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

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