Keshav B. Gawankar was born on 28 April 1906 at Arnala, and lived with his parents in Mumbai. When he was 7 years old, he was seriously ill with ‘nava jwara’ (fever). All kinds of treatments and remedies were tried, but to no avail. The fever was relentless and his chest was congested and full of fluid and pus. He hovered at death’s door. A devotee called Galwankar (Dabholkar’s son-in-law) lived close-by. He advised his parents to pray to Baba and make a vow. His aunt who was nearby vowed to Baba that they would go to Shirdi with Pedhas if her nephew recovered.
Early next morning, the parents noticed that the fever had come down, and there was a tiny hole in the chest below the nipple. From this hole pus and fluid was oozing out. A few hours later the doctor came to see the patient and was astounded to see him recovering. The doctor prescribed some medicines and left. He regained good health in a few days but a tiny scar was present on his chest.
Five years later in 1918 when Keshav was 12 years and studying in Marathi school standard V, they went to Shirdi. He, his parents and aunt went to Dwarkamai, took Baba’s darshan and handed Him a packet of Pedhas. Baba took the packet of Pedhas and gave six Pedhas to Keshav and ate the rest. Shama who was standing nearby said, “What is this Deva, You are eating all the Pedhas?” Baba pointing to his aunt said, “She kept me hungry for five years”. Then He made Keshav sit nearby and lovingly passed His hand over his back. Baba then asked Keshav for Dakshina of two paise. Here two paise signifies faith and patience. Young Keshav was confused and did not understand what was to be done. Madhavrao was still standing there. He pulled Keshav’s hand and clutched it into Baba’s right hand. He told the boy, “Say, given”. Keshav repeated as told. Sai Baba accepted and said, “Okay, taken”. It was all mock ‘give and take’. Baba then removed His “Kafni“ and gave it to Keshav as ‘Prasadam’.
Keshav was too young and innocent to understand the significance and importance of what he had received from Baba. Shama (Madhavrao Deshpande) then said to the elders who were with Keshav, “Keshav at this age will not be able to protect and preserve It properly. I will handover the “Kafni” when he grows up. Till then I will take care of it”. Madhavrao kept his word and gave the “Kafni” to Keshav when he became an adult. (This precious “Kafni” is still preserved in a glass cupboard at the residence where late Dr. Keshav B. Gawankar was staying at ‘Indira Niwas’, Lal Bahaddur Shashtri Marg, Kurla West, Mumbai-400070. Anyone can visit the above place and take the darshan of the pious ‘Kafni’.)
When the family was ready for departure every one stood up and d Namaskar by folding their hands. Keshav also did the same. Baba looked at Keshav and beckoned him to come near, then Baba held his hand, gently pulling him to be seated. As soon as Keshav sat nearby, Baba swiftly slapped him across his cheek. Keshav’s head reeled back. His whole body started quivering and shaking. Then catching hold of his ‘Shendy’ (tuft of hair) He pulled his head and placed it on His feet. Baba then applied Udi to his forehead and gave him a handful saying, “Jao beta Allah bhala karega” (Go My son Allah will do good). Keshav’s Moksha Guru was Trimbak Vitthal Samant (Bhau Maharaj) who visited Shirdi in 1914 and had given Baba Rs. 2/- as dakshina, Baba then demanded two more rupees and said, “I will send one of my sons (Keshav) to you.”
Academically Keshav became a doctor and began to prosper. But he neve hanckered after wealth. He was most of the time engrossed in reading religious scriptures and in the worship of Lord Sai Baba. Once Dr. Annasaheb Gawankar had a dream. Sai Baba appeared and said, “You will find ME it Kurla”. Realisation of this dream was also arranged by Baba.
Abasaheb Masurekar was one of the friends of Dr. Annasaheb Gawankar. One day both of them went to Kenjalkar’s Chawl in Kurla for some reason. Coincidently, Bhau Maharaj was residing in the same chawl. He was sitting before Ganesh idol and meditating on it. Annasaheb had seen him for the first time. But spontaneously he exclaimed, “Bhau!” Bhau Maharaj too readily responded, “Come! Your Sai Baba is right here!” Thus Sai Baba introduced Dr. Gawankar to his Moksha-Guru. Under his guru’s guidance he enriched his spiritual life and at the same time discharged righteously his household duties. William Wordsworth writes in his poem, “To the Skylark”,
“Type of the wise, who soar, but never roam – True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home”,
was achieved by him.
He was himself a saint. To the many who knew him, he was a source of strength and solace. From a politician to a policeman, rich and poor were treated alike, with warmth and affection when they came to him with their problems. To him every individual was a temple of God. Their problems got solved and always his predictions came true because of the guidance of Lord Sai Baba before Whom he presented their problems. Being thus in constant communion with Sai Baba, he eradicated the mental pain and physical infirmities of his devotees who came for his advice and sought his blessings. To a few of his deserving devotees he gave mantras for Nama Japa, thereby advancing their spiritual progress. It was during his tenure as the president of the Shirdi Sansthan that Sai Baba’s statue was installed in the main Samadhi Mandir. He was also the editor of “SAI LEELA” magazine. He was also the author of other two books in Marathi namely, “Shiladhi” (Shirdi) and “Sai Baba Hach Chamatkar” (Sai Baba, A Miracle).
Dr. Annasaheb and revered Bhau Maharaj Samant had gone to Morgaon, one of the pilgrim places of Lord Ganesh. From that holy place Annasaheb brought a sapling of Mandar tree, to Kurla. He planted it in his garden and fostered it with utmost care. After 21 years when it grew into a big tree, Annasaheb found an idol of Ganesh which was underground near the trunk. The idol is still there in the home shrine of Dr. Gawankar.
Writing the Biography of Sai Baba
Dr. Annasaheb Keshav Gawankar was inspired by the famous Palaye-Shastri, to render discourses and perform Kirtans. One day Shastri told him, “As you have mastered the art of Kirtan, you can also write biography of Sai Baba in an interesting way”.
In 1964, one day, Dr. Annasaheb retired from the day’s work and went to bed as usual. He was fast asleep. After midnight his sleep was interrupted and he was in a half-awake-state. He clearly heard Sai Baba say to him, “Come on, get up and start writing My stories”. Dr. Annasaheb was quite sure that it was Baba’s voice. He immediately rose from the bed. After a sincere prayer to Baba he started writing the biography of Baba. He noted the time. It was 1:30 a.m. (after midnight). He went into a trance and started writing and did not stop till 10:00 O’clock in the morning. During that short span of time he had completed many chapters of this book, “Shirdiche Sai Baba”. Originally the book was written in Marathi.
Sai Baba got this ‘Seva’ (service) done by Dr. Annasaheb. The biography was completed in due course. But Annasaheb was worried about its publication. He had no funds for spending on it. Sai Baba is still alive in “Sanjivan Samadhi” and he obviates the difficulties of His devotees. One day Shri Ramanlal Patel came to Dr. K. B. Gawankar (Annasaheb), and offered him Rs. 4000/- for the publication of the book. Shortly thereafter, it was published and was quickly sold out at the hands of many devotees (First Marathi Edition was published in 1966). After about fourty years, by the tireless efforts of his son Dr. Sainath Keshav Gawankar, the second edition was published in 2006.
Tour of U.S.A.
Shri. V. Pichumani was a close family friend of Dr. Gawankar. In 1972, Dr. Annasaheb went to New York with Pichumani. The later says, “We could listen to many Leelas of Baba from Annasaheb”. We also experienced a few of them. We could easily sense the fragrance of Sandal and also of Jasmine or Mogra flowers, which indicated the existence of Sai Baba around us.
Mr. Sahastrabuddhe and Mrs. Padmaja Sahastrabuddhe had come to Kurla for the darshan of revered Annasaheb. She had performed Kirtans in the above festival in Kurla, for 4/5 years. Gradually her devotion towards Baba wennt on strengthening. On the recommendation of Annasaheb she got an opportunity to present Kirtan in Shirdi, on Kojagiri Pournima day, in 1980 (Full moon night that comes after Navaratri Utsav).
His Last Moments
It was Ashadhi Ekadashi of 1985, Saturday. Annasaheb was counting his last few hours. Before two days Dr. Argikar (MD), had come to examine Annasaheb. He said to the physician, “Doctor, I am able to see the seven levels. I was asked my ‘Beeja-Mantra’ and stories from the epics. Sai Baba has built a bungalow for me! I can see it…” In the evening he said, “I am going to Pandharpur. See! Those pilgrims of Pandharpur are waiting there. Make arrangements to feed them. If you do not have money, take it from me. Store enough rice for ‘Guru Pournima’, which is approaching. My bungalow is ready.” He went to the toilet, washed his hands and feet and purified his body knowing fully well that in a short time it will be offered to Lord Agni. He performed Baba’s aarti, cleared away others from the room and then looking at Baba’s photo he slowly laid his head on the pillow and breathed his last.
On 29 June 1985 Ashadhi Ekadashi day, Dr. Annasaheb thus left his body at the feet of Sai Baba. Hundreds of his devotees came for his last darshan and paid their obeisance to their guru. Baba had told Annasaheb, “I will be always with you”. For Annasaheb Sai Baba was everything. So ultimately he merged with Him….
END OF THE CHAPTER
© Author – Dr. Keshav Bhagwant Gavankar (Annasahib Gavankar) – Explicit Rights To Publish To Shirdi Sai Baba Books.com (Member of SaiYugNetwork.com)