As the evening light softens, Sitha places a white lotus at the feet of Ganesha and joins Grandma Rukmini under the gulmohar tree. Grandma gives her a sweet prasadh to eat.
SITHA: Grandma, Aunt Rupa brought this prasadh from Shirdi isn’t it? Where is Shirdi and who lives there ?
GRANDMA RUKMINI : Little One, Shirdi was a small village in Maharashtra where there lived the great saint, Shri Shirdi Sai Baba, many years ago. Today it has grown into a big town and devotees of Baba from all over the world visit the Sai Baba temple there.
SITHA: Where did Baba come from? What did he do there? Tell me more about him.
GRANDMA RUKMINI : Baba came to Shirdi in the middle of the 19th century. He was around 16 years of age then they say. People found him sitting under a neem tree, deep in meditation. Who the boy’s parents were or how and where he came from, no one knew.
He remained there, meditating for many long hours and the people recognised the divinity in him and many became his devotees. Then he moved to an old mosque which he called Dwarakamai and lived a simple life, begging for alms and preaching to many followers. His devotees have seen him perform many miracles too.
SITHA: Really! That's great! What did he teach them Grandma?
GRANDMA RUKMINI: Baba spoke about religion and God to people. He treated people of all castes and religions the same and showed that all are children of God and should be loved equally. He was kind to all beings, feeding people and even animals around him whenever he used to eat. Some of his important teachings were:-
SITHA: What did Baba look like Grandma?
GRANDMA RUKMINI: He was a very simple person who would sometimes even mend and wear his clothes when they tore. Baba wore a kafni, which is a long robe like a kurtha, and he tied a cloth around his head. He also carried a tin pot which he used for begging for alms and a sacred staff or Satka.
SITHA: Grandma tell me more about Baba. Can we go to Shirdi some day please?
GRANDMA RUKMINI : Sai Baba lived till 1918 and has said that he will always take care of his devotees at all times. Today there are many temples for Sai Baba where his devotees in India and all over the world worship him and receive his blessings. I will tell you more another day. Yes , God willing , we will go to Shirdi one day and seek Baba’s blessings .
You see Little One, whenever we read or hear about great people or saints, it is important to remember and practise the good things we learn from them.
SITHA: Yes Grandma, I will try to do so. I will keep a little diary and note down in a few words, the most important things I learn everyday. You know Grandma, I think right now I will take some leftover food from Ma and give it to the old lady I saw sitting in the market corner and also feed her little puppy.
GRANDMA (smiling) : That’s my girl!
In his lifetime, Sai Baba performed many miracles and even to this day many of Baba’s devotees talk of miracles that happen in their lives. Baba appears in people’s dreams or as images on walls and sacred fires. It is said that he has lit lamps with water, cured the seriously ill and even made the blind see. Baba used to always keep a sacred fire or “Dhuni”going and he gave the holy ashes from this, called the “Udhi” to cure people. Even today, you will see this in Shirdi Sai Baba temples.
Thursday is considered as Baba’s special day and in all Baba temples special pujas and food offerings are done on this day. One will see lots of devotees throng Baba temples on Thursdays. Devotees of Baba greet each other saying, “Sai Ram.”
The Sai Satcharitra is the holy book on Baba and it gives Sai Baba’s biography. His devotees read this book with reverence and they also chant the Sai Manthra.
OM SAI RAM