On one occasion, he stayed in the Maruti temple, behind the Chavadi, in company of a saint Devidas. Later, saint Jankidas also came to Shirdi and the three of them often discussed spiritual matters sitting in the Hanuman or Maruti temple. After this, Baba mostly made the masjid his home. He called it mother (mai) and christened it "Dwarka", after Lord Krishna's kingdom. Dwarkamai thus came to life. According to Sansthan's communication handler, Dilip Kote, Sai Baba, as an incarnation of Shiva, naturally chose a shamshon (burial ground) for his abode. In keeping with the traditions prevalent in the region, Hindus, (as well as Muslims) are also buried, if cremation (as per Hindu custom) is not preferred. Thus, Baba's own "Samadhi" and those of his close associates, lies in the complex.
Once there was a cyclonic storm and it was wet and cold. A leper by the name of Bhagoji Shinde lived in a small hut that got swept away in the running waters. No one came to his help for fear of contracting leprosy. Baba rescued him and brought him indoors; he hit his stick ) on the ground and in that rainy season a fire sprang from nowhere, providing warmth. Soon Bhagoji's leprosy disappeared and this was taken as Sai's miracle. The same fire continues to burn till today and provides udi or vibhuti (holy ash) to millions of devotees. By giving udi, Baba wished to convey that ultimately our bodies will become ash. All our desires, wants and worldly ambitions will be reduced to ash, so why concentrate on such a life? However, the udi also became a symbol of cure and hope to many because when Baba distributed it, many were helped. Although Baba had all the eight major siddhis (celestial powers) at his command, he rarely used them.
The various miracles and curative powers of the udi are several and many have benefited from it. At a philosophical level, Sai encouraged oblation of ego, desires and wants to the dhuni (burning fire) and it made ash of all these, thus cleansing a human being. Till date, udi is used by devotees to all ends. There are instances where it helped in safe birth during a difficult delivery, as in case of Maina Tai. It helped another devotee Narayan Rao's friend recover from a scorpion bite. On yet another occasion, Shama's brother's wife suffered from plague and the udi helped her. Even doctors like Pillai who suffered from guinea-worms used udi.
Sai chose a dilapidated mosque to be his abode and started living in it. His contact in the early days of stay was with a few chosen people only, like Bayajabai (who brought him food), Mhalsapati (who, as priest had first welcomed him), Appa Bhil (who collected firewood for the fire, later to become holy dhuni), and Kashiram Shimpi (the Kumhar who made unbaked earthen pots for Baba to water his patch of garden). Enlightened masters who came to Shirdi, like Gangagir and Anandnath Maharaj, a disciple of Akkalkot Swami, noted that Sai was no ordinary gardener and stated Shirdi was indeed blessed to have a gem, a kohinoor, like Sai stay there.
This garden today is Lendi Bagh. In his early days at Shirdi, Baba never shaved his head. There was a wrestler in Shirdi called Mohiddin Tamboli. Baba agreed to enter a mock fight with him, in which Baba allowed himself to be defeated. After this Baba changed his dress and mode of living. He wore a kafni (a loose robe), under which he wore a langot (undergarment) and covered his head with a piece of cloth, which was blood-stained. By one account, it was the same cloth with which his Guru Venkusa had saved him after being hit on the head with a brick by those who were jealous that Baba got favoured treatment from the guru. Baba kept the brick and the bloodied cloth and these two were his constant companions.
By another account, Baba went for some time to Rahata to assuage the ego of a pretender Jowahar Ali, who desired to construct an Idgah adjacent to a Virabhadra temple. Due to a quarrel between the Hindus and Muslims, Ali left Rahata and went to Shirdi. He knew the Quran by heart and wanted Baba to be his disciple, in order to impress the people of Shirdi that Baba was under him. Baba played the part for six months after which the fraudulent guru himself left Shirdi forever, when he realized Baba's greatness and when he was tested by Devidas.
Sai's reputation was initially established as a medicine man because he helped various people who were afflicted with diseases. He cured leprosy, eye-infections, cholera and other illnesses that troubled the folks of Shirdi. It was held that due to Sai's presence, no ill could visit Shirdi. Till today, servitor T. Govindan holds that tantric and other tamasic powers cannot enter Shirdi.
This incensed the village vaid, Kulkarni and he looked for a chance to humiliate Sai. This opportunity arose when Sai requested oil merchants to give him some oil as alms for his lamps. After some months of indulging Sai, a few oil merchants decided to stop giving him free oil to light the lamps in Dwarkamai under the growing jealousy of the village vaid Kulkarni.
Sai did not react and filled his earthen lamps with water and lit them. They burned brighter! Such is the power of saints. The village vaid who had instigated the oil-merchants was reduced to poverty, and till today (the year 2004) his house lies in ruins in Shirdi.
Sai Baba's Leelas