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
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
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
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.