Sāi Bābā of Shirdi
By Swami Harshananda
The country seems to have a knack of producing great men in great numbers, though the greater number of people who worship them rarely make efforts to shape their own lives in their mould. Sāi Bābā of Shirdi is one such personality who lived long enough, four score years and more to spread the true spirit of religion as spiritual evolution. He existed in A. D. 1918.
Though his early life is shrouded in mystery, there is reason to believe, based on his own admissions, that he was born to brāhmaṇa parents. But fate made him to be brought up by a Muslim fakir and his wife. Before his demise the fakir asked his wife to hand over the boy who was now about eight years old to a brāhmaṇa devotee of Veṅkaṭeśvara of Tirupati known as Gopal Rao. This person was not only a great devotee of God but also had mysterious yogic powers. The boy served him with extraordinary devotion and dedication. Later on, the guru bequeathed all his spiritual powers to the boy who was now a young man. He then passed away. However, there are other versions of Bābā’s early life also.
Sāi Bābā arrived at Shirdi, a small village on the bank of Godāvarī river which is 18 kms. from the Kopergaon railway station in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, probably during A. D. 1854. After about four years of wandering, he returned to Shirdi and never moved out. At Shirdi, he stayed in a dilapidated mosque which he used to call Dvārakā Māyī, till the end and passed away there itself in A. D. 1918.
He had many miraculous and extraordinary yogic powers which he used abundantly to help the devotees, especially those in distress, out of infinite compassion. He stressed the importance of guru’s grace in the path of spiritual evolution. In his own way, he strove to bring about unity between the Hindus and Muslims since both were among his disciples and followers. Today, Shirdi has become an important place of pilgrimage with the temple built over his samādhi as the center of attraction.
- He was called as Veṅkusā by Sāi Bābā later.
- It is approximate 11 miles.
- Samādhi means the place of interment.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore