Saints are rarely born; they are gifted to mankind, for a larger, deeper purpose.
Sai Baba of Shirdi is one such saint, whose presence has helped many. And continues to help and guide, even after he left his human form. Although his birth and origins are shrouded in mystery and myth, his actions and examples have led many to a path of salvation and succour.
India is blessed by many rivers, and through this riverine culture, the spirit and soul of the people and their religious practices and beliefs, manifest. One such river is the Godavari, which cuts across the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital. Shirdi nestles close to this river.
Shirdi lies at a distance of 265 km from Mumbai; 210 km from Pune; 120 km from Nasik; 600 km from Hyderabad; 1166 km from Delhi; 310 km from Sholapur; 80 km from Ahmednagar, its district headquarters, and 19 km from the nearest railhead, Kopergaon.
Buses, planes and trains from any major city of India connect to one of the above points. Shirdi, a nondescript hamlet just a hundred years ago, is today the most-visited pilgrim destination for many, after Tirumala-Tirupati.
The spiritual force that put Shirdi on the international map is fondly called Sai Baba. He first came to Shirdi as part of a wedding party. Upon seeing this young, muscularly built, radiant person, Mhalsapati, the village goldsmith who was in-charge of the local Khandoba temple, saluted him and welcomed him with the following words: Aao Sai (Come Sai). The name stuck.
Sai Baba had no formal name, no family to which his origins could be traced and no lineage to which he can be ascribed. He left no Order, no direct disciples or dogma and has no incarnation. Most importantly, he also did not limit himself to either of the two predominant religions of the times, Hinduism and Islam. His life is thus unique.
With the Ahmednagar region being part of the larger Muslim-ruled area, owing allegiance to the Nizams, and with the Godavari riverbelt as the cradle of many Hindu traditions and tenets, what Sai Baba attempted and achieved was the bringing together of two communities increasingly at cross-purposes. He helped assimilate the best of both the cultures and religious practices. He lived in a dilapidated mosque, which he christened Dwarkamai after the Hindu god Krishna's kingdom "Dwarka", and fondly added mai or mother to it.
He went door-to-door for food and he gifted what he did not require, including monies given to him as alms. He dressed as a fakeer (mendicant of the Muslim order), recited shlokas (holy hymns) in Sanskrit, prescribed Hindu thought but cried out Allah Malik (God is Lord) when giving a blessing. Initially, this did confuse the innocent locals, but seeing his miracles and benefiting by his medicines, slowly they realized they had among them, a living god.
Sai Baba's Origin
Origin of Shirdi Sai Baba