|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|
|Chapter 3||Part 3||First Visit to Shirdi|
|Chapter 3||Part 4||Meeting with Sri Satya Sai Baba|
|Chapter 3||Part 5||Paramhamsa Omkara Swamy|
Functioning of Delhi Sri Sai Samaj
The activities of Shri Sai Samaj Delhi kept on increasing. After 1962, weekly pujas of Baba started being held at the houses of different devotees, who would also offer food to all the participants. Monthly pujas were held at the house of Shri A.K. Gawaskar in Bharti Nagar, New Delhi, who had a big hall in his house to accommodate more people. The three special pujas on Ram Navmi, Gurupoornima and Vijay Dashmi were held in Shamianas on the lawns of Gavaskar’s house. All our pujas were held in an extremely peaceful atmosphere and singing and chanting were done in low voices. These became popular with all people participating in them as they experienced peace and comfort in these pujas. Parties of Qwaliwalas and good singers were invited to perform in the special pujas.
In all our pujas, high Government officials and known dignitaries of Delhi started participating. The participants in monthly and special pujas were required to leave their names and addresses on sheets of paper provided for the purpose. Going through these sheets now, it is seen that well-known persons of the country have participated in these pujas. To name a few, Justic J.R. Madholkar of the Supreme Court; Shri Nath Pai, MP., Shri O. Pulla Reddy, Defence Secretary, Shri B. Gopala Reddy, Information Minister, are some such persons whose signatures are available in the sheets in my possession. Nobody was, however, given a seat on a higher pedestal in our pujas. Everybody took his seat as he came.
Two of our inaugural members Shri C. S. Rao and Snri R. s. Sharma, however, did not agree with our working mainly on the plea that Shri K. N. Yagnik of Jaipur should not be given a place in our organisation being an outsider and the affairs of the Samaj should be guided by C. S. Rao who was an old and mature devotee of Baba.
Since Shri Yagnik was the person who had inspired us to take up Baba’s work in Delhi and since I owed all my devotion Baba to him, I and all other devotees did not agree with to view. The result was that in 1964 or so, both of them stop attending the pujas. We did not like it, but it could not helped.
The idea of building a temple of Baba was uppermost in our minds but we did not have the means of achieving our aim. Moreover, I was a complete novice in this regard without any experience of this scheming world. I was duped of my hard earned money on more than one occasion on the plea of procuring a good piece of land for the purpose of construction of Baba’s temple. We were offered places in the existing temples where Baba’s picture could be placed for regular worship. One such temple was the Hanuman Mandir near Ashoka Hotel in Chankyapuri. But we did not accept such offers, as also a few other offers to build a Baba temple on Government land in an unauthorised manner.
A Parallel Organisation Comes Up
It has already been stated earlier that Shri R.S. Chitnis, Proprietor of two cinema houses in Delhi, had come to the site of Baba’s puja held on the lawns outside 210, North Avenue, on the evening of 25 March 1961, in which the Rashtrapati also participated, but he had not found it convenient to come inside the pandal. Shri Chitnis was an old devotee of Baba and had also got some literature on Baba printed. He founded another organisation of Baba in Delhi under the name and banner of, “Shri Sai Bhakta Samaj, Delhi” on the Vijay Dashmi day in 1966, with employees of his two Cinema houses and his personal friends as members. This organisation was initially holding two Sai Darbars in Delhi – on Ram Navmi and Vijai Dashmi, every year in some community hall. The employees of Shri Chitnis had formed a Qawali Group and they would sing Qawalis and gazals. No ritualistic puja as such was performed. On November 5,1968, this organisation got a constitution of the Samaj registered as a society with the idea of obtaining a piece of land from the Government for building a temple of Baba.
Shri C. S. Rao and Shri R. S. Sharma who had left our organisation along with Shri K. C. Dhawan, a businessman, joined Shri Chitnis. The first meeting of Shri Sai Bhakti Samaj along with the new entrants, was held at the residence of Shri Chitnis one morning in 1968 to which I was also invited. The Managing Committee of the Samaj was constituted that day with Shri R. S. Chitnis as the President, Shri C. S. Rao as the Vice President amd Shri K. B. Grover (the Manager of Shri Chitnis ‘Cinema Halls’) as the General Secretary. Shri Rao told me after the meeting that my name had not been proposed for the Managing Committee as I was running the other Samaj. I did not at all feel bad about it as I thought that some of these people who were rich, might help in raising a temple of Baba which was the need of the day and for which I too had a deep yearning. The new Managing Committee applied to the Government of India for the allotment of a plot of land for the temple and Shri Chitnis started collections for the purpose from distributors of pictures shown in his cinema houses, which were located in the heart of the city.
Within a few months, 17, Institutional Area, Lodi Road, the land on which the temple now stands, was allotted to the Shri Sai Bhakt Samaj by the Government. The plot allotted, however, belonged to two different authorities of the Government – a part of it to the Defence and the other Part to the Central Public Works Department. The Managing Committee of the Samaj did its utmost to obtain the Possession of the land without any success. Months passed by but the possession was not forthcoming.
One evening, Shri Chitnis came to my house, with lots of gifts of Baba, a day after Deepavali of 1971, and told me that all his efforts to get the possession of land had failed and he had reached the conclusion that even if he tried whole of his life, he would not be able to bring the different authorities of the Government together and obtain, possession of the land. He sought my help in the matter, I was completely bewildered. How could a petty man of my stature help in obtaining the possession of the land? I told Shri Chitnis so, but he insisted that he was sure that with my efforts, the possession of the land could be obtained.
In right earnest, I started my humble efforts to this end next morning, after seeking Baba’s blessings. And lo! the marvel of marvels, by Baba’s Grace, my 2 1/2 months’ incessant efforts succeeded in bringing six different Government authorities together at the site of the temple land one morning. These authorities were Headquarters Delhi area, MES, Station HQ Delhi; QM.G’s Branch, Army HQ; Lands and Cantonments Directorate and Central Public Works Department. All the formalities were completed on the site and a final report submitted to the C.P.W.D. The plot was finally allotted to Shri Sai Bhakta Samaj soon and its possession obtained. On this occasion, Shri Chitnis did not come to the site personally but deputed his Manager, Shri Bhatnagar, to look after the guests assembling at the site. Shri Bhatnagar took all present to Khan Market to offer them a cup of tea with snacks.
Shri Chitnis was extremely pleased with this achievement. He rang me up to say that he would soon visit my house again to thank me and now seek my active participation in the project. He did come but my participation was not sought, as perhaps a couple of my friends did not like the idea of my association with this sacred work.
The foundation laying ceremony of the temple took place in August 1972. I was also invited to this function and had the opportunity to place some earth in its foundation. Two more years rolled by. The temple was slowly coming but my services were not required by Baba. In the meantime, we were carrying on Baba’s Pujas in all parts of Delhi and more and more people were coming to attend these. At times we found that Baba’s devotees from other parts of the country, coming to Delhi for some work, would also attend our Pujas.
It was in 1964 or so, that we also had the privilege of performing a puja in the house of Shri M. Rangachari who later shifted to Hyderabad after retirement. Many Sai devotees may remember that this same Shri Rangachari became a known figure in Baba’s affairs later. It is only recently that Shri Rangachari has cast off his physical body and merged in Baba.
Continued… Part 7 of Chapter 3
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