Devotee readers who have missed earlier chapters can read from the links below.
|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|
|Chapter 3||Part 6||Functioning of Delhi Sri Sai Samaj|
|Chapter 3||Part 7||Building of Lodi Road Temple in New Delhi|
Commencement Of Puja At The Temple
The pujas of Baba started being performed in the basement of the building with a painting of Baba, presented by Shrj Chitnis and which is at present kept in the balcony of the temple on the first floor. Later, this very picture was moved to the Prayer Hall upstairs, while still under construction, and placed on the platform presently housing the statue of Baba. It remained there till the installation of the idol on 2nd October 1976.
For quite sometime, I was not in any way connected with the management of the temple. One day, Mr Chitnis invited me, in writing, to attend a meeting of the managing committee as a guest. I told Mr. Chitnis that I would never like to be a part of the organisation and that I was happy and contented to remain a mere servant of Baba. He told me that I was invited to attend the meeting merely as a guest without any commitment to join the organisation. In the meeting, Shri Chitnis prevailed upon me to join the Managing Committee. I turned down the offer with all humility saying that I had already had the experience of the working of such a body having worked in Delhi Sri Sai Samaj, for about 12 years and that I wouldn’t like to be a part of any organisation again as it affected my bhakti. All the members of the Managing Committee got up and requested me to reconsider my decision as they wanted me to play an active role in the affairs of the temple. With folded hands, the then Vice-President of the Samaj, Shri K. C. Dhawan, requested me to accept the offer. Considering my refusal as imprudence on my part, I yielded to their request saying that if I were left out, I could be of greater service to them later. These were prophetic words as the subsequent events in the Samaj showed. Had I remained away from the management committee of the Samaj, I might have been of greater service to Baba. The samaj might not have, in that event, been riddled with unworthy politics and dissentions and Baba’s work would have progressed much better, not only for the improvement of the temple but towards the coming up and spread of Baba’s work in the whole of Northern India. Let me hasten to add that I am no angel in Baba’s name but, knowing as we all do, when three persons meet on a platform, politics starts and, at that time an impartial entity is needed to sort out the affairs. Shri Chitnis was an extremely nice and a dedicated person but every man has his weaknesses. He was a doubting general who would easily lend his ears to what others said about their colleagues. And unfortunately, human nature as it is, we always have someone amongst us who is a past master in this act. Even today, I carry the conviction that a devotee should never actively entangle himself with the management work. Baba has created a cadre of administrators who are only suitable for the management of the place after it has come up and the management work should be left to them.
the question of carving out an idol of Baba at Jaipur for installation in the temple came up. I had some experience in this regard. In 1972, one Shri J.R. Muthialiah from Visakhapatnam, on the advice of one Shri A.N. Rao, Chief of Accounts in the Ministry of External Affairs, had approached me to accompany them to Jaipur to place an order for Baba’s statue to be installed at a temple in the Port area of Visakhapatnam. I along with Shri Muthialiah and Shri Rao went to Jaipur for the purpose. At that time the sculptors of Jaipur did not have any experience of chiselling idols of Baba. After roaming about the whole market and seeing the work most sculptors, we selected the ‘Rajasthan Moorti Kala Kendra> for the purpose and placed with them an order for ‘ Baba’s idol at a cost of Rs. 24, 000. For this propose I had to undertake several trips to Jaipur and also seek the help of my father-in-law, to prevail upon the sculptor to get a nice job done. This idol is installed in the temple at Visakhapatnam port though Shri Muthialiah, an excellent devotee of Bab who merged in Him within a few years of the temple comij up. I understand Mrs. Muthialiah is still there to look the temple.
For placing an order for the idol of Lodi Road Temple, I along with Shri Chitnis and a few others went to Jaipur one morning in Shri Chitnis’ car. We went through the whole market to see the work of almost all sculptors but ultimately again selected Rajasthan Moorty Kala Kendra for doing the job. This firm was being run by two brothers – Shri Manohar Lal Pandey and Shri Rameshwar Lal Pandey by name and had been responsible to do all sculpturing work for the Birlas all over India and their temple’s coming up overseas. Since I already knew the proprietors, we had long discussions with them as to how a unique and a life-like idol of Baba resembling the one at Shirdi could be carved out. It was agreed that Shri Rameshwar Lal Pandey would visit Shirdi and stay there, for as long as he desired, till he was satisfied that he was able to make a ditto copy of the Shirdi idol in clay. He brought a clay bust model after spending eight days in Shirdi but we did not find it anywhere near the Shirdi Idol. Shri Pandey told us that the Shirdi Idol was not made as per the specifications laid down in the ‘Shastras’. And how could it be? It was in fact Baba’s own guidance to Shri Talim which had made him to bring out that effect in the Shirdi idol which is unique. Baba’s compassionate eyes looking at every one with love and smile and providing them solace in their life full of vicissitudes. He, however, put in his best efforts to create a mud prototype of the idol as nearer to Shirdi as possible. We haggled and bargained with him to provide us a idol 5ft 4 in height, without any marks or blemishes in the front for a sum not more than Rs. 48,000/-, as far as I can recollect now.
Some 14-15 trips to Jaipur had to be undertaken in the process of approving the finished work – first in clay, then in piaster of Paris and finally in stone. Many of the trips to Jaipur by road were memorable. In one trip undertaken in the rainy season, we were stranded some 65 km before Jaipur. The road was completely submerged in water and there was nothing but water as far as we could see. Truckloads of boulders were brought from Jaipur and the road made worthy of crossing the broken portion. We had to wait on this spot for over three hours.
Even today, it gives me comfort and a sense of pride to recall the sincere, earnest and deep efforts made to analyse each and every part of the idol and put in our very best efforts to see that Baba’s face and eyes reflected the effect which is His hallmark. We would insist on Shri Rameshwar Lal Pandey who had by now become a close friend, to put his heart and soul in the idol and instil life in Baba to make it look as if He would open his lips any moment It has been a very thrilling experience of life, the like of which I have never had again. A lot of effort, labour and time were put in to achieve our objective but the Shirdi effect could not be brought into the idol. What could be brought out is for all to see and judge in the idol installed at the Lodi Road Temple. It can, however, be said with certainty that this idol has provided inspiration and comfort to a very large number of devotees and drawn them towards Baba.
Installation Ceremony of the Idol
The idol was brought in a truck from Jaipur and placed on the pedestal, covered with a white sheet. Earlier we had been debating as to who should be invited to perform the mstallation ceremony of the Idol. It was suggested that Smt. Indira Gandhi or Shri Y. B. Chauhan should be requested to do the job; I was, however, of the opinion that each and every devotee entering the portals of the temple was a very important person to us and that we should engage everybody in the installation ceremony. All the devotees should carry a pitcher full of Ganges water on their heads shouting Baba’s Jai and enter the temple. This suggestion was accepted and implemented.
The unveiling ceremony of the idol was fixed for VijaiDashmi, 2nd October 1976. For three days prior to the installation ceremony, South Indian Pandits were carrying out Havan and Puja in the temple premises. The unveiling was done in the afternoon. As the ‘Kalash’ reached the pedestal, the cloth wrapped around Baba removed, and holy water poured on the idol, the divine sight of Baba filled everybody with ecstasy. I cried out full throatedly in ecstasy, tears flowing from my eyes. At long last, my dream of a Baba’s place of worship in Delhi had materialised. Shri Chitnis and other members of the Managing Committee thought that I had lost my calm perhaps due to somebody saying something unpalatable to me. Every body ran towards me to calm me down little realising that it was the outburst of a heart full of ecstasy and gratitude to Baba which had made me cry out in this manner.
After the installation ceremony, it was felt that the pedestal of Baba had been raised too high and Baba looked above the heads of devotees standing before him. Shri Chitnis decided to cut down the height of the pedestal. A few days after the installation ceremony, I got a ring from Shri Chitnis one morning to reach the temple premises immediately. On arrival at the temple, I found that the idol was bound in chains and raised from its pedestal by pully brought for the purpose. While this work was going on, Baba provided me an opportunity to hold Him in my arms for about two hours, till the job finished. I placed with my own hands beneath the seat of Baba, a few pieces of stone brought by me from Shirdi after the old Dwarkamayee redone in 1962.
The first puja to the idol was performed by us based on the arti book compiled and published by the old Sai Samaj, Delhi. After the coming up of the Lodi Road temple, there seemed to be no need left for a separate organisation for Baba’s work in Delhi. Shri A. K. Gawaskar, in whose house we were conducting Baba’s pujas, had also by then left Delhi after his retirement from service and all puja articles alongwith Baba’s picture had been shifted to my house. Sri Sai Samaj Delhi, some time thereafter, stopped functioning under that name and banner.
At this point of time, there were already quite a large number of devotees of Baba in Delhi but they were scattered all over Delhi. With the coming up of the temple, when people actually started experiencing Baba’s Grace, there was a steady growth in the number of devotees and after the screening of the picture, ‘Shirdi Ke Sai Baba’ in 1983, there was a sudden spurt in the number of devotees. Even before the installation of Baba’s idol, devotees from neighbouring towns such as Aligarh, Meerut and Ghaziabad, had started visiting the temple. Later, Baba’s influence spread to the whole of North India. The situation as it stands today, there are many temples of Baba not only in Delhi but the whole of North India-even in far-flung and inaccessible places, and new and new temples are coming up every day. The Saint of Shirdi is today moulding and guiding the lives of millions of His devotees and providing them hope, cheer and impetus to live a purposeful life. He is redeeming His Pledge at every step, “Why should you fear, when I am there. Cast all your burdens on me and I shall bear them”. Baba seems to be more alive today than while He was in flesh blood.
Shri Sai Nath Maharaj Ki Jai.
Continued…Part 1 of Chapter 4
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