As soon as the dates for our journey to the Param Dham were approaching, my worries and anxieties were increasing. On one side, I used to be worried about the difficulties we may face on the way as the journey was planned by train, which takes about 22 hours to Kopargaon Station from Delhi. We were about to travel by Sleeper class with our two children (age 4 and 10) and an aged mother in law. This was the first time our children were about to travel by train that too for such a long journey and we could not even get AC coach in spite of booking 3 months in advance. My 4 years old son falls sick very often. He gets throat and stomach infections frequently. We were worried as he got infection again before 6 days of the departure date and was continuing antibiotics till we left Delhi. Secondly, I was too worried about my meeting with Baba.
On our last visit to Shirdi (in 2008), I somehow could not feel the proximity and spiritual connection between me and Baba, though I used to feel myself very close to Baba in Delhi. But, gradually in these last 4 years facing many ups and downs in life, and specially after subscribing to Hetal Ji’ blog 2 years ago and reading various experiences of other devotees during this period (specially related to Shirdi visit), I started to realize that I could not feel the bliss in Shirdi because I do not stand anywhere comparing to the love and devotion other Sai brothers and sisters have for our beloved Baba. Whenever I would think about our upcoming visit to Shirdi, I would feel butterflies in my stomach thinking whether Baba will bless me now? Am I evolved enough to feel His presence there? Will Baba establish the spiritual connection between me and Him? Though Baba has been extending His helping hand always and His blessings have been endless (some of them I have covered in my yesterday’s post), but the desire to have His blessings in Shirdi was killing me. All my questions to Him concerning the visit would answer as your good fortune is coming, why do you worry, you will have a chance to meet saintly people, etc. All His answers were always positive, but my human mind was always worried.
Our journey finally started on 10th October and we didn’t have a single problem on the way. As soon as we checked in the hotel, Noon Aarti started in the Temple. The hotel was 2 minutes walking distance from the Temple and the Aarti could be heard clearly. We rushed to our room and saw live Aarti on TV. I had a desire to see Baba in purple colour, when I see Him first and Baba was looking too beautiful in purple on TV. I was too happy. We decided to refresh ourselves and go for Darshan after lunch as lines were expected to be shorter around 3-3.30 pm (I learned from experiences of fellow devotees). Accordingly, we went for Darshan and in spite of being Thursday within 30 minutes, we were in front of Baba. It was thrilling to see Him. He was wearing Magenta (not purple), but I consoled myself as to me the colour seemed purple on TV. After Gurusthan and Museum, we returned to the Hotel. Everyone went to sleep as they were too tired. I returned to the Temple for evening Aarti. I would like to mention here that there is a long queue only for the main Samadhi Mandir, but if we want to enter the Temple compound (Gurusthan, open air theatre / courtyard, donation counters, museum, parayan hall, nanda deep, etc.), we may enter from other gates anytime without any queue. I always used to enter from Gate No. 3, which takes straight to the open courtyard as I could see Baba (side pose) from the open window. This was my favourite place as I used to sit in the open courtyard and look at Him continuously. Somehow I could not concentrate on Baba, while in Samadhi Mandir as due to the heavy crowd, there are hits and pushes all the time as everyone wants to reach near Baba quickly. The best place for me was this open courtyard, where no one hits you, pushes you or asks you to hurry. Coming back to Day 1, I could attend the evening Aarti from the open compound looking at Baba on live TV and at night the Palki procession and then retired to the hotel. Day 1 ended, but I was restless inside. The reason was the same that I again could not feel His bliss! I was again worried and constantly thinking that Baba doesn’t consider me eligible to shower His blessings on me, to experience what others have been experiencing in Shirdi. With all such thoughts and arguments within myself, I slept and woke up suddenly at 4.15 am due to severe pain in my stomach. I went to the washroom and could hear “Om Jai Jagadish Hare”. Since I was already awake, I decided to go to the Temple. I quickly took bath and rushed to the Temple and felt lucky that I could attend at least half of the Aarti. Baba was looking so serene in orange night dress. Sitting at my usual place (open courtyard) and looking at Baba I could feel the divinity. Baba was then given Mangalsnan. I have never seen Kakad Aarti and Shej Aarti before, not even back home, so it was astonishing for me to see all this live, though on TV. But I was more than happy to look at Baba undisrupted (through that window). I noticed a queue of people on the other side which was getting longer. I didn’t know why people were standing there as the nectar was seen from this side. Soon, I realized. Within minutes after the Mangalsnan, a water container was put there and people started to fill bottles. It was holy water from Baba’s Mangalsnan. I had read it earlier on some devotee’s experience its importance and now repented for not being in the queue. I could get a little (Charnamrit) from another devotee, who got a bottle filled, but desperately wanted a little of this holy water for my son. Since I was not carrying any bottle with me, it was not possible and the queue was too long too. So I prayed to Baba to get me this holy water next morning as next day evening we were to start back for Delhi. I came back to my place to look at Sai. Baba was being dressed. The atmosphere was so divine, full of spirituality, bringing very positive vibes to the body, day was breaking slowly and Baba was being dressed in PURPLE. I was thrilled and could feel my eyes moist! The spiritual connection, which was I craving for perhaps had started to establish now. Soon I realized that Baba has now accepted me in His court as today I have come especially for Him unlike yesterday, when we wanted to be refreshed and have lunch first! I could get a leaf of Neem tree from Gurusthan as well. I still feel sensation, when I realize how lucky I have been during this visit as I could attend all 4 Aartis that day and Kakad and Madhyaan Aarti the next day (the day of our departure)! Baba had been instructing me to donate food for quite some time, so we had planned to do it on Saturday morning as it was my father in law’s Shraadh. Baba connected us with a lady named Padmavati (phone 07798028506), who sells murmura etc. near Chawadi and she agreed to cook khichadi (which was actually rice pulaav with nutrela) and halwa for next day morning. Other devotees, who want to donate some food may contact her as she willingly does that. We needed to pay her the money only and she arranged everything. Baba also gave us an opportunity to distribute some Vada Paavs to some beggars near Chawadi same evening. There was an old person selling some colourful threads (with beads, to tie on wrist) and insisted me to buy some. I really didn’t need any thread, so I was denying. He said that he needed money to eat. So instead of buying any thread, I gave him a plate of Vada Paav, which we were distributing at that time. He was happy, took the plate and went to a corner to eat. After few minutes he came again, without saying anything gave me two threads and left. I was so deeply touched by his kind gesture, as if Baba Himself came to me and blessed! There are so many blessings to be mentioned. Another very important one, which I will never forget in my life is about the bottle for His holy water. I wanted to have a half liter bottle for next day morning. We tried, but could not find any half liter mineral water bottle. So I asked my husband to buy a maaza / frooti bottle. We did have 1 liter and 2 liter bottles with us, but I didn’t want to be greedy. Even one drop of this holy water is so precious, so it should be used as Charnamrit and should be distributed to maximum number of people. I wanted a little for my son, so I was looking for a smaller bottle. We did buy a frooti bottle and I thought of using the same bottle next morning. But later in the evening, while at the Vada Paav stall, my daughter was thirsty and she noticed a half liter mineral water bottle, which I bought for her. The significance of this bottle was realized next day, which I will explain later. While going to bed, I again prayed to Baba to wake me up on time, so that I could get the holy water next morning. With Baba’s kind grace, I woke up at 3.30 am (Saturday, 13th October, which sadly was day of our departure) and was at Temple gate at 4.00 am. Since the frooti bottle was still not empty, I had taken with me that half liter mineral water bottle. I tried to pull off the wrapper thinking it is not required for Baba’s holy water, but it didn’t come out. The Temple was still not open. The guard asked me to wait for 15 minutes. There were 4 ladies already there waiting and I noticed that everyone had 1 liter empty bottle in hands. I joined them and sat beside them. Many people approached the gate after me, but the guard returned them all. And suddenly at 4.10 am, he asked all of us to go inside. I was the FIRST one to enter the Temple. I quickly went to have Baba’s first glimpse through my favourite window. Baba was looking awesome in dark green night attire. After His Darshan, I went to the Gurusthan, which was FULL with neem leaves. I collected leaves to my heart’s content (about 15). There were still lot of leaves scattered, but I left them for others as I know how all of us strive to get even one leaf! The other 4 ladies collected the other leaves. After that, I went straight to the place where the holy water was supposed to come after Mangal Snan. Though the Aarti was yet to begin and Mangalsnan was to take place only after Aarti. But I did not want to miss this last opportunity. Those ladies called me to come to the courtyard to have Aarti first, but I insisted to stay at the same place. The Aarti started and I started feeling the bliss. The atmosphere was again so heavenly. I perhaps cannot explain it in words. It can only be felt there. At the end of the Kakad Aarti, usually some bhajans are sung. The previous day the bhajans were the same as in the Aarti book. But this particular day, after the listed Bhajans, they started to sing “Thoda dhyaan laga Sai daure daure aayenge, akhiyaan mann ki khol tujhe darshan wo karaayenge”. This bhajan is very close to my heart as this is the first Bhajan I ever heard about Baba. It was sent to me by my sister from Australia (actually my Guru Sister as she is not my sister by birth, but we were connected through Baba and He has tied us into relation forever) about two years ago and since that day this particular bhajan is the ring tone of my mobile. I was already feeling divine, but as soon as this Bhajan started I was out of my senses. Though I remember each word of this bhajan, but I could not sing it along. My voice choked and tears started rolling. I could not understand whether all this was happening really or it was some very beautiful dream. I don’t know in which world I was, when someone shook my shoulder and asked me to stand up as the holy water had arrived. Coming back to my senses I filled my bottle and came to the courtyard to sit with my Baba. Baba was being dressed. While getting ready in the morning, I wore a green colour suit and I just thought – Baba, I am wearing green today, would you also wear green? However, I realized immediately that Baba was already in green (as He was dressed in green for Shej Aarti the previous night). BUT the miracles were not yet over. The tears, which I had controlled somehow, again started to roll as I saw that Baba was being dressed in very beautiful GREEN dress again! I was sitting still and just gazing at Baba. Thanking a ton for His loving and kind grace. This bliss, which I always wanted was flowing and flowing. Time was around 6 am and I noticed on TV that Dwarkamai was empty, so I thought of taking Baba’s Darshan there. I went there and noticed the cat sitting in the window (between Dwarkamai and Mukh Darshan Hall). I have read on some devotee’s experience that this particular cat stays in Dwarkamai and sometimes sits on devotees’ lap. I came out, but repented that I should have at least touched the cat. I went inside again, patted the cat and left satisfactorily. I returned to the Temple from Gate No. 3 and took my place in the open courtyard and started to talk to Him in my thoughts. I once again conveyed all the prayers of my friends / relatives, submitted my personal problems to His Holy Feet and expressed my heartfelt thanks for accepting me in His court, showing me His presence and arranging everything so beautifully for such a comfortable visit. But I was very sad too because only a few hours were left and we were to leave for Delhi. Due to my job, the daily routine back home is so hectic that I do not get enough time to do proper pooja. Even the prayers I recite while travelling to office. I was constantly thinking that with the end of this visit the Ananda which was being felt will also come to an end. I will be stuck in my routine immediately and who knows when we will get a chance again to visit our dear Lord, our Saviour. I somehow had same feelings as a newly wedded girl, who visits her parents for a short stay and has to leave her parents to go back to her husband’s home! Maybe because we had to wait for 4 long years to see our Baba and this visit seemed too short. I then bought some books from Sansthan’s Publication and left for the Hotel. Upon reaching our room, I noticed that the wrapper of the bottle carrying Baba’s holy water read SAI DHARA. I was again touched deeply. Though we had bought a frooti bottle especially for this holy water, but Baba made us buy this small mineral water bottle. On the way to the Temple in the morning, I did try to pull off the wrapper (without noticing the text) thinking it was not necessary to be on the bottle, but it did not come out. Now, I realized why it did not come out! Later, after the Noon Aarti, we distributed the Rice Pulaav and Halwa near Chawadi. We took our last Darshan in the Samadhi Temple and with heavy hearts took leave from Baba requesting Him to call us again soon. We took our night train on Saturday and reached Delhi on Sunday late evening. Though the visit to Shirdi ended with this but not His miracles! My husband joined the office next day (i.e., Monday) and I was supposed to join from Tuesday as I wanted to clear the laundry etc. on Monday. After reaching Delhi, we came to know that my husband’s office has arranged a Sai Bhajan Sandhya on Monday evening, which was 15th October (Baba’s Maha Samadhi Day). Even before my joining the office, before myself getting busy in my hectic daily routine, Baba made sure that I should continue to feel His presence around. He again showed that He listens to even smallest of our prayers too. The Sai Sandhya by singer Pankaj Raj was equally divine. And, during that blissful evening, I was again lost, when the same Bhajan (thoda dhyaan laga) was started. I closed my eyes and felt as if I was at the same place in Temple, Kaakad Aarti was going on with same divinity and Baba’s presence around!
I really couldn’t ask for more. Even now when I close my eyes and think about Baba, I see Him through the Temple’s window. Whenever I look at the watch, the first thought, which crosses my mind is that what Baba would be doing now? Such an attachment I have never felt before. I have returned to Delhi, but my soul is left somewhere there only and I pray to Baba to call us again soon because there is nothing more beautiful in this world than sitting in His temple and gazing at Him. Om Sai Ram!
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