|| Aum Sai Ram || Aum Sai Para Brahmanaa Namah ||
Transformation of Urus into Rama Navami 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 Jageshwar Bhishm (the author of ‘Sai Sagunopasana’), came for the fair with Dadasaheb Khaparde of Amaravati and was staying (on the previous day) in the Dixit Wada. While he was lying in the verandah, and while Mr. Laxmanrao alias Kaka Mahajani was going down 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 the Rama Navami; Rama Navami is very dear to all the Hindus, then why not begin the Rama Navami festival – the celebration of the birth of Shri 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 do ‘Kirtan’ and sing the glories of the Lord on the occasion. But, Bhishm solved the difficulty by saying that his ‘Rama 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 Radhakrishna Mai.
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 Bhishm, 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 Jayanti-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. Bhishm stood up for Kirtan and Mahajani played 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 Rama 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 Bhishm. Then the Kirtan commenced.
When it came to a close, loud sounds of “Victory to Rama” went up; and Gulal (colour-powder) was thrown up all round, 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.
Radhakrishna Mai 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 some time, 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 earthern 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 Ram Navami began to increase. Radhakrishna Mai started a ‘Nama-Saptah’ (singing the glory of God’s name continuously day and night for seven days), from (eleventh) day of Chaitra, For this all devotees took part by turns and she also joined it sometimes early in the morning. As Ram 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 incidentally met Balabuva who was known as modern Tukaram and got him to do the ‘Kirtan’ that year. The next year (1914), another Balabuva Satarkar of Brihad Siddha-kavathe, district Satara, could not act as a Haridas in his own town, as plague was prevailing there 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, and since that time, he has been successfully and creditably conducting that function until now.
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 (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 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 SATCHARITRA (Chapter VI)
|| Aum Sai Sharnam || May Peace Be To All ||