Revered by thousands of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Zoroastrian devotees, Shirdi Sai Baba was known to be an Indian saint, Satguru, fakir (vowed to poverty and devoted to God), and spiritual master. Recently residents of Maharashtra’s Shirdi, believed to be the birthplace of Sai Baba and had observed a bandh in response to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s acknowledgement that Pathri in Parbhani was where the 19th century spiritual leader was born. Thackeray had announced a grant of Rs 100 crore for the development of Pathri. Thackeray’s move to develop Pathri as a pilgrimage destination has also caused a political row, with the BJP questioning the timing of the announcement.
Sai Baba is unfathomable and beyond conception and above caste creed religion and races Sathguru belongs to entire universe and mankind. The Shirdi temple is the third largest temple in the country in terms of both devotees and financial donations. While Sai Baba’s birth year was not recorded, it is assumed he was born near the year 1838. He took samadhi in 1918. Baba often lived in a Mosque, and his physical body was cremated in a temple. He came to village Shirdi in Maharastra at age of 16 for the first time and spent about three years there. After this, for a period of one year Baba left Shirdi and very little was known about him during that period. In the year of 1858, Baba returned to Shirdi permanently. For about five years of time Baba took his accommodation under the neem tree and very often he used to wander in the jungle near Shirdi.
It is said that Sai Baba is believed to have arrived in Shirdi as a nameless entity. His head was tied in a turban and he sported a beard. He wore long, loose robes. He looked like the quintessential faqir. Baba stayed in the forest on the outskirts of a village and spent most of his time meditating. Liking the simple but saintly figure, the villagers provided the Baba with food for sustenance. Baba was most likely born to Brahmin parents within a few hundred miles of Shirdi. Some have reported that he came from the village of Pathri. When he arrived in Shirdi, at the age of 16, where he led an ascetic life, Baba began meditating under a neem tree and teaching local villagers.
Sai Baba’s teachings say one God to govern all. He was occasionally heard chanting, “Allah Malik” or God is King. He taught about love and forgiveness, charity, selfless service, inner peace, and how to maintain an un-shattered devotion to God. Shirdi, the obscure village in Maharashtra has become a pilgrimage destination much as Bethlehem, Jerusalem or Varanasi. With over 25,000 pilgrims thronging in here each day the number of pilgrims climb to over a hundred thousand on holidays and festival days. Would it be justifiable for pilgrimage to spent 100 crores in development of Pathri with thousands of devotees arriving in Shirdi everyday? Does it make any sense in creating controversy over the birthplace of Sai Baba, the 19th century spiritual figure and when the Shirdi temple attracts lakhs of devotees from all over India every year? Let us not hurt the feelings of Sai devotees.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)