(Justice Noolkar, when unwell and unable to move, actually saw from Sathewada, what Baba was doing in the masjid, playing with Bappaji and Baba gave the entire vision of what had happened in the masjid, to Tatyasaheb by way of a miracle as if that had happened in front of his eyes, as desired by him.)
(He introduced for the first time, Puja to Baba by waving lighted lamps around Baba in an arch)
Tatyasaheb Noolkar alias Laxman Krishnaji Noolkar was born in the later half of the 19th century and was educated at Poona High School. In 1908 Tatyasaheb was working as Sub Judge at Pandharpur and Nanasaheb Chandorkar was also working as the Mamlatdar at the same place. Tatyasaheb earned a good name in his profession and was noted for his firmness, truthfulness, selflessness, benevolence and self control. He was also good in spiritual matters as he was in the habit of reading Upanishads and other religious books regularly. He was also in the habit of visiting saints. Nanasaheb once told and urged Tatyasaheb to visit Shirdi at least once. At last Tatyasaheb agreed to go to Shirdi on two conditions:
1. He must get a Brahmin cook immediately and
2. He must get good Nagpur oranges for offering to Sai Baba.
In response to his demands, Nanasaheb said, “Yes, with Baba’s Grace you will get them also”. Surprisingly, the same night one Brahmin cook came to Nanasaheb for a job and he immediately sent him to Tatyasaheb. Next day morning also Tatyasaheb received a parcel of excellent Nagpur oranges, but the name of the consigner was not mentioned on it. Thus Tatyasaheb was convinced of Baba’s divine powers and he went with Nanasaheb Chandorkar to Shirdi. Tatyasaheb was short in stature and fat. As he bowed down at Baba’s feet, Baba placed his hand on Tatyasaheb’s head lightly but with a little force. As a result, Tatyasaheb fell down towards the nearby pillar, but at that time mixed feelings appeared in his mind and got convinced that Baba was his real Guru, and that he was in the state of ecstasy.
In that night while sleeping in Sathewada, he woke up and asked Nanasaheb who was also there, for beeda for chewing even though Nanasaheb was not in the habit of using it. Just at the same time Baba from the masjid asked someone present in the masjid to take beeda and give it to the old man who came with Chandorkar and was in Sathewada. On seeing that man suddenly coming with the beeda who gave it to Talyasaheb. Tatyasaheb was convinced beyond doubt about Baba’s supernatural powers of knowing the thinking in every body’s mind and his faith in Baba was further strengthened manifold. Tatyasaheb then returned to Pandharpur but whenever he got leave or holidays, he used to visit Shirdi for Sai Baba’s darshan.
In Shri Sai Satcharita, Tatyasaheb’s experiences were not mentioned in detail and this is perhaps Hemadpant did not have access to more information about Tatyasaheb.
This detailed information came to light when B.V.Narasimhaswami came across Tatyasaheb’s grandson, by name Shri Raghunath Vishwanath Noolkar from whom Swami received lot of information based on Raghunath’s personal observation of his father’s instances which were published as an article in Sant Kripa magazine and these were not known to earlier devotees.
Once Tatyasaheb had some dangerous eye disease.and was unable to see properly and pain was unbearable. He tried all types of treatments from well-known eye-doctors, there was no improvement He then came to Shirdi. He stayed in Sathewada and was praying to Baba continuously.. On the third day, he went to Baba who placed his hand on Baba’s (his)own eyes, and said to Shama “Today My eyes are paining severely”. As soon as Baba said these words, Tatyasaheb’s eye pain started becoming less and less and soon the eyes were cured completely.
In those days, there was no regular worship of Baba except accepting garlands brought by the devotees. But later on, Baba started allowing devotees to apply sandal-paste to his fore-head, and offer him flowers. It was Tatyasaheb who introduced for the first time puja to Baba by offering arati by waving of lighted lamps around Baba in an arch and this practice started on a Guru Pournima Day and later this became the practice as narrated by Tatyasaheb in his letter to Nanasaheb. Thus, the regular worship of Baba with arati and with singing of Arati song and playing of musical instruments started at that time which was continued further. He was one of the three important devotees (others being Khaparde and Booty) who always kept silent in the presence of Baba and was also in the habit of obediently following Baba’s orders in all matters, personal as well as official.
While working as Sub-Judge at Pandharpur, he had to dispose off a case. There were two groups of priests, viz., Badvas and Utpats, in the temple at Pandharpur. One group consisted of Badvas who were the priests for Vithoba while the other group was Utpat priests who were the priests for Rukmini. The common men and the devotees in general and the varkaris mainly, felt very much harassed by the goings-on and the differences between these groups. At the root cause of all these fights and disputes in the village, were these two groups. The differences had reached extreme limits. At this stage, a court case regarding Arati-rights of the famous Vithoba Temple came up before Tatyasaheb and based on his usual truthful nature he had delivered a judgement against the expectation of the public. Then he took leave and went to Shirdi along with his family.and went to see Baba, Baba then enquired Tatyasaheb as to how long he would stay in Shirdi. For this, Tatyasaheb expressed his desire to stay in Shirdi for a long time and not to leave Shirdi. He also requested Baba to permit him to stay in Shirdi only. He also said that in the court he had decided a case concerning Lord Vithoba. The Badavas and Utpats (both the groups of priests) were in the habit of behaving very rudely in the temple with the visiting Varkaris (frequently visiting devotees due to their religious proclivity). They used to harass such devotees at the time of the Aarati. Incidentally it is worthwhile to mention here about Jyaneshwar Maharaj who wrote the commentary on Jyaneshwari Geeta at the young age of 15 years in the year 1290 was a varkari leader. There was a legal dispute as to who had the right to perform Aarati. He gave judgment ruling that the Aarati was not the prerogative of Brahmins alone and that even the common man had the right to perform it. This judgment became important and was against the wishes of the priest community and by this judgment he brought about discipline in the Temple and put an end to the antics of the priests. He also requested Baba not to allow him to hold the pen in future to write such judgments, Baba said that the judgment was good and reasonable but also said that Tatyasaheb’s wish would be accomplished.
Justice Noolkar laid the foundation for the future developments in the puja performance in the temple. Some of the lower caste persons like Namdev, Chokhamela, Tukaram and others by degree of their devotion to Lord Vithoba, became saints irrespective of their castes. Lord Vithoba was so generous that He did many miracles in the lives of the above saints and also manifested before them. Lord Vithoba symbolizes an ocean of compassion for such people. There was lot of resistance and opposition in allowing entry to the temple, Namdev, Cokhamela, Tukaram and others belonging to lower castes by the Badve and Utpat priests controlling the temple rites. This was contrary to the views of Lord Vithoba Himself. In a recent Supreme Court decision, the Badves and Utpats, hereditary priests at Pandharpur, have been stripped of their powers. Vitthal Rukmini Temple Trust (VRTT) managing the administration of the temple, is now appointing shortly its first batch of women priests, having some rituals knowledge, belonging to the backward (non-Brahmin) classes. This is the only Hindu temple in the country to appoint such women priests. This is in tune with the divine desire of Lord Vithoba, Lord Krishna and Lord Shirdi Sai Baba. The recent judgment of the Supreme Court is in tune with the spirit of Justice Noolkar
Incidentally a few words about devotee-varkaris: Varkaris are devotees who were visiting every year, the temple of Lord Vithoba in Pandharpur as a tradition in the pursuit of their devotional approach. All people belonging to all castes can become varkaris. Prominent among them are Jyaneshwar Maharaj, Namdev, Janabai and other saints with Jyaneshwar Maharaj as the leader of the Varkari group during their times.
Saint Bhanudas was the great grandfather of saint Eknath, who who was instrumental for having returned the idol of God, Lord Vitthal back to Pandharpur from Hampi, where it had been taken and kept by the King Srikrishnadeva Raya of Vijaynagar Emphire for safety purposes. Fortunately, the idol of Lord Vitthal was brought back to and installed in Pandharpur temple much before the decline of the Vijayanagara Emphire.
Based on research conducted by Sri M.B.Nimbalkar, it was Noolkar who was permitted by Baba and who did first Gurupoornima day celebrations in Shirdi with all the sixteen puja items and that happened to be a Saturday, 3rd July 1909 where Dada Kelkar, Jog, Shama were also present along with others. This information was collected based on the letter written by Noolkar to Nanasaheb Chandorkar who was not present in Shirdi to witness the first Gurupoornima day celebrations to Baba. Though it was not clear about the exact date of first Gurupoornima day celebrations, this date was construed based on certain events.
When Tatyasaheb arrived this time, Baba pulled out one ‘Kafani’ from the heap of kafanies and placed it on Tatyasaheb’s body saying, that it would protect him from severe wind and cold”. But he felt that this was a sort of initiation into the fourth stage of life, i.e.sanyas diksha as per his desire and he accepted it with ecstasy and then placed his head on Baba’s feet.
While in Shirdi, he had no other thought in his mind except that of Baba.and he was thinking of having Baba’s darshan continuously and he was unable to move to the masjid because of his sudden sickness. One day he told his elder son, Dr. Wamanrao to go and request Baba about his desire to have darshan of Baba. Wamanrao went to the masjid and conveyed Tatyasaheb’s desire to Baba. Then Baba replied, “O.K. He will have darshan. Allah Bhala Karega.” At that time when Wamanrao went to the masjid, there was nobody else in the masjid except one or two small boys. Whenever boys used to get into the masjid, Baba used to play with them happily. At that time Baba was in a playful mood and Laxman Mama’s son Bappaji was also present. Before the masjid on the road, one hawker selling clothes was passing through. The hawker then went to the verandah in a house and the villagers started looking at the various pieces of clothes. Bappaji also went there and seeing the colourful cloth pieces, he wished to have a piece of cloth for tying round his head. So Bappaji selected and picked up one red coloured brocade piece and coming to Baba said, “Baba, may I take this?” Baba replied, “Yes, take it.” So Bappaji unfolded the cloth and tied it round his head and bowed down at Baba’s feet. Baba then fondly pinched and pulled Bappaji’s cheeks and Bappaji removed the cloth from his head and placed it on Baba’s head and started laughing. Baba also allowed it to remain on his head for some time and looking all round in dignity and gave a smile. Then Baba removed it and placed it on Bappaji’s head. Bappaji again placed it on Baba’s head and Baba again returned it on Bappaji’s head, and these things repeated for a while. After this was over, Wamanrao returned to Sathewada.
Then, Tatyasaheb asked him as to what had happened in the masjid and what all Baba said. Since the above happenings were of routine nature and not at all special, Wamanrao replied, that nothing had happened thereand that he conveyed the desire of his father to Baba. But Tatyasaheb was not satisfied with the reply and wanted to know what all had happened there, whether important or unimportant. So Wamanrao narrated the above incidents about Bappaji’s brocade cloth. On hearing the detailed narration from his son, he felt extremely happy and tears of joy started flowing from his eyes and he told his son that he had seen all these incidents that took place in the masjid and that he had Baba’s darshan continuously and then he told his son, “Go and tell Baba that I had His darshan.” He actually saw what Baba was doing in the masjid playing with Bappaji and Baba gave the entire vision of what had happened in the masjid to Tatyasaheb by way a Leela, as if that had happened in front of his eyes.
During childhood, Tatyasaheb and Nilkanth Ramachandra Sahasrabuddhe were close friends while studying at Poona High School. After leaving the school, they did not meet each other during the last several years. Nilkanth suddenly landed at Shirdi from Bombay at the instance of Nanasaheb and Dixit, who paid him the railway fare and also gave a note to Shama.
After a few days, Tatyasaheb’s sickness started getting worse. Nilkanth, his school-friend was always ready to serve others and also served Tatyasaheb this time. Tatyasaheb’s two sons were present and were also serving him. The elder son ‘Wamanrao’ was a doctor. In Shirdi in those days, there was no hospital or any medical shop. Wamanrao then sent a telegram to Bombay and got medicines and needed equipment to Shirdi and operated on the carbuncles on the body of his father and bandaged them. Nilkanth also assisted as a nurse all the while including during the nights. It looked as though Tatyasaheb did not wish to be cured and he did not appear to be praying to Baba for any cure.
He asked his both sons to sing Bhajans. Everybody knew that the end was approaching. Wamanrao, his brother Viswanath, their mother and Dixit and some others were present at that time. Tatyasaheb disclosed a desire to get holy water from Baba’s Feet. It was almost past 1-00 o’clock in the night. Who could dare to go to Baba at that midnight. But Shama went to the masjid with a vessel. Baba got up from his place and roared and enquired as to why Shama came at that midnight. Shama requested Baba and asked him to give the holy water from his feet as Noolkar was in the death bed and that he desired holy water from Baba’s feed as his thirtha at his last moment. With these words, Shama came forward and then Baba put forward his toe and Shama immediately dipped the toe in the water in the vessel and carried the vessel and fulfilled the last desire of Noolkar. That was the intimacy Shama had with Baba. Udi was applied to Tatyasaheb’s forehead, he opened his eyes clearly and looked around and Baba’s Pada-Tirtha was given to Tatyasaheb for three times and then Tatyasaheb breathed his last. At that time Baba said in the masjid that behind the masjid a big star had collapsed. Then Baba came out from the masjid and shouted loudly, beating his mouth with hands. Whenever a dear devotee passed away, Baba used to behave like this. Baba also said that Tatyasaheb was a good man, and that he would have no further birth.
In the interview by Narasimhaswami, Raghunath produced some proof by way of a letter from Shama in his own hand-writing and a letter written by Tatyasaheb to Nanasaheb about Tatyasaheb’s spiritual attainments. Swami had thus collected lot of information about Tatyasaheb’s instances and about his beatitude at the feet of Baba in March, 1911.The following three paragraphs are taken out from the articles written by Shri B.V.Narasimhaswami’s interview in about 1936.
To show how much Sai Baba loved Tatyasaheb, his grandson Shri Raghunath Vishwanath Noolkar, narrated to Narasimhaswami one more incident along with a copy of a letter dated 20th December 1912 in Shama’s own handwriting as proof and what his grandson expressed to him was reproduced below:
Our grandfather died at Shirdi in 1911 at the age of 48 years. Afterwards my father (Tatyasaheb’s younger son Vishwanath) to satisfy the wishes of our grand-mother (Shrimati Janakibai) got a locket prepared, in which on one side there was Baba’s photo and on the other side that of my grandfather Tatyasaheb. The locket was sent to Shirdi by registered post, the idea probably being to get it back after Baba touching it and blessing it. When the parcel reached Shirdi, what actually happened at the Masjid, was conveyed to my father by Shama by a letter in Marathi language and its English version is given below.
Shirdi Shri Date 20-12-1912
Yesterday on Thursday the 19th instant, at the time of Arati, the postman delivered to Sai Maharaj the locket parcel sent by you. Sai Maharaj took it and moving the box round His face, kissed it. He then said to me, “There are two persons in this” and handed over the parcel to me. On opening the box I found in it the locket with photos and the letter from your mother. I read out the letter to Sai Maharaj and handed over the locket to Him. He held the photo in His hand for about 15 to 20 minutes and showed it to almost every person who came for Arati, saying, “This person took me away with him.” These exact words said by Sai Maharaj have been written down and sent to you by me. The locket has been handed over to me for safe custody.
My respects to your mother.
From the above letter, we can imagine how much Baba loved Tatyasaheb Noolkar. By saying “There are two persons in the locket”, Baba had, as if, equated Tatyasaheb with Himself and certified the advanced spiritual status of Tatyasaheb and looking at Tatyasaheb’s photo in the locket, Baba said, ‘This person took Me away with him”, it seems as if Baba had confirmed that, after death, Tatyasaheb’s soul had been merged with that of Baba.
The compiler has written the article under Saibaba’s afflatus-divine inspiration after referring to the universally available material traceable to several common sources existing everywhere containing facts, ideas and incidents about Saibaba and the compiler expresses thanks to the writers concerned in this regard. An attempt has been made in this article to collect the information about the years of happening of certain important events and of miracles, in a chronological order but it is really difficult to know these details precisely for want of historical details in certain instances despite a serious attempt to collect them. The information compiled in this article is based on the compiler’s best knowledge gathered from several sources and the compiler has brought out the article with expressions of his own. The readers can use the material for their information/welfare at their discretion and the compiler is not responsible in any manner whatsoever in this regard. While every attempt has been made to collect the details accurately, the compiler is not responsible for the correctness of the details. The compiler also appreciates his children who have helped him in the compilation / sequencing and the chronological arrangements of the incidents. The article is not meant for any commercial use. There is no copy right for this article and this article is placed in the public domain for wider publicity