Sai Baba and Shiv worship

Hemant Dharmat

Megha of Viramgaon working as cook in Rao Bahadur Sathe’s house was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. An illiterate Brahmin that he was, neither he could remember Gayatri mantra nor was even familiar with ‘Sandhyopasana’. His daily prayer consisted of muttering ‘Panchakshari’ mantra – ‘Namah Shivaye’ for several hours at a stretch. Megha’s simplicity endeared him to his master who compelled him to proceed to Shirdi. Sathe gave him an introductory letter for his father in law, Damodar Kelkar, a prominent resident of Shirdi. He was unwilling to visit Shirdi and prostrate before Sai Baba, whom he considered a Mohammedan. When he entered Sai Baba’s abode – Dwarka Mai, a dilapidated disused Mosque in which Sai Baba lived for around sixty years, Baba thundered, “Turn him out”. Addressing Megha, Baba said, “A high caste Brahmin that you are, you may get unchaste if you bow before Me. So better leave this place”. Baba’s words sent shivers down his spine. He wondered, “How come Baba read my mind”. He stayed at Shirdi for a few days and rendered some service also as per his own volition, but his spiritual aspirations remained largely unfulfilled. He returned home and later left for Tryambak. After over a year and half, he came back to Shirdi and on Kelkar’s request was allowed to remain in Dwarkamai. Every day he would traverse long distances to collect Bel leaves and pray at all the Shiv temples in and around Shirdi before paying obeisance to Sai Baba. He would massage Baba’s legs before taking ‘charnamrit’ of His holy feet. One day as he reached Khandoba Mandir, he found its doors locked. He skipped worship of the deity and proceeded to Dwarkamai. But Sai Baba refused permission to Megha saying, “Temple doors are now open. Go and worship Khandoba and then come here”. He was stunned as Khandoba Mandir was located at a fair distance and no one in Dwarkamai could be expected to know about its closure when the timepieces were not in vogue. Further when he reached there, he found that its doors had by then opened.
Once on the occasion of Makarsankranti, Megha urged Baba to allow him to apply Chandan on his forehead beside, bathing him with the sacred water of river Godavari. At first Sai Baba refused but later relented in view of his reverence and continued insistence. Megha covered large stretch of uneven path to fetch water from Godawari. Then he requested Baba to get ready for ablution. Once again, Baba asked Megha to spare him. But he was adamant to bathe Sai Baba whom he considered none other Lord Shiva. He compelled Baba to sit on a wooden plank. Baba requested him to merely drench his head, saying washing of the head was as good as whole body bath. In sheer excitement, Megha poured water not only on Baba’s head but over his whole body. To his great surprise, he found that Baba’s head was only wet and not a single drop had touched His body.
As days passed, Megha made Baba’s ‘snan’ a routine affair. He would first bathe Him in Dwarkamai and later worship His image in the Wadha. The practice continued uninterrupted for about a year. Pleased by his devotion, Baba appeared before him one early morning while he was still on his bed but partially awake and showered ‘akshat’ over him asking, “Offer Me the Trident”. When Megha abruptly opened his eyes, he found none in his room except ‘akshat’ spread all over the floor. He got up at once and went to meet Baba. He related his dream to Him and sought His permission to install ‘Trishul’. Shirdi wale Baba said, “Didn’t you hear what I had said before, “Get Me the Trident”. Wasn’t it My specific commandment to you?” Megha replied, “As all the doors and windows of the room were properly locked from inside, I am a bit confused as if I had experienced your vision in my dream”. “Do I need inlets to enter?” asked Baba adding, “Being formless and limitless, I pervade all the animate and inanimate objects. Whoever has abiding faith in Me, I enable him to accomplish his duties and achieve the goal of his life”. On his return to Wadha, he drew a trident close to Baba’s portrait. The very next day, one Ramdasi arrived from Pune and presented a Shivling affixed with ‘Trishul’ to Sai Baba in Megha’s presence. Baba asked the latter, “Look Bhole Shankar has arrived, take It in your possession”. Megha was astonished to see the unusual Trident with the Lingam and left with It for Wadha. Meanwhile Kakasahib Dikshit had the vision of a Shivling while repeating ‘Sai Nam’ in the Wadha. When Megha proceeded to the Wadha with the Shivlingam, he too was surprised as it had uncanny resemblance with what he had observed during meditation.
When Megha passed away in 1912, Baba accompanied the funeral procession, showering flowers on his bier. After the body was consigned to flames, tears rolled down Baba’s eyes. It was a unique occasion when the people of Shirdi witnessed Sai Baba weeping bitterly, thumping his chest and grieving like a near relative on his way back to Dwarkamai. Later Baba said, “Megha was My true devotee”. When poor Sudama, came to Dwarka, Lord Krishna ran barefooted with clothes disheveled, untidy hair and without the crown on HIS head to welcome the childhood friend and True Devotee, leaving the palace guards shell shocked.