Sai Baba of Shirdi
(c. 1856–1918)
   revered ascetic
   Sai Baba was a highly charismatic ascetic and teacher of the early 20th century, whose influence carries to the present.
   The early life of this Indian holy man is almost completely unknown. It is believed that he was born to a BRAHMIN family in a village in Hyderabad state, India, but the particulars of his family and lineage have not been discovered. He left home when he was eight to follow a Muslim teacher. When this teacher died, he associated with a Hindu guru named Venkusa. At age 16 he appeared in Shirdi, a village in Maharashtra state, where he kept to himself, remained silent except in response to questions, and begged for food.
   After he had for some years appeared in public in Shirdi, people reported miracles and spontaneous ecstasy in his presence. He report-edly visited people in their dreams and healed the sick. In 1908 he began to be worshipped as a god.
   Sai Baba’s teaching emphasized devotion to a guru. He advocated VEGETARIANISM, taken from Hinduism, but also used Muslim MANTRAS and prayers. He advised all to remain in the faith in which they were born but to attend the festivals of other religions.
   Sai Baba’s grave in Shirdi is a shrine and place of pilgrimage. He is considered one of India’s most famous holy men. His influence extends through several spiritual teachers who were influenced by him. MEHER BABA spent time with both Sai Baba and one of Sai Baba’s followers, Sri Upasani Baba. SAT YA SAI BABA considers himself the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi. Both Meher Baba and Satya Sai Baba have worldwide movements.
   Further reading: Arthur Osborne, The Incredible Sai Baba (New Delhi: Orient Longmans, 1957); P. D. Sham Rao, Five Contemporary Gurus in the Shirdi (Sai Baba) Tradition (Madras: Christian Literature Society, 1972); Kevin R. D. Shepherd, Gurus Rediscovered: Biographies of Sai Baba of Shirdi and Upasni Maharaj of Sakori (Cam-bridge: Anthropographia, 1986).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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