First Temple Of Sai Baba – THE TEMPLE AT BHIVPURI
Sri Shirdi Sai Baba has become a part of the mainstream of Indian spiritual and temporal life within a short period of attaining mahasamadhi. We can now see Sai temples not only in the big cities but also in small towns and villages of India, and more and more temples are being built.In this page we will learn about the Sai temple built at Bhivpuri 1916, when Sri Shirdi Sai Baba was still in his physical body.
Bhivpuri Road is a small railway station which comes before Karjat on the train route from Mumbai to Pune. If one gets out at this station and looks right towards the fields, a temple spire is clearly visible. This is the Sai temple at Bhivpuri. It is a short walk across the fields to the temple.
This temple has a very interesting history. The story behind its construction reveals the astonishing manner in which Baba pulls his devotees to him. It is unbelievable but nevertheless true that the founder of the temple, the late Sri Keshav Ramachandra Pradhan, was initially an atheist. Sri Pradhan was working for a Parsee gentleman of Mumbai as a pedhi (a collector of debts owed to his employer). He lived in Bhivpuri and would commute to Mumbai to work. In the course of his job he would frequently go to Manmad, Nasik and Kopergaon. Pradhan had a close friend who was a devotee of Sai Baba. He would often go to Shirdi and return after having darshan of (seeing) Sri Sai Baba. Once, Pradhan visited his friend when he was about to leave for Shirdi. He asked Pradhan to accompany him and to have Baba’s darshan. Pradhan, who had no belief in God or Godmen, initially refused to go with him. Finally, however, he gave in to his friend’s persuasion and agreed to go, but not to set foot inside the mosque where Baba lived. His friend accepted the compromise and they set out for Shirdi together.
The friends reached Shirdi and stayed in the wada. As it was time for the noon arati, Pradhan’s friend went to the mosque but Pradhan stayed in the wada. The bell rang from the mosque for the arati and Pradhan could hear it from his room. The deep gongs of the bell stirred him as never before. He was enchanted by the sound and unknowingly started walking to the mosque from where this heavenly sound was issuing forth.
He reached the mosque and sat in a corner. Looking at Baba, he was immersed in a state of bliss. After the arati was over the other devotees took udhi from Baba and left the mosque. Pradhan was still in a state of bliss and was unaware of everything but Baba. Sri Shirdi Sai then called Pradhan to draw near and asked him for dakshina. Pradhan had Rs 2500 in his pocket. This was the amount he had collected for his employer from the various debtors. He took out the entire cash from his pocket and, placing it all in Baba’s hands, returned to his room still in the same state of bliss. A little later, Pradhan came to realise that he had given the entire amount to Baba and was surprised that he could do such a thing with his employer’s money. His friend told him not to worry as Baba would take care to see that Pradhan would not get into any trouble because of this.
Pradhan started back via Kopergaon from Shirdi in a horse-cart. It was only after he reached Kopergaon that he realised that he had no money, even for the hire of the cart. He requested the cart man to take his ring, sell it and return the remaining cash after taking his fare. While this was going on a well-dressed gentleman, unknown to Pradhan, arrived. After inquiring about the matter he not only paid the cart man but also bought a ticket to Mumbai for Pradhan and left as mysteriously as he came.
Pradhan reached Bhivpuri. He did not know how he could face his employer and tell him that he had used all the money which he had collected. To gain time, he sent word to his employer that he was sick and would come to work once he had recovered. The employer sent word back granting leave till Pradhan was well enough to return to work. He also wanted to know why Pradhan had sent double the money he had collected and what he was to do with the excess? Pradhan saw Baba’s hand in this and was thrilled to the core of his being by the kindness shown to him by Baba. He was electrified that Baba had showered his grace on him to such an extent in the very first darshan. He became a staunch devotee of Baba and would often go to Shirdi to visit Baba and take his blessings. Pradhan would plead with Baba to come to Bhivpuri whenever he went to Shirdi.
Once, in 1916, Baba gave his statue to Pradhan and said, “Go to Bhivpuri. Build a temple for me there. Keep this statue in the temple and worship it. You need not come to Shirdi any more.” Pradhan returned to Bhivpuri but did not follow Baba’s instructions. When he next came to Shirdi Baba said, “When I have come to your house, why have you come here? Bhivpuri is your Shirdi. Go there and do as I told you.”
In a few days Pradhan built a small temple near his house at Bhivpuri and ceremoniously installed the statue of Baba; regular worship was started. This temple is located in a place which is green with trees and beautiful to the eye. In the silence of the night the sound of the temple doors opening would sometimes be heard. Baba’s form would be seen coming out of the temple and resting under a tree in the front yard. The sound of the temple doors closing would be heard again at three in the morning. All these leelas were experienced not only by Pradhan and his family but also by their guests who stayed overnight. Pradhan had no doubt that Bhivpuri was indeed his Shirdi and he became an even more ardent devotee of Baba. The temple was developed to include an inner chamber, a big hall in the forecourt, a verandah and guestrooms for the use of visiting devotees.
Sri V V Gupte, Pradhan’s son-in-law, took an active part in conducting the various affairs of the temple and helped further develop it. Sri Gupte had first visited Shirdi in 1936 and experienced bliss at the sight of Baba’s samadhi. He prayed fervently to Baba to make the temple at Bhivpuri as glorious and awesome as the Samadhi Mandir at Shirdi. Baba answered his prayers and the Bhivpuri temple became famous with more and more devotees visiting it.
Pradhan passed away in 1939 and responsibility for the temple fell on Gupte’s shoulders. He started an organization for running the temple called the “Sri Sadguru Sainathuni Seva Sanstha”. The rush of visitors increased and the existing facilities became insufficient. Funds were inadequate to do all that was necessary to meet the huge influx of devotees. Finally, Baba’s help was sought. A devotee called Narayan Purohit started the formal reading of Sai Baba’s life. On the fourth day Baba came to him in a dream and said, “Where is my dhuni? How can this be Shirdi without a dhuni? How can my temple be complete without a dhuni?”
As he had the dream twice, Purohit informed Gupte and it was decided forthwith to build a dhuni as instructed by Baba. Sri Valvalkar, the grandson of Sri Hemadpant (author of Sri Sai Satcharitra – Baba’s life story and leelas), first lit the dhuni on the Ramanavami day of 1949. Ramanavami and Baba’s samadhi festivals are celebrated here with great fervour and glory.
(Source: Sai Leela magazine, September 1976)
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