What Sathya Sai did for Shirdi Sai - thoughts on the oneness of the two Babas

Swami with the first ever Shirdi Baba idol in the world at Guindy.
Swami with the first ever Shirdi Baba idol in the world at Guindy. | Source

Shirdi to Puttaparthi

When we trace the history of the Sri Sathya Sai avatar back to the days of its origin, we come across the episode where the father, Sri Pedda Venkama Raju, evokes a response from his miracle-working son about the nature of His reality. Upset at the apparently rude replies that little Sathya (as Swami was known then) had been giving the learned people who approached him, Venkama Raju approached the boy with a stick in hand and demanded,

“Stop this foolish drama. Tell me who you are - a ghost, a madcap or God?”
“I am Sai Baba”, was the calm but determined reply.

Thinking that the ghost of some ‘Sai Baba’ had possessed his son, Venkama Raju demanded,
“I don’t care who you are. Better let go of my son and this place too...”
“No”, said Sathya with the same composure, “I AM Sai Baba. I belong to the Apastambha Sutra and the Bharadwaja Gothra. I have come because your Venkavadootha (a saint) prayed for my coming. I shall bless you and remove all your troubles.”
“So”, asked a confused Venkama Raju, “what do you want us to do?”
“Worship me every Thursday, the Guruvar (the Sanskrit name for Thursday which also means - the day reserved for the Guru or Master).

That was the first time ever that some interest was aroused in Puttaparthi and the neighboring regions about the name Sai Baba. And since then, the name gained more and more traction along with several criticisms and controversies. One often stated ‘fact’ by critics is that Swami assumed the ‘successful and popular’ name of Shirdi Sai Baba. With the objective of finding out the ‘truth’ behind this ‘fact’, I plunged into research. The revelations are indeed revealing! Rather than debate and discuss, I would invite every reader to personally study the two ‘Babas’ and arrive at their own conclusions. However, I will definitely share some interesting episodes.

The first one that comes to mind is Shirdi Baba’s recorded declaration in 1916, two years before His Mahasamadhi on the 15th of October, 1918, when He stood stark naked and with his burning red eyes shouted,

“You fellows now have a look and decide finally whether I am a Muslim or Hindu.” As all the devotees shivered in fear, the leper-devotee, Bhagoji Shinde walked boldly to Baba, tied a loincloth around His waist and said in all reverence and humility,

“Baba what is all this? Today is Seemolanghan (the day of crossing the village border as it would happen during the festival of Dasara. In ancient times, the Kings used to perform the Ayudha Puja on Vijaya-Dashami day and then used to cross the frontier of their kingdom to fight against their rivals or neighboring kingdoms. Since then, every Vijaya-Dashami day, people in Maharashtra, cross the borders of their villages / places and return back. This ritual is called as "Seemolanghan".)”

Baba, striking the ground with his satka (staff) said, “This is my Seemolanghan.”

This episode is often considered as Baba’s revelation that He would be crossing the border of life. The thought that struck me was this - while the philosophical meaning of Seemolanghan is definitely the crossing of life’s border, the straightforward meaning is the crossing of a geographical border. Was Baba signifying that He would cross over from Maharashtra (then called Central Provinces) into Andhra Pradesh (then called Hyderabad)? Interesting right?

What Sathya Sai Baba “did” for Shirdi Sai Baba

Then my research revealed some amazing things that Sathya Sai Baba ‘did’ for Shirdi Baba. It is absolute foolishness that I write as if the two Babas are different but then, this is intended for the people who feel that way and so I choose my words thus. There have been several movies made on the life and teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba. However, the first and the most popular one had Sudheer Dalvi in the lead role and award-winning Indian actor, Manoj Kumar in the supporting role. It was directed by Ashok V Bhushan. Entitled Shirdi Ke Sai Baba, it was one of the top movies in its year of release, 1977. There is no denying the fact that the movie did a lot of good in terms of promoting the ‘popularity’ of Shirdi Baba.

Watch the entire movie in 11 parts on Youtube

Now comes the amazing discovery. This whole movie was silently initiated by Sri Sathya Sai Baba, my dear Swami! Research shows that the producer of the movie is Sarla Charities Trust which was owned by Sarla Shah, the wife of Sri Indulal Shah, a grandsire in the Sri Sathya Sai Organizations who came to Swami in 1965. The movie had several songs sung by devotees of Bhagawan Baba - Pandurang Dixit and Anup Jalota. In fact, that movie has several shots where one can clearly see the image of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba along with Shirdi Baba! The first screening of the movie happened in the Bangalore ashram of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba - Whitefield - where Sri Manoj Kumar and his troupe had assembled to view it along with Swami!

Stills from the unforgettable movie showing the connection

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The only place where the name of the wife of Sri Indulal Shah (curent trustee of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust) ever comes.In the opening shots, Sri Sathya Sai Baba's pictures can be seen alongside those of Shirdi Baba. In the movie too, at several places, Swami's picture can be seen alongside Shirdi Baba.
The only place where the name of the wife of Sri Indulal Shah (curent trustee of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust) ever comes.
The only place where the name of the wife of Sri Indulal Shah (curent trustee of Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust) ever comes. | Source
In the opening shots, Sri Sathya Sai Baba's pictures can be seen alongside those of Shirdi Baba.
In the opening shots, Sri Sathya Sai Baba's pictures can be seen alongside those of Shirdi Baba. | Source
In the movie too, at several places, Swami's picture can be seen alongside Shirdi Baba.
In the movie too, at several places, Swami's picture can be seen alongside Shirdi Baba. | Source

I have watched this movie, Shirdi Ke Sai Baba, at least a dozen times and have felt thrilled each time. I have therefore garnered and gathered those inspired thoughts in a separate article. While the ‘His-story’ behind this movie’s production was an interesting find, another find turned to be even more interesting. And that was a fitting tribute that Sathya Sai seemed to pay to His previous body.

The Shirdi Baba idol installed at Shirdi in 1954 being made by sculptor Balaji Vasant.
The Shirdi Baba idol installed at Shirdi in 1954 being made by sculptor Balaji Vasant.

The Guindy story

Just imagine my excitement when I got to know that the FIRST-EVER IDOL INSTALLATION for Shirdi Sai Baba was done by Sri Sathya Sai Baba in 1949 at Guindy, Chennai (erstwhile Madras)! The unforgettable and now-famous marble idol of Shirdi Baba in the Shirdi temple itself came into being much later, in 1954, 36 years after the Mahasamadhi of Baba in 1918. The story of how the idol came about is beautiful and divine no doubt, but it is equally divine to learn the story of how the first-ever Shirdi Baba idol came to be made at Guindy. Even before we delve into that story, we should get a background of the happenings at Guindy. I gathered these from the books Lokanatha Sai by Smt.Leela and Sai Baba: The Man of Miracles written by Howard Murphet.

Lokanatha Mudaliar’s father owned a fertile piece of land in Guindy at the turn of the 19th century. In 1904 a wandering siddhipurusha (holy man with some miraculous powers) asked permission of him to build a tomb for himself there. The latter gave permission and the holy man prophesied that to the right of his tomb there would be a temple to a Mahatma (great soul), and to the left an industrial estate. The holy man lived a hundred and twenty-five years of age and then he entered the tomb, went into mahasamadhi on the Guindy land. However, before his prophecy could be fulfilled, a black magician from Gujarat began to reside on that very land in the 1940s. Everyone feared him but not Lokanatha Mudaliar (of the book Lokanatha Sai fame written by his daughter Smt. Leela) who was now the owner. Under the supervision of a bailiff, he proceeded to demolish the black magician’s hut illegally built on his site.

The enraged magician, before leaving, cursed Lokanatha to become a raging lunatic. Though Lokanatha himself did not bother much about it, in that fateful September of 1943, he began to rant and rave in fury and everyone in home was certain that he had turned lunatic. Even as he was being examined by Dr.Dhairyam from the mental hospital, he slipped into deep sleep. In that state he had a vision of a young Swami, in a red robe and with a curly mop of hair who blessed him thrice with sacred water before disappearing. The very next day, which happened to be a Sunday, Baba was at his home in Madras! Baba said,

“How are you? I came for you last night...”
It was love at first sight and the bonding of a lifetime for Lokanatha who had found his Lokanatha (literally translates as Lord of the World). Waving His hand and creating a talisman, Swami put it around Lokanatha’s neck and also materialized a lime fruit to be kept under his pillow as he slept at night. Later on, Swami also guided the family members to dig at a particular location on the land where they found the remains of a dead goat and chicken. Once all the traces of witchcraft were removed, Swami blessed Lokanatha Mudaliar and told him to come to Puttaparthi.

We often think that blessed indeed are those that are ‘invited by Swami’ to come to Puttaparthi. But, we should realize that each and every one of us have been invited, else we would never have made it to Parthi! At least that is what the story of a disciple of Swami Sivananda teaches us. Once Lokanatha Mudaliar made that blessed trip, his whole life changed. He was convinced that he had come face to face with God on earth and wanted to build a home for Swami on the land. But Swami had other plans.

Swami’s ‘other’ plan

It was Shirdi Baba who came in Lokanatha Mudaliar’s dream and told him to construct a temple for Him instead of one for Swami. Now, Shirdi Baba was a totally unknown figure for Lokanatha Mudaliar who woke up next morning wondering what to do since he was sure that a divine personage had come in his dream. As he was between the two horns of dilemma, the postman brought a letter to his doorstep. It was from his Swami with exactly the same instructions of Shirdi Baba!

Meanwhile, a sculptor in Madras was having recurrent dreams in which he was told to proceed to Guindy where the work of his life awaited him. The dreams were so insistent that the sculptor finally took the train and alighted on the platform at Guindy. There he was accosted by a man who knew his name and who escorted him to Lokanatha Mudaliar. He introduced the sculptor as the designer for the Shirdi Baba idol and simply departed never to be seen again! And then, Swami travelled all the way from Puttaparthi to lay the foundation stone for the temple on the 10th of July, 1946.

Impressed by the unfolding of events, the sculptor agreed to do the statue though he had never seen the ‘old saint’ in his life. He had only a picture to guide him in the work, but strangely enough, there was no difficulty - some subtle, intelligent force seemed to direct his brain and hand. The figure, 3 feet high in black granite, shows Shirdi Baba sitting in characteristic posture, right leg resting horizontally across the left knee.

Interested in visiting Guindy Shirdi Baba Temple?

A markerGuindy metro station chennai -
Guindy Metro Station, Guindy Flyover, Race View Colony, Guindy, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600032, India
[get directions]

The little road leading to the Baba temple lies between two HP Petrol Bunks (one bunk not seen in this old Google map) close to Guindy Metro Station.

Shirdi Baba comes alive

The temple was ready and awaited inauguration. On the 2nd of February, 1949, Swami travelled via flight from Hyderabad to Madras along with Nagamani Pourniya, the Rani (queen) of Chincoli kingdom and a few others. On Thursday, the 3rd of February, the Sathya Sai Mandali to take care of the Guindy temple was registered and Baba drove to the temple for the inauguration. Two striking incidents took place on that day.

The first happened during the ‘life-instilling’ ceremony. As always, Swami first installed a Ganesha idol, materializing 9 gemstones and a small silver idol of Lord Ganesha, and placed them under the actual Ganesha idol. Afterwards, He took a Chakra (mystic diagram) and finalized the Astabandham.Then, He decorated the Shirdi Baba idol with garlands and offered Aarthi. Finally, He moved to one side and allowed everyone to see the idol. Miraculously, the heavy idol of Shirdi Baba began to levitate before settling in its final position! The installation ceremony was complete.

The second incident took place later, when Swami went to the Mudaliar residence in Triplicane. He went into a trance for about ten minutes. Returning, He asked for a white cloth to be spread on the floor. He then blessed the family to do paadapuja (worship of the feet). In gratitude, the family members applied sandal paste mixed with turmeric to Swami’s soles. He placed them on the white cloth. The impression on the cloth definitely did not belong to the tender feet of the young Baba but to those long, heavy and ponderous feet that had trod the soil of Shirdi 32 years ago! This cloth has been framed and kept in the temple even to this day.

A beautiful association with Swami

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Swami visited the Guindy temple several times. One can feel the powerful vibrations in the temple.Sri Lokanatha MudaliarInauguration of the 32 ft Stupi on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the Guindy temple in 1973.
Swami visited the Guindy temple several times. One can feel the powerful vibrations in the temple.
Swami visited the Guindy temple several times. One can feel the powerful vibrations in the temple. | Source
Sri Lokanatha Mudaliar
Sri Lokanatha Mudaliar | Source
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Inauguration of the 32 ft Stupi on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the Guindy temple in 1973.
Inauguration of the 32 ft Stupi on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the Guindy temple in 1973. | Source

Guindy Temple as it currently stands

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The foundation stone embedded at the temple entrance. The temple is open for public from 6am to 8:30am and again from 5pm to 8pm. It remains specially open from 6am to 12:30 in the noon on Thursdays. The interiors of the modest temple where we enjoyed a wonderful bhajan session.The main idol in the shrine - Shirdi Sai Baba.A bust of Swami in the temple. The footprints measure almost 14-15 inches and must definitely belong to a person nearing 7 feet of more in height! A mandap built over an anthill next to the temple. The anthill is older than the temple and, when it was being broken, workers turned blind. Curing them, Swami advised Lokanatha to let the anthill be. A mandap was then built. The 32 feet Stupi inaugurated on 3Feb. 1973 by Bhagawan to mark the Silver Jubilee of the Guindy Temple as it stands today.
The foundation stone embedded at the temple entrance.
The foundation stone embedded at the temple entrance. | Source
The temple is open for public from 6am to 8:30am and again from 5pm to 8pm. It remains specially open from 6am to 12:30 in the noon on Thursdays.
The temple is open for public from 6am to 8:30am and again from 5pm to 8pm. It remains specially open from 6am to 12:30 in the noon on Thursdays. | Source
The interiors of the modest temple where we enjoyed a wonderful bhajan session.
The interiors of the modest temple where we enjoyed a wonderful bhajan session. | Source
The main idol in the shrine - Shirdi Sai Baba.
The main idol in the shrine - Shirdi Sai Baba. | Source
A bust of Swami in the temple.
A bust of Swami in the temple. | Source
The footprints measure almost 14-15 inches and must definitely belong to a person nearing 7 feet of more in height!
The footprints measure almost 14-15 inches and must definitely belong to a person nearing 7 feet of more in height! | Source
A mandap built over an anthill next to the temple. The anthill is older than the temple and, when it was being broken, workers turned blind. Curing them, Swami advised Lokanatha to let the anthill be. A mandap was then built.
A mandap built over an anthill next to the temple. The anthill is older than the temple and, when it was being broken, workers turned blind. Curing them, Swami advised Lokanatha to let the anthill be. A mandap was then built. | Source
The 32 feet Stupi inaugurated on 3Feb. 1973 by Bhagawan to mark the Silver Jubilee of the Guindy Temple as it stands today.
The 32 feet Stupi inaugurated on 3Feb. 1973 by Bhagawan to mark the Silver Jubilee of the Guindy Temple as it stands today. | Source

Concluding thoughts

Having researched and found all these facts, I am simply thrilled at the magnificent connections and commonalities that exist between Sri Shirdi Baba and Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Well, I know for sure that none of this will satisfy the ‘scientific mind’ seeking foolproof evidence. But then, what is foolproof evidence that you are the son of your father? Paternity tests? Well, one can suppose that the nurse performing the test cheated! Ultimately, it is our faith that allows us to accept even our biological parents. For me, it is my faith that allows me to accept my Divine Parent, in whatever form He chose to appear on earth!

As a parting share, here is a piece of writing on Baba that I came across:

“Baba did not wish Hindus to give up their religion to embrace Islam or Christianity. Once, a Hindu recently converted to Islam was brought to Baba who asked him then,
‘Have you given up the father that begot you and taken another father?’
Baba dissuaded Hindus who ran up to worship him and directed them to go back and worship the same gods which their 'fathers worshipped' and allowed them finally to worship him in addition to and not substitution of their old gods. Thus a devotee of Rama saw Rama in Baba and that of Krishna saw Krishna in Baba. When a man approached Baba with the fear tugging at his heart that he was doing Gurudroham (betrayal of Guru) to his former guru in approaching a new guru Baba sent him away. When another approached him with the same fear, Baba expressly told him that one's previous gurus and gurumantra should not be given up, however little their apparent merit and however great the merits of other gurus, might be; or seem. Baba generally added the assurance that by intensifying one's faith to one's own guru (be that guru even a mere potter), one is sure to achieve one's objects, including even moksha. If one had no other pre-existing loyalties and came to Baba to treat him as one's Guru/God and his name as the sacred Gurumantra, Baba allowed and even encouraged it. To such people Baba even touched his own pictures and presented or returned the same for worship, and assured people that he resided in the picture thus worshipped, and even gave proof of such residence. Baba never disturbed the faith of people in their own scriptures.”

The beauty of the above passage is that a Shirdi Baba devotee reading it will associate it with Shirdi Baba while a Sathya Sai devotee will do the same with Sathya Sai Baba. So perfectly it matches both! The text is actually taken from the December 1943 edition of Sai Sudha, the official magazine of the Shirdi Sai Samaj written by the highly revered B.V.Narasimhaswamy.

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© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya

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Comments 9 comments

ppmurugesan 8 months ago

omsai omsai omsai omsai omsai omsai omsai


aarthi balaji 2 years ago

Another significance of the statues of swamis bust in this temple is that. When swami shifted residence from paatha mandiram to prashanthi nilayam, many statuesvand pictures that adorned patha mandir was sent to guindy temple. ...so the bust of swami you photographed arvind was original from patha mandir days..

Sorry, I keep posting as I recollect am not aiming a record setting in # of comments


Deepti Chopra 2 years ago

Sairam. At 3.23 mins in the above video of the SAIBABA movie, the SERVICE ACTIVITY VAN shown parked there itself has Sathya Sai Baba's Sarva Dharma Symbol on it and his name on it . The viewer can still the video there and see it clearly on the van.


Aarthi balaji 2 years ago

Another interesting fact is that the lotus stupa was first installed and inaugurated at guindy temple by swami even before he built one at parthi


Aarthi balaji 2 years ago

Sairam arvind - very nicely collected facts. My father performs the regular Poona and abhishekam at guindy temple for the past 3 years. Prior to handing over of guindy temple to sathya sai trust, my grandfather was performing Pooja at the navagraham sanctom there. My father who is now 67 yrs old, as 20 - 25 yrs old has witnessed swami materializing so many chakras to be installed under the idol. And before cementing the idol on the peedm, swami asked everyone to back off and energized the idol during which the stone idol rose half a feet above the peedam and was hanging in there for moments until swami finished energizing it. It's a very loose to the heart temple for me because as a 7 yr old my first darshan of swami was in guindy temple. I am now 37 yrs of age and always visit that temple whenever I visit chennai . Sairam


Saroj Desai 2 years ago

beautifully and carefully written the facts...for the people who still have doubts about two forms of baba..


K.vijaya Lakshmi 2 years ago

Sai Ram Aravind. Amazing insight. Thank you


SSri 2 years ago

Beautiful insight!


Renuka 2 years ago

Amazing

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