Sai Baba of Shirdi who is also known as Shirdi Sai Baba was a legendary saint worshipped by both Hindu and Muslim communities. He was an Indian religious master and a saint or fakir. Born in a Muslim family, he followed the principles of both Hinduism and Islam.
Therefore, during his lifetime and even after his death, he is revered by both Hindus and Muslims. Though his exact birthplace and birthdate remain unknown, people believe that he was born on 28 September 1838. On his birth anniversary, we are here to share some interesting facts about him.
1. Sai Baba's original name is unknown. He was given the name 'Sai' by Mahalsapati, one of the followers of Sai Baba when He (read: Sai Baba) came to Shirdi, a city in Maharashtra.
2. The name Sai means religious mendicant. But people then associated this name with God. While Baba is an honorific title given to a scholar, grandfather, old man or any other fatherly figure. Thus, Sai Baba means elderly father, respected father, scholarly father, etc.
3. Some historians believe that Sai Baba was born as Haribhau Bhusari at a place near to Shirdi.
4. When asked about his birthplace and parents, Sai Baba used to give some vague, notorious, contradictory and misleading answers. According to him, questions related to his origin were quite unimportant.
5. According to Mahalsapati, Sai Baba was born to Deshastha Brahmin parents in a small town and was brought up by a fakir.
6. However, other disciples say that the fakir's wife gave the infant Baba to a Hindu Guru, Venkusa and then Baba was brought up by Venkusa for 12 years.
7. Sai Baba reportedly arrived at Shirdi when he was 16 years old. There's no exact evidence of the actual date on which Baba arrived in Shirdi.
8. People of Shirdi believe that after arriving for the first time in Shirdi, Baba disappeared for three years and then returned permanently to Shirdi during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
9. People claim that Baba used to sit in an Asana position under a neem tree and used to practice hard penance.
10. People of Shirdi were amazed to see a young boy practicing penance under a tree without worrying about heat or cold.
11. Seeing Baba practicing hard penance under a neem tree, Mahalsapati, Kashinatha, Appa Jogle often visited Sai Baba and worshipped him while children and some grown-ups, considered Baba as a fanatic and threw stones at him.
12. It is also claimed that Baba worked as a weaver and participated in the rebellion along with the army of Rani Lakshami Bai during the 1857 rebellion.
13. He returned to Shirdi in 1857 and first appeared in the Khandoba Mandir where Mahalsapati saw him and said, 'Aao Sai' meaning 'come Sai'. Since then, people started calling Baba as Sai Baba.
14. This is when he adopted his famous style of dressing which consists of a knee-length one-piece robe along with a cloth styled as a cap over his head.
15. Sai Baba survived on the alms and used to dedicate most of his time in meditating under a neem tree. He was uncommunicative and stayed away from materialistic life. Some of his visitors persuaded him to live in an old mosque situated in the heart of the city.
16. Sai Baba soon started living a solitary life in an abandoned and old mosque where Baba used to light a sacred fire which he called Dhuni. He used to give the sacred ash known as Udi from the fire to the people who visited him. It is believed that Udi had healing and divine powers.
17. Sai Baba named his mosque as Dwarkamayi.
18. While staying in the mosque, he often gave spiritual teachings to the people who visited him, treated the ill people with the ashes and also recited the holy teachings of Ramayana and Mahabharata. He often asked his devotees to read the Quran, Ramayana, and Bhagavad Gita.
19. He also cultivated a garden named Lendi Baag which still stands in Shirdi and is a major attraction to those who visit Shirdi.
20. Soon his name and fame spread all over in Maharashtra and people used to visit him. Many people also considered him as the incarnation of God himself.
21. In August 1918, Baba told his devotees that soon he will be leaving his mortal body. In September 1918, he developed a high fever and he stopped taking food. However, he kept meeting people.
22. While he was ill, he asked his devotees to recite the texts from the holy scriptures. On 15 October 1918, he breathed his last and the day is said to coincide with the Vijayadashami festival of Hindus.