Monday, June 1, 2009

ABDUL BABA

||Om Sri Sainaathaayanamaha||

maaza kavala aala (my crow has come)”, was what Sai Baba said, when He saw Abdul Baba. In Sufi poetry, birds are used as symbolic imagery, like nightingale, dove, falcon, crow etc. Crow is used for the mundane and materialistic affairs of this world. Baba had called Abdul to Shirdi to take care of His day to day mundane affairs. Baba ordered him to dedicate himself to His services. Baba had a high regard for Abdul and relied on him.

Abdul Baba is mentioned for the first time in Chapter Twenty Two of Sri Sai Satcharitra, in connection with Amir Shakkar’s illness. Amir Shakkar was one of the staunch devotees of Sri Sai Baba. He was suffering from Rheumatism. Because of that, he had to endure plenty of pain. When he could not find any treatment from his doctors, he decided that God alone was his doctor. So, he left his business and went to Shirdi. He saw Sai Baba, fell at His feet and begged Him to relieve him of his disease. Baba’s methods are always unusual. He asked Amir Shakkar to stay in Chavadi.

One night when Baba and Amir Shakkar were sleeping in Chavadi, Baba got up and shouted, “Oh Abdul, come immediately. Some devilish creature is dashing against My bed.” Abdul Baba came with a lantern and a stick but found nothing. Baba was not satisfied and asked him to examine more carefully. He also started hitting the ground with His satka. Baba had seen a snake moving near Amir’s bed. Abdul immediately brought the lantern; found that a snake was coiled near the bed moving its hood up and down ready to strike. It was immediately killed, and once again, Baba had protected His devotee, Amir Shakkar because of His eternal vigil.

The second instance when Abdul Baba is mentioned is in Chapter Thirty Four of Sri Sai Satcharitra. Dr Pillai was one of the intimate devotees of Baba. Baba loved him very much. He used to call him as ‘Bhau’ and discussed so many issues with him. Invariably, Pillai used to sit next to Baba in the masjid. Once, Pillai suffered from an attack of guinea worms. One after another, he had seven boils on his body. The pain had become unbearable, and chanting Sai Nama smarana was almost impossible with that suffering. So, when Kakasaheb Dixit visited him one day, Pillai told him, “The pain has become unbearable. I prefer death to this pain. I know that this is because of the misdeeds in the past lives and I cannot escape the effects of those misdeeds. Please go to Baba and request Him to transfer these effects to ten future births. Suffering so much of pain in this birth alone is becoming impossible for me.” Kakasaheb duly went to Baba and told him of Pillai’s request. Hearing about Pillai’s plight, Baba said, “Tell him not to worry. Why should he suffer for ten births? In ten days, he can complete the sufferings and consequences of his past Karma. When I am here to give him all the help, why should he pray for death? Bring him here on someone’s back. We can finish his sufferings once and for all.”

Somebody brought Pillai on his back and he was made to sit on Baba’s right side. Baba gave him His bolster and told him, “The true remedy is that the results of the past actions have to be suffered and got over. Our Karma is the cause of our happiness and sorrow. Therefore, put up with whatever comes your way. Allah is the only Dispenser and Protector. Think of Him always. He will take care of you. Surrender to Him completely, with body, mind, speech and wealth. Then see what He does.” Pillai told Baba that Nanasaheb had applied a bandage over the leg. Even then, he did not find any relief. Baba replied, “Nana is a fool. Take off that bandage or you will die. Now a crow will come and peck you. Then you will recover.”

It was evening. That was the time when Abdul came for trimming the lamps and lighting them. Baba had just completed talking to Pillai. Pillai was trying to relax by stretching his leg. While carrying out his work, Abdul accidentally stepped on Pillai’s outstretched leg. The leg was already swollen and when Abdul stepped on it with all his weight and almost crushed the leg, Pillai let go a huge death cry. For some time to come, he was shouting. Then, he began to sing and shout. Baba was amused and said, “See, our bhau has become alright. He is singing.” Then Pillai asked Baba, “When will the crow come and peck?” Baba replied, “Did you not see the crow? It won’t come again. Abdul was the crow. Now go and take rest in the Wada. You will be all right soon.” When Abdul stepped on the leg and almost crushed it, he had squeezed out all the seven guinea worms. With the source of the infection gone, it was only a short time before Pillai recovered fully.

Abdul Baba was born in 1871, at Nanded on the banks of river Tapti, in Northern Maharashtra. His father’s name was Sultan. Other than the fact that his parents placed him under the care of a Sufi master called Amiruddin of Nanded, nothing much is known. In 1889 when Abdul was around 18 years of age, Amiruddin had a dream in which Sai Baba appeared and gave him two ripe mangoes. Baba instructed Amiruddin to give the mangoes to Abdul and send him to Shirdi. When he woke up, Amiruddin was surprised to find two ripe mangoes materialized near him. Amiruddin gave the mangoes to Abdul and sent him immediately to Sai Baba at Shirdi.

On seeing Abdul, Baba said, “mera kavala aala (my crow has come)”. Baba had called Abdul to Shirdi to take care of His day to day mundane affairs. Baba ordered him to dedicate himself to His services. Abdul’s duties were to:

1. Keep the five lamps around Dwarakamai constantly filled with oil

2. Look after a lamp in Lendi Baug (protected by pieces of metal sheet and kept permanently lit by Baba)

3. Keep Dwarakamai and Chavadi clean by sweeping daily.

In addition, he swept the streets and removed “night soil” (human excreta). He fetched water from the river and washed Baba’s clothes daily.

For the first few years with Sai Baba, Abdul lived in a stable. Later, he moved into a room opposite Chavadi. Subsequently, he got married and had children, but in the beginning, he did not get any food and had to beg, like Sai Baba, for living. Baba kept him strictly on the path of renunciation. He was to sleep little, read Quran in the night, and not fall asleep over his reading. He was told to eat very little and not to go for variety of eatables. Baba had kept him and Mhalsapathi strictly on the path of poverty. Abdul told Pujya Sri BV Narasimha Swamy that, “Sai Baba’s blessings to me were very strange and sometimes concealed in anger and violence”. Later Baba told Abdul, “I have enabled you to cross the ocean (of Samsara); your earth, the body, has been turned to gold”. Many years later, Amiruddin asked Abdul to be sent back, but Baba refused.

Abdul was the only one who read Quran in Baba’s presence. Baba occasionally opened the Quran and made him read passages at which He opened the book. Then Abdul would go on writing what all Baba said. That book contained the gracious sayings of Baba. After the Mahasamadhi of Baba, this book became very precious to Abdul as he used it as a book of prophecy through which Baba’s message and guidance could be obtained. When anyone wished to know about the future or unseen and unknown matter, and came to Abdul, then he reverentially consulted the book. The answer that came out of a randomly opened page was proved correct many times. Once, a well was dug behind Sai Baba’s idol in the Samadhi Mandir. The water from the well proved to be salty. Not knowing what to do, one of the Sansthan members consulted Abdul Baba. Abdul Baba opened his book and replied that the digging has to continue for some more depth, after which potable water would spring forth. The digging continued and Abdul Baba’s words proved correct. In another incident, a legal practitioner by name Sri Gadgil consulted Abdul Baba regarding his son’s arrival. Sri Gadgil’s son had gone to England several years ago and had not returned, causing untold anxiety to the father. Abdul Baba opened his book and predicted that the boy would return very soon, which once again, proved correct.

After the Mahasamadhi of Sai Baba, till 1922, Abdul’s duties changed as he became the custodian of the shrine of Sai Baba. His responsibility was to clean, decorate the shrine with flowers, ritual offerings etc. Any food given as prasadam became his sustenance and he lived on the dakshina offered by Baba’s devotees. In 1922, Kakasaheb Dixit set up a Public Trust through the Ahmednagar District Court to administer the shrine. Persuaded by his well wishers, Abdul challenged the formation of the Trust and claimed that he was the legal heir to Sai Baba. He lost the case and consequently was debarred from having any connection with the maintenance of the shrine. He was refused free food and asked to vacate the room reserved for him in the shrine. Some time later, these severe restrictions were relaxed and Abdul Baba continued to play a role in the maintenance of the shrine till his death in April 1954.

Abdul Baba lived for 36 years after Mahasamadhi of Baba. Throughout those years, he felt that he was under Baba’s protection and guidance. In 1927, he was reciting Quran in the house in which Radhakrishna Mayi lived during her lifetime, when the three mud walls suddenly collapsed, half burying Abdul. He survived unscathed. After his death in 1954, he was buried in the precincts of Samadhi Mandir near Lendi Baug. His is the only tomb in the Sai Baba Mandir complex besides Sai Baba’s. His original small dwelling house is located opposite Chavadi. The main room of that house is preserved and maintained as a memorial and visitors can go and pay homage to the memory of Abdul Baba. His grandson Rahim Khan is the guardian of this memorial which contains pictures, photos and other memorabilia.

Abdul Baba’s wife was Umranrao Bi and the couple had a son by name Abdul Pathan. The son was born in 1901 and passed away on 14 december 1984. Abdul Baba had five grandsons and two grand daughters. They are Ibrahim, Aziz, Rehman, Rahim and Hamid, Shamshad Bi and Irshad Bi. Only Rahim and Hamid are alive now.

||Sri Sainathaarpanamasthu||


2 comments:

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