CONTINUED TO CHAPTER 23
ALL ABOUT HIS PHOTOGRAPHS
V. S. Joshi happily returned to Sholapur with heart full of love for Baba. He once told Govind Dhondo Pansare, one of his acquaintances, to go to Shirdi for Baba’s darshan. As Pansare was a photographer, he asked him to get a photo Baba. Joshi also gave ten rupees as expenses. Pansare came to Shirdi with an introductory note from Joshi. Gadgil and Sathe were happy to receive him, as he was Joshi’s friend. When they took him to Baba, He intuitively said, “Come here, Man! You have been sent by Joshi of SatyanNarayan company, especially for taking My photograph. Isnt it? Then why are you sitting there? Come forward; I will pose for you.”
Baba allowed him to take 2/3 snaps, standing by a pillar and sitting on a rock. All the people around were surprised that Baba had willingly consent for photos. Previously He had never agreed for a photo-session. Baba asked Pansare not to sell the photos for unreasonable price. He said, “You are the dear disciple of Joshi. I am sure, he will not allow you to sell it for unreasonable profit. He will see your welfare”.
Further, the name this photographer was registered ‘Dakshina-Bhiksha’ institute and an order for some copies was also placed. The photos were sent to the institute with affordable rates. Why the photos are necessary? Why did Baba agree to a devotee’s request? Actually Nirguna Brahma and Saguna God, both were captured in a photograph. It gave the experience of Chaitanya to many devotees. By worshipping it, devotees could feel the proximity of Baba. They experienced the unity with Him (Adwaitanand).
Some people may ask, “To enjoy the bliss of Adwaita, is a photo an idol necessary?” There is a counter-question for them. Image is a symbol of that particular deity. It helps them to intensify their devotion and they do not find their bliss dampened by it. Deity, devotee and worship are the pillars of the experience of bliss. Then what wrong in idol or photo-worship?
We find that Deity, its vehicle and their temple are carved in the same rock of a mountain, e.g. Lord Vishnu, Eagle and place for worship. Do they not give the pleasure of devotion? The golden idols of Rama Maruti and a devotee offering golden flowers to the idols is a blissful triplet. In what way does it lessen the pleasure of Adwaita? Sitting before the image or idol a devotee can get immersed into the Adwaitanand. In no way, the awareness of Adwaita is disturbed. So the devotees spontaneously adopt the ‘symbol and its worship’. To understand and adopt this method, Satsang is essential.
Some people feel offended when they just hear the word, ‘Murti-puja’ (Idol worship). This is a contradiction. If God is everywhere, which they agree to, then how is it that God is not in the idol? In that case, the idol or the image will be superior to God as He cannot pervade it. Always remember, where there is true devotion, there is God! (Bhava tethe Deva). When God sees true love and devotion (Bhava) of His devotee, He appears in the idol for the joy of his dear Bhakta (devotee).
Saint Tukaram has said in one of his Abhangas, “An idol of God is carved out of stone and a step of stair-case also is cut from the stone. One stone is worshipped and the other one is trampled under the feet (used for climbing)”. This difference occurs because of the emotions which are superimposed on the first stone. To honour those pure emotions God enters the image or the idol.
Sai Baba wished that His devotees should continue with their devotion even after He would leave His body, so He allowed to take the photographs. He arranged the things in such a way that a devotee Vasudev Joshi who was pure, egoless and desireless, initiated this process. There are many examples of God appearing in an idol for His devotees (Interested readers can go through Nath-Bhagwat). Idol-worship is not new but an ancient concept. References are found in ancient scriptures. In “Bodhayan-Sutra”, a 3000 year old volume, we find one whole chapter dedicated to this subject. From “Panini Sutras” one can definitely infer that Arjun and Krishna were worshipped as the forms of Nara and Narayana. There are many more ancient temples and idols found in Java islands. “Shukla-Yajurved” and “Shatpath-Brahman” epics give the evidences of idol-worship. In the epic, Srimad Bhagwat, Skand 11, the ritual of worship is fully described. Temples were there, even before the period of Kalidas, a Sanskrit-Dramatist and a poet. In his famous Meghadoot, 7th Verse, he has described a Shiva Temple, which was on the outskirts of the town Alkapuri.
In twenty-second verse (shloka), he writes about the wife of Yaksha, who worships God and prays for her husband. Verses 33/34 of the same Meghadoot, confirm the existence of Mahakaleshwar of Ujjaini, a famous temple of Shiva. Reference of the said Shiva temple is also found in “Raghuvansh”. All these references support the statement that Idol-worship is an age old concept. Darshan of an image (photo) of Baba is as good as the darshan of Baba in person, it depends on the intensity of the beholder. It was a full moon night of ‘Phalgun’ (Last month of Hindu calendar) in the year 1917. Baba appeared in the dream of Annasaheb Dabholkar. Baba was dressed like a recluse. He told, “I am coming to you for lunch today”.
When Annasaheb woke up he remembered each and every word that the recluse had said. He felt very happy. He had spent seven years in Sai’s proximity. Sai had occupied his mind fully. But His coming to his house was a special grace. He instructed his wife, “Today is the Holi festival day and I am expecting an honourable guest coming for lunch. So be prepared to welcome Him”. Inquisitively she asked him who it was. He then described his dream to her. She expressed her doubt saying, “Would He come over from Shirdi?”
“He may not come personally; but He can come in disguise”. It was mid-day. All preparations were ready. Relatives of Annasaheb also had come. They all waited for the expected guest. But no one came. Annasaheb offered Vaishwadev and Naivedyam. Pure ghee was served as ‘Anna-shuddhi’. As they were about to start eating, there was a sound of someone climbing the wooden stairs. The door was open. There were two persons, Ali Mohammad and Moulana Ism Mujavar. Begging Annasaheb’s pardon Ali Mohammad said, “Sorry for the interruption. You had to leave the lunch for us. But please accept this from me. The story behind it is an interesting one. But that I will tell you some other time, at your leisure”.
Saying so he handed over a packet. Annasaheb removed the wrapper and he was thrilled. It was Baba’s photoframe. He was emotional when he put his head on Baba’s feet in the photo. He asked Ali Mohammad who again said, “I had purchased it from a shop. But more I will tell you later”. The two gentlemen left. The image of Baba was kept in the centre. Naivedyam and Aarti was offered. Everybody took lunch and the festival celebration was completed. Ali Mohammad met Annasaheb nine years after this incident. Annasaheb curiously asked him about the photograph. It was a long story that Ali narrated. Ali Mohammad had bought Baba’s photo from a salesman. It was hung on the wall of his house at Bandra. He had immense love for Baba.
In the next chapter we shall read the story about the photoframe.
© Author – Dr. Keshav Bhagwant Gavankar (Annasahib Gavankar) – Explicit Rights To Publish To Shirdi Sai Baba Books.com (Member of SaiYugNetwork.com)