Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A frank and very interesting article about Hari Vinayak Sathe, devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba

Given below is an article about Hari Vinayak Sathe using as sources, B.V. Narasimha Swami's book, "Life of Sai Baba Volume III" as well as an inteview of the great grand daughter of Hari Vinayak Sathe, Smt. Aishwarya Sathe in Oct. 2015! The article,, comes across as very truthful, even showing some weaknesses of Hari Vinayak Sathe. I find the article to be a fascinating read. The article has pics of a shawl and a silver box consecrated by Shirdi Sai Baba and given to Hari Vinayak Sathe. It also has pics of a silver medal given to H.V. Sathe by British Queen Elizabeth!!! Note that H.V. Sathe was a senior bureaucrat (Deputy collector or something like that) in the British ruled Indian government then.

Given below are a few extracts from the above article.

Rao Bahadur Hari Vinayak Sathe was a Deputy Collector and a Settlement Officer in the Bombay Presidency. He was long remembered for his first great service to Baba’s faith by building the first chatram or chavadi so to speak at Shirdi. He put it up in the year 1905-06. Baba’s fame had already spread abroad considerably and people having to visit Baba could not get accommodation in the very few hovels and houses there, and had often to stay under trees. So, Sathe’s Wada served as a great comfort and help to people in their Shirdi pilgrimage to see Baba. His second great service was the beginning of congregational worship by Baba’s followers, as he had provided the first Poojari who conducted the congregational worship of all. That pujari’s name was Meghashyam known as Megha.

The most noticeable feature about Sathe was that at the age of fifty he married again after the loss of his wife. He had lost his wife some four or five years earlier, and she had left him only daughters and no sons. Every Hindu feels that unless he has a son, his spiritual position is unsafe. Sathe was anxious therefore to have a son, but there was no guarantee that the second wife would get any sons and not more daughters. So, he declared to his importunate friends who asked him to marry that if any great saint should advice him, he would do so. In 1904, he was Deputy Collector at Ahmednagar. He went down to Kopergaon, where Mr. Bharva was the mamlatdar and Mr. Bharva told him that Sai Baba living at Shirdi within Kopergaon taluk was a very great saint. So, both of them went in 1904 to see Sai Baba at the Mosque. After seeing Baba, H. V. Sathe came out without putting him any question. But Mr. Bharva told Baba, “Saheb has no son”, and then Baba replied that if he married, God will give him a son. As he stood in front of the Mosque, these words were heard by H. V. Sathe. Then, the question was about the bride. There was also the question of confirmation of Baba’s view. Sathe was orthodox and considered it necessary to get an able astrologer. There was one who had arrived at Poona to read his horoscope and find out whether Baba’s statement was corroborated by a reading of the horoscope. When the astrologer looked into his Horoscope, he declared that Sathe was to have male progeny only after his fiftieth year, that is, after 1905. So, Sathe was confirmed in the idea of marriage. Ganesh Damodar Kelkar had a daughter for marriage and he wrote to Sathe, when he was at Ahmednagar, asking him whether there was any bridegroom to suit his daughter. Thinking this was a feeler Sathe sent the reply, ‘There is no bridegroom here, but if you are thinking of me, carefully consider all the pros and cons and let me have your views’. So, Ganesh Damodar Kelkar offered his girl and after the girl was taken to Baba at the instance of Sathe, Baba put kumkum on her forehead and said, send the girl to Ahmedabad.

So, in 1906 H. V. Sathe married Dada Kelkar’s daughter. After the marriage, when he went to take blessings from Sai Baba, He consecrated the Shawl and Silver Box and returned them with His blessings. But the first two children born to H.V.Sathe couple were girls. Hence, when Dada Kelkar went to Baba saying, “When are we to have a grandson”. Baba’s reply was, “I am requesting Allah. He will comply with my request.” So, in 1912 a grandson was born, hale and healthy and now represents the family at Poona. This marriage and providing a son was considered the principle service of Baba to Sathe.

As for Guru Poornima Baba told Dada Kelkar on a Guru Poornima day, don’t you know that this is a Guru Poornima Day? Come with your worship materials and do your Guru Pooja. So, from that day, every year Gurupooja is being conducted by all devotees at Shirdi. And still, at other times, it was individual puja alone. It developed into congregational puja when H. V. Sathe sent a Brahmin named Megha to Shirdi. Megha was a very peculiar orthodox Brahmin. He did not even know his Gayathri. But he did not wish to go near Muslim or have anything to do with the worship of Muslims. Sathe found him living at Viramgaon when he was the Deputy Collector there. He found Megha always repeating Namas-Sivaya. So, finding that he was sufficiently pious, Sathe taught him Sandhya and Gayathri and sent him to Broach to worship Siva there. After he did Siva worship at Broach, Sathe sent him to Shirdi telling him that Siva was in flesh and blood at Shirdi in the form of Sai Baba and gave him the necessary money. But at the Broach railway station, Megha learnt that Sai Baba was a Muslim and he was horrified. What? Have I to go and bow to a Muslim and pray? He thought. He requested Sathe not to send him to Shirdi. But Sathe insisted and gave him a letter to Dada Kelkar who, he said, would introduce him to Baba and make him understand Baba. But when Megha went to the Shirdi Mosque, Baba got angry and would not allow him to get into the Mosque. Baba said, “Kick out that rascal” and asked, “What a fool is this Saheb to send this man here?” Megha then went away to Triambak and worshipped Gangadareswarar for a year and half. He suffered there from severe pains in his abdomen. During that time he got faith in Baba and came back to Shirdi. Dada Kelkar interceded on his behalf and Baba allowed him to stay at Shirdi and worship him at the Mosque.

Megha died in 1912 at Shirdi. Baba’s appreciation was shown by his coming to the corpse and placing his hands over it saying, “This was a true devotee of mine”. Baba bore the expenses of the funeral dinner and Kaka Saheb Dixit carried out his order.

About Sathe’s other benefits from contact with Sai Baba, we may first mention that by Baba’s direction and guidance, he had success in some of his official efforts. He had applied for pension, and the pension granted in the first instance was less by Rs. 50 than what it ought to have been. Then Sathe sent up petition to the Government protesting against the reduction. Baba asked Dhumal, who came to him for Rs. 50 dakshina. Dhumal pleaded that he did not have the money. Then Baba told him “Go to Saheb and ask for it.” Dhumal went and asked, and Sathe was very glad at the demand for that was an indication to him that his petition then pending with government was successful. He gave the dakshina, and as he learnt subsequently it was on that very day the order on his petition was passed, for the grant of the extra Rs.50 pension.

As for Sathe’s religious position, there was nothing special in his attainment or attention to religious or spiritual matters, and he did not go to Baba for religious development. But Baba of his own kindness wanted to correct his errors and train him alright. For instance, on one occasion when he was at Shirdi, his thoughts got loose and he went to visit the house of a lady who had a very doubtful reputation. Before going there, he paid his respects to Baba. Baba asked him, “Have you been to Sala?” (Meaning that lady’s residence) Then Sathe answered, “You have made me Deputy Collector. Would I have become that unless I went to school?” Baba, finding that he mistook his meaning, kept quiet. Later in the day, he visited that lady. There behind a close door or partly closed door, he was carrying on a conversation which would soon have hurled him into spiritual ruin. But suddenly the door was flung open, and at the threshold stood Baba, who waved his arms and made gestures to Sathe telling him, “What? You have come all the way to your Guru and you are descending to hell.” Well, at once, like a thief caught in the act, Sathe repented. Baba disappeared and Sathe left that Sala and never visited her again. Thus, his purity was saved by Baba.

Baba’s help to Sathe was mainly on the worldly plane, though Baba gave him repeated inklings of his antarjnana. But unfortunately Sathe had not even a fraction of the faith which Chandorkar, Dixit, and others had. On one occasion the Collector and several Settlement Officers were to meet him at some railway station. So, Sathe wanted to go from Shirdi. But Baba told him not to start. But still he wanted to go, his official ideas of punctuality standing in the way of appreciating and obeying Baba. He could not understand the reason for Baba’s stopping him. Then Baba told Kelkar, “Lock him up for three days and then let him go.” For three days he could not quit Shirdi and then when he went, he discovered that Baba somehow knew that the Settlement Officers and others had cancelled their programme and there was no meeting at all that day.

In religious matters more than in others, faith is wanted, and Sathe thought he should go to others for upadesa. For instance when others were going to Sakori to Upasani Baba for upadesa, he also considered why he should not go there to get upadesa. There was also a lady called Attabai of Sangola. There was Ganapat Upasaka. There was the yogi of Moregaon named Vinayak Patak Maharaj. These offered to give upadesa to Sathe. Sathe consulted Baba about Upasani Maharaj in person through Dada Kelkar in the latter two cases. Baba dissuaded him. Baba wanted him to concentrate, Ananyachinta, and have firm, exclusive faith in Himself, as he could look after every interest of his, temporal and spiritual. Unfortunately, Sathe could not rise to the full height of Ananyachinta. Like Upasani Maharaj, Sathe also got mixed up with local clashes. There were a number of people at Shirdi who were dead against him as they were against Upasani Maharaj, the chief of them being Nana Wali, a religious ascetic, who was a bully and a terror to most people there. The reason for Sathe’s unpopularity was mostly in connection with his starting a Dakshina Bhiksha Sansthan.

In December 1915, he had a call from Baba, and at Baba’s bidding, he formed a society of which he himself was the president. It ran a journal called Sainath Prabha. The object of the society was to collect or recover a part of the money distributed by Baba daily and with it run the Shirdi Sai Sansthan. But this attempt to control receipts from Baba made Sathe unpopular. Nana Wali thought that he would be doing a good service to Baba and to the village by getting rid of this unpopular man Sathe. Some of the leading villagers on account of their bitterness against him held him responsible for the loss to the Sansthan by theft of some articles like silver horses from the palanquin and troubled him in other similar trivial matters. In January 1918, even lawyer’s notices were served on him. Baba advised him to be patient and give a suitable reply. Baba said that he would protect him and that no proceedings would be taken against him. Really no proceedings were taken against him. However, the villagers still continued to regard this reserved and high placed Sathe with dislike and on one occasion Nana Wali took up a huge axe and stood at the entrance to the Mosque probably with a view to attack Sathe when he entered the Mosque. Dada Kelkar sent word to Sathe that this bully was standing with a big axe ready to hew him down if he should go to the Mosque. H. V. Sathe beat a hasty retreat from Shirdi and never visited it again.

H. V. Sathe was once asked how he continued to believe in Baba, even though Baba could not save him from the mischief of Nana Wali. Sathe replied, “Just as the Minister of the Peshwa was murdered right in front of Vittal at Pandharpur. That did not however prevent people from believing in Vittal even though Vittal did not save him, similarly his own faith in Sai Baba was unaffected by Nana Wali’s threats.

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[I thank the author(s) of the article,, and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their article on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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