Mahalsapathi was a poor devotee (hereditary goldsmith known as Sonar Community) of Shirdi village who worshipped his hereditary deity Khandoba (known also as Mahalsapathi). His full name was Mahalsapati Chimnaji Nagare. His family were residents of Shirdi for several generations. The sonar community vie with Brahmins and others in their social and religious observances and sometimes style themselves Brahmins and wear the sacred thread. Khandoba Purana was was his Ramayana or Bible for daily study and for sacred reading at the periodical gatherings of sonars and at the temple (family temple). Every year he went on a pilgrimage of 150 miles to distant Jejoori carrying a Kavadi or palki along with a band to worship at the great temple of that deity. Full fruition of Mahlsa bhakti resulted in his getting that god's obsession in trance (Avesa); and oracular utterances came from that god through his lips. He was Khandoba. He was perfectly pure, straightforward, righteous, and truthful, for only such a guileless person can be favoured by the god coming on his body (Avesa). He was fairly free from worldly desires. The family had a scanty income from the voluntary offerings at their temple which went to the temple maintenance; and all that he owned was a mud house in the village for residence, yielding no income, and 7-1/2 acres of land evidently barren land without water supply, which also yielded practically nothing. The very old building outside the village, the Mahalsapathy temple, a poor mud structure, was dedicated to the public or to God. To eke out his living therefore he had the hereditary profession of a goldsmith. But in a poor village with very few houses and very few visitors, even this brought very little income. Mahalsapathi was not much perturbed about it, being absorbed in his religious ideas and practices. He had frequent Avesa, i. e., visions and trances with obsession; and his goal in life like that of most pious Hindus, was to get free from the cycle of rebirths (Samsara) and attain Liberation (Moksha) through the grace of Khandoba. Khandoba is an Avatar of Siva and thus the Grantor of liberation. To achieve this goal, Mahalsapathi, besides having a satvic temperament, had the great help of Sat Sangha, i.e., contact with holy men (Sadhus, Saints, etc.). Though conservative he was not fanatical; he had no hatred of Moslems of men of other faiths. On the other hand, he and other friends of his own temperament, viz., Kasiram Simpi and Appa Bhil, used to receive and help not only Hindu saints such as Devidas, Janakidas, etc., but also fakirs when these visited the village or stayed there. Kasiram and Appa had some means, but poor Mahalsapathi offered his services and zeal, and these three worked together. It was Mahalsapathi's good fortune, due perhaps to Rinanubandha, that he had very close contact with Sri Sai Baba for a very long period-over 40 (nearly 50) years. It was about 1872 perhaps that Sai Baba entered the village along with a "Barat", i.e. a bridegroom's party of Moslems headed by Chand Bhai, Patel of Dhupkeda (in the "Nizam's State"). Then Sai Baba separated from the marriage group very near Khandoba temple at the outskirts of Shirdi and sauntered along almost till the threshold of Khandoba temple. Mahalsapathi, who was inside worshipping Khandoba, noticed Baba's presence and, with usual civility and regard, invited him to sit. Mahalsapati saw Him he and spontaneously uttered ‘Aao Sai’ as if addressing Him by a name to the nameless. When asked about it he got fumbled and just said, I do not know. It is as if Khandoba made me utter these words through cosmic inspiration. After a few minutes, the fakir Baba remarked- "How secluded and quiet a place is the Khandoba temple, best fitted for a Fakir to be in". Then it was that Mahalsapathi put his conservative back up and protested against the proposal that a Moslem should reside in Khandoba temple which in his opinion was unthinkable. Most Moslems are iconoclasts, (i.e. breakers of images) and, therefore, Mahalsapathi prevented Baba from entering the temple which contained the images of Khandoba etc. Finding Mahalsapathy's objection to be natural, Baba said, 'God is one for Hindus, Moslems, and all, but, as you object to my entry, I shall go'. So saying Baba went away.

 

Photo Album of Mahalsapathi (Courtesy: Shri.Sandeep Nagare, Shirdi)

Baba in his earliest days was acting in ways wholly unintelligible to the villagers, and even Mahalsapathi considered that he behaved at times like a mad man. But while others lost their respect for Baba on that account, Mahalsapathi always had great regard for Baba, perhaps remembering, as many Hindus do, that there is always a class of saints known as the Unmattha siddhas, crazy saints. Anyhow, the occasional crazy conduct of Baba at least in the view of Mahalsapathi and some others did not bulk large enough to prevent the great esteem which the general conduct of Baba evoked in serious and thoughtful minds, Baba was an absolute "Vairagya Purusha'' and never cared for wealth or women. Mahlsapalhy, being himself highly detached i.e. of a vairagya temperament and not being overned by lust or other low urges, could easily appreciate Baba who had the same virtues of purity and nonattachment in a higher degree and therefore, from the very beginning was drawn to baba. Other people began to worship Baba only when they saw Baba's psychic powers e. g. when he turned water into oil to feed his lamps, and then they regarded him as God. But Mahalsapathi esteemed Baba for his good qualities of purna satva and vairagya, that is, purity and nonattachment; and he found that compared even with Devidas, Janakidas, and other saints with whom Baba was often keeping company; Baba shone brilliantly, and that even those saints, highly regarded Baba. So, Mahalsapathi and his friends considered Baba as well fitted to be a Guru for themselves. Mahalsapathi in that group was the first to honour and then to worship Baba. He went to Baba's Mosque and placed flowers and sandal on Baba's feet or neck and offered him milk. Baba would not allow others to do even this; only Mahalsapathi was allowed to do it. This developed later into regular puja by the use of sandal paste and flowers on Baba's feet, neck, and finally on his forehead also. Even after that, local magnates like Nana Saheb Dengle, who wanted to do Baba's puja, were not allowed to do it. Baba would tell them: 'There is the pillar in this Dwarakamayi (Mosque). Do puja to the pillar”. That of course, they did not care to do. Nana Saheb Dengle later requested the intersession of Dagdubhai, a constant companion of Baba and, encouraged by his words, did puja and became Baba's second worshipper, Baba gradually allowed others to do his puja, and then Baba's puja became general. Few realised the part played by Mahalsapathi as the pioneer of Sai puja and the Sai movement.

Mahalsapathi's contact with Baba was on very close terms. By reason of the death of his only son (in the eighties of the last century perhaps) and his having only four daughters (Janakibai, Seetabai, Rakhumabai and Vithabai. Their grooms were respectively from Asnagaon. Dochale, Dorhale and Sei ) he was disgusted with life. His land yielded nothing, and the goldsmith's profession yielded also practically nothing. So, he was ready for the orders of his own Ishta Devata, Khandoba. Khandoba came upon him, that is, possessed his body, and gave him Drishtanta, that is, visions. In the first vision, he was told that he was to take Khandoba (i.e. movable images) from the Khandoba temple to his own house, and worship him there with concentration. In another vision, Khandoba appeared as an old Brahmin and said to him, “What? Can you not get your bread without your profession of goldsmith?1” Then Mahalsapathi answered the vision. 'Yes. I shall give up'. Then the vision said, 'Touch my feet, and hold to my feet This meant evidently, 'Hereafter, regard your subsistence as being dependent purely upon your holding to my feet and not upon your doing goldsmith's work. From that time forwards, he gave up goldsmith's work in perfect trust (NISHTA AND SRADDHA) and lived by begging, that is, he became really a Sanyasi "Monk" or Bhikshaikari, though living with a family of a wife and three daughters. Being disgusted with life, he did not care to sleep at home for that would develop his family cares and burdens, i.e. Samsara, still further. He enjoyed Baba's Company day and night and was greatly benefitted thereby. At the Mosque and at the chavadi, Baba slept on alternate nights and to both places Mahalsapathi went and had his bed along with Baba. Mahlspathy's main work was to be with Baba. and he never failed to be with and sleep with Baba. But on one occasion, early in life, about 1896, Baba himself said, “Arre Baagat, listen to my fakiri words, which are always true. You are coming and sleeping here and not with your wife. But you have got only daughter (the only son he had must have died before 1896.) Daughters are like tamarind fruit but a son is like a mango fruit. You go and take bed in your house, and you will then get a son," In spite of Baba's pressure, he declined to go home as he did not want his family (samsara) to increase. But his friend Kasiram Simpi compelled him and took him home and left him there. Thereafter he took his bed in his house. He started it on the Janmashtami of 1896, and on the next Janmashtami (1897) a son was born to him. Baba's words are ever true and never false. But, having got a son, he resumed his old vow of not developing Samsara and ever afterwards slept only with Baba, in the Mosque, and at the chavadi. Mahalsapathi would spread his own cloth and on that Baba (when not lying on the plank) would lie on one half, and he would lie on the other. Baba also gave him very hard duties which others could not possibly undertake. Baba would tell Mahalsapathi,"You had better sit up. Do not go to sleep. Place your hand on my heart. I will be going on with remembrance of Allah, Nama Smaran, that is, a half conscious trance, and during that Nama Smaran, the heart beat would clearly show you that I am still having Nama Smaran. If that suddenly goes away and natural sleep supervenes, wake me up." The heart beat during natural sleep would be evidently different from the heart beat of the contemplative trance. Thus neither Baba nor Mahalsapathi would sleep at night. Both would keep awake, Baba for directly communing with God, and by that means doing service to numerous devotees in various places, and Mahalsapathi for sharing the merit (punya) by keeping the vigil with Baba and benefiting himself morally and spirtually by his pious service. His tapas was the same practically as the tapas of Baba, that is, vigil for holy purposes. He also had great control over all his senses (Indriyas), not merely over the sex urge but also over hunger and other urges and cravings, though he was not able to overcome sleep always. At times for a fortnight he would go without food, purely by the power of his will, and sometimes his family also would suffer as shortage of food was the consequent of Mahalsapathi's having no profession and no earning and his rejection of offers of money and goods. This is a very important point to note about Mahalsapathi. His attitude towards acceptance of alms is one which very orthodox Hindus would understand. He regarded all acceptance of alms from others as a direct interference with his own perfection of power. His ‘’Apoorva’’ i e. stored up merit was heightened by lasting, vigils, and other "punya karma,'' such as reading of sacred literature, etc., and if he accepted gifts (dana) from others, he believed (as many other orthodox Hindus believe) that his merit or Apoorva would be lost, "diminished, or transferred at least to some extent to the donor whose gift he accepted. Therefore he was strongly opposed to accepting any gifts (except Biksha food) even though he and his family might be starving. His family also completely accepted that axiom and they also would generally reject offers of help in money, materials, etc.Baba himself several times tried to press him to accept money. When Baba was getting large incomes, (1880-1918) he was daily showering Rs.30 on one, Rs.15 on another, Rs.10 on a third, and so on. Baba told Mahalsapathi several times;-'Take this Rs. 3. Go on taking it'. Mahalsapathi invariably refused. Baba even added. 'Go on receiving Rs. 3. I will make you well-to-do, and other people will come to you and depend on you and look to your favour; make your life comfortable." Mahalsapathi invariably replied: 'I do not want all that. I want only to worship your feet.' He counted his avoidance of gifts and contentment with his lot as far above his attaining or retaining material wealth. He would not sleep on cots. He would not care to have comforts of any other sort, even though these were available or offered to him.Baba had to offer inducements of"Abhaya" and support, etc. to various people to raise them to high spiritual effort. But in tha case of Mahalsapathi, no inducements and assurances were required, as Mahalsapathi had already achieved the high, water mark of purity, viitue, austerity (tapas), and wisdom (Jnana), so far as that was possible in his circumstances.

An important event in Mahalsapathi's life that he was connected with was Baba's trying to leave his body about 1886 and returning to it three days later. Baba had made him the guardian of his body and told him, "Arre Bhagat, look after this body for three days. I am going to Allah. If I do not return, then get it buried in due course at that place, (that is, near the sacred gode neem tree)".

Mahalsapathi supported Baba's body on his own knee, and when officers, including the village headman karnam, etc., held an inquest over the body, declared it dead, and wanted it to be buried he with the help of others stoutly opposed their proposal and saved Baba from losing his body, as Sankaracharya's is said to have been lost (See Sankara Vijaya) when he tried a similar attempt to leave and re-enter his body in order to enter a grihasta royal body by parakaya pravesa. Thus, he rendered a valuable service in 1886, after which Baba lived for 32 years to create this huge Sai movement that has covered this land. If Mahalsapathi had failed in his duty, and Baba had been buried perhaps the course of history might have been different.

One incident we may mention as to bow he served Baba and carried out his pious efforts. As usual, he had spread his cloth and Baba was lying on one half of that cloth, and he was lying on the other. Then Baba told him. 'I say, come on. To-day we shall be on the watch. The rude Rohilla (death from plague) is wanting to take away the wife of the Nigoj Patil. I am praying to Allah to prevent that by Nama Smaran. You had better see that no one comes and disturbs me in my Nama Smaran.' Accordingly Mahalsapathi kept awake to try and see that no disturbance took place. But, unfortunately, in the middle of the night the Nivas Mamlatdar had come. He and his peons took a fancy to take Baba's darsan, which could be had for nothing, so, at midnight, the peon of the Mamlatdar came and stating that Darsan was wanted and udhi was wanted, made a noise. Mahalsapathi tried to prevent it but who could prevent official hauteur or jabardas ? Mahalsapathi was trying to oblige the peon by getting down the steps to give him some udhi, but the noise made disturbed Baba's trance (contemplation), and Baba sat up, and hurled foul curses and told Mahalsapathi. 'Arre Bhagat, you are a man with family! And don't you know what is taking place at Nigoj? This disturbance has caused a failure in my efforts. That Patil's wife is dead. Let that go. What has happened is for the best'. In his anger, Baba threw away Mahalsapathi's cloth on him, telling him that he should not allow disturbance like that to Baba's holy work of contemplation and prayer.

Baba, for about 40 years must have benefited Mahalsapathi in innumerable ways the details of which are not available, and above all kept him to the high water mark of devotion, surrender and self abnegation. As usual, Baba used his wonderful Supranormal powers and knowledge e.g. His knowledge of the present in all distant places, which is called "clairvoyance" and knowledge of the future, immediate or remote, to benefit Mahlspathy. He used also his control over minds and matter (including human bodies) for his devotee's benefit and kept watching him to secure his welfare whether he was near or far, even 150 miles off and gave him warning and afforded relief where necessary.

Baba's "eye of vigilant supervision is ever on those who love him". Baba's watch over Mahlsa saved him from shipwreck in his food problems. At times, for long periods the starvation of the devotee and his family came perilously near the danger point. Then Baba suddenly made the devotee relax his vow. On one such occasion, H. S. Dixit was somehow made aware of the danger. He wished to send up a ten rupee note to Mahalsapathi. To make sure that it should not be rejected, he enclosed it in an envelope and took it to Baba and without any other words asked Baba "Shall I send this"? Baba Said "Yes" He sent it, and it was accepted. Baba had his Antarjnan of the gift and had told Mahala's wife some hours earlier: "Tell your husband, Baba is coming to the house, and he should not reject Baba". So when the envelope with the 10 rupee note came, Mahalsapathi was sure that Baba's message referred to the envelope and he accepted it.

The snake infested Shirdi was full of danger to its inhabitants. One evening as Mahalsapathi was leaving Baba's Mosque, Baba told him that he was likely to meet two thieves (snakes) on the way, and accordingly Mahalsapathi found one at his doorsteps and the other at the neighbouring house. One day Baba told him. 'When you return, come with a lamp, for you will find a thief at the gate'. Accordingly, Mahalsapathi came with a lamp in his hand, and found a snake at the gate, and cried out 'snake, snake'. The neighbours gathered and killed it.

Baba once warned him in general words, 'Don't put your back against the earth'. Not remembering this advice, and in his usual slovenly way, Mahalsapathi, having consumed too much of Burfi got giddy, sat on the floor, and losing his consciousness, glided down. He then was with his bare back on the ground He was dreaming or delirious and talking in his dream, keeping his legs stretched on the bare earth all the time. When he returned to consciousness and sat awake, he found he could not bend his leg. His daughters had to massage his knees and legs, and thereafter he was able to walk upto Baba. When he arrived there, Baba told him, 'Did I not tell you not to put your back against earth?’ On one occasion, Baba gave him warning that something wrong would happen at Khandoba's, and that, however, he need not be afraid as Baba would do the needful. Then very soon, his wife and daughter fell ill and soon after, the other members of his family also fell ill. This was after 1908, after which date the number of Shridi visitors increased including many doctors. Meanwhile Baba told Mahalsapathi, 'Let the sick people keep to bed', and walking round his Mosque with a short stick in hand Baba was waving his short stick and using threatening words :—'Come, whatever may be your power, let us see! I shall show you what I can do with my chota stick, if you come out and face me'. This was Baba's treatment of the disease. However, amongst the numerous visitors, there were doctors who gave medicines to Mahalsapathi to be given to his sick family. Mahalsapathi consulted Baba regarding the medicines, but Baba dissuaded him from administering the medicines to the sick at home. In the result, all got well without medicine. Baba's way of fighting disease is not the modern way of medicine, but it was unmistakably effective.

Baba's watching was often of great benefit to Mahalsapathi in other domestic matters also. Once Mahalsapathy's wife had gone to her mother's house at a distant village. When she was there, she developed a painful tumour near herneck, but she did not communicate that to her husband. But Baba’s watching eye of supervision, which rests on all those relying on him with loving trust, noted this fact. He told Mahalsapathi at Shirdi : 'Your wife has a tumour in the throat. None can cure it except myself, and I shall cure it'. Mahalsapathi knowing nothing about his wife's health simply said 'Yes, Baba'. Later he received a letter mentioning the painful tumour, and adding that it had been cured.

Baba used his knowledge of coming events for "Bhagat" as Baba called this bhakta Mahalsapathi, and revealed them to him when necessary. He was a poor man, whose three daughters were married to people at various villages. His Sambandis (i.e. fathers-in-law of those daughters) had no regard for him. On one occasion, one of the Sambandis at a distant village invited him to dine with him, and Mahalsapathi went to take Baba's leave. When granting leave. Baba said, "You are going to be insulted there'. Mahalsapathi went along with his friend, but when he went to his Sambandi's house, he found the Sambandi's people had already finished their meal and were washing their hands without caring to wait for the arrival of their poor relation Mahalsapathi. This was an obvious insult and he returned refusing to take his meal. He returned to Baba and told him all the facts.

On another occasion, one Ram Bhav Harde, a Sai Baba bhakta, invited Mahalsapathi to go to his village 'Astinagram' some six or ten miles away from Shirdi. There was to be a Mahalsapathi Purana reading by Mahhapathy to be followed by a dinner. So it was an interesting occasion, and Mahalsapathi went to take leave of Baba. Baba said, 'Do not go. There will be a fight there'. Yet having been invited, he could not avoid going, and he went to that village. He sat and read Mahalsapathi puraram there, and while that was going on the host's graceless, sturdy and rowdy boys with other boys sat for their meal and began to exchange hot words. From words they quickly came to blows with sticks, and on account of the free use of the cudgels, the audience that was present for the Purana reading fled in fright and Mahalsapathi also had to pack up his purana and follow their wise example. He returned to Shirdi and told Baba, 'Your words have proved true to the letter'.

Long before Narayan Govind Chandorkar (Nanasaheb Chandorkar) and others arrived, i.e. in the eighties of the last Century, Baba spoke of the future of Shirdi. Baba told Bhagat and others who were with him at the chavadi, 'In this place (Shirdi) there will be huge storeyed buildings rising, big fairs will be held, and big men, Subedars, and others will be coming. My Brahmins will gather and elephants, horses and Shankar Nana will also come’ Guns will be fired (Dhadanga Dishe Udenga)'. People hearing this began to smile. They thought, 'What, all this for this worthless nook of an insignificani hamlet’. But some decades later, every one of Baba's statements came true, and that nook of an insignificant village has already become a small town with big storoyed buildings, sugar factories with machinery, annual fairs, festivals, etc., and the daily puja of Baba attracts thousands including ladies and gentlemen of the highest position from all parts of India.

Baba knew the future of this devotee but gave him only hints. When Mahalsapathi got a male child in 1897 and took him to Baba and talked of Namakarana, i.e. the name to be given to the child, Baba, evidently to prevent his being too much attached to the son, told him "Look after the child for 25 years and that would be sufficient". The father's business is only to look after this new arrival in a detached spirit, knowing that the connection is only for a fixed time. Mahlsa did not understand all this, or that 25 years period indicated the length of his life which was to end in 1922; but with true humility and submission he told Baba that "looking after" the child was not in his power but only in Baba's power. Baba's reply was still more significant. "Be thou, the Nimitta" i.e. the apparent instrument, said Baba, reminding us of Sri Krishna's direction to Arjuna to fight the Mahabharata battles as a mere instrument in His hands "Nimittamatram Bhava Savyasachin". Mahalsapathi though a surrendered soul could not have banished his ego and risen then to the full height indicaled above i.e. to treat all acts done by his body as the acts of the Supreme. Baba was leading him on to that height on the above and other occasions.

But more interesting to common folk than this is Baba's keeping watch over him night and day. When Mahalsapathi often obtained leave of Baba to go for his night meal, Baba used to say, 'Go. I am with you." No harm then befell Mahalsapathy. Though Baba was not physically accomponying Mahalsapathy, his invisible guardianship was evident.

Baba's watch over Mahlsapaty was also for his moral benefit. Though Mahalsapathi was generally of a pious disposition, sometimes he committed mistakes. Every night he used to feed a crippled bitch, and one day, having fed it, he said, 'Go', But the creature did not stir. He took a stick and gave it a beating,and then it howled with pain and ran away. That right when Mahalsapathi went to the Mosque and shampooed Baba's legs, Bapu Saheb, Dada Kelkar and others were with him. Baba said, 'Arre, there is a bitch, sickly like me, in the village. Everybody is beating it'. Then at once Mahalsapathi, remembering his behaviour repented his mistake. This is not trivial, as we shall see further on.

Baba's company, Seva, example and help kept Mahalsapathi very high up in his spiritual level. He bore great love to Baba. When Baba passed away in 1918, he, on account of his attachment, declined all food and fasted for 13 days. Probably to prevent a shock, Baba had given him hints of his (Baba's) impending final departure. It was Mahalsapathi's custom to spend all his time with Baba except when he went for his meal, etc Later Baba would send some one or other to fetch him from his house. Then he would light up chilm (i.e. smoking pipe), do odd jobs for Baba, and prepare Baba's bed, which was a very peculiar arrangement. Baba always kept his head on an old brick (which is believed to be the brick given to him by Venkusa with a torn cloth). Madhav Fasle, a servant of Baba used to hand over that brick to Mahalsapathi every night and along with it, a tattered cloth (believed to be Venkusa's gift) to be placed over it and other cloths to be spread on the ground as bed for Baba. Mahalsapathi would first place the brick and then the tattered cloth, and then spread the other cloth or cloths. Ten or twelve days before 1918, Dassara, Madhav False, in handing over the brick, allowed it to slip down to the ground, and it broke into two Then the broken pieces were placed as pillows for Baba. Baba asked 'Who broke the brick? Mahalsapathi mentioned that Madhav False broke the brick. Baba got very angry with Madhav and placed his hands on his own head and felt extremely sad. Baba said 'Sopat tutali’ i.e , the companion is broken. Next day, Kaka (Hari Sitaram Dixit) came and said there was no need to deplore the breaking, as he would join the pieces with silver joints. Baba said: "Even if you join them with gold, what is the use? This brick is my Sobatya (companion) (evidently from his Selu days) and its breakage betokens evil." From that time onwards Baba was disspirited. At least Mahalsapathi thought so. Baba, even before this, had given Mahalsapathi a hint. He told him once when he (Mahalsapathi) was preparing to light a lamp and fill up Baba's pipe, (Arre Bhagat, in a few days from this, I will be going somewhere. After that, you come at night for 2 or 4 years'; This was not understood by Mahalsapathi. But Baba's spirit passed beyond our ken into AVYAKTA on 15th October 1918, and Mahalsapathi was able to do his nightly usual puja to Baba only for 2 or 4 years, for he passed away on 12th September 1922.

Baba'g help to Mahalsapathi in his religious efforts and in securing a good end may be noted. In the case of Mahalsapathi, his firm faith was in Khandoba, and Baba treated Khandoba, Vittoba, and Allah as the same. All worship is God's worship. God reaches us in the form we choose.' Khandoba's grace to Mahalsapathi was manifested several times, and whenever there was a difficulty for Mahalsapathi, Khandoba gave him visions. In one of those visions, Khandoba asked him to go and see Vittal at Pandharpur, and in the case of such a poor man like Mahalsapathi, who had to beg his bread for himself and family, a pilgrimage to Pandharpur was no joke. But by Khandoba's grace, he got some pecuniary help for the journey, and a well-to-do family as his companions. With them he reached Pandhari. At Pandharpur, the crowds were always unmanageably large, and it was not easy for one to cut his way through the mass to Vittal. Then there were the professional priests demanding coins to take a man to the Vittal image. But Mahalsapathi had no coins, and so special interference on his behalf by Khandoba was necessary. As he was moving with the crowd nearer and nearer to Vittoba, suddenly people began to note that Mahalsapathi's face was exactly like Khandoba's and said that Khandoba had actually come to take darsan of Vittoba and cleared a way for him. The Pandas also must have been similarly impressed. That made Vittal darsan easy for Mahalsapathi.

Similar instances of help for himself and party were manifested at his pilgrimage to Jejuri. Once when they were going on their horses, the police intercepted them on the way and examined their passes. Finding one having no pass, they stopped him and put him into the police station; and the procession could not start from the village. That man had to go and get a pass from the Kulkarni. That Kulkarni showed his talent for taking work gratis from all persons. A Niti sloka says rightly :—Makshiko Maruto vescya yachako mushakas tatha gramanirganakas chaiva saptaiate para badhakah''. i.e gnats, winds, courtesans, beggers, rats, village headmen and karnams (i.e. kulkarnis) these seven are pestering parasites. He delayed the issue of a pass and said 'You go on splitting fuel for me'. He gave Mahalsapathi's man an axe to split fuel i.e. to do work gratis. Then the man took up the axe and after a few strokes, the handle was broken. Then the Kulkarni gave him a second handle. The second handle also broke. Then a third handle was given, and that also shared the same fate. Then the Kulkarni said, 'God does not allow you to work', and gave him the pass.

Baba's watch over the pilgrimages of Mahalsapathi and his other movements shows Baba's great and mysterious power and His wonderful love and guardian-stip of the bhaktas. These are well illustrated in many instances of which a few more may be mentioned, On one occasion when Mahalsapathi and party reached Jejuri, 150 miles from Shirdi, plague was raging there, and Mahalsapathi sat down dejected leaning against his palki (Kavadi), not knowing what to do. Suddenly he saw Baba behind him; and Baba vanished. Then he got embolde and told his companions : 'Baba is with us and we need not worry'. Accordingly the pilgrimage was satisfactorily over, and there was no loss of life. When he returned to Shirdi, Baba told him, 'I found you leaning against the Palki at JeJuri'. Mahalsapathi was convinced that his eyes did not deceive him at Jejuri and that Baba was everywhere guarding his bhaktas.

On another occasion when Mahalsapathi and his group had gone for an annual Jejuri pilgrimage, they were returning followed by another group i.e. Malam Bhagat Palki. Then they met thieves who were armed with axes and who wore masks or were covering their faces with thick blankets. As they approached the Palki to rob it, Mahlsapthy courageously took out a handful of Bhandar, i.e. coloured rice and sandal and threw it at them as prasad. Then they quietly retreated to an adjoining wood. Then Mahalsapathi and his friends went on followed by Malam Bhagat palki, and they noted that there was no image in their own palki. All the party looked into it (i.e., Mahalsapathi's palki) to see whether all their images were there. They found none. Then some one said. 'Are we to carry an empty palki to Shirdi?. That day was a Sunday, which is Khandoba's day. At the very outset. Mahalsapathy said, 'No pilgrimage on Sunday. But the others had disagreed, and now Mahlspathy told the others, 'This is the evil of doing pilgrimage on Sunday. Suddenly Mahlspathy got into a trance, and Khandoba talking through him said, ‘Arre, what day is this? Is it not my day? Why are you carrying palki? Today I am busy hunting out on a hill. After hunting is over, I will come to Shirdi. You had better go now. Then he woke up from trance, and the palki went on and came to Kandoba's temple at Shirdi. People at Shirdi, for instance, Shakaram Kandukar and others came to the palki to take Darsan. Shakaram looked into the palki and found all the images' there. 'What is the talk of all the images missing?' he asked the people. He showed them, and said 'Here are all the images'.

Mahalsapathi's case is an excellent instance of Baba's method of unifying religion and creeds successfully. Mahalsapathi was only an ordinary, conservative, orthodox worshipper of Khandoba. Sai Baba, he considered a Muslim and even objected to his entry into Khandoba's temple when Sai Baba came to Shirdi with Chand Bhai Patel's party. This same man became Baba's ardent devotee and worshipped him. In fact not only was he the first in point of time amongst the worshippers, but he was also the foremost in excellence. Mahalsapathi felt that Baba was God. Whatever may be the difference in name and form, Shanker, Shani, Ganapati, and Khandoba are all one, and Baba with divine power was the same. Mahalsapathy also went to Pandharpur to worship Vittal (a form of Maha Vishnu and had no sectarian i.e. (Siva Vishnu) prejudices. He and his group honoured all saints, Hindu and Muslim, and they applied Tukaram's famous saying 'Jo Sant, Toch Dev! o Dev, Toch Sant', meaning 'God is the same as the Saint and the Saint is the same as God' to fakirs as well as Hindu saints. He was the first to do puja to Baba and even apply sandal to him. Baba's objection to his being worshipped in that fashion melted away under the keen sense of Mahalsapathi's love and devotion. As Mahalsapathi made no difference between Khandoba and Baba, and as all thoughts of men were known to Baba, Baba could not object to any of the ways adopted for worship at the Khandoba temple being applied to him. Baba's divine heart of love responded to the outpourings of Mahalsapathi's love; and so, Mahalsapthy became Baba's ANKITA SISHYA. Baba said (if not expressly at least by unmistakable utterance and conduct). 'He is mine'. The Aarti song says "Jo Sanduchya ankita Jiva Jhala, Tyacha Ase Bhara niranjanala" - This means, the devotee who is stamped as mine by a Sadhu, has no more burden or responsibility to bear, as all his burdens and responsibilities rest on the Saint (or the Guru God). Baba showed his assumption of responsibility in innumerable ways. Especially when he sent him in the evenings away from the Mosque, he would be saying 'Go, I am with you' i.e. I will protect you.' And he did. Baba's cure of Mahalsapathi's wife's tumour at a distant place far off from Shirdii, and the cure of her children of their disease at other times are excellent instances of Baba's protection and love. When the bhakta had no son, and yet refused to go and live with his family, it was Baba's repeated assurance that he would get a male child that induced him to go and sleep at home and thus get a son. This son is named Martand who also followed his fathers' footsteps and worshipped at his father's tomb. This is considered important, as dying without a son will take a man to Hell (Put Naraka). Mahalsapathi's response to Baba's love was evidenced by Mahalsapathy’s dedication of himself to Baba's service. Mahalsapathi not only shared his cloth bed with Baba every night at the Mosque and chavadi, but also shared his night vigil. Mahalsapathi's help to rouse Baba when the vigil stopped and gave way to natural sleep was a special help to Baba, and through Baba to everybody. Mahalsapathi's effort to keep the Baba body for three days in 1886 against the mischance of being buried on the compulsion of the officers was a signal service not only to Baba but to the entire Sai bhaktas and the public at large. Baba's recognition of this attachment closely resembling Hanuman's attachment to Rama was expressed by Baba's calling him Bhagat i.e. Bhakta. B.V.Dev called Mahalsapathy as "Mahalasapathy is a Bhakta Manikya and a Mahatma" in his preface to Mahalsapathy's reminiscences. Both epithets are apt and just.

The end of such a soul when life passes away must necessarily be a good end, (sadgati). Baba made this assurance doubly sure and granted him the merit of dying on an auspicious day (with God in his mind and on his lips) just as he did this for several other bhaktas of his. Dying on an auspicious day is conducive to departure in a holy mood from this life (through the bright and smokeless path). The Bhagavad Gita Chapter 8, Shloka 6 says: "Yam yam vapi Smaran Bhavam, Tyajati ante kalebaram. Tam tam eva eti kounteya Sada tad bhava bhavitah" meaning: 'Whatever a person thinks of (being in constant touch with it) at the time of death he reaches'. When Mahalsapathi's death was approaching, he retained full consciousness and control of his mind. That was on 12th September 1922, Monday (in the month of Badrapada, Bahula Shashti, Somavara, sacred to Shiva and Khandoba) Having finished all his puja, he said to his family, ‘Today is my father's Shraddha day. Finish cooking soon. Today I close my earthly life and go to Heaven'. So, Laxman, the Brahmin, came and finished the Shraddha at once and finished the gift of balis to crows, cows, etc, and guests were fed. Then the family meals were finished. Mahalsapathi took betel and nuts after his meal. After chewing a bit, he put on a kufni. Having near him, Bala Gurav, Ramachandra Kote Patil, etc., he told them "all to do Ramachandra japa". Japa went on. His son was there, and he gave him his stick. Mahalsapathi said to his son, 'Spend time piously in Uttama Bhakti Marga i.e. in holy devotion. All that I told you will happen." Then Mahalsapathi uttered the word 'Ram’ and breathed his last. Thus he passed away in calm faith and cheerfuhess on the 12th September 1922. This death was a fitting termination to a pure, lofty and dedicated life—a life of Love, faith and total surrender— a death that may be envied by many who may not be prepared to adopt the rigorous course that led up to it and ensured it. His remains are interred in a tomb at his ancestral house in Shirdi which is still worshipped by many.

MAHALSAPATHI'S HOUSE

Mahalsapathi’s house is situated in a narrow lane leading from the Chavadi to Tajim Khan’s Darga. At the Darga, it one turns left and walks a few yards, the house is to the right in a narrow lane. Baba gave him Sadgati on 12th September 1922, i.e., Monday of Bhadrapada Bahula Shashti and his Samadhi was made in his house itself. The following sacred articles were given by Baba to Mahalsapathi.

  1. Baba’s Kafni.
  2. Baba’s Danda.
  3. Baba’s Udi.
  4. Three Silver Rupee Coins.
  5. Baba’s Padukas (Leather paduka).

This house is a place of pilgrimage because of the sacred articles given by Baba and also because of the presence of  Mahalsapathi’s Samadhi. Mahalsapathi was really a true devotee of Baba and although he was really very poor he did not deviate from his spiritual path. He adhered to Baba’s advice of not accepting money or gifts from anyone. Sai Devotees should be very grateful to Mahalsapathi for guarding Baba’s body when he took “72 Hours Samadhi”  during the Margashirsha Masa (Refer Sai Satcharitra Chapters 43 and 44). His descendants have preserved and displayed these articles very nicely and the devotees visiting Shirdi can have darshan of the same.

Kafni bestowed by Baba to Mahalsapathi

Divine 3 Coins bestowed by Baba to Mahalsapathi

Holy Padukas bestowed by Baba to Mahalsapathi

Mahalsapathi's son Marthand Mahalsapathi

After the demise of Marthand Mahalsapathi, his son Shri.Manohar Marthand Nagare continued the legacy and looked after the affairs of Khandoba Mandir as the President of Shri Martand Mahalsapathi Maharaj Trust.

Marthand Mahalsapathi's son Shri.Manohar Marthand Nagare

Shri.Manohar Marthand Nagare ji passed away on the auspicious Bhadrapada Shuddha Chaturthi (Ganesh Chaturthi Day) i.e., on  Monday, 2nd September 2019 in Shirdi.

At present, Late Shri.Manohar Marthand Nagare's son Shri.Sandip Nagare is taking care of the affairs of Khandoba Mandir as the President of Shri Marthand Mahalsapathi Maharaj Trust.

(Source: Life of Sai Baba Volume II by Late Shri.B.V.Narasimha Swamiji, Shri Sai Leela Magazine, July-August 2005, Shri. Sandip Nagare, Great Grandson of Mahalsapathi, Photo Courtesy:Shri.Sandip Nagare, Great Grandson of Mahalsapathi.