Shirdi Sai Baba was a Muslim and refrained from taking bath in the Ganga river, said Dwarakapeeth Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand on Sunday, raising another unwanted or irrelevant controversy, almost a century after the demise of the saint, who rekindled hope among the destitutes.
Swami Swaroopanand questioned the disciples of Sai Baba as to why they bathe in the holy river with his idol when he used to call himself a Muslim.
Swaroopanand had earlier raised similar questions about worshiping Sai Baba saying it was part of a conspiracy in the early 20th century by people to divide Hindus.
Swaroopanand also reportedly said that followers of Sai Baba should not worship Lord Rama.
In fact, the early life of Sai Baba is still cloaked in mystery with no reliable record of his birth or his parents. It is believed that Baba was born somewhere between 1838 and 1842 AD in a place called Pathri in Maharashtra and arrived at Shirdi when he was a teenager and stayed on the outskirts of Shirdi in Babul forest and used to mediate under a neem tree for long hours.
Later, Baba moved to an old mosque, which he called “Dwarkarmai” (named after the abode of Krishna, Dwarka). He was revered by both his Muslim and Hindu devotees. He never distinguished himself as a Muslim or Hindu but preached belief in one God. “Sabka Malik Ek” was his revered saying.
He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to God, irrespective of religion or caste.
Sai Baba’s teaching often combined good elements of Hinduism and Islam. He gave the Hindu name Dwarakamayi to the mosque where he lived but practised Muslim rituals.
For Muslims, he was a Sufi saint and for Hindus, he was a Baba or Guru. All he said was “Trust in me and your prayer shall be answered”.
Here are his 11 assurances made to his devotees:
1. No harm shall befall him, who steps on the soil of Shirdi.
2. He who comes to my Samadhi, his sorrow and suffering shall cease.
3. Though I be no more in flesh and blood, I shall ever protect my devotees.
4. Trust in me and your prayer shall be answered.
5. Know that my spirit is immortal, know this for yourself.
6. Show unto me him who has sought refuge and has been turned away.
7. In whatever faith men worship me, even so do I render to them.
8. Not in vain is my promise that I shall ever lighten your burden.
9. Knock, and the door shall open, ask and it shall be granted.
10.To him who surrenders unto me totally I shall be ever indebted.
11.Blessed is he who has become one with me.
So, in all what Swaroopanand said was not new but stems from a parochial attitude to worship and faith that remained taunting Hinduism since the days of Manu in the Vedic period.