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Shirdi Saibaba - Part XV
The sandals and the neem tree
The story of Padukas(holy sandals)
In India, the worship of the feet of preceptors and elders are considered fruitful. When youngsters first meet the elders or preceptors, they used to prostrate before them touching their feet. In the case of Saibaba, many considered him as a "Sadguru" (holy preceptor). Some treated him as an incarnation of God! Hence people who throng there used to touch the holy feet of Saibaba with their head. Saibaba too loved all the people equally and he used to bless them profusely in a silent way. Sometimes, he used to place his hand on the head of the devotee. The real idea behind is transfer of holy vibrations to the devotee. In course of time, the touch will ensure a subtle transformation in the minds of devotees. He always taught them good manners. He asked them to repeat the names of God whenever they find time. It may be any name of God. He cured the diseases of many people by prescribing some home remedies. He always kept a fireplace burning for 24 hours by feeding logs of wood. The ash was distributed to the devotees when they take leave of him.
The ash was considered a panacea for all ills. People who are ailing used to take a pinch of ash with little water and drink it keeping full faith on Saibaba. They were cured of the diseases in a miraculous manner. One devotee came to Baba hearing his powers and love. He interacted with other devotees and found that Saibaba initially sat under a neem tree without interacting with any. To preserve those memories, the devotee requested his employer to provide a pair of feet as a mark of respect. His master prepared a pair of silver foot ware with many symbols engraved in that. Saibaba blessed the silver ware and asked one senior devotee to install the silver paduka (foot prints) near the neem tree stating that this is the Lord's feet! Worship them. Thus on a full moon day the devotee carried it on his head with other devotees in procession and installed them under the neem tree. One devotee was asked to light lamps both morning and evening at the place. Afterwards, the place was fenced neatly and the devotees who burn incense at the place found relief from many troubles. Now Shirdi where Saibaba lived and attained Samadhi is buzzing with holy activities and prayers. People from all parts of India and several overseas devotees visit the shrine where Saibaba's mortal remains are interned. In ordinary days some twenty to thirty thousand visits his tomb. During festivals, the figure rose to lakhs.
The neem tree, though with bitter leaves used to ooze sweet nectar from the barks. Hence people sit there near the tree praying for the welfare of all!