- Chapter VI
RAMA-NAVAMI FESTIVAL AND MASJID REPAIRS
Efficacy of the Touch of Guru’s Hand - Rama-Navami Festival
- Its Origin, Transformation etc. Repairs to the Masjid.
Before describing Rama-Navami Festival and Masjid Repairs, the
author makes some preliminary remarks about Sad-Guru as follows:
Efficacy of the Touch of Guru’s Hand
Where Real or Sadguru is the helmsman, he is sure to carry us safely
and easily beyond the worldly ocean. The word Sadguru brings to
mind Sai Baba. He appears to me, as if standing before me, and applying
Udi (scared ashes) to my forehead and placing his hand of blessing
on my head. Then joy fills my heart and love overflows through my
eyes. Wonderful is the power of the touch of Guru’s hand.
The subtle-body (consisting of thoughts and desires), which cannot
be burnt by the world dissolving fire, is destroyed by the mere
touch of the Guru’s hand, and the sins of many past births
are cleaned and washed away. Even the speech of those, whose heads
feel annoyed when they hear religious and Godly talks, attains calmness.
The seeing of Sai Baba’s handsome form, chokes our throat
with joy, makes the eyes overflowing with tears, and overwhelms
the heart with emotions. It awakens in us ‘I am He (Brahman)’
consciousness, manifests the joy of self-realization, and dissolving
the distinction of Thou, and I then and there, makes us one with
the Supreme (One Reality).
When I begin to read scriptures, at every step I am reminded of
my Sadguru, and Sai Baba, assumes the form of Rama or Krishna and
makes me listen to his Life. For instance when I sit to listen to
Bhagwat, Sai becomes Krishna from top to toe, and I think he sings
the Bhagwat or Uddhava Gita (song of teachings by Lord Shri Krishna
to His disciple, Uddhava) for the welfare of the devotees. When
I begin to chitchat, I am at once put in mind of Sai’s stories
for enabling me to give suitable illustrations. When I myself start
to write anything, I cannot compose a few words or sentences, but
when He of his own accord makes me write, I go on writing and writing
and there is no end to it. When the disciple’s egoism props
up, He presses it down with His hand, and giving him His own power,
makes him gain His object, and thus satisfies and blesses him.
If any one prostrates before Sai and surrenders heart and soul
to Him, then unsolicited, all the chief objects of life viz. Dharma
(righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (Desire) and Moksha (Deliverance),
are easily and unsolicitedly attained. Four paths, viz., of Karma,
Jnana, Yoga and Bhakti lead us separately to God. Of these, the
path of Bhakti is thorny and full of pits and ditches, and thus
difficult to traverse, but if you, relying on your Sadguru, avoid
the pits and thorns and walk straight, it will take you to the destination
(God). So says definitely, Sai Baba.
After philosophising about the Self-Existent Brahman, His Power
(Maya) to create this world and the world created, and stating that
all these three are ultimately one and the same, the author quotes
Sai Baba’s words guaranteeing the welfare of the Bhaktas:
"There will never be any dearth or scarcity, regarding food
and clothes, in any devotees’ homes. It is my special characteristic,
that I always look to, and provide, for the welfare of those devotees,
who worship Me whole-heartedly with their minds ever fixed on Me.
Lord Krishna has also said the same in the Gita. Therefore, strive
not much for food and clothes. If you want anything, beg of the
Lord, leave worldly honours, try to get Lord’s grace and blessings,
and be honored in His Court. Do not be deluded by worldly honor.
The form of the Deity should be firmly fixed in the mind. Let all
the senses and mind be ever devoted to the worship of the Lord,
let there be no attraction for any other thing; fix the mind in
remembering Me always, so that it will not wander elsewhere, towards
body, wealth and home. Then it will be calm, peaceful and carefree.
This is the sign of the mind, being well engaged in good company.
If the mind is vagrant, it cannot be called well-merged."
After quoting these words, the author goes on to relate the story
of Rama Navami festival in Shirdi. As Rama-Navami is the greatest
festival celebrated at Shirdi, another fuller account, as published
in Sai Leela Magazine of 1925, page 197, is also referred to and
a summary of the festival, as related in both these accounts is
One, Mr. Gopalrao Gund, was a Circle Inspector at Kopergaon. He
was a great devotee of Baba. He had three wives, but had no issue.
With Sai Baba’s blessings, a son was born to him. In the joy
that he felt regarding the event, an idea of celebrating a fair
or ‘Urus’ occurred to him in the year 1897, and he placed
it for consideration before other Shirdi devotees, viz. Tatya Patil,
Dada Kote Patil and Madhavrao Deshpande (Shama). They all approved
of the idea, and got Sai Baba’s permission and blessings.
Then an application for getting the Collector’s sanction for
celebrating the urus was made, but as the village Kulkarni reported
against holding the fair, the sanction was refused. But as Sai Baba
had blessed it, they tried again, and ultimately succeeded in getting
the Collector’s sanction. The day for the Urus was fixed on
the Rama-Navami day, after having consultation with Sai Baba. It
seems, He had some end in view, in this, viz., the Unification of
the two fairs of festivals, the Urus and the Rama-Navami and the
unification of the two communities - the Hindus and the Mahomedans.
As future events showed, this end or object was achieved.
Though the permission was obtained, but other difficulties cropped
up. Shirdi was a village, and there was scarcity of water. There
were two wells in the village, the one in use, dried up soon, and
the water from the second was brackish. This brackish water was
turned into sweet one by Sai Baba, by throwing flowers into it.
The water of this well was insufficient, so Tatya Patil had to arrange
to get water, from a well by fixing Moats (leather sacks) thereon,
at a considerable distance. Then temporary shops had to be constructed,
and wrestling bouts arranged. Gopalrao Gund had a friend, by name
Damu Anna Kasar, of Ahmednagar. He also was similarly unhappy in
the matter of progeny, though he married two wives. Sai Baba too
blessed him with sons, and Mr. Gund prevailed upon his friend to
prepare and supply one simple flag for the procession of the fair;
he also succeeded in inducing Mr. Nanasaheb Nimonkar to supply another
embroidered flag. Both these flags were taken in procession through
the village, and finally fixed at the two ends or corners of the
Masjid, which is called by Sai Baba as Dwarkamai. This is being
done even now.
The ‘Sandal’ Procession
There was another procession, which was started in this fair. This
idea of ‘Sandal’ procession originated with one Mr.
Amir Shakkar Dalal, a Mahomedan Bhakta from Korhla. This procession
is held in honour of great Muslim Saints. Sandal i.e. Chandan paste
and scrappings are put in the THALI (flat dishes), and these are
carried with incense burning before them in procession to the accompaniment
of band and music through the village and then after returning to
the Masjid, the contents of the dishes are thrown on the ‘Nimbar’
(nitche) and walls of the Masjid with hands. This work was managed
by Mr. Amir Shakkar for the first three years, and then afterwards
by his wife. So on one day, the two processions, the ‘Flags’
by the Hindus and that of ‘Sandal’ by the Muslims, went
on side by side, and are still going on without any hitch.
This day was very dear and sacred to the devotees of Sai Baba. Most
of them turned out on the occasion, and took a leading part in the
management of the fair. Tatya Kote Patil looked to all outward affairs,
while the internal management was entirely left to one Radha Krishna
Mai, a female devotee of Baba. Her residence was full of guests
on the occasion, and she had to look to their needs, and also to
arrange for all the paraphernalia of the fair. Another work, which
she willingly did, was to wash out and clean and white-wash the
entire Masjid, its walls and floor, which were blackened and were
full of soot on account of the ever-burning Dhuni (sacred fire)
of Sai Baba. This work, she did during the night, when Sai Baba
went to sleep every alternate day in the Chavadi. She had to take
out all the things, including even the Dhuni, and after thorough
cleaning and whitewashing replace them, as they were before. Feeding
the poor, which was so dear to Sai Baba, was also a great item in
this fair. For this purpose, cooking, on a grand scale and preparing
various sweet dishes, was done in Radha-Krishna Mai’s lodging,
and, various rich and wealthy devotees took a leading part in this
Transformation of Urus into Rama-Navami Festival
Things were going on in this way and the fair was gradually increasing
in importance till 1912 A.D., when a change took place; That year
one devotee, Mr. Krishnarao Jageshwar Bhisma (the author of the
pamphlet ‘Sai Sagunopasana’), came for the fair with
Dadasaheb Khaparde of Amraoti, and was staying on the previous day
in the Dixit Wada. While he was lying on the verandah, and while
Mr. Laxmanrao alias Kaka Mahajani, was going down with Puja materials
to the Masjid, a new thought arose in his mind and he accosted the
latter thus - There is some providential arrangement in the fact
that the Urus or fair is celebrated in Shirdi on the Rama-Navami
day; this day is very dear to all the Hindus; then why not begin
the Rama-Navami Festival - the celebration of the birth of Shri
Rama here on this day? Kaka Mahajani liked the idea, and it was
arranged to get Baba’s permission in this matter. The main
difficulty was how to secure a Haridas, who would perform ‘Kirtan’
and sing the glories of the Lord on the occasion. But Bhishma solved
the difficulty, by saying that his ‘Rama Akhyan’ (composition
on Rama’s birth) was ready, and he would do the ‘Kirtan’
himself, while Kaka Mahajani should play on the harmonium.
It was also arranged to get the ‘Sunthavada’ (ginger-powder
mixed with sugar) as Prasad prepared by Radha-Krishna Mai. So they
immediately went to the Masjid to get Baba’s permission. Baba,
who knew all things and what was passing there, asked Mahajani,
as to what was going on in the Wada. Being rather perturbed, Mahajani
could not catch the purport of the question and remained silent.
Then Baba asked Bhishma, what he had to say. He explained the idea
of celebrating Rama-Navami festival, and asked for Baba’s
permission and Baba gladly gave it. All rejoiced and made preparations
for the Jayanti-festival. Next day, the Masjid was decorated with
buntings etc., a cradle was supplied by Radha-Krishna Mai, and placed
in front of Baba’s seat and the proceedings started. Bhishma
stood up for Kirtan and Mahajani played on the harmonium.
Sai Baba sent a man to call Mahajani. He was hesitating to go,
doubting whether Baba would allow the festival to go on; but when
he went to Baba, the latter asked him as to what was going on and
why the cradle was placed there. He answered that the Rama-Navami
festival had commenced, and the cradle was put on for that purpose.
Then Baba took a garland from the ‘Nimbar’ (nitche),
and placed it round his neck and sent another garland for Bhishma.
Then commenced the Kirtan. When it came to a close, pound sounds
of "Victory to Rama" went up; and Gulal (red - powder)
was thrown up all round, amidst band and music. Everybody was overjoyed,
when suddenly roaring was heard. The red-powder thrown promiscuously
all round, went up, somehow entered Baba’s eyes. Baba got
wild and began to scold and abuse loudly. People got frightened
by this scene and took to their heels. Those intimate devotees,
who knew Baba well, took these scoldings and outpourings of Baba,
as blessings in disguise. They thought that when Rama was born,
it was proper for Baba to get wild and enraged to kill Ravana; and
his demons, in the form of egoism and wicked thoughts etc. Besides
they knew, that whenever a new thing was undertaken at Shirdi, it
was usual with Baba to get wild and angry, and so they kept quiet.
Radha-Krishna Mai was rather afraid; and thought that Baba might
break her cradle, and she asked Mahajani to get the cradle back.
When he went to loosen and unfasten the cradle, Baba went to him,
and asked him not to remove it. Then after some time, Baba became
calm, and that day’s programme, including Mahapuja and Arati
was finished. Later on, Mr. Mahajani asked Baba, for permission
to remove the cradle, Baba refused the same saying, that the festival
was not yet finished. Next day, another ‘Kirtan’ and
Gopal-Kala ceremony (an earthern pot containing parched rice mixed
with curds is hung, only to be broken after the ‘Kirtan’,
and the contents distributed to all, as was done by Lord Krishna
amongst His cow-herd (friends), were performed, and then Baba allowed
the cradle to be removed. While the Rama-Navami festival was thus
going on, the procession, of the two flags by day and that of the
‘Sandal’ by night, went off with the usual pomp and
show. From this time onwards, the ‘Urus of Baba’ was
transformed into the Rama-Navami festival.
From next year (1913), the items in the programme of Rama-Navami
began to increase. Radha-Krishna Mai started a ‘Nama-Saptah’
(singing the glory of God’s name continuously day and night
for seven days), from 1st of Chaitra, For this, all devotees took
part by turns, and she also joined it, sometimes early in the morning.
As Rama-Navami Festival is celebrated in many places all over the
country, the difficulty of getting a Haridas was felt again. But
5 or 6 days before the festival, Mahajani met accidentally Balabuva
Mali, who was known as modern Tukaram, and got him to do the ‘Kirtan’
that year. The next year (1914), another Balabuva Satarkar of Brihadsiddha
Kavate, District Satara, could not act as a Haridas in his own town,
as plague was prevailing in his town, and so he came to Shirdi;
With Baba’s permission, which was secured through Kakasaheb
Dixit, he did the Kirtan; and was sufficiently recompensed for his
labour. The difficulty of getting a new Haridas every year was finally
solved from 1914 by Sai Baba, as He entrusted this function to Das
Ganu Maharaj permanently, and since that time, he has been successfully
and creditably conducting that function uptill now.
Since 1912, this festival began to grow gradually year-by-year.
From the 8th to 12th of Chaitra, Shirdi looked like a beehive of
men. Shops began to increase. Celebrated wrestlers took part in
wrestling bouts. Feeding of the poor was done on a grander scale.
Hard work and sincere efforts of Radha-Krishna Mai turned Shirdi
into a Sansthan (State). Paraphernalia increased. A beautiful horse,
a palanquin, chariot and many silver things, pots, buckets, pictures,
mirrors etc. were presented. Elephants were also sent for the procession.
Though all this paraphernalia increased enormously, Sai Baba ignored
all these things, and maintained His simplicity as before. It is
to be noted that both the Hindus and Mahomedans have been working
in unison in both the processions, and during the entire festival,
there has been no hitch or quarrel between them at all so far. First
about 5000-7000 people used to collect, but that figure went up
to 75000 in some years; still there was no outbreak of any epidemic
or any riots worth the name during so many past years.
Repairs to the Masjid
Another important idea occured to Gopal Gund. Just as he started
the Urus or fair, he thought that he should put the Masjid in order.
So in order to carry out the repairs, he collected stones and got
them dressed. But this work was not assigned to him. This was reserved
for Nanasaheb Chandorkar, and the pavement -work for Kakasaheb Dixit.
First, Baba was unwilling to allow them to have these works done,
but with the intervention of Mahalsapati, a local devotee of Baba,
His permission was secured. When the pavement was completed in one
night in the Masjid, Baba took a small Gadi for His seat, discarding
the usual piece of sack - cloth used till then. In 1911, the Sabha
- Mandap (court - yard) was also put in order with great labour
and effort. The open space in front of the Masjid was very small
Kakasaheb Dixit wanted to extend it and put on it roofing. At great
expense, he got iron-posts, and pillars and trusses and started
the work. At night, all the devotees worked hard and fixed the posts;
but Baba, when he returned from Chavadi next morning, uprooted them
all and threw them out. Once it so happened that Baba got very excited,
caught a pole with one hand, and began to shake and uproot it, and
with the other hand caught the neck of Tatya Patil. He took by force
Tatya’s Pheta, struck a match, set it on fire and threw it
in a pit. At that time, Baba’s eyes flashed like burning embers.
None dared to look at Him. All got terribly frightened. Baba took
out a rupee from his pocket and threw it there, as if it were an
offering on an auspicious occasion. Tatya also was much frightened.
None knew what was going to happen to Tatya, and none dared to interfere.
Bhagoji Shinde, the leper devotee of Baba, made a little boldly
advance, but he was pushed out by Baba. Madhavrao was also similarly
treated, he being pelted with brick pieces. So all those, who went
to intercede, were similarly dealt with. But after some time, Baba’s
anger cooled down. He sent for a shopkeeper, got from him an embroidered
Pheta and Himself tied it on Tatya’s head, as if he was being
given a special honour. All the people were wonderstruck to see
this strange behavior of Baba. They were at a loss to know, what
enraged Baba so suddenly and what led Him to assault Tatya Patil,
and why His anger cooled down, the next moment. Baba was sometimes
very calm and quiet and talked sweet things with love, but soon
after, with or without any pretext, got enraged. Many such incidents
may be related; but I do not know which to choose and which to omit.
I, therefore, refer them as they occur to me.
In the next Chapter the question whether Baba was a Hindu or a
Mahomedan will be taken up; and His Yogic practices and powers,
and other matters will be dealt with.
Bow to Shri Sai Baba - Peace be to all