His Temple, located at
Shirdi, Maharashtra, India
attracts millions of
devotees of all religions,
castes and creed who
come to pay homage to
Shri Sai Baba. The temple
is a beautiful shrine that
was built over the
Samadhi of Shri Sai
Rising above religion, Shirdi Sai Baba, the Indian
sage preached simple moral and spiritual laws.
While his message appeals to many in this age of
complexity, others take refuge in him because of his
promise to help devotees in times of crisis
A fakir in a tattered kafni who begged for alms till his last
day. Who founded no religion or sect, started no
movement, initiated not a single disciple, left behind no
apostles. Who breathed his last eight long decades ago
and about whom very few had heard till the 1960s.
[By Parveen Chopra]
The Sai Baba of Shirdi
Today, he has millions of devotees in India and other
parts of the world. Shirdi, the obscure village in
Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, in India, has
become a pilgrimage destination much as Bethlehem,
Jerusalem or Varanasi. The number of pilgrims go there
average 25,000 a day and can climb to over a hundred
thousand on holidays and festival days. They belong to
every strata of society and all religions, and include
politicians, film stars and rich businessmen.
His philosophy ingrained 'Shraddha'
meaning faith and 'Saburi' meaning
compassion. According to him Shraddha
and Saburi were the supreme attributes to
reach the state of godliness.
He regularly recited Hindu and Muslim prayers. His Hindu followers
considered him to be an avatar or reincarnation of Shiva and
Dattatreya. Sai Baba did not leave any written works. All his
teachings were oral and catchy. His sayings were short, crisp and
in layman language with which the common mass could easily
Sai Baba had the reputation of being clairvoyant,
healing the sick, restoring eyesight, affecting
events at a distance, appearing in devotees'
dreams, and exercising control over the
elements. Biographies of Baba are replete with
stories of how he helped his devotees out of
problems and crisis.
He continues to do so.
Never ask a saint his caste or creed, said Kabir.
Nonetheless the question is discussed threadbare
in Sai literature and is surrounded by controversy.
However, even a casual study of Sai Baba's life shows
that he offered an eclectic Hindu-Muslim synthesis,
perhaps to promote amity between the two dominant
and mutually distrustful communities in India. Sai
Baba is not a name; the word Sai comes from the
Persian expression saih, which means an itinerant Sufi
fakir. He came to be called Sai Baba after coming to
By appearance, he was a Muslim fakir, but, his ears were
pierced—a Hindu sign—and he was not circumcised. He
lived in a mosque but curiously christened it Dwarkamai and kept a sacred fire going there. He had intimate
knowledge of the Hindu holy books and the Koran and
was well versed in the Indian Sufi lineage. He promoted
Hindu and Muslim festivals and sent money and
materials for the renovation of temples. When Muslims
asked him why he allowed Hindus to do puja to him, he
remarked: "Do in Rome as the Romans do", indicating
that he was ministering to a Hindu following.
In her thesis, Marianne Warren, however, makes a strong case
that Shirdi Sai Baba was a Sufi divine who has been progressively
Hinduised in his biographies written by Hindus. Her main source of
evidence is the note left by Abdul, Baba's servant and Sufi pupil for
many years. The unpublished manuscript in Deccani Urdu,
contains Baba's instructions and teachings based on the Koran. She
also refers to the Baba doing dhikr (constant repetition of Allah's
name) even during sleep. Then, Allah Malik (Allah alone is the Lord
and master) was Baba's pet expression. Warren also
interprets Baba's own spiritual growth, his life and sayings in the
light of Maqamat and Ahwal (the stations and states of the Sufi way).
Sai Baba encouraged his devotees to pray, chant God's
name and read holy scriptures - he told Muslims to
study the Qur'an and Hindus texts like the Ramayana,
Vishnu Sahasranam, Bhagavad Gita (and commentaries
to it), Yoga Vasistha. He advised his devotees and
followers to lead a moral life, help others, treat them
with love and develop two important features of
character: faith (Shraddha) and patience (Saburi). He
also criticized atheism. In his teachings Sai Baba
emphasised the importance of performing one's duties
and being content.
Sai baba encouraged
charity and said, "Unless
there is some relationship
or connection, nobody
If any men or creatures
come to you, do not
discourteously drive them
away, but receive them
well and treat them with
Human being is
subjected to `Karma' for
his actions in the
past lives as well as the
present one. It is
cumulative in effect.
`Karma' in its duration,
magnitude and intensity
is in the hands of God.
As such, faith in God
and prayer to Him are
essential to eliminate
Whosoever puts their feet on Shirdi soil, their sufferings will
come to an end.
The wretched and miserable will rise to joy and happiness as
soon as they climb the steps of my Samadhi.
I shall be ever active and vigorous even after leaving this
My tomb shall bless and speak to the needs of my devotees.
I shall be active and vigorous even from my tomb.
My mortal remains will speak from my tomb.
I am ever living to help and guide all who come to me, who
surrender to me and who seek refuge in me.
If you look to me, I look to you.
If you cast your burden on me, I shall surely bear it.
If you seek my advice and help, it shall be given to you at once.
There shall be no want in the house of my devotee.