Shri Shirdi Sai Baba Ashtotra Sada Namavali Flower-107 – “Om Shri Sai Samarasa Sanmarga Sthapanaaya Namaha.” Ashtothram is (praise) offering our prayers to the Divine, through "OM", and the attributes of the Divine. There are 108 attributes of Sai Baba in Ashtothra Sada Namavali. Each one is an everlasting flower of divine fragrance. Flower-107 - Om Shri Sai Samarasa Sanmarga Sthapanaya Namaha.” Meaning: “Humble salutation to Him who consolidates the true path of amity, unity and understanding among all people” (Shirdi Sai Trust). Reflections: Almost all ethnic groups of humanity have pursued one quest invariably. That is the quest to find a Super Human, who they believed had the power to go beyond the natural limitations, had the power to defy death, had the power to mitigate their difficulties, give relief from pains, and reward the “good” and punish the “bad” among them as defined by them, either in this world while living or at another world after death. The Super Human was given different names according to the language, culture, nature’s forces etc., All the perceived powers and virtues were attributed to this Super Human without any limitation particularly power over nature’s forces and nature’s laws. The more experienced, more intelligent or the more articulate among the group became the most vocal to explain this Super Human to others. Over a period this person self-declared or declared by close associates as the spokesperson for the Super Human and a link for the group and the Super Human. This spokesperson or the close associates or leaders of believers of the Spokesperson laid down the conventions, traditions, and rules, all in good faith and sincerity speaking on behalf of the Super Human. Thus codes of religions, scriptures, religious traditions and conventions and religious hierarchies were formed. Some of them were indeed able to demonstrate a power to perform miracles which others believed to have been delegated by the Super Human. Though this process was the same for all groups, each culture evolved different conventions, codes, and traditions suitable to its physical and other living conditions, and creativity and knowledge accumulation developed different forms and attributes to the Super Human and evolved different religions. When two such groups came to face each other, each claimed its own religion and Super Human were better than the other, wanted the other group to change its concepts thus creating religious differences. The sophistication and advancement of knowledge of one group decided the understanding and tolerance for the religion of the other group. The more refined and knowledgeable the group was, the higher was the level of tolerance and understanding shown. Our Rishis and Sages understood the “Super Human” and the process of evolution of a religion. They found that the Super Human in effect as the Brahmam, God or Guru and resides in each human being. Having found that it is “Aham Brahamasmi” (Self is Brahmam) they found that God can be found in all creations if one attains Self-realisation. This should result in Universal Love, love and respect for all cultures all religions all traditions. The Brahmam God or Guru, which is a realised Self, indeed teaches that universal love to all, creating love, amity and unity among all groups of human race. Urus, Sandal Procession and Ramnavami in Shirdi “As Ramnavami is the most celebrated festival at Shirdi, another fuller account, as published in Sri Sai Leela Magazine of 1925 page 197, is also referred to and a summary of the festival as related in both accounts is attempted here. Origin One Mr.Gopalrao Gund, was a surveyor in Survey dept. 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 due to this, an idea of celebrating a fair or ‘Urus’ (Urus are celebrated at the tombs of Muslim Holy men. It is surprising that how Mr Gund, a Hindu got this idea) 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 obtained Sai Baba’s permission and blessings for it. Then an application was made to get the Collector’s sanction for celebrating the Urus, but as the village Kulkarni held against holding the fair the sanction was refused. But, as Sai Baba has blessed it, they tried again and ultimately succeeded in getting the Collector’s sanction. The day for the Urus was fixed on Ram Navami, after having consultations with Sai Baba. It seems He had some purpose behind this, viz., the unification of the two festivals, the Urus and the Ram Navmi and the unification of the two communities – the Hindus and the Mohammedans. As future events showed, this end or objective was duly 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 water by Sai Baba, by putting flowers into it. As the water of this well was insufficient, so Tatya Patil had to arrange to get water from outside. Temporary shops were to be constructed and wrestling bouts arranged. Gopal Rao Gund had a friend by name Damu Anna Kasar of Ahmednagar. He also was similarly unhappy in the matter of progeny, though he had two wives. He too was blessed by Sai Baba with sons and Mr Gund prevailed upon his friend to prepare and supply one flag for the procession of the fair. He also succeeded in inducing Mr Nanasaheb Nimonkar to supply another flag. Both these flags were taken in procession through the village and finally, fixed at the two corners of 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. The idea of ‘Sandal’ procession originated with one Mr Amir Sarkar Dalal, a Mohammedan Bhakta from Korhla. This procession is held in honour of great Muslim saints. Sandal i.e., chandan paste and scrapings are put in a Thali ( flat dishes) with incense burning before them and carried 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’ (niche) and walls of the Masjid by hand. This work was managed by Mr.Amir Shakkar for the first three years and then afterwards, by his wife. So, on the same day the two processions, the ‘Flags’ by the Hindus and ‘Sandal’ by the Muslims went on side by side and are still going on without any problem. Arrangement This day was very dear and sacred to the devotees of Sai Baba. Most of them turned up for the occasion and took part in the management of the fair. Tatya Kote Patil looked to all outward affairs, while the internal management was entirely left to Radhakrishnamai, a devotee of Baba. Her residence was full of guests on the occasion, and she had to look after their needs, and also to arrange for all the paraphernalia of the fair. Another work, which she willingly did, was to clean and white-wash the entire Masjid, its walls and floor, which were blackened and were full of soot on account of the perpetual Dhuni,(Sacred fire) of Sai Baba. This she did during the night, when Sai Baba had gone to sleep every alternate night in the Chavadi. She had to take out all the things, including the Dhuni, and after thorough cleaning and white washing replace them, as they were before. Feeding the poor, which was so dear to Baba, was also an important item in this fair. For this purpose cooking on a grand scale and preparing various sweet dishes, was done in Radhakrishnamai’s lodging, and various, rich and wealthy devotees took a leading part in this. Transformation of Urus in to Ramnavami Festival. Things were going on in this way and the fair was gradually increasing in importance till 1912, when a change took place. That year one devotee, Mr.Krishnarao Jogeshwar Bhism (the author of Sai Sagunopasana) came for the fair with Dadasaheb Khaparde of Amravati and was staying ( on the previous day) in the Dixit Wada. While he was lying in the veranda, and while Mr.Laxmanrao alias Kaka Mahajani was going with Puja materials to the Masjid, a 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 Ram Navami festival – the celebration of the birth of Shri Ram on this day here? 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 do ‘Kirtan’ and sing the glories of the Lord on the occasion. But, Bhism solved the difficulty by saying that his ‘Ram Akhyan’, the 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 Radhakrishnamai. So they immediately went to the Masjid to get Baba’s permission. Baba Who knew everything and aware of what was happening there, asked Mahajani, as to what was going on in the Wada. Being rather perturbed Mahajani could not catch the purport of the question and remained silent. Then Baba asked Bhism what he had to say. He explained the idea of celebrating Ram Navami festival and asked for Baba’s permission and Baba gladly gave it. All rejoiced and made preparations for the Jayanti-festival. Next day the Masjid was decorated with buntings etc., a cradle was supplied by Radhakrishnamai and placed in front of Baba’s seat and the proceedings started. Bhism stood up for Kirtan and Mahajani began to play on the harmonium. Sai Baba sent a man to call Mahajani. He was hesitating to go, doubtful whether Baba would allow the festival to go on or not but when he went to Baba, the latter asked him as to what was going on and why the cradle was placed there. He answered that the Ram Navami festival had commenced and the cradle was put out for that purpose. Then Baba took a garland from the ‘Nimbar’ (niche) and placed it round his neck and sent another garland for Bhism. Then the Kirtan commenced. When it came to a close, loud sounds of “Victory to Ram” went up and Gulal (colour-powder) was thrown up all around, amidst band music. Everybody was overjoyed, when suddenly a roar was heard. The red powder thrown promiscuously, went up and somehow fell into Baba’s eyes. Baba got wild and began to scold and abuse loudly. People got frightened and took to their heels. The intimate devotees who knew Baba well, took these scoldings and outpourings of Baba, as blessings in disguise. They thought that when Ram was born, it was proper for Baba to get wild and enraged to kill Ravan and his demons, in the form of egoism and wicked thoughts etc. Besides they knew that, whenever a new thing was undertaken at Shirdi, it was usual with Baba to get wild and angry and so they kept quiet. Radhakrishnamai was rather afraid and thought that Baba might break her cradle and she asked Mahajani to pull the cradle back. When he went to loosen and unfasten the cradle, Baba went to him and asked him not to remove it. Then after sometime Baba became calm and that day’s programme including Mahapuja and Arati was finished. Later on Mr.Mahajani asked Baba, for permission to remove the cradle, Baba refused the same saying that, the festival was not yet over. Next day another ‘Kirtan’ and Gopal-kala ceremony (an earthen pot containing parched rice mixed with curd is hung, to be broken after the ‘Kirtan’ and the contents distributed to all, as was done by Lord Krishna amongst His cow-herd-friends) was performed and then, Baba allowed the cradle to be removed. While the Ram Navami festival was thus going on, the procession of the two flags by day and that of the ‘Sandal’ by night, went off with the usual pomp and show. From this time onwards, the ‘Urus of Baba’ was transformed into Ram Navami festival. Since 1912, this festival began to grow gradually year by year. From the 8[SUP]th[/SUP] to 12[SUP]th[/SUP] 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 Radhakrishnamai turned Shirdi into a Sansthan. (State) Paraphernalia increased. A beautiful horse, a palanquin, chariot and many silver items, utensils, 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 and modesty as before. It is to be noted that both the Hindus and Mohammedens have been working in unison, in both the processions during the entire festival, and there has been no confrontation or quarrel between them at all so far. At the first about 5000- 7000 people used to gather, but that figure went up to 75,000 in some years, still, there was no outbreak of any epidemic disease nor any riots worth the name during all these years.( Shri Sai Satcharita- Ch. 6). He showed in Shirdi the confluence of all spiritual pursuits to God by having Urus and Ram Navami in Dwarkamai, a Masjid as a single celebration. Despite flow of time and events, the happy tradition continues till today making Shirdi the icon of religious integration. He is Samarasa Sanmarga Sthapanaya.