaskar
who came to Shirdi after renouncing the world, was cleaning the roads and also had
offered his entire agricultural income to Baba.After his two years stay in Shirdi,
Baba asked him to go home to his native place.
She was preparing daily morning breakfast for Baba and afternoon Baba used to send
her roti-prasad as food for her. She was fond of eating the left overs of Baba’s
meal. She was a woman of resolute will and assertive temperament and short in stature.
When she came to Shirdi, she was about 25 years old. Bhikubai also later came to
Shirdi after her husband passed away and joined Radhakrishnamai on Baba’s orders.
Baba used to call Radhakrishnamai as Radhakrisni or Ayi.or Sala. She was always
seen with a ghungat, covering her face with sari and seen frequently wearing a white
sari which she was liking.
Whenever Justice M.B.Rege visited Shirdi, Rege was always staying, on Baba’s orders,
in the cottage of Radhakrishnamai. Justice Rege was 22 years when he first visited
Shirdi. Radhakrishnamai was a noble and affectionate person and Rege was treating
her as his mother and she was also treating him as her son. She used to get some
bread/roti from Baba as prasad - on which alone she was living and Baba used to
send her an additional roti for Rege whenever he was there.
Urus festival was started in 1896 by Gopalrao Gund, Circle Inspector, Kopargaon
as a token of his gratitude to Baba who blessed him with a child. The urus festival
was being celebrated on Ram Navami day.
After some time, the devotees decided to celebrate Rama-Navami festival also in
Shirdi and went to Baba for permission. Bhishma explained the idea of celebrating
Rama-Navami festival, and asked for Baba’s permission and Baba gladly permitted.
All rejoiced and made preparations for the festival.
Rama Navami festival celebrations were started in Shirdi in 1912 along with urus
festival and these festivals became very important and were sacrosanct for the devotees
of Baba. Most of them visited Shirdi on the occasion and took a leading part in
the management of the combined festival. Tatya Kote Patil looked to all outward
affairs, while the internal arrangements were the responsibility of Radhakrishnamai.
Her residence was full of guests on such occasions and she had to look to the needs
of the visiting pilgrims and also to arrange for all the paraphernalia required
for the celebrations. Feeding the poor, which was so dear to Baba, was also one
of the items in this festival. For this purpose, cooking on a grand scale and preparing
various sweet dishes was done in Radhakrishnamai’s house under her able supervision
and various rich devotees also took part in this festival. Another work, which she
willingly did, was to clean the masjid including its walls and floor which were
blackened and were full of soot on account of the ever burning dhuni and then white-wash
the walls and wash out the entire masjid. . Next day, the masjid was decorated with
buntings etc., a cradle was supplied by Radhakrishnamai, and placed in front of
Baba’s seat and the proceedings started. Bhishma performed the Kirtan and Mahajani
played on the harmonium.It was in 1912 that the celebrations of both Rama-Navami
festival and Urus festival were combined. She was doing the cleaning work in the
masjid in the nights, when Baba went to sleep every alternate day in the chavadi.
She had to take out all the things, including even the dhuni, and after the cleaning
work was done, she used to replace them as they were before.It was Radhakrishnamai
who had prepared for the first time ‘Sunthavada’ (ginger-powder mixed with sugar)
as Prasad which is being followed as Prasad in Shirdi by the Sansthan even now.
After 1912, this festival began to grow gradually in size year after year. During
the month of Chaitra, Shirdi looked like a beehive of several people. Number of
shops were started to cater to the floating population. Celebrated wrestlers took
part in wrestling bouts. Feeding of the poor was also done on a grand scale. Sincere
efforts of Radhakrishnamai turned Shirdi into a Sansthan. A beautiful horse, a palanquin,
a chariot and many silver items etc. were presented to Baba and were used in the
celebrations. Elephants also were made available for the procession. Though all
this paraphernalia increased enormously, Baba ignored all these things, and maintained
simplicity as before. However Baba allowed all these paraphernalia in order not
to displease the devotees. It is to be noted that both the Hindus and Muslims were
working in unison in the processions and during the entire festival; there was no
hitch or quarrel between them at any time. First about 5000 to7000 people used to
collect but later on the figure went up to as high as 75000 or even more in some
years; still there was no outbreak of any epidemic or any ill feeling among the
people during such annual festivals. It is surprising as to how they made arrangements
for feeding such a large number as 75,000 persons with three wells in a such a small
village. The entire credit was due to the organising capacity of Radhakrishnamai
and Tatya Patel.
During 1912, the British Govt. had sent a spy by name Natekar to Shirdi to watch
the movements of Khaparde and report back on his political leanings. Natekar visited
and stayed in Shirdi in the garb of a pilgrim and was meeting all the local and
other people and was also interacting with Radhakrishnamai to elicit information
about Khaparde. He had visited Radhakrishnamai's cottage number of times. However
he had kept his identity totally secret. At the time of leaving Shirdi, Natekar
was given dress material by Radhakrishnamai who gave him a warm send off.
From 1913, the items in the celebrations of Urus and Rama-Navami festival began
to increase and RadhaKrishnamai started a ‘Nama-Saptah’ (singing the glory of God’s
name continuously day and night for seven days). For this, all devotees took part
by turns and she also joined it. As Rama-Navami Festival was celebrated in many
places all over the country, there was a difficulty in getting a Haridas for the
celebrations. But 5 or 6 days before the festival, Mahajani met by Baba’s Grace
one by name Balabuva Mali, who was known as modern Tukaram, and got him to do the
‘Kirtan’ in 1913. The next year (1914), another Balabuva Satarkar came to Shirdi
and with Baba’s permission, he did the Kirtan. Thus there was difficulty in getting
Haridas every year. The difficulty in getting a new Haridas every year was finally
solved from 1914 by Baba, as he entrusted this function to Das Ganu permanently,
and since that time, Das Ganu was successfully and creditably conducting the role
of a kirtankar in these celebrations.
She wanted Baba to have all the grandeur of Vittal, the Lord of Pandharpur.
She was responsible for organizing the chavadi procession with all the royal dignity
and appearance. She was an organiser of an uncommon ability. By her hard work and
determination, she made Shirdi Sansthan into what it is today with all the grandeur
and the present services. She had a melodious voice and was fond of singing. She
had wonderful powers of thought reading. Whenever orders came from Baba for preparing
various dishes, she used to prepare them much in advance in anticipation of such
orders from Baba. She was well versed in the religious scriptures and good at meditation.
She had a stoic indifference to pain and pleasure. She was held in great respect
by all the people in Shirdi. Whenever any one approached Baba for certain interpretations/clarifications
in regard to certain religious scriptures, Baba used to ask him/her to approach
Radhakrishnamai who, being an erudite scholar in all religious scriptures, used
to clarify the doubts of such person. But Baba also simultaneously cautioned her
not to be carried away by their flattery.
But, she had a sharp tongue and a very strange personal character. Sometimes she
would sing melodiously with deep devotion and some other times she would suddenly
break into laughter and then suddenly would start weeping.
Once she humiliated a devotee who had come for Baba’s darshan. Baba was angry at
this happening and told her that anybody who would visit Shirdi and climb the three
steps of the masjid, was his person and that any humiliation to any devotee would
not be tolerated and thus cautioned her. Her behaviour was very peculiar and was
not consistent. She passed away in tragic circumstances in 1916 at the age of 35
and she served Baba and managed many things in Shirdi and introduced several arrangements
in such a short span of 9 years which others could never think of doing in the entire
span of their life time.
Baba once told Justice Rege that Baba was treating Radhakrishnamai as his mother
and that after her death, she got merged in Baba. Her services to Shirdi village
and mainly to Baba whom she wanted to have all the royal dignity and religious grandeur
of Lord Vittal of Pandharpur and in laying the foundation for the future Shirdi
Sai Baba Sansthan, were highly remarkable.
It is interesting to note the following instance: Bhikubai, wife of Bayyaji
Patil Kothe was resident of Sangamner. She knew Radhakrishnamai as a friend at Ahmadnagar
and the latter told Bhikubai about Baba. Bhikubai was married to one Bayaji Patil
Kote at Sangamner but he died at an early age. Then she came from Sangamner to Shirdi
in 1908 in her 14th year and was staying with Radhakrishnamai with Baba’s permission.
Once she had gone to Ahmadnagar to draw her pension as a war widow. On her way back
at Kopergaon near the banks of the Godavari river, she was reminded of the fate
of Radhakrishnamai who was burnt there after her death in tragic circumstances and
was mentally disturbed. At that time she had bought a garland and sweets for offering
to Baba. Then she came to Shirdi and wanted to place the garland on Baba, Baba did
not receive it despite intercession by Dixit. When she neared Baba, the garland
somehow snapped into 3 pieces and fell down. How the garland got snapped into three
pieces, no body could understand. Baba then said, "This woman was weeping and shedding
tears at Godavari river and she has bought all these with such a troubled heart
and so I will not accept them." Baba knew everything that was in her heart and hence
Baba refused to accept these presents. It should be understood that God’s ways are
inscrutable. By this instance, it is known that Baba would accept a garland or any
presents from the devotees when offered with pure heart and devotion and not otherwise.
In 1913, Shri Avasthi visited Shirdi and the moment he climbed up the steps of the
masjid, he saw the form of Lord Shiva in place of Sai Baba. Overcome with emotion,
he immediately prostrated at his feet and after few seconds as he looked up once
again he saw Baba as usual, Baba blessed him and said, "Allah Malik Hai" and told
him to stay at Radhakrishna Ayi's house. Avasthi stayed in the cottage of Radhakrishnamai
and had great faith in Baba. He also treated Radhakrishnamai as his Divine Mother
and she reciprocated by her motherly care and affection towards him. After staying
a few days, he left Shirdi for Pune but could not forget Baba and Radhakrishnamai.
For the next four years, he regularly worshipped both of them in his house.
In the year 1916, Sai Baba did not allow Vamanrao Patel, another devotee to return
to his town and he had to stay in Shirdi for 11 long months. During his stay in
Shirdi, one day he woke up early in the morning and saw Radhakrishnamai alone cleaning
the roads. She was sweeping the roads, removing small stones from the road and also
removing even the dung of
animals. She did not have any hesitation in doing such work. Vamanrao thought that
the person who was doing such cleaning work was very fortunate. So he thought that
he should also accompany her in such noble task. Next day he woke up early in the
morning and got busy in cleaning the roads, of course, without telling Radhakrishnamai.
Radhakrishnamai did not like any other person to intervene in her work. So she did
not like his intervention.. Poor Vamanrao was removing and keeping aside the stones
from the road. When he looked back after cleaning, he saw all the stones come back
to the same place where they were before cleaning. Vamanrao repeated the process
and got tired. But the road was not at all cleaned and the earlier position continued
unchanged. Vamanrao could not understand this.
After few days, Bapu Saheb Booty, Kaka Saheb Dixit, Dr. Pillai, all devotees of
Baba got together for dinner at Radhakrishnamais place. At that time Tatya Patil
openly narrated his own experience regarding Radhakrishnamai. He said once he had
some conflict with Radhakrishnamai, At that time her anger was at its height. After
that he went to his farm and got busy in his work. Some stones came flying from
somewhere and started hitting him on his legs. He was much hurt by these stones.
But he could not find out who was throwing the stones at him. At last he thought
and realized that this deed perhaps was done by Radhakrishnamai only. Vamanrao thus
realized his mistake in not taking permission of Radhakrishnamai and that was perhaps
the reason why he was unable to clean the road.
One day after Avasthi completed his puja in his house in Poona, the puja room was
suddenly filled with a wonderful rose fragrance for at least an hour after which
it subsided. Unable to solve as to how this fragrance suddenly came up in the puja
room, he made enquiries around his house but could not find any reason. After few
days after this incident, he received a letter from Abdul Baba and Wamanrao Patel
from Shirdi that Ayi had passed away, the date and time of which perfectly coincided
with the rose fragrance that filled his room.
A few months after this episode, he visited Shirdi again in 1918 accompanied by
his wife. After Baba’s darshan, he put up as usual at Ayi's house on Baba’s instructions.
His wife started making preparations for Baba's Naivedya but she could not light
up the charcoal stove. When she was unable to do this, she then saw suddenly Ayi
descend down the stairs from
the attic and helped her in lighting the stove and also in assisting her in the
preparation of Baba’s naivedya. Then Ayi climbed back to the attic. At noon, his
wife was expecting and also waited for Ayi to come down and join them for meals,
but she did not come. Perhaps she thought that Ayi might be engaged in some work
so she personally went up to call her but found to her surprise the attic was locked
and she was totally surprised and then made inquiries with the neighbours and found
that Ayi had attained samadhi in 1916. She was shocked and felt that the veil of
Maya was so strong that she failed to recollect that Ayi was no more at the time
when Ayi came down to assist her. Afterwards she knew that a letter in this regard
had also come to them from Shirdi. This indicated that Radhakrishnamai had some
super natural powers.
After Radhkrishnamai’s death, another capable lady noted for vairagya (detachment)
and selflessness by nameMrs.Jankibai Tample alias Shrimati Sai Mai (daughter of
late Purushottam Sakharam alias Balasaheb Bhate, a devout devotee of Sai Baba) took
over performing similar services in Shirdi. She dedicated all her moveable and immoveable
property to the Sansthan by a deed in 1943. She performed all the duties with wonderful
zeal, promptitude and meticulous care worthy of admiration. She did all these things
without caring even for her health. She also converted her office in Sansthan as
“Bhojan Griha” (Dining Hall) which was exclusively meant for the benefit of visiting