Sai Baba of Shirdi, also known as Shirdi Sai Baba, was an Indian spiritual master who is regarded by his devotees as a saint and a fakir. He is revered by both his Hindu and Muslim devotees, during as well as after his lifetime.
Baba reportedly arrived at the village Shirdi, Maharashtra, when he was about sixteen years old. Although there is no agreement among biographers about the date of this event, it is generally accepted that Baba stayed in Shirdi for three years, disappeared for a year and returned permanently around 1858, just after the Indian Rebellion of 1857. This posits a possible birth year of 1838. He led an ascetic life, sitting motionless under a neem tree and meditating while sitting in an asana.
Sai Baba also condemned distinction based on religion or caste. It remains unclear if he was a Muslim or a Hindu. This, however, was of no consequence to Sai Baba. His teachings combined elements of Hinduism and Islam.
One of his well-known epigrams, Allah Malik (God is King) and Sabka Malik Ek (Everyone’s Master is One), is associated with both Hinduism and Islam.
The word Sai refers to a religious mendicant but can also mean God. Thus Sai Baba denotes holy father, saintly father or (venerable) poor old man.
The Shirdi Sai Baba movement began in the 19th century, while he was living in Shirdi. A local Khandoba priest, Mhalsapati Nagre, is believed to have been his first devotee.
He advised his devotees and followers to lead a moral life, help others, love every living being without any discrimination, and develop two important features of character: faith (Shraddha) and patience (Saburi). He criticised atheism.
In August 1918, Shirdi Sai Baba told some of his devotees that he would soon be “leaving his mortal body” (dying).
Towards the end of September, he had high fever and stopped eating.As his condition deteriorated, he asked his disciples to recite holy texts to him and continued to meet visitors. On 15 October 1918, he breathed his last.
Because of Sai Baba, Shirdi has become a place of importance and is counted among the major Hindu places of pilgrimage.
Today, the Sai Baba Temple in Shirdi is visited by an average of 25,000 pilgrims a day and during religious festivals, this number can reach up to 100,000. Temple is managed by the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust.