Sai Satcharitra Chapter 37

Preliminary

Blessed is Sai’s life and His daily routine; His ways and actions are indescribable. At times, He was intoxicated with Brahmanand (divine joy) and at other times content with knowledge of the self. Despite doing so many things, He was not concerned with them at all. Though He seemed at times physically motionless, He was not idle or asleep. He always abided in His own Self. Though He looked as calm and quiet as the placid sea, He was deep and unfathomable. Who can describe His ineffable nature? He regarded men as brothers and women as sisters and mothers. He was a perfect and perpetual celibate. May the knowledge we got through His acquaintance last us unto our death. Let us always serve Him with wholehearted devotion to His feet. Let us see Him (God) in all beings and let us always love His name.

Hemadpant, after making some lengthy dissertations on some topics in the Vedanta, which he himself considers a digression, goes on to describe the Chavadi procession.

The Chavadi Procession

Baba’s dormitory has already been described.  Every alternate day, he slept in the Chavadi (a small building containing a room or two near the Masjid). This alternate sleeping routine in both these buildings continued till Baba’s Mahasamadhi. From the 10th of December 1909, devotees began to worship Baba in the Chavadi. We will now describe this, with His grace. When it was a night that Baba would be spending in the Chavadi, people flocked to the Masjid and sang bhajans in the courtyard of the Masjid for a few hours. Behind them was a beautiful Ratha (small horse-drawn cart), to the right a Tulsi-vrindavan (a decorative structure with a Tulsi plant in it) and in front of Baba, devotees who were fond of singing devotional songs. Some played on various musical instruments while singing. Sai Baba was the magnet Who drew all the devotees to Him. Outside the courtyard, some held their torches, some decorated the palanquin, while others stood with canes in their hands and shouted out cries of victory to Baba. The corners of the Masjid were decorated with buntings. All around the Masjid, rows of burning lamps shed their light. Baba’s horse, Shyamakarna, stood fully decorated outside. Then Tatya Patil came with a party of men to Baba and asked Him to be ready. Baba sat quietly in his place till Tatya came and helped Him to get up, by putting his arm under Baba’s arm-pit. Tatya called Baba, Mama(maternal uncle); In reality, their relationship was extremely close. Baba wore the usual kafni(long robe), placed His short stick under His arm-pit and after picking up His tobacco-pipe and tobacco, and placing a cloth over His shoulder, was ready to start. Then Tatya draped Baba in a beautiful golden-embroidered shawl. After this, Baba moved the bundle of firewood lying behind him, with His right toe. And then, after extinguishing the burning lamp with His right hand, started for the Chavadi. Then all sorts of musical instruments played and fireworks exhibited their different colors and sounds. Men and women singing Baba’s name started walking and singing bhajans to the accompaniment of musical instruments. Some danced with joy and some carried various flags. Men announced Baba’s name when He stood on the steps of the Masjid. To either side of Baba, stood persons who fanned Baba with large hand fans. The path on which Baba walked was covered with layers of cloth. Tatya held His left hand and Mhalasapati the right, while Bapusaheb Jog held a decorative umbrella over His head. In this fashion, Baba marched on to the Chavadi. The fully decorated horse, Shyamakarna, led the way and behind him were all the carriers, waiters, musicians and the crowd of devotees. Hari-nama (the name of the Lord), chanted to the accompaniment of music, filled the skies, as also did the name of Sai. In this manner, the procession reached the corner, when all the persons that joined this party seemed pleased and delighted.

On reaching this corner, Baba stood facing the Chavadi and shone with a peculiar luster. It seemed as if Baba’s face glittered like dawn or like the glory of the rising sun. Baba stood there with a concentrated mind, facing the north, as if He was calling somebody. All the instruments played their music, while Baba moved His right arm up and down for some time. Kakasaheb Dixit then came forward with a silver plate containing flowers besmeared with gulal (red powder) and showered them on Baba’s body. The musical instruments played their best at this juncture and Baba’s face beamed with steady and added radiance and beauty. Everyone present drank this luster to their hearts’ content. Words fail to describe the scene and splendor of this occasion. Sometimes, Mhalasapati would begin to dance, possessed by some deity. But everyone was rather surprised to see that despite this sudden distraction, Baba’s concentration was not in the least bit disturbed. With a lantern in his hand, Tatya Patil walked on Baba’s left side and Bhagat Mhalasapati on the right, holding with his hand the hem of Baba’s garment. What a beautiful procession and what an expression of devotion! To witness this, men and women, poor and rich, flocked to the Masjid. Baba walked very slowly;The devotees followed on both sides with love and devotion. With joy pervading the atmosphere, the procession reached the Chavadi. That scene and those days are gone now. Nobody can see them now or in the future, but by remembering and visualizing this scene, we can bring solace and comfort to our minds.

The Chavadi was also fully decorated with a white ceiling, mirrors and many types of lamps. On reaching it, Tatya went ahead and placed a padded seat with a bolster on it and asked Baba to sit on it. He also gave Baba a good coat to wear. Then the devotees worshipped Him in various ways. They placed a crown with a tuft on His head, placed garlands of flowers and jewels around His neck and marking His forehead with musk-mixed vertical lines and a dot (as Vaishnava devotees do) they stared at Him for a long time, to their hearts’ content. They changed His head-dress now and then and held it aloft on his head, fearing that Baba might throw it away. Baba knew the hearts of them all and meekly submitted to all their methods without objection. With these decorations, He looked wonderfully beautiful.

Nanasaheb Nimonkar held the Chhatra (umbrella) with its beautiful pendants. Bapusaheb Jog washed Baba’s feet in a silver dish and offered arghya and worship with due formalities. He then besmeared Baba’s arms with sandal paste and offered Baba betel-leaves. Baba sat and Tatya and others kept alternately standing and falling at His feet. When Baba sat, supporting Himself against the bolster, devotees on both sides waved fans. Shama then prepared the chillim(pipe) and handed it over to Tatya who drew a flame out of it and then gave it to Baba. After Baba had His smoke, it was given to Bhagat Mhalsapati and then it was passed around to everyone. Blessed was the inanimate chillim for it first had to undergo many ordeals of penance, such as being treated by pot-makers, dried in the open sun and baked in the kiln, and then it had the good fortune of the divine touch of Baba’s hands and His kiss. After this ceremony was over, devotees put garlands around His neck and gave Him bunches of flowers to smell. Baba, who was dispassion or non-attachment incarnate, did not care much for all these necklaces of jewels, garlands of flowers and other ornaments. But out of real love for His devotees, He allowed them to have their own way. Finally, Bapusaheb Jog waved the arati over Baba, observing all due formalities, while the musical instruments played their auspicious tunes. When this arati was over, the devotees returned home after bowing to Baba and taking His leave. When Tatya Patil, after offering chillimattar(a scent) and rose-water, was about to leave, Baba said to him lovingly, “Guard Me; go if you like, but return sometimes at night and enquire after Me.” Replying in the affirmative, Tatya left the Chavadi and went home. Then Baba Himself prepared His bed; He spread out 50 or 60 white sheets, one upon another, and thus making His bed, went to sleep. We shall also now rest and close this chapter with a request to the readers that they should remember Sai Baba and His Chavadi procession daily before they retire and go to bed.

Adapted from the original Marathi Book SHRI SAI SATCHARITA By Govind Raghunath Dabholkar alias ‘Hemadpant’

Om Sai Om Sai Sadguru Sai

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