Sai Baba of Shirdi
Born September 28, 1838
Pathri, India
Died October 15, 1918
Era 20th Century
School Hinduism (Advaita Vedanta) and Islam (Sufism)
Sai Baba of Shirdi (September 28, 1838 – October 15, 1918), also known as Shirdi Sai Baba (Marathi: शिर्डीचे श्री साईबाबा), was an Indian guru, yogi, and fakir who is regarded by his Hindu and Muslim devotees as a saint. Hindu devotees consider him an incarnation of Lord Shiva or Dattatreya. Many devotees believe that he was a Sadguru, an enlightened Sufi Pir (Urdu: پیر), or a Qutub. There are many stories and eyewitness accounts of miracles he performed. He is a well-known figure in many parts of the world, but especially in India, where he is much revered.
Sāī is of Indian and Arabic/Persian origin, meaning “Sakshat Eshwar” or the divine. Some believe the honorific was bestowed by the priest Mahalsapati (a close devotee of Sai Baba), although Mahalsapti confesses that he does not remember giving the name of “Sai” to Baba.
The honorific “Baba” means “father; grandfather; old man; sir” in Indo-Aryan languages. Thus Sai Baba denotes “holy father” or “saintly father”.
His parentage, birth details, and life before the age of sixteen are obscure, which has led to a variety of speculations about Sai Baba’s origins.
Sai Baba had no love for perishable things and his sole concern was self-realization. He remains a very popular saint, and is worshipped by people around the world. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to God and guru. Sai Baba’s teaching combined elements of Hinduism and Islam: he gave the hindu name Dwarakamayi to the mosque he lived in, practiced Hindu and Muslim rituals, taught using words and figures that drew from both traditions, and was buried in a Hindu temple in Shirdi. One of his well known epigrams, “Sabka Malik Ek ” (“One God governs all”), is associated with both the Bhagavad-Gita and Sufism. He always uttered “Allah Malik” (“God is King”).
Though the debate over his Hindu or Muslim origins continues, many of his practices point more to his being a Muslim: believing in the unity of God, reciting Al-Fatiha and other Qur’anic readings at Muslim festival times, listening to hamds and qawwali twice daily, practicing salah, wearing clothing reminiscent of a Sufi fakir, consuming meat, and abstaining from alcohol. A mosque still stands in Shirdi, a place in which he once lived and continued to visit regularly. According to Purdom, when Kulkarni Maharaj requested Upasni Maharaj to pay a visit to Sai Baba, Upasni replied ‘Why should I go to a Muslim?'
Sai Baba is revered by several notable Hindu and Sufi religious leaders. Some of his disciples received fame as spiritual figures and saints, such as Upasni Maharaj, Saint Bidkar Maharaj, Saint Gangagir, Saint Jankidas Maharaj, and Sati Godavari Mataji.