Who was Shri Sai Baba?
First let’s explore the meaning of the formal parts of the name of Shri Sai Baba. The Indian word “shri” is a formal title, similar to Mr. or Ms. in English, and is also used as a title for deities. Sai is the Indian language word for “teacher” and “father.” So essentially Shri Sai means “Mr. Teacher” with an implication of reverence. Baba is the name of a now very famous man who lived in India around the turn of the century.
The story goes like this: In the late 1800s in India, there was a man named Chandbhai, was looking for his horse. While he was looking for it, an unknown man, Sai Baba, spoke to him and called him by name. Sai Baba told Chandbhai where to look to find his horse.
The two men then smoked a pipe together. According to the story, Sai Baba lit the pipe by pulling a burning coal out of the dirt. Chandbhai invited Sai Baba to come to his house and stay for a time. There was a wedding going on at Chandbhai’s house as his nephew was getting married.
How Sai Baba got to Shirdi
Chandbhai’s nephew’s wife was from Shirdi and the wedding party was headed there. Sai Baba went along. It trip took several days, as there was no Pune to Shirdi Taxi in their day. The party camped in a field near Khandoba’s Temple. Sai Baba decided to stay in Shirdi and asked if he could stay at the Hindu Khandoba temple. The priest at the temple told him to go to the Muslim Mosque. The mosque that Sai Baba stayed in was eventually named Dwarkamayi.
Sai Baba stayed in Shirdi and the legend is that he performed miracles to show that God exists. Some people reported that he healed the sick. He taught primarily about love. He was not exactly Hindu nor was he a Muslim. His teachings were a mix of several religions with the central theme being love and the existence of God. He is best known for denouncing India’s Caste system and preaching that the “untouchables” should be loved and accepted.
The Shrine in Shirdi
A wealthy man came into Shirdi one day to build a stone building for another wealthy man in town. Sai Baba asked the man if he could help him build the building. While the building was being built, Sai Baba became ill and died. The wealthy man burried Sai Baba in that building. That building still exists today in Shirdi, India, and is now called Samadhi Mandir and many people visit it every year.
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