Sai Temple at Saidham Wadi, Girgaum, Bombay
[Originally published in Shri Sai Leela (Marathi), May 1974]
Near the Congress House on the Vithalbhai Patel Road, in Girgaum, there is a Sai Temple which is known as Shri Saidham. It is visited by many Sai devotees on every day; but it is frequented regularly by a number of Sai devotees on every Thursday. The place, where this temple is situated, was once upon a time known as Duart Wadi, but because of this Sai temple the place is now known as Saidham Wadi.
Shri Balaji Vasant Talim, the famous sculptor of Bombay, founded in his Talim Art Studio in December 1952, the institution known as ‘Saidham’. The Sai temple in the Saidham Wadi is situated just near the aforesaid studio. Shri Keshavrao Bhole, who is a sincere Sai devotee and who takes keen interest in the spread of Sai cult is one of the chief active members of ‘Shri Saidham’. In the vicinity of the Talim Art Studio, there is an Audumbar tree. The devotees of Guru Datta believe that God Datta resides under this tree. Some Sai devotees believe that Shri Sai Baba is an incarnation of God Datta. Shri Keshavrao Bhole, the first Pujari of this temple, got an intuition that he should build a Sai temple near the aforesaid Audumbar tree for the facility of the Sai devotees staying in Bombay. Shri Bhole informed his friends and Shri Talim, the owner of Talim Studio, about this order of Shri Sai Baba. Shri Talim, who was himself Sai devotee, liked the idea and it was decided in the first meeting held in Talim Studio that if the owner of the land is prepared to grant the necessary permission, then a Sai temple should be erected at the site. As every good idea meets with success, the owner of the land, Shri Bhausaheb Talim, immediately agreed to part with the land on lease for the purpose of erecting a temple. When the question of the land was thus solved, a fund for erection of the temple was started immediately and a few donations were assured on the spot. Shri Talim therefore, carved the statue of Shri Sai Baba and having installed it temporarily in one hall of his own studio started the Sai Mandir. In this hall the temple was kept open to the public only for two days in a week. On Thursdays the temple was kept open up to 12 noon and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Fridays the temple would be kept open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Nearly fifty thousand rupees were required to erect a separate temple, while the trustees were able to collect only rupees twenty thousand upto that time, when it was declared that the hall in Talim studio would not be allowed for use as a temple any more. In order to tarry over this difficulty, Shri Kashinath Triambak Dalvi, the owner of firewood depot nearby, came forward and he offered a part of his depot for keeping the idol of Shri Sai Baba and carry on there the Pooja and Aarti according to the wishes of the devotees. In course of time, however, the place was found too small for the devotees and it also interrupted the business of Shri Dalvi. Though he was a member of ‘Saidham’, he was forced to suggest to the trustees to find out a suitable place for the temple, the Trustees were, therefore, again in a fix and they started running helter-skelter in search of a place for the temple.
The true urge of the Sai devotees did not go unheard. By the grace of Shri Sai Baba, one old Christian lady in the Duart Lane, offered her house for the purposes of hoisting the temple; but the main stumbling block was the finance, in order to purchase the building, an amount of Rupees 56,000 was necessary. Number of Sai devotees therefore, decided to subscribe liberally towards the fund. By February I960, the necessary amount was collected and the building of Mrs. Valentine was duly purchased by the trustees of ‘Saidham’. Shri D.D. Neroy, the famous block maker and artist presented an imposing portrait of Shri Sai Baba to Saidham on the same day on which the trustees purchased the building. In Shirdi, Shri Sai Baba converted the Masjid into Dwarkamai. Similarly the house, of a Christian lady was modified into a Sai temple! The house was then remodeled so as to appear like a temple. This modification in the house cost additional twenty thousand rupees. In order that the public may know about this temple, an exhibition of ‘Rangoli’ was arranged wherein the scenes from the life of Shri Sai Baba were depicted. This exhibition was inaugurated by the famous Congress leader Shri S. K. Patil. After the usual ceremonies of Sacrifice etc the temple was inaugurated by Shri Yeshwantrao Chavan, the then Chief Minister of the Maharashtra state, on the Gudi Padwa day in I960. At the time of the installation of the statue of Shri Sai Baba, the great Saint Tukdoji Maharaj was present.
The statue of Shri Sai Baba in the Saidham is in the sitting posture. The statue is finished so nicely, that if you gaze at His face, you feel that Shri Sai Baba is actually conversing with you. The left hand of the statue is resting on the ‘Lode’. The background of the statue is decorated in silver and there is a silver umbrella hanging over the statue. There are the ‘Padukas’ in front of the statue and there is a box for donations near them. This statue is carved by the famous sculptor, Shri Balaji Vasant Talim. It may be mentioned here that the imposing statue of Shri Sai Baba in the Samadhi Mandir at Shirdi is also carved by Shri Talim himself. Schedule of Aarti at Saidham is almost the same as at Shirdi. The ‘Kakad Aarti’ starts at 5 a.m. and Shej Arati takes place at 10 p.m. At 6 p.m. also one Aarti is performed. At the time of all the Aarties, Sai devotees gather in the Mandir in large numbers. Festivals are celebrated in the Mandir round the year and Abhisheks and Satyanarayan Poojas are also being performed very often.
The dream of Shri Keshavarao Bhole to build a Sai temple under the Audumber tree near Talim studio was thus fulfilled. In the garden in the rear of the Mandir attempts were made to plant two or three Audumber trees but they failed; but one Audumbar tree rose out of the ground and it has now grown up to a good height. This tree is supposed to be a miracle. At present the Aarti is also conducted under this tree.
Shri Sai Baba was of opinion that the service of the human beings was also as good as the worship of God. Hence on the Gudi Padwa day in 1961, a Charitable Homeopathic dispensary was started at Saidham for the poor and needy people. Dr. Rajadhyaksha, Dr. Anasuya Dhumatkar, Dr. Merchant and other famous doctors used to attend the dispensary and gave medicines to the patients coming to the dispensary. A nominal fee of 25 paise for the adult and of 15 paise for the child is charged for the medicines in the dispensary.
The hall of the Mandir is quite spacious and can accommodate about five hundred people. Cultural and educational films are screened in the hall from time to time. The office of Saidham is just adjoining to the hall. The Dhuni at Shirdi is burning all the time; similarly an oil lamp is constantly burning in this temple.
Shri Dattatraya Bhaskar Malpekar is the President of Saidham for,thepast several years. All Sai devotees should visit this holy Mandir whenever they find time.