Samadhi Mandir

These moving and inspiring words, spoken by Sai Baba, have played their part in ensuring that the Samadhi Mandir (also known as the Sai Baba Temple, although technically it is a shrine rather than temple) is the most important site in Shirdi, and the main focus of Sai worship and devotion. For it is here that we find the samadhi (tomb) of Sai Baba, with the compelling statue above it. Baba has famously pro-mised, "I shall be active and vigorous even from the tomb," and it is perhaps in the mandir that we can most fully experience the phenomenon of Sai Baba and the remarkable way he has touched the hearts and lives of millions of people from all over the world. At any given point, the shrine will be full of devotees eagerly queuing up to have Baba's darshan. People will be holding flowers, garlands, sweets, or fruit to offer Baba at his samadhi. Some may have a personal item - such as a shawl, book, key to a new possession, etc, which they have brought here to obtain Baba's blessing by offering it at his feet and having it touch his tomb. Some people may be chanting,"Sri Satchidananda Sadguru Sainath Maharaj ki jai!" (Hail the great sadguru, Lord Sai, who is being-consciousness-bliss!) and others may be singing bhajan or whispering prayers.

At busy times, especially during festivals, the queue for darshan used to stretch for hundreds of metres through the village streets; with the recently constructed Queue Complex, this is no longer the case. People may wait up to eight hours just for the opportunity to pay brief homage to their Lord. The atmosphere of fervent and one-pointed devotion reaches its zenith here. "Attention one and all!" commands the noon arati psalm, "Come, come quickly and make obeisance to Sai Baba!" This is exactly what the devotees are hastening to do, and to be part of this torrent of emotion is a powerful experience.

Concerning the significance of Sai Baba's tomb and the response that devotees experience there, Sri Babuji was once asked whether there was any difference for the devotees between now and when Baba was in his physical body. He gave the following reply:
"Baba was never confined to his physical body even before 1918, because he himself said, 'My murshid (guru) has already freed me from this body. Whoever thinks that this body is Sai Baba, hasn't seen Sai Baba at all.' His devotees need some means of interacting with Baba, and because his body had already been released, it was actually a tomb - a small, moving, limited tomb that was capable of interacting with a number of people. Then, because he is so loving and he wanted to cater to the growing needs of the people, he had to change. So he changed his tomb - from that tomb to the present tomb, which is an extension of the one he had before, and is a form of Baba's body. That is why he said, 'My tomb will speak, my tomb will move, my tomb will answer,' just as his physical body had been answering."
In this form, thousands of people a day are able to take Baba's darshan and do namaskar to him.

The shrine which houses Baba's tomb was originally constructed as a wada (large private house) during Baba's last years in his physical body. It is built on some land which Baba had tended as a garden. Sai Baba seemed to like growing plants and in his early days he cleared and levelled this land which had been used as a dumping ground. Using seeds that he had brought from Rahata, he planted it with jasmine and marigolds. For about three years Baba would water the plants every day and distribute the flowers to the local temples. Now that his tomb is here and Baba is receiving so many devotees, it seems that he is nurturing plants of a different nature - and still sowing seeds.

The shrine was built by a wealthy devotee from Nagpur, Gopalrao Booty. The Sri Sai Satcharitra describes him as a "multi-millionaire". He was introduced to Baba by S. B. Dhumal about ten years before Baba's mahasamadhi.

The wada was originally intended as a resthouse and mandir. The inspiration for the building came to Booty in a dream, when he was sleeping beside his friend and fellow devotee, Shama. Baba appeared and told him to build a house and temple. Excited by his vision, Booty immediately woke up and pondered its significance. He noticed that Shama had tears in his eyes and asked him what the matter was. It transpired that Shama had just had the same dream and was deeply touched by it. He told Booty, "Baba came near me and said distinctly, 'Let there be a wada with a temple so that I can satisfy the desires of all.'" Together they then drew up some rough sketches, showed them to Kakasaheb Dixit for approval, then took them straightaway to Baba to ask his permission to go ahead with the plan. Baba responded warmly and gave his blessings to the project.
The work was begun around 1915. It was built in stone and was therefore known as dagadi (stone) wada. Shama supervised the construction of the basement, ground floor and well. Later, Bapusaheb Jog took over supervising the work. When Baba passed the site on his way to Lendi, he would sometimes offer suggestions. As the building progressed, Booty asked Baba if he could include a temple on the ground floor with a statue of Murlidhar (a form of Krishna). Baba readily gave permission and said, "When the temple is built, we shall inhabit it and ever afterwards live in joy." Shama then asked Baba if that moment was an auspicious time to start the work and Baba replied that it was. Shama immediately fetched and broke a coconut and the work was begun. The foundation was quickly laid, a pedestal prepared and an order placed for the idol. However, the significance of Baba's comment was not appreciated until a few years later.
It was around this time that Baba fell ill and his devotees feared the worst. Booty also felt dejected, wondering whether Baba would live to see the completed wada, never mind grace it with his presence. The whole construction seemed pointless to him if Baba was not going to remain there in his body. However, Baba was to move into the wada in a way that had not been foreseen by others. His health rapidly deteriorated and on 15 October 1918 he lay with his body fading fast. His last words were, "I'm not feeling well in the masjid. Carry me to the dagadi wada."
Baba was indeed carried to the wada, and was buried in the place where the image of Murlidhar was to have been placed; an edifice was later raised over the tomb. However, this did not happen immediately, as a dispute erupted over where Baba was to be buried. One faction led by Kushalchand, Amir Shakhar and Bade Baba insisted on burial in a Muslim grave outside Lendi Gardens, which Shama also supported; Ramchandra Patil headed the group that insisted that Baba's last words be respected and he be buried in Booty Wada. The group wanting burial in the Muslim burial ground not only deemed it appropriate for a fakir, but more urgently, they wanted to ensure that they would have access to the tomb. They were apprehensive that if Baba was buried in a private house, the tomb would become the personal property of the owner and there would be no guarantee of their admittance. Others, however, especially the younger generation, were adamant that Baba be buried in Booty Wada. Both groups shared the desire to honour Baba appropriately and the matter was eventually settled by plebiscite.
The day that Baba took mahasamadhi, Tuesday, 15 October 1918, was a highly auspicious and holy one in both the Hindu and Muslim calendars. It was the ninth day of Ramzan (a major festival and fasting month for Muslims) and it also happened to be the major Hindu festival of Vijayadasami. Furthermore ekadasi (a significant time in the lunar cycle of the Hindu calendar) had just started. Two months previously Baba had sent a message to Banne Mia fakir, saying that "on the ninth day, of the ninth month, Allah is taking away the lamp he lit". He also sent some offerings to the fakir Shamsuddin Mia and a request to do moulu and qawalis (both are types of devotional singing) and nyas (feeding of the poor). Thus right up until his final moments in the body, Baba was embracing both communities.
The news of Baba's passing spread quickly, and thousands came to Dwarkamai for a final darshan, queuing for five or six hours. The body was kept on a hand-cart all night, while the preparations - digging a pit and building the platform - went on. Before the burial, Baba's kafni was removed and he was given a final bath. It is reported that even at this stage his body remained soft, as if he were merely sleeping. Earlier, while the body was in the wheelchair, his nose started to bleed (usually impossible in a lifeless body).
Twenty-six hours after he had left his body, Baba was finally interred. Certain personal articles were buried with him: the broken brick, now mended with gold and silver wire; one of his satkas; a chillim; needle and cotton (Baba would mend his clothes until they were a mass of repairs, a cause of affectionate amusement among close devotees); some spices to preserve the body; and an old cloth bag that Baba never allowed anyone to touch, but which devotees investigated after his mahasamadhi and found that it contained a green kafni and a cap.
The burial was completed by Wednesday evening and the tomb sealed. A photograph of Sai Baba was placed on a throne on the platform above the tomb. It remained there until the statue was installed in 1954. That picture is now kept in the recess of the Samadhi Mandir where some other articles used or touched by Baba are on display.
The mandir that we see now is about twice the size of the original building, having been later extended back from the stone arches. As the temple authorities try to find new ways of coping with the ever-increasing flow of visitors, various alterations are made. In 1998 a hall, adjoining Dwarkamai, was added to the back of the mandir, so that it has again almost doubled in size. Devotees who wish to spend time in the Samadhi Mandir may use this part of the building.
Dwarkamai Masjid

Dwarkamai is located in between Samadhi Mandir and Chavadi – the relaxing place of Master Sai Baba. One gets on his way to Dwarkamai by current Checkpoint No. 3 of Samadhi Mandir Building, near Mukh-darshan. On the other hand one can arrive at Dwarkamai through Checkpoint No. 4 which moves through a jct of stores in a little isle.Opposite to Dwarkamai, one will observe a lengthy row of stores swarmed with broad variety of images of Master Sai Baba in all styles, idols, attractive parts and much more which a reader's thoughts actually think of. Getting near to Dwarkamai, the huge fireplace is noticeable as its first vision.

This easy and unadorned framework created up of metal ceiling and difficult rocks was middle of religious instructions which was selected by Master Sai Baba Himself. It is certainly a issue of shock to anyone and it will be challenging to believe the simple fact it was the locations where the well-known Fakir known as "Sai Baba" invested about 60 decades of His life-span on this world. When Mhlasapti declined to allow this wandering Fakir to create Khandoba forehead His Residence, an old and decayed mosque was determined by Him and it was known as as “Dwarkamai”. Rather, this was already meant and a brilliant phase of Master Baba to join forces Hindu and Islamic team by labeling a mosque after a hub of pilgrimage of Hindus (Dwarka - Area of Master Krishna). This mosque was not limited only to Hindus and Muslims, individuals of every caste, creed, color, belief, sect, intelligence, place were no cost get into, search for religious value according to his potential and come back with articles center.

One would certainly be amazed to see this traditional framework as chair of Extremely Spiritual E of this era and would rather be perturbed to think the factor that this was the very same place where wonders, religious discourses and nurturing activities of beloved Master Baba ran in quivalent variety to its guests cum hunters. One viewpoint which can handle this measures of Master Baba is that He was dispassion incarnate and liked full simpleness with minimal existing and desired to set an example of non-attachment, so what place other than the old and decayed mosque would fit Him? In this mosque His qualities were – a Chilam (smoking pipe), a Satka (small stick), asking dish and a few parts of material on which He used to relax and a Kafni on His body. He used to say, “Fakiri (poverty) is far better than Amiri (Kingship).” Although His supporters (devotees) was adament to carry out fixes to this mosque, He tried to prevent them saying that there is no need for it. The mosque in whatever situation it was, was costlier to Him more than a diamond-studded precious metal framework. For Him, this was actual significance of Kingship and it has been mentioned that He never permitted His lovers to carry cash money or expensive existing articles. This would fury Him to no boundaries, but when easy lovers introduced something to eat for Him and afterwards didn't remember about the factor, the liability of telling the devotee was on back of special Master Baba. Hiss really like ran in large quantity on such events and in convert Master Baba Himself got in financial trouble to offer His special devotee for many births to come alongwith the existing one.

The peculiarity of this mosque as stated earlier is that anyone was free to access it. Suffering bodies and its resident souls experienced that merely going inside this palace of Lord Baba confer blessings and one is free from every misery the very same moment. One always has a feeling of security, calmness, acceptance when he is in his mother’s lap. Lord Baba described greatness of this mosque by naming it as “Maai or Ayi (as said in Marathi language). Henceforth I would also refer it as ‘Mother Mosque’.

See what Master Baba has said about this mom mosque: This is our Dwarkamai, where you are seated. She wards off all risks and stresses of the kids, who sit in her lap. This Masjidmai is very merciful; she is the merciful mom of the easy lovers, whom she will preserve in mishaps. Once a individual rests in her lap, all his problems are over. He, who sets in her color, gets enjoyment.”

One is surely to get enhanced motherly and homely atmosphere in this abode of Lord Baba. But as per His characteristic, He included Himself in His group of devotees and be a One of them! Lord Sai Baba is loving mother to many of His devotees and to many others He is God Supreme. Thus these two are closely synthesized in Lord Baba – a mother who looks after smallest of smallest domestic need of His child and the Supreme One Who is always concerned about spiritual upliftment of His devotees.

Dwarkamai Masjid 1898:When Lord Baba moved to this dilapidated mosque, it was sheer small and not like the one which we see today. Rather, only the upper level existed where Lord Baba has settled and started to live like ordinary Fakir mortals. Few rich devotees thought of getting mosque repaired. With initial opposition of Lord Baba, they succeeded in getting permission through Bhagat Mhlasapti who intervened and pressed Lord Baba to accept request of His dear devotees. Shri Gopal Gund thought that he should repair and renovate the Masjid. But this work was not assigned to him. This was reserved for Nanasaheb Chandorkar and the pavement work for Kakasaheb Dixit. His permanently shifting to dwarkamai was in fact a turning point of His life and also the village as a whole because it marked close contact with local residents of Shirdi.

Saibaba In Dwarkamai:After sometime a unusual and amazing occurrence drawn the villager’s interest and thereby they came to know about some unnatural capabilities current in this so known as mad Fakir. The occurrence has been read in Shri Sai Satcharitra and it has been very well-known, that these days also it is being recalled and has got place in designs of many bhajan lines authors, artwork of performers and documents of broad variety of authors.

After this occurrence many leelas followed leading to a ongoing increase of lovers and the trend has not ceased ever since then. It noticeable success of excellent over wicked, simple fact over falsity, lighting over night. Dwarkamai is thus always lit with lighting, lighting being a icon of understanding and religious wiseness. Here is finish edition of this story: Sai Baba was very attached to lighting. He used to gain accessibility oil from shop-keepers, and keep bulbs losing the whole evening in the Masjid and forehead. This went on for a while. The Banias, who provided oil free, once met together and determined not to provide Him oil. When, as regular, Sai Baba went to ask for oil, they all offered Him a unique “No”. Unperturbed, Sai Baba came back to the Masjid and kept the dry draws in the bulbs. The banias were looking at Him with fascination. Sai Baba took the Tumrel (tin pot) which provided very little (a few drops) of oil, put drinking water into it and consumed it and pressured it drop in the package. After consecrating the tin-pot in this way, He again took drinking water in the tin-pot and loaded all the bulbs with it and lit up them. To the shock and surprise of the looking at Banias, the bulbs began to get rid of and kept losing the whole evening. The Banias repented and apologized. Sai Baba forgave them and requested them to be more genuine later on.

Dwarkamai Present:The Dwarkamai of today consists of two levels – the upper and lower one. The upper level consists of Dhuni Maa, A Puja Pillar, Water Pot on Stand, Kolamba underneath it, Nimbar, A Grinding Stone and Sack of Wheat Grains, Cupboard containing Chilams, a Large Portrait of Lord Baba – a living image of posture in which Lord Baba used to sit in Dwarkamai, Padukas in front of the Portrait, Dakshina Box and a bathing stone and lower level consists of A Tulsi Brindavan, Lord Baba’s portrait in His Sweet Posture and the stone on which He used to sit, Animal statues of a tiger and horse, A Tortoise tile, The Cooking hearth (Chula) and Wooden Post, Padukas where Baba used to Stand, Storage room and The Bell.

The lower level of mother mosque remains open all day and night allowing kids of Lord Baba to sit and rest. During three festivals of Ramnavami, Gurupoornima and Dushera the upper level is also kept open at nights.

Chavadi

Chavadi means village meeting place, office, or court and was the place where taxes were collected, village records kept, disputes settled by the village heads, and visiting officials put up. After Baba's mahasamadhi the Sansthan acquired the Chavadi, and until the late 1930s, used it for storing books and accommodating pilgrims. The village offices have long been relocated and the Chavadi is kept as a shrine to Baba and is open to all.

Sai Baba is intimately connected with this place, as he used to sleep here on alternate nights during the last decade of his life. The routine was started one wild and stormy night around 1909. It was raining heavily and water was coming through the leaky walls of the mosque. The devotees tried their best to persuade Baba to move out, if only until the water had subsided, but Baba did not want to go. Eventually, they virtually forced him to leave, by picking him up and half-carrying him to the Chavadi. From that day on, Baba would spend alternate nights here.

The Chavadi is very significant to Sai devotees not only because Baba stayed here but also because it played a major role in the inception of formal worship of Baba. Once Baba started sleeping at the Chavadi, the custom arose of offering regular arati to him on his arrival from the mosque. This was Sej (night) Arati. Later, Kakad (morning) Arati was offered when he woke up there. The performance of Midday and Evening aratis at the mosque probably developed after this.

Around the time that Dwarkamai was renovated, the Chavadi was also upgraded. The mud walls were neatly plastered, huge mirrors were hung, glazed tiles replaced the mud floor and glass chandeliers were suspended from the ceiling. The funding for the renovations was provided by Anna Chinchanikar, who was deeply devoted to Baba. He had been involved in a land dispute and after a protracted struggle, during which he repeatedly asked Baba about the outcome, he was elated when the court ruled in his favour. Feeling that the triumph was due purely to Baba's grace, he very much wanted to give Baba the full sum awarded. Baba, however, refused it and Dixit suggested that the money be spent on the Chavadi and named after Chinchanikar and his wife. Consequently, their names are inscribed (in Marathi) on a plaque above the doorway. The sitting platform along the outside of the front wall is a later addition.

Inside the Chavadi is a large portrait of Baba which was painted by Ambaram from Nausari in Gujarat, after Baba had given him darshan in a dream in 1953. At the time, Ambaram was only eighteen years old. Touched by Baba and Ambaram's painting of him, the villagers of Nausari collected donations in order to buy the painting and bring it to Shirdi.

On the left of the painting is a plain, wooden bed on which Baba was given his last bath after he passed away in Dwarkamai. These days, the bed is taken out each Thursday and the palanquin is placed on it. In the same corner next to the bed is a wheelchair which was presented to Baba when he was suffering from asthma, but which he never used.

The right portion of the building contains the framed photo of the cross-legged Baba kept in grand attire (hence it is known as the raj upachar photo - see opposite page). This is the picture that is taken out on procession each Thursday and on festivals. It is now kept on a silver throne which stands in the place where Baba used to sleep. Baba did not allow women into this section and this tradition is maintained today; only men and boys are allowed in this area.

The Chavadi is open 04:00 AM- 9:00 PM

Gurusthan

Gurusthan means "place of the guru". It is where Baba spent most of his time when he first came to Shirdi, and also where, according to Baba, the tomb of his own guru is located, by the neem tree. Gurusthan is therefore one of the most important places in Shirdi. Once when some villagers were digging the foundations for Sathe Wada just behind the neem tree, they came across some bricks in the soil and what looked like the opening of a tunnel. Uncertain whether to proceed or not, they asked Baba what they should do. He told them that this was the site of the tombs of his ancestors and that it would be better not to disturb them.

There are several ref-erences to Baba's guru recorded in the literature, but they are somewhat enigmatic, and it is not clear whether he was referring to a guru in his present lifetime, or a previous one.

We have already seen (in the Foreword) the importance that mahatmas give to staying at the place and tombs of saints. In accord-ance with this principle Baba made Shirdi his base because it was the place of his guru. To really grasp the significance of the gurusthan in this tradition, we should understand the importance of the guru. Sai Baba has told us that learning and scriptural knowledge are not necessary, but rather, "Trust in the guru fully. That is the only sadhana." A reading of his life and teachings helps to inculcate this trust and shows us that Baba's life was itself the epitome of this central truth. As B. V. Narasimhaswami has commented, "Baba's biography is the practical illustration of what guru and sishya mean, and of the principles that govern their mutual relation."

Perhaps the first thing that catches our eye at Gurusthan is the huge neem tree. This tree gave shelter to Baba for a few years when he stayed beneath it. Neem has many medicinal properties, though its leaves are notoriously bitter. However, some people once reported that the leaves of one of the branches tasted sweet. For them this was a sign of Baba's grace; others see it as evidence of the tree's exceptional sanctity.

One anecdote concerning the neem tree illustrates how practical and down-to-earth Baba could be. In the early 1900s, after Baba had moved to the mosque, construction work on Sathe Wada was hampered by a long branch of the tree. However, nobody wanted to remove it as this tree had been sanctified by Baba's stay under it. When Baba was approached for his advice he told the villagers, "Cut off however much is interfering with the construction. Even if it is our own foetus which is lying across the womb, we must cut it!" But despite this clear instruction from Baba, none dared meddle with the tree. Eventually Baba himself climbed up and lopped off the branch.

Another reason for the villagers' reluctance to prune the tree may have been that some time previously a boy had climbed the tree to trim it, and had fallen to the ground and died. At that moment Baba, who was in the mosque, sounded a note of distress, blowing sanka (the sound a conch shell makes when blown into) with his cupped hands. Baba sometimes did this when a person was in great danger, although he could not have "seen" from the mosque what was occurring at Gurusthan. Villagers linked the boy's death with his attempt to cut the tree, and became afraid to do anything that might have been a sacrilege.

Today at Gurusthan, in addition to the neem tree, there is a pair of marble padukas on a pedestal, a Shivalingam and a statue of Baba. The statue, carved by the grandson of the sculptor of the Samadhi Mandir statue, was donated by Y. D. Dave and installed in 1974; the other items were set up in Baba's time.

Khandoba Temple

In the sequence of events that were destined to become famous as part of the early life of a most beloved and very great saint, this small temple is of two-fold importance: first as the spot where Shri Sai Baba halted on his entry into Shirdi with the wedding party of Chand Bhai Patil, and secondly as a place where he acquired his name.

It is said that a young man, dressed in the Muslim fashion in a Kafni (Robe) arrived in a bullock cart as the guest of the wedding party. As the party approached the temple, the temple priest, Mhalsapati, on seeing the fakir, called out, “Ya, Sai!” (“Welcome, Sai!”) and the name remained ever after (Sai is a Persian word meaning “saint” or ‘holy’, and Baba means “father”). In this way, it was Mhalsapati who was responsible for Baba’s name, which has become the sacred mantra of thousands of his devotees.

In those days, the temple was on the periphery of the village in the midst of a burial ground. The structure was very basic and did not even have a door. However, it seems to have appealed to Baba’s temperament as he commented to the incumbent priest, Mhalsapati. That being so quiet and solitary, it would make a good spot for an ascetic like him to stay.

Khandoba was the tutelary deity of the Mhalsapati family, and Mhalsapati was the temple’s hereditary priest. Khandoba, originally a pastoral deity, is popular in Maharashtra and is now worshipped as a form of Shiva. The temple here was a simple, rural temple; today, it is a small, well-maintained and neatly kept building.

The idol of Khandoba – a colourful image – is flanked on either side by one of his two wives. On the right sits Mhalsa, and on the left is Baanai, who represents the business community. Mhalsa is worshipped as a form of Parvati and Baanyani is venerated as a form of Goddess Ganga.

At the entrance to the temple is a large banyan tree which is mentioned in the ‘Shri Sai Satcharitra’ as the place where the bullock cart halted. It is now commemorated with a small shrine and ‘padukas’ at its base.

Baba would sometimes stop at Khandoba Temple on his way back from Rahata (which was then a village, five kilometers away from Shirdi).

Upasani Maharaj, a prominent devotee of Shri Sai Baba, spent about two years here, on instruction from Baba to stay in Shirdi for four years. Baba told Shri Upasani that he would win the grace of Khandoba on completion of the four years’ tenure. Later, in the 1920s, Upasani Maharaj sponsored the renovation of the temple as a gesture of gratitude for the benefit he had derived there.

Lendibagh

Lendi is significant as the place which Baba used to visit every day. It contains some tombs, a shrine, and most importantly, the perpetually burning lamp lit by Baba and placed between the two trees he planted. A few months before Baba's mahasamadhi the land was bought by a Bombay devotee, M. W. Pradhan, and later presented to the Sansthan. At the end of 1999, Lendi Gardens was radically re-landscaped, and the previously paved and tree-lined area turned into lawns with a waterfall and flower beds.

In Baba's time, Lendi was an area of wasteland between two small streams, the Lendi and the Sira (now dried up). Baba used this area for toilet purposes. He would leave the mosque for Lendi around nine o'clock in the morning accompanied by some devotees. However, none was allowed inside with him except Abdul Baba.

Apart from answering the calls of nature here, Baba seemed to enjoy going to Lendi and sometimes went several times a day. This was the place where he spent time in solitude.It was a particular characteristic of Baba's that once he had started something, it became a strict and lifelong routine. For example, though initially devotees forced him out of the mosque into the Chavadi because of heavy rain, he continued his routine of sleeping there every other night as long as he was alive. Similarly, after his arm was burnt in the dhuni, it was dressed and tended by Bhagoji Shinde; the wound healed and Baba lived for a further eight years, but the practice of Bhagoji changing the bandage every day continued until the end.

Showing a similar regard for routine, Baba always took the same route whenever he went to Lendi from Dwarkamai. A fakir will sometimes take up strict adherence to a routine as a practice, as it is supposed to reduce the opportunity for personal preference, and hence development of the ego. Baba had no need for any practice, but he seemed to maintain the routine anyway. His route to Lendi was not the most direct or obvious, yet he stuck to it unswervingly. Perhaps we will never know what his reasons were, but just as Baba used to go along with a few devotees, let us also walk with him and take a short stroll to Lendi.

We begin by turning right out of Dwarkamai, then left down a narrow lane opposite the entrance to Gurusthan. Halfway along this path, the route kinks right and then immediately left. Baba would often pause at this corner, which was where his devotee Balaji Pilaji Gurav lived. A small shrine enclosing a pair of padukas now marks the spot where he would stand. Baba would sometimes also stop further down the lane and stand in a similar posture to the god, Vittal. There is now a Vittal Temple in that same place.

At the bottom of the lane we turn right, and within a few metres, come to a small temple on the left opposite the post office. This is one of the oldest temples in Shirdi. It is dedicated to Sri Kanifnath, one of the nine leaders of the Nath cult. A distinguishing feature of the Naths is the maintenance of a dhuni. Baba used to pass the temple every day, giving rise to conjecture that he had some connection with the place and therefore incorporated it into his routine. From the Kanifnath Temple we turn right along the main road and make our way to Lendi, again on the right. Now the area is peppered with small stalls selling trinkets and snacks, but in Baba's time it would have been virtually empty.

Dixit Wada Museum

Dixit Wada is to be found just opposite Gurusthan. Work on the building began with Baba's permission in late 1910, the year after Dixit had taken his first darshan of Baba and been so touched by him. The building took about four months to complete and was inaugurated on Ramnavami the following year. Dixit lived in a modest room on the first floor and generously kept the rest of the building, including a small dining hall, for the use of visiting pilgrims. Many people benefited from the facility - Hemadpant, author of Sri Sai Satcharitra, always stayed here when he was in Shirdi and the wada is mentioned several times in the literature. Baba sometimes sent people to the wada to attend the parayana that Dixit did every day and puja was also conducted regularly. It was while lying on the verandah here that Sri Bhishma conceived the idea of celebrating Ramnavami, a festival that grew in size each year and is one of the grandest events in the Shirdi calendar.

Hari Sitaram Dixit, better known as Kakasaheb Dixit, was a close and exemplary devotee of Sai. He came to Baba in 1909 as an influential lawyer, active in politics, through his good friend Nana Chandorkar. While studying in London, Dixit had injured his leg in a train accident which left him limping and lacking in confidence. It was ostensibly for his recovery that Nana persuaded him to visit Sai Baba. How this trip came about and the beautiful way in which Baba arranged it, with Shama as his escort, is described in the Sri Sai Satcharitra, Ch. 50. Upon having Baba's darshan, Dixit forgot why he had come and reported that the handicap of his leg was nothing compared to the limitations of his mind.

Baba apparently once asked Dixit, "Why are you anxious? All care is mine."Dixit accordingly entrusted all responsibility for his material, physical and spiritual welfare to Baba. In each area he received ample and dramatic help, including being saved from a near fatal fever and unexpectedly getting last minute relief from a huge debt. There are many inspiring instances of his deep devotion to Baba and of Baba's response. Baba once promised that he would "take Kaka in a vimana" (i.e. secure him a happy death). This transpired in 1926 when Dixit passed away peacefully while travelling on a train with some close fellow devotees, as he was fondly recalling the greatness of his beloved gurudeva.

Dixit bequeathed part of the wada to the Sansthan and later it was given the whole building. Until the mid-1990s the building was used as a canteen. A small part of it is now open as a reading room. In a recent extension to the wada a few of Baba's things have recently been put on display in a small museum with a sign above the door: "Museum Hall". The Sansthan is planning to expand the display.

Maruti Mandir

Down the lane that runs between Dwarkamai and the Chavadi is the Hanuman Mandir, one of the oldest temples in Shirdi. Marked by a pair of trees enclosed by a circular railing, it is also known as the Maruti Mandir. Unusually, the temple faces south and there are two Hanuman images here, side by side. You may also notice a few weights and dumbbells in the corner. Because Hanuman is considered strong and vigorous and is the patron deity of wrestlers, young men find this an auspicious place in which to exercise.

Baba seems to have had some connection with this temple; sometimes he would stand in front of it and remain there for a while, occasionally slowly moving his arm up and down. Once during the procession to the Chavadi, when he came to the lane facing the mandir, he was suddenly seized as if by a spirit (avesam) and some devotees had to hold him until he reached the Chavadi, where the avesam left him. Shama asked him about the incident: "Baba, this Maruti is our Swami. Why do you worship and adore our Swami?" Baba replied, "Arre, Shama, in my childhood my parents dedicated me to Maruti, and so I make signs at him to remind him I am his brother."

The mandir was a place where sadhus used to stay, including the ascetic Devidas, whom Baba would occasionally visit during his earlier years in Shirdi. When Baba went to Rahata (a village about five kilometres from Shirdi) with the fakir Javhar Ali in the early 1890s, his devotees were deeply unhappy at his absence from them. After about eight weeks they succeeded in persuading Javhar Ali to let Baba return to Shirdi, though he insisted on coming too. A few days later, a debate was held in this mandir between Javhar Ali and Devidas. The fakir was roundly defeated, causing him to flee the area, after which Baba remained among his devotees in Shirdi until the end of his days.At night, especially on Thursdays, the temple is sometimes filled with music when locals gather to sing bhajan.

Nana Walli's Samadhi

Nanavalli was a unique and intriguing Sai Baba devotee, who called himself the "General of Sai Baba's army". His background and history are shrouded in as much mystery as Sai Baba's, and he was notorious for his erratic and eccentric behaviour. Some people were afraid of this man - not only would he carry snakes in his pockets and scorpions in his mouth, but he would violently abuse and attack certain people for no apparent reason. Others felt him to be a mahatma, with an outstanding love for Sai Baba. His appearance was wild and dishevelled - sometimes he went naked and sometimes he dressed in old sacking. If we investigate the life of Nanavalli, we uncover a tale of touching and inspiring devotion, and a model of vairagya (dispassion).

Accounts of Nanavalli's background vary. One says that he was a Brahmin by birth and another that he was born into a Muslim family. Some-times he wore the clothes of a Muslim fakir, and at others those of a Hindu sadhu. Thus again like Baba, his religious roots were ambiguous. However, both versions agree that as a small boy Nanavalli served in a Muslim dargah and came to attend Baba upon divine inspiration. Nobody knows when he came to Shirdi, but some say he was already there when Baba arrived with the wedding party. Upon seeing Baba, Nanavalli greeted him affectionately, "Oh, Uncle, you have come!" Thereafter, he always addressed Baba as "Mama" or Uncle.

Nanavalli was content to see Baba only occasionally and from a distance, but his emotion for Baba was such that he felt all glory and greatness should be Baba's and that none should accrue to himself. He used to say, "My duty is only to protect my uncle."

Nanavalli could not bear immorality or hypocrisy. He seemed to know devotees' inner thoughts and target them accordingly. He would sometimes wait outside Baba's mosque and beat up certain individuals. Though people would rush to Baba and complain, Baba would never reprimand Nanavalli, but simply warn them to be careful of him.

H. V. Sathe was a prominent devotee with a prestigious job in the colonial government. For some reason, he was particularly harassed by Nanavalli. During the Chavadi processions, Sathe had the privilege of carrying a sort of regal sceptre and walking in front of Baba. On one such occasion Nanavalli attacked Sathe on the back of the neck with a piece of broken glass. Another time, when Sathe was about to go to the mosque to worship Baba, his father-in-law rushed in and begged him not to, as Nanavalli was waiting there with an axe threatening to kill him. Sathe was so afraid that he fled Shirdi without seeing Baba or getting his permission to leave. That was in 1916 and he never came back to Shirdi again while Baba was alive.

As Sai Baba's fame grew, he was worshipped with increasing pomp and splendour. One day Nanavalli strolled into the mosque, which was crowded with visitors, and to the horror and mortification of those present, demanded of Baba, "Please get up. I want to sit there!" Baba immediately rose from his seat, saying, "Please sit." Nanavalli took his place. The devotees were appalled at his audacity and wanted to drag him away, but when they saw Baba's expression - calm and happy - they desisted. After a few moments Nanavalli exclaimed, "Shabash!" ("Good, well done!"), prostrated before Baba and danced ecstatically before leaving. Some say that Nanavalli wished to test the object of his adoration to see if any egoism had crept in, but others believe that he harboured no such doubts and simply wanted to demonstrate Baba's purity and detachment. Baba did not comment on the incident and none dared to ask him about it.

Nanavalli's attachment to Baba was so great that he used to say, "If Baba goes, I'll not be around for long." Sure enough, when Baba passed away Nanavalli rushed to Dwarkamai crying, "Uncle, without you how can I live? I am coming with you!" With that, he went to the Hanuman Mandir. There he wept grievously and took no food. Thirteen days later Nanavalli too passed away.

House of Laxmibai Shinde

Laxmibai Shinde was one of the half dozen or so devotees who were with Baba when he passed away, and the only woman who was allowed in the mosque when the curtain was down. (In those days, the curtain acted as a door, and screened the upper part of the mosque.) Like several other close devotees, she used to prepare food for Baba every day. Baba gave her four rupees daily, and just before he died he gave her a total of nine rupees. Some people see these as symbolizing the nine forms of devotion, others as the nine characteristics of a good disciple, as indicated in the Bhagavata Purana. The coins are kept with a statue of Laxmibai in the small house which is open to the public. To find it, walk a few metres down the narrow lane which starts opposite the Chavadi until you come to a small open area on your left; here you will see the house with samadhi in front.

V.P Iyer's Samadhi

V. P. Iyer was the manager of a sugar-cane factory in Kopergaon. He did not see Sai Baba while Baba was in the body, but he was a staunch devotee who gave much service to the Sansthan and was popular with the villagers of Shirdi. He fell ill when visiting Shirdi and died holding Baba's picture and saying his name. It was his desire to be buried here.

Mhalsapati's House

Mhalsapati, who had the benefit of forty to fifty unbroken years with Sai Baba, may be considered among the foremost of his devotees. He was the first to worship Baba, the first to greet him on his arrival in Shirdi and to address him as "Sai" (Saint). Only Mhalsapati and one other (Tatya Kote Patil) were allowed to stay with Baba in the mosque at night.

Mhalsapati was the hereditary priest of Khandoba Temple, and hereditary goldsmith of Shirdi (though later he gave up this trade). His education was minimal, but he was noted for his piousness. He also used to receive and help visiting fakirs, and sadhus such as Devidas and Janakidas. His income was so scant that he and his family would sometimes have to go without food, but absorbed as he was in his religious practices, this did not seem to disturb him unduly. Mhalsapati was so identified with his God, Khandoba, that he sometimes entered trances and talked as if possessed by him. In this way, he fulfilled the role of village shaman and villagers would put questions to Khandoba, via the medium of Mhalsapati.

In 1886 Mhalsapati was entrusted with a very important responsibility that was literally a matter of life and death, and which had far-reaching implications. Baba, who had been suffering from breathing difficulties, told him that he was "going to Allah", and that Mhalsapati should look after his body for three days. "If I do not return," said Baba, "then get it buried near the neem tree." On uttering these words, Baba passed out. Mhalsapati sat for three days with Baba's body on his lap. When village officers held an inquest and declared Baba dead, Mhalsapati remained steadfast and refused to allow them to take the body for burial. After this, Baba revived to live for another thirty-two years!

In such ways, Mhalsapati gave continued and devoted service to Baba throughout. In return, Baba guided and protected him, and kept him on a high moral and spiritual course. In his Life of Sai Baba B. V. Narasimhaswami has recorded some of the many occasions on which Baba came to Mhalsapati's aid during their long association. They include curing his wife's throat tumour, manifesting to Mhalsapati at Jejuri 150 miles away to reassure him that his party would not be touched by the plague that raged there, and warning him of the peril of coming events (such as a snake on his pathway home, a fight in a house he was to visit, an insulting situation at another, etc).

Mhalsapati survived Baba by four years. During that time he continued to sleep in the mosque, perform daily worship of Baba and Khandoba, observe mouna (silence) and sit in meditation. Baba had moulded this simple and conservative yet dedicated priest into a paragon of spiritual excellence. An indication of his attainment is the mode of his death. On an auspicious ekadasi day, Mhalsapati gave instructions to his family and told them that he would "close [his] earthly life and go to heaven" that day. With his loved ones around him chanting Ramachandra japa, and himself uttering the word "Ram", he left consciously and peacefully. It was a fitting end to a lofty life of spiritual endeavour.

Mhalsapati's remains are interred in his modest house, where his great grandson now lives. It is open to visitors and some people like to worship at the samadhi and take darshan of the things here that Baba gave Mhalsapati. One of Baba's kafnis, one of his satkas, three coins, some udi and a pair of Baba's padukas are kept here. The house is located just beyond Laxmibai Shinde's place, a little further up the lane at the next opening. The walls are painted and there is a sign above the door.

Sathe Wada

This wada occupies a significant place in the history of Baba's Shirdi as it was built on Baba's instruction, and was the first of its kind. Moreover, it was during preparations for its foundations that Baba revealed that this was the place of his guru. Furthermore, several of the devotees whose names have gone down in history stayed here. For example, it was here that Khaparde wrote part of his informative Shirdi Diary, that Jog did daily parayana as asked by Baba, that Dada Kelkar lived, and where Hemadpant had his first darshan of Baba standing outside; arati to Baba's picture was conducted regularly at the wada. By providing what was, at that time, the only accommodation for visitors to Shirdi, Sathe rendered valuable service to pilgrims.

H. V. Sathe was a man of considerable social standing who worked in the colonial government as a Deputy Collector. Four years after his wife died in 1900, he came to Baba to ask whether he should remarry. Baba advised him that if he did so, he would have a son. Sathe did remarry and the couple had two daughters and a son. Sathe became a keen devotee and played a prominent part in life around Baba. He was also responsible for bringing Megha (who became Baba's pujari and faithful devotee) into contact with Sai Baba.

The wada was built in 1908 on a site between the Gurusthan neem tree and where Booty Wada (now the Samadhi Mandir) was subsequently constructed. Sathe describes the building's inception as follows:

Near Baba's favourite neem tree were the remnants of the old village wall. Baba told me: "Pull down the wall and build." Baba's suggestion was for building residential quarters there and for including the village wall in the construction. So I bought the land there and using the remnants of the village wall built a wada enclosing or surrounding the neem tree.

In 1924 the wada was bought by R. S. Navalkar and in 1939 his heirs gave it to the Sansthan. Two years later the Sansthan added four rooms for the use of pilgrims.

Until 1998 part of the wada still stood and was being used by the Sansthan as an administrative office. It was pulled down during the restructuring of the Temple Complex.

Bhagoji Shinde's House

Bhagoji was a sort of attendant to Baba, engaged in regular service to him. He was the first to enter the mosque in the early morning, and every day he used to massage first Baba's right arm and then his body. Then he would light a chillim and the two of them would share it. Bhagoji also had the privilege of carrying the umbrella for Baba when he went to Lendi.

When Bhagoji came into contact with Baba he had leprosy. The disease was cured by taking Baba's teerth, though he remained partially disfigured.

Bhagoji's house, known as Shinde Wada, is just behind Laxmibai's house. To find it, turn left out of the Chavadi. Within a few metres you will see Narasinh Lodge on a right-hand corner, with a pair of holy padukas set in the wall. Turn right down this lane, and the compound of Shinde Wada lies on your right, behind a solid old wooden door. Entering, you may see Bhagoji's house in the back right-hand corner. The compound is adjacent to a pharmacy run by a relative of Bhagoji.

Madhav Rao Deshpande's House

This house is mentioned in the Sri Sai Satcharitra, as Baba sent Hemadpant here to collect dakshina from Shama and to have a chat with him. Hemadpant had been feeling disconsolate because a newcomer to Shirdi had just had a wonderful vision after doing a seven-day parayana of Gurucharitra, whereas Hemadpant had been studying it for forty years and felt he had not had any result. "No sooner did this thought cross his mind, than Baba knew it then and there." Hemadpant's subsequent conversation with Shama on the verandah of this house resulted in one of the most beautiful passages in the entire Sri Sai Satcharitra (Ch. 18), in which Baba speaks (to Radhabai Deshmukh) of the great bond between himself and his guru.

Shama was among the most intimate devotees of Baba, and acted like a personal secretary to him. Baba once told Shama that they had been together for seventy-two generations. Shama's parents had moved to Shirdi from Nimon (five kilometres away) when Shama was only two. He became a school teacher in a room next door to the mosque and his interest in Baba was kindled there.

Shama's house is a few metres from Dwarkamai - take the lane opposite and bear immediately right following the narrow winding lane. There is a sign on the building and it is still occupied by Shama's daughter-in-law. His son, Uddhavrao, passed away in 1998.

Abdul Baba Cottage

Just opposite the Chavadi next to a couple of tea stalls is a small entrance with a sign above it: "Abdul Baba's cottage". This is the room where one of the devotees serving Sai Baba, Abdul Baba, lived for the last years of his life. The building is open to the public and there is a pair of chimta (fire tongs) here, said to have been given to Abdul by Sri Sai Baba.

Three Temples

Just behind the new outdoor theatre is a row of three small temples. They are dedicated to Ganesh, Shani (Saturn) and Mahadev (Shiva). Baba had them repaired and his local devotee, Tatya Kote Patil, was fond of offering lamps here. The shrines were rebuilt and enlarged in 1999 as part of the re-modelling of the Temple Complex.

The small samadhi of the tiger, commemorated by a statue in Dwarkamai and said to have received mukti from Baba, is a few feet from the Mahadev shrine.

Mahalaxmi Temple: This temple is just beside Pilgrims Inn Hotel (MTDC) on Pimpalwadi Road, about five minutes walk from Dwarkamai. Baba occasionally visited it on his begging rounds and the temple is mentioned in the Sri Sai Satcharitra as Baba once sent a devotee there on an unusual mission. Bala Ganapat Shimpi had tried all sorts of medicine to cure his malaria, but nothing worked and he had a raging fever. Baba gave him a curious prescription: "Give a black dog some rice mixed with curd in front of the Laxmi temple." Shimpi wondered how he would be able to carry out this instruction, but he found the necessary ingredients at home and took them to the temple. There he saw a black dog wagging its tail. The dog ate the proffered food and Shimpi quickly recovered The temple has recently been thoroughly restructured.

Narasimha Temple:This is near the Chavadi next to where Sakharam Shelke's house used to be (one of those from which Baba took bhiksha), and was built by his descendants in the mid-1960s. Its compound houses the samadhis of Sakharam's son and daughter-in-law, and that of Ramgiri Bua

The Kanifnath and Vittal Temples:Baba sometimes stopped at these temples which he passed every day on his way to Lendi Gardens

Bhau Maharaj Kumbhar Samadhi

Bhau Maharaj was a much-loved devotee of Sai Baba, who came to Shirdi in the last two or three years of Baba's life. He was held in high esteem and many regarded him as an avadhut. He used to maintain silence, but his loving nature, cheerfulness and kindness to all creatures made him popular with everyone. Bhau Maharaj took it upon himself to sweep the streets of Shirdi; whenever he had money, he spent it on others. He usually wore only a koupina (loincloth) and if anyone gave him clothes, he would hang them on trees in order to "clothe" the trees or provide shade for animals. Similarly, if anyone offered him food, he would give it away. Until recently, when the area was paved, local people would sometimes take the earth from around his samadhi and mix it with castor oil as a general panacea for children.

Tatya Kote Patil Samadh

Tatya Kote Patil occupies a special place in the history of Shirdi and Sai Baba, and many of his descendants are active in the local community. Sometimes referred to as Baba's "pet" devotee, Tatya had a unique relationship with the saint and was under his wing from the age of about seven. While most devotees were attracted to Baba because of his powers and what he could give them, Tatya related to Baba in a personal and human way.

Tatya's parents had been among the very first to recognize Baba's greatness, although Baba had the appearance of a fakir and, to many, seemed to be a madman. The moment Baba saw Bayajabai, Tatya's mother, he said, "She has been my sister for the last seven births." For her part, Bayajabai was immediately drawn to Baba, even before his powers or saintliness had been revealed. Having once met him, she would never eat without having first fed Sai. At that time Baba was roaming in the fields and every day Bayajabai would go and search for him, carrying food. Baba never forgot this service, and took loving care of her son. Later, when Baba was begging regularly for his food, the Patil's house was one of the five to which he usually went.

Bayajabai was Baba's "sister", and Baba loved her son like his nephew. As a child, Tatya addressed Baba as "Mama" or "Uncle" and they would play and romp together, with Tatya climbing on Baba's back and sitting in his lap. As Tatya grew up, the affection also deepened. Sometimes they wrestled together and played practical jokes. While Tatya was dozing, Baba might hide his towel, and then, in all innocence, pretend to help Tatya look for it. At other times, he would push the sleeping Tatya outside the mosque and gleefully wait for his reaction upon waking. Bleary-eyed, Tatya would wonder how he had got there. Sometimes he would twist Tatya's body into odd contortions. In return, Tatya, who was tall and stocky, would sometimes pick Baba up and run with him over his shoulder, with Baba yelling laughingly to put him down and go more slowly. Once he put his own turban and cloth on Baba and showed him his reflection in a mirror. Baba immediately began mimicking Tatya and teasing him.

Being so close to Baba, Tatya had various privileges that few, if any, shared. For example, only he and Mhalsapati were allowed to stay with Baba in the mosque at night. The three of them would lie like spokes on a wheel, with their feet touching. Baba would lie in the middle with his head pointing west. For fourteen years, Tatya slept like this until his father died and household responsibilities compelled him to be at home. When the chillim was taken out, Tatya would light it and take the first puff. Before the Chavadi procession, it was always Tatya who would come to the mosque and persuade Baba to move. Tatya was the only one whom Baba allowed to adorn him with expensive cloth for the occasion.

Sometimes Baba and Mhalsapati would massage Tatya's tired farmer's body, which upset Tatya as he felt it was inappropriate for Baba to do this service. Once, Tatya was so annoyed with Baba for doing this, that he kept away from Dwarkamai for several days. When Baba called out to him as he passed by the mosque, Tatya replied sulkily that he was not going to have anything to do with Baba! Later, Tatya was mollified by Kakasaheb Dixit and persuaded to come back to the mosque. Only Tatya treated Baba in this way.

Baba took care of Tatya's material welfare, giving him thirty-five rupees a day (a government employee's average salary was about this amount per month!) and instructing him to use it properly as capital and not to squander it. As a result, Tatya became a wealthy landowner and acquired a prominent social standing.

In 1916 Sai Baba privately predicted that Tatya would die two years later. At the time foretold, when Baba himself was ailing, Tatya fell seriously ill. One day, Baba summoned Tatya to the mosque. Tatya was so weak that he had to be carried. After feeding him a little milk-rice, Baba told him, "Tatya, at first I got two cradles ready for both of us, but now I've changed my mind. I don't want to take you now. I'm going alone. Go home!"

With that, he applied udi to the forehead of his beloved devotee, and watched for a long time as Tatya disappeared down the road. That was the last time Tatya saw his Gurudev alive: two days later Sai Baba passed away, while Tatya went on to recover and lived a further twenty-seven years. This has lead some people to believe that Sai Baba sacrificed his own life for Tatya's. Others, however, point out that such an exchange would not have been necessary for one of Baba's calibre - after all, he had saved lives before and even raised people from the dead. In Tatya Kote Patil's life with Baba, what stands out most is the immense and solid love and friendship between them. Its legacy provides us with both an inspiration and an aspiration.

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