Dr.Keshav Bhagvan Gawankar (fondly called as Appasahib) was born in the Vaishak Shukla Paksha Panchami of Shake 1828, i.e., on 28th April 1906, Saturday in Arnala fishing village of Vasai, around 40 KM northwest of Mumbai. His ancestors also hailed from Aarnala. His family worshipped Lord Ganesha regularly and was abundantly blessed by the Lord. In fact the entire family was very spiritually inclined.

His father, Bhagvan, worked as a contractor, selling coal and wood for fuel. Thus he was hardly at home, as he went to the forest to procure fossils. They lived in a large jointly family, and looked after each other.

His Uncle Vitthal Kaka knew a good astrologer, called Vithoba Anna Purandhare, who made his horoscope. He was pleasantly surprised to see it and told the family that the child was destined to be a great saint.  On the day of Christening Ceremony, all the friends and relatives had gathered together to celebrate the occasion. The father decided to name him Ram, while others in the family suggested the name of Madhukar. Finally they agreed to name him as Ram. Before placing the child in the cradle for the christening, the child started crying uncontrollably. The doctor checked him but found nothing wrong with him. Then his uncle looked at the horoscope again and found that the name ought to start with the letters “Ke”. His uncle then whispered in his ear, “We will name you Keshav, O.K.”, and the baby at once stopped crying. Thus he was eventually named as Keshav.

One night young Keshav was sleeping in the cradle, it was past midnight. His mother wanted to check on him, but she was not fully awake. It was pitch dark, so she decided to light the lantern. While doing so, she accidently dropped the lighted match on Keshav’s bed clothes and it caught fire. With difficulty the fire was put out, but the child was unscathed and safe.

Keshav’s childhood was a happy one. He was the favorite of his uncle Vitthalpanth and aunt Tammabai. His parents dotted on him, and he was the apple of their eyes. Keshav played and frolicked like any other children in his neighborhood.

He was initiated into education with the mantra “Shri Ganeshaya Namaha. Aum Namaha Siddha”. When Keshav was 7 years old he started going to school.

At   the   age  of   seven,  Keshav  suddenly   took   ill.  He  developed  a  high  temperature and cough. His mother made him comfortable, and laid him in his bed. She checked him a little while later and by that time he was “burning with high fever”. The doctor was called in, and the diagnosis was “empyema”. His chest was congested and full of puss.

The illness was severe, and daily Keshav ran a temperature of 104 degrees. Many remedies were given to him, but there was no sign of improvement. Various doctors came and examined him. Ultimately the summoned Dr.Badkamkar M.D., and Dr.Rao suggested surgery. Vitthal Kaka, his uncle, took more opinions. All but two of the doctors suggested surgery.

When Dr.Badkamkar asked for his consent for surgery, Vitthal Kaka did not consent. He said that the surgery would cause Keshav a great deal of pain and suffering. Besides there was no surety that he would recover. Thus three months elapsed, and the family lost hope of his recovery.

Meanwhile, Yashvantrao Galwankar happened to visit Shirdi along with his father-in-law Anna Sahib Dabolkar. He returned to Mumbai with Baba’s Udi, Pada Teertha and Baba’s photograph. Immediately he went to Keshav’s home and gave Vitthal Kaka all the precious things he had brought with him. Then he said, “Kaka, for a long time various remedies have been tried on Keshav, but of no avail. Why don’t you resort to Baba, take a vow of some sort, and fulfil it when he recovers”.

With great devotion Vitthal Kaka placed Baba’s photograph on the table. He lit a lamp, burnt dhoop, did Aarti, and garlanded the photograph. Lastly, he placed his head at Baba’s feet and said, “Hey, Sainath, I have never met you. I have only heard of your kindness and compassion. My Grandson, Keshav, is at death’s door. I beseech you to cure him with this prayer, I also offer this coconut. If he recovers I vow to offer you 5 seers of peda”. Then he took the Udi and Teertha, touched these to Baba’s feet and went to Keshav. At that time Keshav was unconscious, so he put a drop of teertha in his mouth, applied udi on his forehead and placed the photograph on his chest.

It was usual for Vitthal Kaka and Tammabai to sit at Keshav’s bebside. It was past midnight at that time, and Tammabai dozed off. Then she had a vivid dream and in that dream Baba came to her home and asked her for a coconut. Thammabai kept a coconut in front of Baba’s photograph and prayed to Him resolve the problem that Keshav Rao was undergoing. Same night in  the  dream,  Baba appeared.  Then  He  went  near   the  boy,    touched  him   and   passed  His   divine   hand   from  the  boy’s head   to  toe.  He  blessed  him  saying,  “Allah  will  set  everything   right.”(  Allah  Bhala  Kar  Dega....in  Hindi.).  Next  moment   He  disappeared   and  dream  came  to  an  end.

Tammabai got up and checked Keshav, he seemed cold. Startled, she started crying loudly, for she thought that Keshav had died. This woke the rest of the family and they came running to see what had happened. Dr.Galwankar, who was sleeping upstairs, also came down. He examined Keshav, his pulse was regular and his fever had come down, thus he had cooled off. He reassured the family and everyone went back to sleep.

The next morning Dr.Galwankar found that Keshav’s vest was wet and stuck to his chest. He cut the vest and found a small hole below his right nipple, and from it puss was oozing out. He applied pressure around it, and a lot of blood mixed with puss came out. After this was drained, Keshav recovered slowly but surely. Soon he resumed going back to school.

Gradually, Keshav regained his health. Like any other child he went to school, and played with other children. It is quite common for people to take a vow, when they are in trouble. But fulfilling it immediately is not always possible, either they forget it, or due to some circumstances are unable to fulfil it at once. This is exactly what happened with Vitthal Kaka.

After 5 years, in the month of January of 1918, they finally made the pilgrimage to Shirdi. Keshav accompanied his youngest uncle, Ramachandra Panth and Aunt Tammabai in  order  to  fulfill  the   pledge   taken. Keshav  was   then studying at  primary   school,  in  fifth  class.

They went to the Dwaraka Mai to have darshan of Sai Baba. Many devotees were standing before Baba. Hence, he and his family also stood beside them for their turn to come. Baba turned and looked at Keshav and beckoned him to come close. Then Baba said, “Arre, where are my pedas?”. Ramachandra Panth went forward and gave the packet of Pedas to Keshav.

Though the Pedas were exactly 5 seers as per the vow, a few more pedas were added. Baba took the packet from Keshav’s hand. He then gave 4 pedas to Keshav, and devoured the whole lot at one sitting. Shama who was nearby asked,  “ Deva,  what  is  this  going  on ?”   Immediately   Baba replied,   “This   boy   kept   me  starved  for   five   long  years ! So  I  am  eating  with   such  a  voracity.” Five years ago Keshav was at death’s door, and Baba in a dream vision had cured Keshav.

Just prior to his visit to Shirdi, Keshav had his thread ceremony. Is head was shaved except for the tuft (Shikha) of hair. Suddenly, Baba caught Keshav’s shikha, and with a great deal of force, pulled his head, and placed it on his feet.

Keshav saw a brilliant light, and quivers went down his spine. He was shaking and shivering at the same time. Thus Baba blessed this child.

Baba looked into Keshav’s eyes and asked him for dakshina of 2 paise. Shama who was next to Keshav took his hand and extended it towards Baba. The gesture was as if Keshav was giving Baba the dakshina. Baba also extended his right hand, then Shama told Keshav to say “Diya” (I have given it).  Baba made a gesture of receiving it and said, “Liya” (I have received it). Then he made a gesture of putting it safely in the pocket of his Kafni. Then swiftly he took off his Kafni and covered Keshav with it. All this time Keshav was in ecstacy and his body was still quivering.

Everyone felt Keshav was too young to receive Baba’s Mahaprasad, the Kafni. Shama intervened on Keshav’s behalf and said, “Deva, let me keep this Kafni for Keshav. When he is older I will give it to him”. This is what Shama did; he gave it to Keshav at a later date. His descendants have the Kafni, and it’s well preserved.

On the very first day of his visit to Shirdi, Keshav went for Baba’s darshan. Baba took a banana, peeled it and fed him just as one would feed a small child.

On the fifth day Keshav went for darshan early in the morning. Baba was sitting in front of the Dhuni, and Bhagoji Shinde was untying his bandages. As soon as Baba noticed Keshav standing there, Baba called him to come near, and sit in front of him. Then swiftly, and with a great deal of force Baba slapped Keshav across his face. So forceful was the slap that Keshav’s cap flew off.

On the 7th day, he and his family went to seek permission to leave. The rest of his family stood and did namaskar. Keshav also did the same. Baba held his hand and pulled him to a sitting position. Then Baba gave him a stinging slap across his face. Baba then gave him a palm full of Udi and said, “Go my son; Allah will be good to you”. With this blessing Keshav and his family returned home.

In the year 1938, Dr.Gawankar got a vivid dream. In it Baba appeared and said, “Baala (child) what can I do for you?. Henceforth start celebrating Ram Navami Utsav and tie me a cradle”. So, the first Ram Navami Utsav was started in Chaitra Suddha Padya of the Hindu calendar in the year 1938.

The doctor got a beautiful cradle made; now all that remained was to get an equally beautiful Idol. All his friends and relatives searched high and low for the Idol for nearly two months, but could not find a suitable Ram Idol. Finally, it was decided to place a photograph of Shri Ram in the cradle. This was done and the function started, but Gawankar was dissatisfied.

He went and sat in front of Baba’s photograph and cried, “Deva according to your wishes I have started the Ram Navami Utsav, but I cannot find a Idol of Ram to place in the cradle, and until I find one I will stop eating any food”. Water was all that he ingested, but his daily routine was the same as before.

That year Ram Navami was on Saturday, and it was Thursday and still no Idol was found. As usual he went to his clinic, it was full of patients. They were seated according to their turn; amongst them was a new patient that he had not seen before. The doctor went to him and inquired about his health. He replied, “I will wait for my turn and then meet you”.

When his turn came he stood in front of the doctor. He had on a shirt and coat on top of a dhotar with a punari pagdi on his head, and wore punari shoes. The man was dressed like the person who helped Yashwant Deshpande. The man approached Gawankar, handed him a parcel saying, “Now I am going” and left.

Gawankar did not know what was happening for a moment. Then he opened the parcel and was stunned to see that it contained Lord Ram’s Idol. He was overjoyed to see the beautiful idol, but at the same time he was filled with anguish and remorse. He cried out, “Deva, I could not recognize you”.

He and his family started celebrating Ram Navami and Vijayadashmi in their home, in Kurla. He did annadan on both these festivals. In 1937, he had a vivid dream. Baba said, “Bhikshecha Bhakari le gode” (The Bhakari obtained by Bhiksha is very sweet). He got about 50 kgs of Bhajri (a grain) and Jhunka Bhakari was made out of it. (Jhunka is a dry dish made with chopped onions, green chillies and gram flour. Its like a dry pithla and bhakari is flat bread made from Bhajri flour and roasted).

About 200-300 people ate to their hearts content. Before the annadan was started, 11 Jhunka Bhakari was offered to Baba as Naivedya. Of the Naivedya offered, one Bhakari was left in front of Baba’s photograph. The rest was made into small pieces and distributed. Wonder of wonders, the Bhakari even after more than 35 years was neither stale, bitter or covered by fungus, nor eaten by ants. But the Bhakari over a period of time was taken to their homes by Devotees as “Sai Baba’s Prasad” and hence cannot be seen now in the house of Dr.Sainath Gawankar.

Made of white cotton, the Kafni (Kurta) worn by Baba has become pale yellow over a century after it was stitched. Until 1993, it was kept carefully folded in a wooden box. Later, Dr.Sainath Gawankar Son of Dr.Keshav Bhagvan Gawankar brought it out and kept it on a hanger inside a wood-framed glass cupboard for regular 'darshan' of devotees who visit this sacred house. Dr.Sainath Gawankar used to open it for soft cleaning for a couple of hours only during Dasara Day. It has become frail over the years. Hence, the family does not allow anybody to even touch it. Very few, may be a couple of hundred devotees who knew about this gift to his father, come for 'darshan' annually," says Dr.Sainath Gawankar.

Dr.Gawankar’s family is indeed a blessed family since the entire family members were forturnate to have Shri Sai Baba’s darshan at thier ancestral house "Indira Niwas" on Monday, 18th January 1954, 36 years after Baba had taken Samadhi on 15th October 1918.

"I was only five years old at the time, but the entire family clearly remembers the divine image of Shirdi Sai Baba sitting here. He and my father engaged in a long conversation. I could see them as they sat in the verandah from 10.30 PM to 8.30 AM the next morning," Dr. Sainath Gawankar says, pointing to the exact spot, 59 years later.

In  1964, one  day, Dr. Annasahib  retired   from  the  day’s  work  and  went  to  bed  as  usual. He  was  fast  asleep.  After  midnight  his  sleep  was  interrupted  and  he  was  in  a  half-awake-state.  He  clearly   heard   Sai Baba,  who  said, “Come  on, Get  up and start writing my stories.”Dr. Annasahib   was  quite   sure  that  it  was  Baba’s  voice. He   immediately  rose   from  the  bed.  After   a  sincere   prayer  to  Baba  he  started   writing  the  biography   of  Baba. He  noted  the  time. It  was   1.30  after  midnight.  He  was  so  much  entranced  in  writing  that  he  did  not  stop  till  10  O’clock  in  the  morning! During  that  short  span  of  time  he  had  completed  twenty-one  chapters  of  the   book , “Shirdiche  Sai Baba.”  Sai Baba  got  this  ‘Seva’ (service)  done  by  Dr. Annasahib. This  too  is  a  grace  of  Baba,  that  He  gave  an  opportunity  of  the  service. The  biography   was  completed  in  due  course.  But  Annasahib  was  worried   about  it’s  publication.  He  had  no  funds  for  spending  on  it.  Sai Baba   is   still   alive   in   “Sanjeevan  Samadhi”  and  he  obviates   the  difficulties  of  his  devotees.   One  day  Shri  Ramanlal  Patel  came  to  Dr.  K.B. Gawankar (Annasahib),  and  offered  him  Rs. 4000/- for  the  publication  of  the  book. Shortly thereafter  it  was  published  and  was  quickly  sold  out  at  the  hands  of   many  devotees. The first marathi  edition  was  published  in  1966. After, over  forty  years,  by  the  tireless  efforts  of  Dr. Sainath  Keshav  Gawankar,  the  second  marathi edition  came  out  in  2006. In the later years, the book was translated to Gujarati as well. The Hindi, Telugu and Kannada versions of this great work of Dr.Keshav Bhagawant Gawankar is going on in full swing.

Dr.Keshav Bhagawant Gawankar was the Chairman of Shri Sai Baba Sansthan 1954. It was during this period, that the Marble Idol of Shri Sai Baba was installed in Samadhi Mandir.

Dr.Keshav Bhagawan Gawankar, Nana Saheb Rasane & other Sansthan Trust Members

There is an interesting story behind the installation of the Marble Idol of Shri Sai Baba. A controversy arose as to who should perform the Prana Pratishtapan of the Idol as Swami Sharananand was a Sanyasi and he was not eligible to do the Prana Pratishta. Then chit was put before Baba. In the chit the name Dr.Kehsav Gawankar came. However, since Dr.Gawankar and family had not arrived in Shirdi, it was decided that Dev Saheb andand his wife would perform the Prana Pratishta. In the meantime, the bus in which Dr.Keshav Gawankar and his family were travelling along with 16 other Brahmin Pundits got punctured and came to halt near Atgaon village situated between Shahpur and Katara. As the driver of the bus took the wheal to get the puncture rectified, Dr.Gawankar’s family members and 16 others took bath in the nearby river. Later, the driver of the bus came back and they started again towards Shirdi. But, somehow, one Brahmin Pundit did not board the bus and nobody took notice of him. Later the Brahmin Pundit caught hold of another truck and joined these people an hour later. The family along with Brahmin Pundits reached Shirdi late in the evening.  By that time Dev Saheb and his wife were about to perform the Prana Pratishta of the Idol. Seeing Dr.Gawankar and his family had arrived and in accordance with the verdict that came in the chit, Dr. Keshav Gawankar couple did the Prana Pratishta of the Idol. Since Swami Sharananad was a Sanyasi, he was not to perform the Prana Pratishta of the Idol. Hence, Swami Sharananad was given the honours of opening the curtain that was put in front of the Idol.  

He was the editor “Sai Leela” magazine for many years. He was also the author of three books on Shri Sai Baba in Marathi namely “Shiladhi” “Shirdiche Sai Baba” and “Sai Baba Hach Chamatkar”.

Dr.Keshav Bhagvan Gawankar died peacefully on the auspicious day of Ashadha Suddha Ekadashi on Saturday, June 29, 1985, at the age of 79, in the same house in Kurla, blessed by Sai Baba's divine visit. Annasahib  was  counting  his  last  few   hours.  Dr. Argikar, M.D.  had  come  to   examine  Dr. Annasahib. He  said  to  the  physician,“Doctor,  (Argikar), I  am   able  to  see  the  seven  levels. I was  asked  my   ‘Beeja-Mantra’  and  stories  from   epics.  Sai Baba  is  building   a  bungalow  for  me !  I  can  see  it…….”.        In  the  evening   he  said, “  See !  Those pilgrims  of  Pandharpur  are  waiting  there. Make  arrangements  to  feed  them. If   you  do  not  have  money,  take  it  from  me. Store  enough  rice  for   Guru Poornima,  which  is  approaching.  My  bungalow   is    ready !.......”. In this way, Dr. Annasahib  left  his  body  at  the  feet  of  Sai Baba.  Hundreds  of  his  devotees   came  for  his  last  Darshan  and  paid   their  obeisance  to  their  guru. Baba  had  told   Annasahib, “I   will  be  always  with  you .  Though  you  will  remain   fakir   till  your  end,   your  sons  will  rise  in  their  lives.”  

During the later years, Grandson of Late Govind Raghunath Dabholkar alias Hemadpant and Sai Mahabhakta Dev Baba alias Anant Prabhu Walavalkar guided Dr.Sainath Keshav Gawankar’s family towards Shirdi Sai Baba as their spiritual Guru.

As per the advice of his elder brother Pramod Gawankar (eldest son of Dr.Keshav Bhagawant Gawankar), Dr.Sainath K.Gawankar started a registered public trust namely “Dr.Anna Sahib Gawankar Sai Seva Trust, Mumbai” along with family members and some dedicated sai devotees in the year 1991 and is continuing the tradition of conducting Bhajan Sandhya, Annadan and other cultural programmes during the Kojagiri Poornima festival in Shirdi. Shri.Moreshwar Gawankar another elder brother is taking care of this Trust which is situated in Mulund (E), Mumbai. Kaka Mahajani and Dr.Yashwant Galvankar were doing the Kojagiri Poornima festival till the year 1931. In the year 1931 they entrusted the responsibility of conducting Kojagiri Poornima permanently to Dr.Keshav Bhagawant Gawankar. Since then this festival is managed by Gawankar’s family with the cooperation of Shri Sai Baba Sansthan.

The ancestral house “Indira Niwas” which is a two-storeyed chawl almost a century old, precariously standing on a busy main road in the Kurla suburb of northeast Mumbai. This is the same house that Shri Sai Baba visited and gave darshan to all the family members. The ancestral house Indira Niwas in kurla is under redevelopment project for a  duration of 3 years.

The address is:

No.158,Indira Niwas,
Near Bank of Maharashtra,
Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg,
Kurla West, Mumbai-400 070,
Maharashtra, India.

Dr.Sainath K.Gawankar is married to Smt.Asmita Sainath Gawankar and is blessed with  Dr.Dnyanesh Gawankar, only son who is working as a General Surgeon in Mumbai and leading a peaceful life at his new Kurla residence in Mumbai.

We have given below the contact details of Dr.Sainath Gawankar Son of Dr.Keshav Bhagvan Gawankar for the benefit of Sai devotees:

Name Dr.Sainath Keshav Gawankar

No.402, Sunny Co-operative Housing Society,
L.B.S.Marg, Kurla,
Mumbai-400 070.
Maharashtra, India

Contact Numbers +91 22 2650 8830/+91 98198 17587
Email Address dnyaneshgawankar81@gmail.com
Website Address Not Available

(Source: Personal Interview with Dr.Sainath Gawankar on 4th March 2013 and 28th September 2014, “Baba’s Vaani” by Sai Bhakta Vinny Chitluri,  Article “A Mumbaikar's secret family treasure” by Media Journalist, Quaid Najmi – IANS India Private Limited, Kum.Shamshaad Ali Baig, Navi Mumbai; Photo Courtesy: Shri.Dnyanesh Gawankar, Mumbai and Shri.Nagaraj Anvekar and Shri.Chandrakant Jadhav, Bangalore).