Monday, January 11, 2010



An important event in Mhalsapathi’s life was Baba's trying to leave his body and returning to it three days later. Baba had made him the guardian of his body during that period, indicating the immense faith He had in Mhalsapathi. On a Margasira Poornima day in 1886, Baba suffered from a severe attack of asthma. Baba decided to go into samadhi. Mhalsapathi was with Baba at that time. Baba told him, “Arre Bhagat, look after this body for three days. I am going to Allah. Protect My body for three days. If I do not return, bury My body in that open land (pointing to the space) and fix two flags as a mark.” After saying this, at about 10.0 pm Baba slept in the lap of Mhalsapathi. His breathing stopped. Then His pulse also stopped. For all external appearances it looked as if Baba had breathed His last. Next morning, people coming to masjid for Baba’s darshan were shocked to see Baba lying lifeless in the lap of Mhalsapathi. The entire village came, completely grief stricken, and felt that darkness had enveloped them. By evening of that day, they decided that after conducting an inquest, the body should be buried in the place shown by Baba. No one believed Baba’s words. But, Mhalsapathi strongly opposed all these attempts. He said that Baba had asked him to wait for 3 days and only then they could think of something else. For full three days, with Baba’s body in his lap, Mhalsapathi did not even move slightly. For full three days, he guarded Baba’s body better than he would have guarded his own life. In addition to being confined to the same place, Mhalsapathi had to face severe provocations from the people, from the devotees and from the civilian authorities. To any one who came with an alternate solution, his only reply was, “Wait for three days.” Time does not wait for anyone. The stipulated three days finally came to an end. Almost every one in the village was at the masjid, trying to see the greatest miracle. Then at 3.00 am on the third day, the miracle finally happened. Breathing started once again in the body, the abdomen began to move. Baba slowly opened His eyes and stretched His limbs. Baba had returned back to life and consciousness. Every one assembled in the masjid, heaved a sigh of relief and gave a loud cry of ‘Sainath Maharaj Ki Jai’. Thus, he rendered a valuable service in 1886, after which Baba lived for 32 years to create this huge Sai movement that has covered this land. If Mhalsapathi had failed in his duty, and Baba had been buried, perhaps the course of history might have been different.

Baba used his knowledge of coming events for "Bhagat" - as Baba called this bhakta Mhalsapathi, - and revealed them to him when necessary. Mhalsapathi was a poor man, whose three daughters were married to people at various villages. His Sambandhis - fathers-in-law of those daughters - had no regard for him. On one occasion, one of the Sambandhis at a distant village invited him to dine with him, and Mhalsapathi went to take Baba's leave. When granting leave, Baba said, “Bhagat, at village Asnagaon (Taluka Kopargaon) don’t go to Rambhau Londhe and Dorhale’s daughter. You will be insulted there.” Mhalsapathi went along with his friend, but when he went to his Sambandhi’s house, he found the Sambandhi’s people had already finished their meal and were washing their hands without caring to wait for the arrival of their poor relation Mhalsapathi. This was an obvious insult and he returned refusing to take his meal. He returned to Baba and told him all the facts.

Ram Bhav Londhe, a Sai bhakta, invited Mhalsapathi to go to his village 'Asnagaon' some six or ten miles away from Shirdi. There was to be a Mhalsapathi Purana reading by Mhalsapathi to be followed by a dinner. So it was an interesting occasion, and Mhalsapathi went to take leave of Baba. Baba said, 'Do not go. There will be a fight there'. Yet, having accepted the invitation, he could not avoid going, and he went to that village. He sat and read Mhalsapathi puranam there, and while that was going on, the host's graceless, sturdy and rowdy boys with other boys sat for their meal and began to exchange hot words. From words they quickly came to blows with sticks, and on account of the free use of the cudgels, the audience that was present for the Purana reading fled in fright and Mhalsapathi also had to pack up his purana and follow their wise example. He returned to Shirdi and told Baba, 'Your words have proved true to the letter'.

Baba once warned him in general words 'Don't put your back against the earth'. Not remembering this advice, and in his usual slovenly way, Mhalsapathi, having consumed too much of burfi got giddy, sat on the floor, and losing his consciousness, glided down. He then was with his bare back on the ground He was dreaming or delirious and talking in his dream, keeping his legs stretched on the bare earth all the time. When he returned to consciousness and sat awake, he found he could not bend his leg. His daughters had to massage his knees and legs, and thereafter he was able to walk up to Baba. When he arrived there, Baba told him, 'did I not tell you not to put your back against earth?’

On another occasion, Baba gave him warning that something wrong would happen at Khandoba's, and that, however, he need not be afraid as Baba would do the needful. Then very soon, his wife and daughter fell ill. Soon after, other members of his family also fell ill. Meanwhile Baba told Mhalsapathi, 'Let the sick people keep to bed'. Walking round his Mosque with a short stick in hand, Baba was waving his short stick and using threatening words, 'Come, whatever may be your power, let us see! I shall show you what I can do with my chota stick, if you come out and face me'. This was Baba's treatment of the disease. Mhalsapathi consulted Baba regarding the medicines, but Baba dissuaded him from administering the medicines to the sick at home. Finally, all got well without medicine. Baba's way of fighting disease is not the modern way of medicine, but it was unmistakably effective.

Baba's watching was often of great benefit to Mhalsapathi in other domestic matters also. Mhalsapathi's wife, Shivoo Bai, went to her mother's house at a distant village. When she was there, she developed a painful tumor near her neck, but she did not communicate that to her husband. Baba’s watching eye of supervision, which rests on all those relying on him with loving trust, noted this fact. He told Mhalsapathi at Shirdi, 'Your wife has a tumor in the throat. None can cure it except myself, and I shall cure it'. Mhalsapathi knowing nothing about his wife's health simply said 'Yes, Baba'. Later he received a letter mentioning the painful tumor, adding that it had been cured. Shri Martand, Mhalsapathi’s son, has narrated a beautiful experience in this connection. He says.....

‘A forty year old story. My mother had gone to her brother’s place at village Nandur Shingote. As per his usual practice, my father was sitting near Baba. All of a sudden, Baba said to him, “Arre, My devotee is suffering a lot from a boil. See, there is a boil on My hip also. But, now it will be cured.” My father actually saw that Baba had a boil on His hip and He was suffering from the pains. He was, therefore, worried. But, Baba Himself said, “Don’t worry. It will be alright in two-three days.” All this was ambiguous talk. My father did not realize that it was in fact related to him. After two-three days, the boil on Baba’s hip burst open. Two-three days later, my father received a letter from village Nandur Shingote. It was written that my mother had a boil at exactly the same place and had suffered a lot from it. But, as soon as Baba prayed in Shirdi, she was relieved of the pain and now, even the boil had burst open.

It dawned upon us that when Baba said that He has a boil on His hip, from exactly that time my mother’s sufferings had gone down. And, the day on which her boil burst open, same thing happened at Shirdi also. Once my father realized the connection, he became very sad for the sufferings taken upon Himself by Baba. My father said to me, “Arre Martand, did you see? To give relief to your mother, Baba took the agony of her boil upon Himself. Because of us, He had to suffer a lot.”

Late Kashibai Kanitkar has narrated her 1906’s experience as.....

“On alternate days, Baba used to come to Chavadi for sleeping. On that particular day, as per His custom, Baba and Mhalsapathi came to Chavadi. They sat in the darkened area at the entrance of the Chavadi. My husband late Govindrao Kanitkar also went and sat there. They were having a pleasant chat. While carrying on the conversation, Baba lit His chillum and shared it with Mhalsapathi. It was also passed on to my husband.

It was difficult to know what they were talking about. From time to time, Baba was asking, ‘Ka Mhalsapathi?’ (Isn’t it Mhalsapathi?) And Mhalsapathi was repeatedly saying ‘Beshak, Beshak’ (without doubt, without doubt), repeating the words twice. However, a third person was not able to grasp what they were talking. Then, it was time to light the chillum once again and it was noticed that the piece of stone, required for the purpose had been lost somewhere. This was reason enough for Baba to become livid with anger and as if, He took the Avatar of Narasimha and started showering abuses”

In the evening, once the lights were lit up, Baba’s devotees were forbidden from coming into the Masjid - the only exceptions being Dada Kelkar, Mhalsapathi, Tatyaba, Mahadu, Abdul Baba and Laxmibai. Barring these, no one else was allowed to enter the Masjid at night.

During one of his regular trips to Jejuri, 150 miles from Shirdi, Mhalsapathi and party came to know that plague was raging there. Mhalsapathi sat down dejected leaning against his palki (Kavadi), not knowing what to do. Suddenly he saw Baba behind him and Baba vanished. Then he got bold and told his companions, 'Baba is with us and we need not worry'. Accordingly the pilgrimage was satisfactorily over, and there was no loss of life. When he returned to Shirdi, Baba told him, 'I found you leaning against the Palki at Jejuri'. Mhalsapathi was convinced that his eyes did not deceive him at Jejuri and that Baba was everywhere guarding his bhaktas.

After completing another of their annual Jejuri pilgrimage, they were returning followed by another group, Malam Bhagat Pilki. On the way, they met thieves who were armed with axes and were covering their faces with thick blankets. As they approached the Palki to rob it, Mhalsapathi courageously took out a handful of Bhandar - coloured rice and sandalwood powder - and threw it at them as prasad. Then they quietly retreated to an adjoining wood. Mhalsapathi and his friends went on followed by Malam Bhagat palki, and they noted that there were no images in their own palki. All the party looked into Mhalsapathi’s palki to see whether all their images were there. They found none. Then some one said. 'Are we to carry an empty palki to Shirdi?’ It was a Sunday, and was Khandoba's day. Mhalsapathi had said in the beginning itself that it was a Sunday and no pilgrimage on Sunday. But the others had disagreed, and now Mhalsapathi told the others, 'this is the evil of doing pilgrimage on Sunday’. Suddenly Mhalsapathi got in to a trance, and Khandoba talking through him said, ‘Arre, what day is this? Is it not my day? Why are you carrying palki? Today I am busy hunting out on a hill. After hunting is over, I will come to Shirdi. You had better go now'. Then he woke up from trance, and the palki went on and came to Khandoba’s temple at Shirdi. Shakaram Kandukar and others at Shirdi came to the palki to take Darshan. Shakaram looked into the palki and found all the images there. 'What is the talk of all the images missing?' he asked the people. He showed them, and said 'Here are all the images'.

Mhalsapathi’s increased perfection was getting more and more patent to those associated with him. The heights of self-sacrifice that he reached were most astounding. His selflessness, which was copied by his wife and daughters, resulted in their being left them without the barest necessities, in some cases such as a woolen blanket (kambli). Yet he kept cheerful, contented and ready to crush out self-interest to protect others even if they should viciously work against his interest. When Mhalsapathi lost his kambli, it was traced to a receiver of stolen property in another village. The daughter of the reciever- who was in that village - traced it. The receiver swore that it was hers and not Mhalsapathi’s. The Village Munsif said that she ought to be jailed and the property recovered. Mhalsapathi was shocked at the idea of seeing a woman jailed and tormented for the sake of recovering his ''kambli''. So he said that he would not claim the property or say it was his.

Once, on the occasion of the death anniversary of Mhalsapathi’s father, several people had sat down to have meals. Suddenly, a dog suffering from scabies came at the place and stood in front of them. As per his usual practice, Mhalsapathi asked his wife to throw a piece of bread in front of the dog. However, as the bread was not given, the dog remained at its place. Finally, Mhalsapathi smacked the dog and it ran away. In the evening, while he was preparing Baba’s bed, Baba said to him, “Ka re Bhagat, in the town, there is a dog suffering from diseases like Me. But, people hit it.”

When Baba attained Mahasamadhi in 1918, Mhalsapathi declined all food and fasted for 13 days. It was Mhalsapathi’s custom to spend all his time with Baba except when he went for his meal. Later Baba would send someone to fetch him from his house. Then he would light up chillum, do odd jobs for Baba, and prepare Baba's bed. Baba always kept his head on an old brick. This brick was believed to be given to Baba by Venkusa with a torn cloth. Madhav Fasle, a servant of Baba used to hand over that brick to Mhalsapathi every night. Mhalsapathi would first place the brick and then the torn cloth, and then spread the other cloths. Few days before Vijayadashami in 1918, Madhav False, in handing over the brick, allowed it to slip down to the ground, and it broke into two. Mhalsapathi thought that from that time onwards Baba was dispirited. Then the broken pieces were placed as pillows for Baba. Baba asked 'Who broke the brick?' Mhalsapathi mentioned that Madhav False broke the brick. Baba got very angry with Madhav and placed his hands on his own head and felt extremely sad. Baba said 'Sopat tootli’ (Marathi - the companion is broken). Next day, Kakasaheb Dixit came and said there was no need to deplore the breaking, as he would join the pieces with silver joints. Baba said: "Even if you join them with gold, what is the use? This brick is my Sobatya (Marathi – companion) and its breakage indicates evil." Baba, even before this, had given Mhalsapathi a hint. He told him once when Mhalsapathi was preparing to light a lamp and fill up Baba's pipe, ‘Arre Bhagat, in a few days from this, I will be going somewhere. After that, you come at night for 2 or 4 years'. This was not understood by Mhalsapathi. Baba's spirit passed into the unknown on 15th October 1918, and Mhalsapathi was able to do his usual night pooja to Baba only for 4 years, for he passed away on 11 September 1922.

Mhalsapathi undoubtedly made a good end. In fact, he was fully conscious and knew that death was approaching. He told his friends 'I am going to Heaven'. He was fully conscious of the merit he had stored up as a Khandoba bhakta who had read Khandoba purana times without number, and made numerous pilgrimages to Jejuri. What did Mhalsapathi mean when he said that he was going to Heaven at death? Mhalsapathi unwaveringly believed in the supremacy and power of his Ishta Devata, namely, Khandoba, who was a particular god in a particular place with a particular form of bliss. When he tried to propitiate Khandoba by carrying his image in a palki with others, 150 miles to Jejuri and back, on a Sunday, he declared 'Our Khandoba does not want procession, he is out today being a Sunday enjoying himself with hunting on some hills', Therefore, his notion of Khandoba, in whom his soul was concentrated, was a god that delighted in hunting and wanted a particular hill on a particular day and so had a particular locality or Heaven in which he would be rejoicing and his bhaktas would rejoice with him. This is more or less the outline or rough explanation of what Mhalsapathi meant by saying that he would go to Heaven on the day of his death. No doubt he worshipped Vittal, Shani, Ganapati, and Baba. But, none of them deeply entered into his soul and captured him like Khandoba. They were all fit to be worshipped or respected like the relations of a husband whom a woman respects though it is only the husband whom she embraces. Therefore when Mhalsapathi said that he was going to Heaven, he had undoubtedly Khandoba at the back of his mind and was reaching Khandoba.

The end of such a soul when life passes away must necessarily be a good end - sadgati. Baba made this assurance doubly sure and granted him the merit of dying on an Ekadasi day, just as he did this for several other bhaktas of his. Dying on an Ekadasi day is conducive to departure in a holy mood from this life. When Mhalsapathi’s death was approaching, he retained full consciousness and control of his mind. That was on 11th Sep. 1922 Monday (in the month of Bhadrapada, Ekadasi Somavara, sacred to Shiva and Khandoba). Having finished all his pooja, he said to his family, ‘Today is my father's Shraaddha day. Finish cooking soon. Today I close my earthly life and go to Heaven'. So, Laxman, the Brahmin, came and finished the Shraaddha at once and finished the gift of balis to crows, cows and guests were fed. Then the family meals were finished. Mhalsapathi took betel leaves and nuts after his meal. After chewing a bit, he put on a kupni. Bala Gurav, Ramachandra Kothe and others were near him. He told them to do Ramachandra japa. Japa went on. His son was there, and he gave him his stick. Mhalsapathi said to his son, 'Spend time piously in Uttama Bhakti Marga (holy devotion). All that I told you will happen." Then Mhalsapathi uttered the word 'Ram’ and breathed his last. Thus, Bhakta Manikya and a Mahatma – as he was called by BV Deo in his preface to “Mhalsapathi’s Reminiscences” - passed away in calm faith and cheer on the 11th September 1922. This death was a fitting termination to a pure, lofty and dedicated life—a life of love, faith and total surrender— a death that may be envied by many who may not be prepared to adopt the rigorous course that led up to it and ensured it. His body was consigned to fire near Lendi Baug. His remains are interred in a tomb at Shirdi, worshipped by many grateful devotees.

||Sri Sainaathaarpanamasthu||

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