Sri Sathya Sai On: Shirdi Sai Baba (Parentage, Birth and Early Life)

The Avataric Journey: Sri Krishna, Shirdi Sai Baba and Sri Sathya Sai

Parentage and Birth 

In the former Nizam’s dominion, in Aurangabad district, there was a remote village called Pathri. In that village, there lived a couple by name Gangabhavadya and Devagiriamma. They were aggrieved because they did not have any children. In answer to their prayers, a son was born to Devagiriamma on September 28, 1835. That child was Sai Baba. 

On account of the passage of time and circumstances, no one knew the exact dates of Baba’s birth and passing. In this context, the mystery relating to Baba’s birth should be noted.

Gangabhavadya and Devagiriamma hailed from Pathri village, and they were ardent worshippers of Eshwara and Parvati. They had no offspring for a long time. They intensified their prayers. Gangabhavadya used to ply a boat near the village for living. One night, when it was raining heavily, Gangabhavadya left his house to take care of the boat, informing his wife that he would not return that night. After her husband had left, Devagiriamma had her food and went to bed early. At 9 p.m., there was a knock at the door. Devagiriamma opened the door expecting the likely return of her husband. Instead, a very elderly man entered the house. He pleaded, “It is very cold outside. Please permit me, mother, to stay inside”. Being a pious woman, Devagiriamma allowed him to stay in the veranda and went inside the house after bolting the inner door.

A little while later, there was a knock on the inner door. She opened the door. The old man said, “I am feeling hungry, give me some food”. Finding that there was no food, the woman mixed some flour with curds and gave it to him. There was again another knock after some time. When she opened the door, the old man said, “My legs are aching. Mother, will you massage them?” Devagiriamma went inside, sat in the prayer room and prayed, “Oh Mother! Why are you testing me like this? What should I do? Should I serve him or refuse?”

Going out of the house by the back-door she went in search of someone who could be engaged to render this service. No one was available. As she returned there was another knock from the old man. At the same time, a woman knocked at the backdoor. The woman asked, “It appears you came to my house and sought some feminine help. I was away at that time. Please let me know what service I should render”. Feeling happy that Goddess Parvati Herself had sent the woman in response to her prayers, Devagiriamma sent the newcomer to the veranda for serving the old man and closed the door. 

The old man and the new woman were none other than Parameshwara and Parvati the Divine couple. Parameshwara told Parvati, “Fulfil the cherished desire of this lady”. Parvati replied, “You are the Supreme one. Please shower Your grace on her Yourself”. Eshwara said, “I came to test her. You came in answer to her prayers. Hence You must bless her”. They knocked the door once again. This time Devagiriamma promptly opened the door, because the presence of another woman emboldened her. Parvati and Parameshwara appeared before her in their Divine forms. Unable to contain her joy, Devagiriamma fell at their feet. 
Blessings from Shiva and Shakti
Parvati then blessed her, “I grant you a son to maintain the lineage and a daughter for Kanyadana (a girl to be offered in marriage)”. Then Devagiriamma fell at the feet of Eshwara. Eshwara said, “I am immensely pleased with your devotion. I shall take birth as your third child”. When Devagiriamma got up, the Divine couple was not there. Feeling ecstatic over this experience, Devagiriamma eagerly awaited the return of her husband in the morning to relate to him the whole experience.

The husband returned in the morning. She related to him all that had happened the previous night. The husband said, “Devagiri! What is this entirely fanciful tale! It is all a dream. Parvati and Parameshwara appearing before you and giving Darshan! It is pure fantasy!” Gangabhavadya dismissed the whole episode as incredible and fanciful. 

But, as time passed, Devagiriamma became enceinte and a son was born. A year later a daughter was born. Gangabhavadya was convinced that the birth of the two children was the result of the blessings conferred by Parvati and Parameshwara He told his wife, “You had the good fortune of having the Darshan of Parvati and Parameshwara. I did not have that luck”. When Devagiriamma conceived again, Gangabhavadya began to feel an urge to give up hearth and home and go in search of the Divine Couple. He told his wife that he was leaving for the forest to do penance. Devoted wife that she was, Devagiriamma decided to follow him though she was in the ninth month of her pregnancy. After following her husband for some distance, she developed labour pains. She delivered a boy. Wrapping the baby in a piece of cloth, she left the child by the roadside and followed her husband. 
- “Revelations about the Sai Avatar”, Sathya Sai Speaks, Volume 23, September 28, 1990, Prasanthi Nilayam

Early Life 

In that village there was a Patel whose wife had gone to her native village for a festival. This Patel was bringing back his wife in a horse coach. The Patel had a lot of money and therefore he got the horse coach. They also didn’t have children. When they reached that place she heard a baby cry. She saw that this boy was on a piece of Sari and the boy was playing and crying. Drops of honey were falling from the tree in the mouth of the child. She came and called her husband and said that the baby’s body was smeared with blood. They did not know as to who had left him there. They looked around and nobody was seen. Patel’s wife thought that God had himself presented her this boy. She took the boy home. No one asked them who the child was. They were very happy thinking that God had given this child to them. 

A Shaligrama venerated as
Embodiment of Lord Vishnu
The boy grew up. When Baba was a boy he used to play marbles. He was so good in the marble game that from a distance he could hit any marble. And all the boys who played with Baba would lose their game. And generally the people who lose get angry. These people insisted that Baba should play again as they wanted to win a game. But this boy did not have any marbles left. He went to the worship room. There, there was a Shaligrama (a venerable stone) worshipped by his mother every day. It also looks like a marble. He brought the marble and played with it. Baba thought, “Ah this very good, I would like to win it!” He hit the marble and won the marble. He took the marble. But the rich man’s son said, “You should give back this marble to me”. Baba swallowed it. The boy kept crying and fighting with Baba. The mother saw what was happening. She came down and asked why the two of them were fighting. She asked the boy, “Why are you fighting with that boy? What did He do?” The boy replied that Baba had swallowed his marble. The mother chastised the boy saying that she didn’t give him money and enquired how he got the marble. The boy replied, “I did not have any marbles so I went into the worship room and got the Shaligrama”. With great devotion she was worshipping this Shaligrama every day. When she went and saw the worship room, the Shaligrama had vanished from there. She was very angry. She prayed to Baba, “Boy, give me back the Shaligrama. I will give you how much ever money you want”. He said, “How much ever you plead; I am not going to give you”. She got very angry and slapped on both the cheeks of Baba. She then asked Him to open His mouth. Just as Yashoda had seen the 14 worlds in the mouth of Lord Krishna, this lady had the same vision. She was very blissful and touched the feet of Baba and cried. 

At the age of seven, the boy used to go to the Hindu temple and read the Quran, and in the mosque he used to chant Vedas. In those times the hatred between the Hindus and Muslims was too much. The Hindus and Muslims started complaining against this boy. The Muslims said, “You come to our mosque and chant Vedas!” The Hindus complained, “You come to our temple and read the Quran!” The Hindus and Muslims boycotted this boy from their places of worship. How much ever the boy was told, he still wouldn’t understand. Even the father tried but he still did not pay heed. The mother wanted to send the boy somewhere. She was thinking of that. Someone came and suggested that the boy should be sent to the Ashram of Venkusa.

She took the boy to that Ashram. Gopal Rao Deshmukh was called Venkusa by the people on account of his scholarship and wisdom. From inside Venkusdas came outside and said, “Boy, I have been waiting for you for the past 10 years”. He hugged this boy and took him to the Ashram. Then Venkusdas went to the mother and said, “Amma from now on he is my son. I will look after him properly. You can go home peacefully”. She was very happy thinking that this was the end of her troubles. She said, “Now and then I will come and see my boy”. Then Venkusdas answered, “If you want to see him now and then, it’s alright. If you want you can even stay here”. But she went away. From that day Venkusdas showed immense love for that boy. The boy stayed in Venkusa’s Ashram till 1851. Venkusa was extremely fond of the boy. In every matter, he used to give priority to this boy’s views. When he was eating food, he used to make this boy sit by his side and eat. He would make the boy sleep in his room. He taught him all the Vedas, Shastras (scriptures) and the epics. 

In the school, other children were jealous of this boy. This jealousy is a curse in this age of Kali. Generally, if someone is subject to showering of love, others will develop jealousy and feel that this boy has come only recently and why is he being given so much love. This is jealousy. This jealousy crossed all the limits. One day Venkusdas was taking this boy to the forest. He sat under a tree and was teaching the boy all Vedanta. Other jealous boys threw stones at this boy from a distance. One stone hit the boy’s forehead. It started bleeding. Venkusdas tore a piece of his a dhoti and tied a piece as a bandage on the boy’s head. That piece of cloth which was tied around His head was not removed by Sai Baba till the end. 
Venkusdas (also referred to as Venkusa) tied the cloth on Baba's head, which He retained for the rest of His physical sojourn
Thereafter, one night (in 1851), the boy left the Ashram. He reached Shirdi – a very small village at that time.
- “Then at Shirdi, now at Parthi”, My Dear Students Volume 03, March 16, 1998, Brindavan


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