Sai Baba’s Early Life – Part 1 of 4
The birth and early life of Venkusa (Baba’s Guru)
“In the state of Maharashtra, in a small village called Jambavavi, lived a householder named Kesavarao. He was of the Srivatsa gotra; Aswalayana sutra. He was diligent in the performance of his religious duties and had the Vaishnava signs tattooed on to his body as a mark of his undying adherence to the faith. His only desire was for a child to bless his household. He used to constantly pray to Lord Venkateswara for his grace in granting him progeny. He performed many yajnas and religious austerities to get a child. While so, once he had a dream.
The one who is dark as the rain bearing cloud; the one with his eyes shaped like lotus leaves; the one who is tall and who has the mark of Srivatsa decorating his broad chest; the one with the a smiling face; the one wearing the auspicious yellow silk cloth; the one who has the auspicious red mark of saffron on his forehead; that supreme being with the conch shaped neck; the one shining in the shimmering glare of the jewels such as the famous Vyjayanti etc; the one who is armed with the mace, discus and conch in his hands; the one whose right hand always open and raised in benediction to show that it is his mission to grant boons to his devotees – that God of Gods – Sri Mahavishnu blessed Kesavarao in his dream with his darshan. He said, “Child, do not despair that you have no son. Ramananda who had gained fame in Kasi in the past as a repository of wisdom will be born to you as a son with the mission of saving the world.” He thus gave the boon of progeny to Kesavarao. But Kesavarao was not fully satisfied. He said, “My lord, what is the use of having a child who will soon become a sanyasi? How is my family going to thrive? Your boon seems to be as useless as a tree without fruit, a pond without water, a night without the moon or musk without its perfume. To that the almighty replied, “Do not worry; your son will be a householder. That is his mission for this birth. As was Eknath in Paithan, as was Damaji in Dhana, so will your son be a very rich man.” He gave a coconut as his prasad to Kesavarao and vanished.
“Kesavarao awoke in the morning. He called his wife and said, “My wife, the Lord Venkateswara has at last taken pity on us. He has blessed me with his darshan in a dream last night and gave me this coconut as his prasad. Eat this with reverence. The infamy you had gained as a barren woman will be removed soon. You will soon give birth so a beautiful boy who will be a great devotee of God.” The husband and wife devotedly ate the coconut mentally repeating the holy name of the lord Venkateswara.
“Kesavarao’s wife was soon with child. The supreme amongst sadhus, Ramananda had entered her womb. As she neared her seventh month, she used to say to her husband, “Let us go to the king and ask him for some wherewithal for our sustenance. We must do annadanam at our house. Let us give to charity and proffer the accumulated merit to God. We must bear all these expenses.” After nine months were completed, Ramananda was born in Jambuvavi village. He was named as Gopala. The lord Panduranga had already made arrangements for the upkeep of that boy. In due course of time Gopala married and became immersed in the dharma of a grihasta, looking after the guests and the destitute. He would always be thinking as to how he could be of more use to the others of the world. Once he went to a village called Selawadi. He could not find a decent enough place you stay there.
There were only a few dilapidated huts there. The villagers approached him and said, “Maharaj, we have no way of knowing whether you are a rich man or a prince. But there is no place to stay in this village for folks such as you. A person with your stature requires mansions, carriages, horses, servants, carts and many more. None of them is available here. Bhagavan Sri Krishna resided happily in a cow shed. He thus changed the fortunes of Gokula. In the same way we request you to reside here and change the fortunes of this wretched village. You are aptly named after Sri Krishna as Gopalarao. Your stature and the lustre in your face tell us that you must be either a prince or his representative. You are our only hope. Your stepping into this small wretched village bespeaks of a change in our fortunes. From now on you and only you are our master.”
Gopalarao liked their speech and sincerity. He decided to build either a fort or a stronghold there. As he wanted to reside there, he got people of eighteen trades such as Brahmins, carpenters, blacksmiths, potters and cloth weavers etc and provided them with sufficient land for their houses and grants. Who else but a rich lord can do all this? As the parijata, the foremost among the flowers, makes us happy with the pleasure of its perfume, so does the king protect and cherish his people. Gopalrao then changed the name of Selawadi to Selu (or Sailu) and by the might of his shoulders made it a principality (Desmukh Jagir) of the Zintur State. He became its jagirdar (administrator whose responsibility is to collect the revenue on behalf of the king and provide law, order and protection to the people) and was henceforth known as Gopalrao Desmukh.
(SRI SAIGURUCHARITRA – by devotee Ganpatrao Dattatreya Sahasra-buddhebetter known as Das Ganu Maharaj)