Let me clarify at the outset that I am not a devotee of Sai Baba of Shirdi (District Ahmednagar, MaharashtraState). More than 35 years ago, I was District Collector of Ahmednagar and have witnessed his legacy. I might say that I am in great awe of him and I find his life fascinating. Millions of Hindus and Muslims form the main plank of his devotees, not without reason. And even Christians and Parsis are part of the worshipping ranks.
Each of our lives is marked by known history and unknown mysteries. Often, one even tries to understand one’s own mind, own self, and not always successfully. Sometimes, each of us is a stranger to himself. No wonder, Socrates went about the Agora in Athens asking each one he met, “Do you know yourself?” and ended up irritating most of them! That public irritation was one of the serious factors causing his trial and death by being forced to imbibe poisonous hemlock.
The famous Shirdi Sai Baba also presents several mysteries for his biographers. But if we regard his known history alone, his life comes out as highly fascinating enough. His birth year, month and date are not known but his death was on 15th Oct 1918. He was born at Pathri (District Parbhani) under Nizam’s Dominion and moved over to Shirdi as a grown up. Details of almost all his youthful years till arrival in Shirdi are unknown like the 18 dark and unknown years of Jesus Christ. It seems that Sai Baba has mentioned that he was a soldier for Rani of Jhansi (1857) and so his year of birth would have been perhaps between 1835 to 1840.
As we study him, you might want an answer to the following questions: (1) What was his education? (2) What did he preach? (3) Was he a scholar and was he well acquainted with scriptures? (4) Did he perform miracles? (5) Did he worship and do pujas? (6) How did he die? (7) Are there photos of Shirdi Sai Baba? You may have some more questions too in your mind.