|Introduction||NA||Introduction & Preface|
|Chapter 1||Part 1||Sai Baba – The Saint of Shirdi|
|Chapter 1||Part 2||Sai Baba – The Saint of Shirdi|
|Chapter 2||NA||Understanding Shirdi Sai In Baba’s Own Words|
|Chapter 3||Part 1||Building Up Of Lodi Road Temple, New Delhi|
|Chapter 3||Part 2||Urge to Know Baba|
My First Visit to Shirdi
Baba was calling me to Shirdi and my keenness to do so was increasing day after day. At last I reached Shirdi on 2nd Dec 1960, which happened to be Dattatreya Jayanti, as I came to know on reaching Shirdi. Till then I did not know anything about Lord Dattatreya, whose incarnation Baba is said to be. On my way from Manmad to Shirdi, I came to know in the bus that Shirdi Sansthan had been taken over by the Government only a couple of days before. As the bus from Manmad crossed Godavari River, the sight of the river and a little ahead of the peak of Baba’s Samadhi Mandir filled me with abounding pleasure. The dream of my life was about to be realised.
On reaching Shirdi, I was allotted a room @ 25 paise per day on the second floor of the four storied then recently built building opposite to Shanti Kuteer. After taking a hurried hot water bath in the common bath rooms (there were no attached or even separate bath rooms in the building at that time), I rushed to the Samadhi Mandir to attend the noon arti, with a thali containing flowers and other puja materials. As I stood face to face with Baba, incessant tears rolled down; my cheeks. Wasn’t it a dream come true? Haven’t I reached the end of my tiresome journey? My whole being seemed to have been swept off my feet. Every pore of my body was emitting the living grace of Baba whose eyes seemed to have penetrated deep into the crevices of my heart. What a joy; what a bliss it; was! Soon the noon arti began. There were not more than 20/25 participants in it. I could stand before Baba for hours, looking at Him, experiencing His grace, pouring out my heart to Him uninterruptedly. Within minutes of my occupying the room, the Sansthan authorities sent one gentleman to stay in my room. He left; after the noon arti. Thereafter, they again sent another person to stay with me, I lost my temper on the Sansthan peon who had brought him to stay in my room saying that I hadn’t come all the way from Delhi to stay with strangers and that if the Sansthan so wanted, I shall vacate the room straightaway. Hearing my outburst, the newly arrived gentleman told me with folded hands that he wouldn’t cause me any inconvenience and that if I didn’t like him, he shall immediately vacate the room. I told him that I had nothing against him as a person, and that my complaint was against the system followed by the Sansthan. This gentleman was Shri K. Ram Chandra Rao, a Custom’s Superintendent at that time at Karimganar in Andhra Pradesh, who was visiting Shirdi on his way to Delhi to meet the Central Customs Authorities in connection with some injustice done to him in the matter of promotion. Shri Rao stayed with me at Shirdi for six days and came along with me to Delhi to be my guest for one full month. Since it was winter in Delhi and Rao didn’t have woolen clothes, Baba made me to share my clothes with him. Baba also made me an instrument to help him in sorting out his matters with the Government through a devotee friend of mine. This gentleman and his whole family became my life long friends. He came to Delhi to attend the weddings of both my daughters. His son – Sai Nath and his doctor wife, were regular visitors to our house while they stayed in Delhi in the I.I.T. Campus for doing Ph.D. in Engineering. I also had the privilege to go to Hyderabad along with my wife and enjoy their hospitality for a few days. Strange are the ways of Baba. Baba had arranged for the stay of this gentleman with me in my room in Shirdi as He wanted him to be helped in Delhi.
As I entered the portals of the Dwarkamayee in the afternoon, the sight of the stone on which Baba sat thrilled me and filled my heart with abounding ecstasy. I placed my head with reverence on the stone on which Baba sat. I kissed it; I touched it with my eyes; and hugged it all the while, my eyes filled with tears of love and joy. No words could explain my feeling of joy on ascending the steps of the Dwarkamayee.
I felt a sort of a “Noor” or call it Grace, raining from the roof and walls of the then old and dilapidated Dwarkamayee which had been and still is the abode of my Baba. It was an unforgettable experience which enveloped my ‘atma’ with bliss. I found myself sitting before the portrait of Baba sobbing, crying and unending tears flowing from my eyes, with a choked throat for a pretty long time. It was an old and decadent Dwarkamayee, not well lighted either and the western wall of which was inset with ‘Chilums’ used by Baba. There were not many visitors to break its holy silence filled with ‘Noor’. That night, I along with Shri Rao, slept on the platform of the Dwarkamayee. It was an experience of sorts. A rhythmic sound of the tinkling of bells kept on pouring into my ears the whole night with a feeling of oneness with Baba.
After visiting the Dwarkamayee, I went to Chawdi where Baba slept on alternate nights and enjoyed its vibrations to my heart’s fill.
At about 5.30 AM., I visited the Samadhi Mandir again. There I found a lean and thin Saint with a small beard standing near Baba’s samadhi. Suddenly the sound of ‘Om’ emanated from the heart of this Saint and as it grew louder, it charged the whole atmosphere of the temple. I felt drawn towards this Saint not knowing who He was.
Next morning, we participated in the holy bath giving ceremony to Baba. I had taken several articles from Delhi for this purpose and participated in the ceremony to my heart’s fill. Again and again I would climb up on the Samadhi and would rub various ingredients on Baba such as curd, lemon, milk, honey and scent. Nobody would disturb me in what I was doing. To me it was entirely a new experience.
After giving bath to Baba, I and Mr. Rao decided to go to the nearby fields to have a feel of how Baba would have treaded that soil some years before. There we met a South Indian gentleman, who, we came to know from him, was accompanying the Swami whom we had seen in the Samadhi Mandir the previous evening. He offered to take us to the Swami. Soon we were ushered in his presence in a room opposite to the Gurusthan. This Swami was Paramhamsa Omkara Swamy from Madras who had come to Shirdi to participate in a Conference of World Religions on 3rd Dec., 1960. The conference started at 10 a.m. on the open platform in front of the Samadhi Mandir. Swamiji asked me to occupy a seat on the dais and after finishing with the conference accompanied me to the Dwarkamayee. In the Dwarkamayee, Paramhamsa Omkara Swamy recited before Baba the prayers he had composed and made us to repeat the same along with him. It was indeed a soul stirring experience to hear the deep voice of the Swamy reverberating in the stillness of the Dwarkamayee. Some items from his prayers were later incorporated by me in the prayer book printed for Baba’s pujas in Delhi and are even today recited by innumerable devotees not only in Delhi but the whole of North India. More about this Swamy and the recitation of his prayers will form part of a chapter later in this book.
In Shirdi, we met Ma Laxmi Bai twice and had a long chat with her about Baba but unfortunately we could not understand a major portion of what she said due to her typical Marathi accent and there being nobody to translate it to us. She gave to us with pride the cloth bag containing nine rupees, Baba had given to her prior to His taking Samadhi. We handled the rupees for quite a few seconds, touched them with our forehead and heard and felt the thrill and vibrations of Baba’s presence. We also went to Mahalsapati’s house and prayed before his samadhi along his son. We met Abdul Baba. We roamed about in the lanes of Shirdi, conjecturing how it would have been like for Baba to ask for ‘bhiksha’ from a few houses. Even the dust of the lanes gave us the feel of Baba’s presence.
One morning we went to Sakori to visit the Kanya Kumari Sthan of Upasini Baba and Godavari Mata and spent half, day there.
Every day of our stay, I would attend all the five artis in the temple and in the process picked up the tunes there of These were later introduced in our pujas in Delhi.
When we went to the Samadhi Mandir to offer our parting ‘Pranams’ to Baba before leaving for Delhi, the Pujari exhorted me to climb up on the Samadhi and bow at the lotus feet of Baba, which has now become an almost impossible task.
My first visit to Shirdi was an extremely thrilling and satisfying experience. Even today when I recall this visit, feel emotionally charged.
The Rashtrapati Attends “Ramnavmi Celebrations 1961
After the formation of the Delhi Sri Sai Samaj, we were assiduously endeavouring to increase its membership either by enrolling the old devotees of Baba as members or initiating new devotees. Most devotees were South Indians. At this stage in Jan/Feb, 1961, we decided to celebrate the ensuing Ramnavmi Utsav of Baba on 25th March with a lot of gusto on the lawns opposite 210, North Avenue. In association with Dr. Ganga Dhar Siva, a M.P. from Andhra, we invited the Rashtrapati, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, along with other leaders to attend this function. We also decided to collect, for the first time, some money for the function. With all our efforts, we were then able to raise Rs. 110/- only.
We sent invitations for this function to various Ministers of the Central Govt. as also to some other dignitaries. Our main stress was on the Rashtrapati attending the puja. Invitation cards were printed and sent. On each cards, I had written in my own handwriting that the President would be attending the function. Posters were printed and pasted by us at important points in the city at night. The then Speaker of the Parliament, Shri Anantha Sayanam Iyengar, the then Deputy Home Minister, Shri B.N. Datar and some other dignitaries accepted our invitation. Just a few days before the function, we received a letter from the Rashtrapati Bhawan intimating that Dr. Rajendra Prasad had agreed to attend our function for about 20 minutes. Shri Yagnik from Jaipur was coming to attend the function and deliver a talk on Baba.
After a lot of discussions between ourselves and careful thought, we decided to receive the President in the manner of a devotee and to offer him a seat on the floor, on a platform made of Dunlop beds with two round pillows placed on the back. We also decided to present to the Rashtrapati a mounted picture of Baba with a copy of the Sai Satcharita in Hindi.
The puja started at the appointed time, at 7:30 a.m. with Guru Mahima Sloka followed by Ashtotra – 108 names of Baba. The Rashtrapati, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the Speaker of Parliament – Shri Anantha Shayam lyenger, the Home Minister – Shri B.N. Datar and a few M.P.s. arrived at the fixed time. It was our endeavour that the arrival of the Rashtrapati should cause as little commotion in the ongoing ua as possible. Shri Yagnik gave a talk on Baba in Hindi. Shri Anantha Sayanam Lyengar and Shri also gave talks. The Rashtrapati was scheduled to stay in the puja for 20 minutes but he continued to sit for about 1 l/2 hours. There were frenzied calls from the Rashtrapati Bhawan reminding the Rashtrapati about his other engagements, but he continued to ignore these calls. Before departing he, in his speech, said that he had heard a lot about Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi and was looking for an opportunity to know more about him, which he had found that day. There was a lunch break, and the puja continued in the afternoon.
A few important points emerging from this puja were as under:-
(a) Having come to know about a few Maharashtrian devotees, I had met Shri A.K. Gavaskar, Manager, Photo Litho Wing, Govt of India Press, on the night of 24th March and invited him to attend the puja on the following morning. So far, only South Indian devotees were coming to attend our pujas. Shri Gavaskar attended the puja and, thereafter, became instrumental in introducing a large number of Maharashtrian devotees to our pujas. Shri Gavaskar, thereafter, became an active participant in our pujas. He would also come to attend the Thursday pujas at my house accompanied by his wife. He could sing very well. Later, his residence, 40 Shan Nagar (later renamed Bharati Nagar) New Delhi, became the centre of Thursday pujas, monthly pujas and special pujas of Baba on Ramnavmi, Vijay Dashmi and Guru Poornima.
(b) In the evening puja, Shri R.S. Chitnis came to our puja having read about it in the engagement columns of news¬papers. He did not, however, alight from his car and sent his Manager to see what all we were doing in the name of Baba. I accompanied his Manager to request him to join us in the puja but he did not oblige us on the plea that he was short of time. Later, this very Shri Chitnis played the most significant role in the coming up of the Lodi Road Temple, New Delhi.
The Ramnavmi celebrations on 25th March 1961, were a landmark in Baba’s work not only in Delhi but the whole of North India. Many more devotees of Baba came into contact vrith us. Our pujas on Thursdays became popular and so did the monthly pujas. We also started holding pujas in the houses of devotees, on their request, all over Delhi. After my Shirdi visit, the Arti pattern of Shirdi had been adopted. Bhajans / Kirtans would be sung by devotees and their families and not by any professionals as of today. Along with this, a negative factor also cropped up. Shri C.S. Rao and Shri R.S. Sharma, two of our important members did not like the interference of Shri Yagnik in the affairs Delhi of Sri Sai Samaj. Our pujas continued but the seeds of discord had started sprouting.
In May 1961, Shri Yagnik fell ill and I along with Shri R.S. Sharma, Shri J.M. Gupta and Shri A.K. Gavaskar went to Jaipur to see him and stayed with him in his newly built house. Shri Yagnik held a big puja in a hall in Jaipur in our honour. He introduced us to those assembled and asked me to deliver a talk about my experiences of Baba to the audience. I, merely a child of Baba, who had never even thought of facing an audience in Baba’s name, imploring Baba’s help, spoke for 20 minutes. I did not know what all Baba was making me to say but everyone appreciated the talk. During this visit, Shri Sharma’s attitude towards Shri Yagnik was not very complimentary as the subsequent events also showed.
Continued to Chapter 3 (Part 4)
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