You don't have javascript enabled. Good luck with that.

 

Ram Navami

Humble beginnings as Urus (fair)

Rama Navami began as a completely different ceremony in Shirdi.  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 Muslims. As future events showed, this end or object was achieved. Though the permission was obtained, 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 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 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 Muslim Bhakta from Korhala. This procession is held in honour of great Muslim Saints. Sandal i.e. Chandan paste and scrappings are put in a 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’ (niche) 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.

Arrangement

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 Radhakrishna 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 Radhakrishna 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 Jogeshwar Bhishma (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 veranda  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 Sri 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 Bhisma 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 Radhakrishna Mai. So they immediately went to the Masjid to get Baba’s permission. Baba, who knew all things and what was passing 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 Bhishma, what he had to say. He explained the idea of celebrating Rama Navami festival, and asked for Baba’s permission and Baba gladly gave it. All rejoiced and made preparations for the festival. Next day, the Masjid was decorated with buntings etc., a cradle was supplied by Radhakrishna Mai, and placed in front of Baba’s seat and the proceedings started. Bhishma stood up for Kirtan and Mahajani played on the harmonium. Sai Baba sent a man to call Mahajani. He was hesitating to go, doubting whether Baba would allow the festival to go on; 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 Rama Navami festival had commenced, and the cradle was put on for that purpose. Then Baba took a garland from the ‘Nimbar’ (niche), and placed it round his neck and sent another garland for Bhishma. Then commenced the Kirtan. When it came to a close, pound sounds of “Victory to Rama” went up; and Gulal (red – powder) was thrown up all round, amidst band and music. Everybody was overjoyed, when suddenly roaring was heard. The red-powder thrown promiscuously all round, went up, somehow entered Baba’s eyes. Baba got wild and began to scold and abuse loudly. People got frightened by this scene and took to their heels. Those intimate devotees, who knew Baba well, took these scoldings and outpourings of Baba, as blessings in disguise. They thought that when Rama was born, it was proper for Baba to get wild and enraged to kill Ravana; 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. Radhakrishna Mai was rather afraid; and thought that Baba might break her cradle, and she asked Mahajani to get 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 some time, Baba became calm, and that day’s programme, including Mahapuja and aarti 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 finished. Next day, another ‘Kirtan’ and Gopalkala ceremony (an earthen pot containing parched rice mixed with curds is hung, only to be broken after the ‘Kirtan’, and the contents distributed to all, as was done by Lord Krishna amongst His cow-herd (friends), were performed, and then Baba allowed the cradle to be removed. While the Rama 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 the Rama Navami festival. From next year (1913), the items in the programme of Rama Navami began to increase. Radhakrishna Mai started a ‘Namasaptah’ (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. 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 Radhakrishna Mai turned Shirdi into a Sansthan. 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 Muslims 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 worth the name during so many past years.

(Shri Sai Satcharitra, Chapter VI : RAMA-NAVAMI FESTIVAL AND MASJID REPAIRS)


 
  • Donate Now