RAMA-NAVAMI FESTIVAL AND MASJID REPAIRS
Efficacy of the Touch of Guru’s Hand - Rama-Navami Festival - Its Origin, Transformation etc. Repairs to the Masjid.
Before describing Rama-Navami Festival and Masjid Repairs, the author makes some preliminary remarks about Sad-Guru as follows:-
Efficacy of the Touch of Guru’s Hand
Where Real or Sad-Guru is the helmsman, he is sure
to carry us safely and easily beyond the worldly
ocean. The word Sadguru brings to mind Sai Baba.
He appears to me, as if standing before me, and
applying Udi (scared ashes) to my fore-head and
placing his hand of blessing on my head. Then joy
fills my heart and love overflows through my eyes.
Wonderful is the power of the touch of Guru’s
hand. The subtle-body (consisting of thoughts and
desires), which cannot be burnt by the world dissolving
fire, is destroyed by the mere touch of the Guru’s
hand, and the sins of many past births are cleaned
and washed away. Even the speech of those, whose
heads feel annoyed when they hear religious and
Godly talks, attains calmness. The seeing of Sai
Baba’s handsome form, chokes our throat with
joy, makes the eyes overflowing with tears, and
overwhelms the heart with emotions. It awakens in
us ‘I am He (Brahman)’ consciousness,
manifests the joy of self-realization, and dissolving
the distinction of I and Thou, then and there, makes
us one with the Supreme (One Reality). When I begin
to read scriptures, at every step I am reminded
of my Sadguru, and Sai Baba, assumes the form of
Rama or Krishna and makes me listen to his Life.
For instance when I sit to listen to Bhagwat, Sai
becomes Krishna from top to toe, and I think he
sings the Bhagwat or Uddhava Gita (song of teachings
by Lord Shri Krishna to His disciple, Uddhava) for
the welfare of the devotees.
After philosophising about the Self-Existent Brahman, His Power (Maya) to create this world and the world created, and stating that all these three are ultimately one and the same, the author quotes Sai Baba’s words guaranteeing the welfare of the Bhaktas:-
"There will never be any dearth or scarcity, regarding food and clothes, in any devotees’ homes. It is my special characteristic, that I always look to, and provide, for the welfare of those devotees, who worship Me whole-heartedly with their minds ever fixed on Me. Lord Krishna has also said the same in the Gita. Therefore, strive not much for food and clothes. If you want anything, beg of the Lord, leave worldly honours, try to get Lord’s grace and blessings, and be honored in His Court. Do not be deluded by worldly honor. The form of the Deity should be firmly fixed in the mind. Let all the senses and mind be ever devoted to the worship of the Lord, let there be no attraction for any other thing; fix the mind in remembering Me always, so that it will not wander elsewhere, towards body, wealth and home. Then it will be calm, peaceful and care-free. This is the sign of the mind, being well engaged in good company. If the mind is vagrant, it cannot be called well-merged."
After quoting these words, the author goes on to relate the story of Rama Navami festival in Shirdi. As Rama-Navami is the greatest festival celebrated at Shirdi, another fuller account, as published in Sai Leela Magazine of 1925, page 197, is also referred to and a summary of the festival, as related in both these accounts is attempted here.
One, Mr. Gopalrao Gund, was a Circle Inspector at Kopergaon. He was a great devotee of Baba. He had three wives, but had no issue. With Sai Baba’s blessings, a son was born to him. In the joy that he felt regarding the event, an idea of celebrating a fair or ‘Urus’ occurred to him in the year 1897, and he placed it for consideration before other Shirdi devotees, viz. Tatya Patil, Dada Kote Patil and Madhavrao Deshpande (Shama). They all approved of the idea, and got Sai Baba’s permission and blessings. Then an application for getting the Collector’s sanction for celebrating the urus was made, but as the village Kulkarni reported against holding the fair, the sanction was refused. But as Sai Baba had blessed it, they tried again, and ultimately succeeded in getting the Collector’s sanction. The day for the Urus was fixed on the Rama-Navami day, after having consultation with Sai Baba. It seems, He had some end in view, in this, viz., the Unification of the two fairs of festivals, the Urus and the Rama-Navami and the unification of the two communities - the Hindus and the Mahomedans. As future events showed, this end or object was achieved.
Though the permission was obtained, but other difficulties cropped up. Shirdi was a village, and there was scarcity of water. There were two wells in the village, the one in use, dried up soon, and the water from the second was brackish. This brackish water was turned into sweet one by Sai Baba, by throwing flowers into it. The water of this well was insufficient, so Tatya Patil had to arrange to get water, from a well by fixing Moats (leather sacks) thereon, at a considerable distance. Then temporary shops had to be constructed, and wrestling bouts arranged. Gopalrao Gund had a friend, by name Damu Anna Kasar, of Ahmednagar. He also was similarly unhappy in the matter of progeny, though he married two wives. He too was blessed by Sai Baba with sons, and Mr. Gund prevailed upon his friend to prepare and supply one simple flag for the procession of the fair; he also succeeded in inducing Mr. Nanasaheb Nimonkar to supply another embroidered flag. Both these flags were taken in procession through the village, and finally fixed at the two ends or corners of the Masjid, which is called by Sai Baba as Dwarkamai. This is being done even now.
The ‘Sandal’ Procession
There was another procession which was started in this fair. This idea of ‘Sandal’ procession originated with one Mr. Amir Shakkar Dalal, a Mahomedan Bhakta from Korhla. This procession is held in honour of great Muslim Saints. Sandal i.e. Chandan paste and scrappings are put in the THALI (flat dishes), and these are carried with incense burning before them in procession to the accompaniment of band and music through the village and then after returning to the Masjid, the contents of the dishes are thrown on the ‘Nimbar’ (nitche) and walls of the Masjid with hands. This work was managed by Mr. Amir Shakkar for the first three years, and then afterwards by his wife. So on one day, the two processions, the ‘Flags’ by the Hindus and that of ‘Sandal’ by the Muslims, went on side by side, and are still going on without any hitch.
This day was very dear and sacred to the devotees of Sai Baba. Most of them turned out on the occasion, and took a leading part in the management of the fair. Tatya Kote Patil looked to all outward affairs, while the internal management was entirely left to one Radha Krishna Mai, a female devotee of Baba. Her residence was full of guests on the occasion, and she had to look to their needs, and also to arrange for all the paraphernalia of the fair. Another work, which she willingly did, was to wash out and clean and white-wash the entire Masjid, its walls and floor, which were blackened and were full of soot on account of the ever-burning Dhuni (sacred fire) of Sai Baba. This work, she did during the night, when Sai Baba went to sleep every alternate day in the Chavadi. She had to take out all the things, including even the Dhuni, and after thorough cleaning and whitewashing replace them, as they were before. Feeding the poor, which was so dear to Sai Baba, was also a great item in this fair. For this purpose, cooking, on a grand scale and preparing various sweet dishes, was done in Radha-Krishna Mai’s lodging, and, various rich and wealthy devotees took a leading part in this affair.
Transformation of Urus into Rama-Navami Festival
Things were going on in this way and the fair was
gradually increasing in importance till 1912 A.D.,
when a change took place; That year one devotee,
Mr. Krishnarao Jageshwar Bhisma (the author of the
pamphlet ‘Sai Sagunopasana’), came for
the fair with Dadasaheb Khaparde of Amraoti, and
was staying on the previous day in the Dixit Wada.
While he was lying on the verandah, and while Mr.
Laxmanrao alias Kaka Mahajani, was going down with
Puja materials to the Masjid, a new thought arose
in his mind and he accosted the latter thus - There
is some providential arrangement in the fact that
the Urus or fair is celebrated in Shirdi on the
Rama-Navami day; this day is very dear to all the
Hindus; then why not begin the Rama-Navami Festival
- the celebration of the birth of Shri Rama here
on this day? Kaka Mahajani liked the idea, and it
was arranged to get Baba’s permission in this
matter. The main difficulty was how to secure a
Haridas, who would perform ‘Kirtan’
and sing the glories of the Lord on the occasion.
But Bhishma solved the difficulty, by saying that
his ‘Rama Akhyan’ (composition on Rama’s
birth) was ready, and he would do the ‘Kirtan’
himself, while Kaka Mahajani should play on the
harmonium. It was also arranged to get the ‘Sunthavada’
(ginger-powder mixed with sugar) as Prasad prepared
by Radha-Krishna Mai.
From next year (1913), the items in the programme of Rama-Navami began to increase. Radha-Krishna Mai started a ‘Nama-Saptah’ (singing the glory of God’s name continuously day and night for seven days), from 1st of Chaitra, For this, all devotees took part by turns, and she also joined it, sometimes early in the morning. As Rama-Navami Festival is celebrated in many places all over the country, the difficulty of getting a Haridas was felt again. But 5 or 6 days before the festival , Mahajani met accidentally Balabuva Mali, who was known as modern Tukaram, and got him to do the ‘Kirtan’ that year. The next year (1914), another Balabuva Satarkar of Brihadsiddha Kavate, District Satara, could not act as a Haridas in his own town, as plague was prevailing in his town, and so he came to Shirdi; With Baba’s permission, which was secured through Kakasaheb Dixit, he did the Kirtan; and was sufficiently recompensed for his labour. The difficulty of getting a new Haridas every year was finally solved from 1914 by Sai Baba, as He entrusted this function to Das Ganu Maharaj permanently, and since that time, he has been successfully and creditably conducting that function uptill now.
Since 1912, this festival began to grow gradually year by year. From the 8th to 12th of Chaitra, Shirdi looked like a bee-hive of men. Shops began to increase. Celebrated wrestlers took part in wrestling bouts. Feeding of the poor was done on a grander scale. Hard work and sincere efforts of Radha-Krishna Mai turned Shirdi into a Sansthan (State). Paraphernalia increased. A beautiful horse, a palanquin, chariot and many silver things, pots, buckets, pictures, mirrors etc. were presented. Elephants were also sent for the procession. Though all this paraphernalia increased enormously, Sai Baba ignored all these things, and maintained His simplicity as before. It is to be noted that both the Hindus and Mahomedans have been working in unison in both the processions, and during the entire festival, there has been no hitch or quarrel between them at all so far. First about 5000-7000 people used to collect, but that figure went up to 75000 in some years; still there was no outbreak of any epidemic or any riots w orth the name during so many past years.
Repairs to the Masjid
Another important idea occured to Gopal Gund. Just
as he started the Urus or fair, he thought that
he should put the Masjid in order. So in order to
carry out the repairs, he collected stones and got
them dressed. But this work was not assigned to
him. This was reserved for Nanasaheb Chandorkar,
and the pavement -work for Kakasaheb Dixit. First,
Baba was unwilling to allow them to have these works
done, but with the intervention of Mhalsapati, a
local devotee of Baba, His permission was secured.
When the pavement was completed in one night in
the Masjid, Baba took a small Gadi for His seat,
discarding the usual piece of sack - cloth used
till then. In 1911, the Sabha - Mandap (court -
yard) was also put in order with great labour and
effort. The open space in front of the Masjid was
very small and inconvenient. Kakasaheb Dixit wanted
to extend it and put on it a roofing. At great expense,
he got iron-posts, and pillars and trusses and started
In the next Chapter the question whether Baba was a Hindu or a Mahomedan will be taken up; and His Yogic practices and powers, and other matters will be dealt with.
Bow to Shri Sai Baba - Peace be to all