Sai Mahabhakta Vinayak Harischandra Thakur’s information has been mentioned in Chapter 21 of Holy Shri Sai Satcharitra written by Late Shri.Govind Raghunath Dhabolkar alias Hemadpant and Shri Sai Leela Magazine.
There is a reference to Nishchal Das in chapter XXI of Shri Sai Sat Charitra. Vinayak Harishchandra Thakur, a bachelor’s degree holder, was a clerk in the revenue department. He once came to a town named Vadgaum near Belgaum along with a survey party. There he saw a Kanareese saint (Appa) and bowed before him. This Kanareese saint was explaining portion from the book ‘Vichar Sagar’ of Nishchal Das to the audience. ‘Vichar Sagar’ is a standard work on Vedant. When V. H. Thakur was taking his leave to leave, saint Appa said to him, “You should study this book, and if you do so, your desires will be fulfilled; and when you go to the North in the discharge of your duties in future, you will come across a great Saint, Who will show you the future path, and give rest to your mind and make you happy.”
A few days later V. H. Thakur was transferred to Junnar, where he had to go by crossing Nane Ghat. Nane Ghat is a mountain pass in the Western Ghats range near Junnar in Pune district of Maharashtra. During the reign of the Satavahan (200 B.C.E.–190 C.E.), the pass was extensively used as a trade route between Kalyan and Junnar. Literally, the name Nane means ‘coin’ and Ghat means ‘pass’. The name is given because this path was used as a toll booth to collect toll from traders crossing the hills. This Ghat was very steep and impassible; and no conveyance, other than a buffalo, was of use in crossing it. The non-motorable pass still serves as a shortcut between the Konkan region and the Deccan by inhabitants of the area. A number of ancient man-made caves have been crafted in the vicinity of the pass. The nearest inhabited area on the Konkan side is Vaishakhare 14 kms., and the village of Ghatghar 6 kms. on the plateau side. The inscriptions in the caves indicate that they are the work of Satavahan rulers who came into prominence after the fall of the Mauryan empire. Satakarni (Satakarn I) was the third of the Satavahan kings. He ruled around 180 B.C.E. in Central India. It is thought that Satakarni was the son of Kunal. He achieved the conquest of the Western Malwa region from the Sungas. Satakarni is mentioned in the Hathigumpha inscription of Kalinga, as a rival to king Kharavela. Satakarni’s queen was Naganika, a Marathi princess. She wrote the Nane Ghat inscription, in which she describes Satakarni as ‘Lord of Dakshinapath, wielder of the unchecked wheel of sovereignty’. It is believed that this powerful woman commissioned the cave, the statues and the inscriptions. Inscriptions in the cave mention her and her family members. We know enough about this ruler from an inscription of his queen which records his performance of certain sacrifices, the fees paid to the priests, which meant thousands of cows, horses, elephants, whole villages and large sums of money (called karshapanas). He seems to have performed even the horse sacrifice, the symbol of his sovereignty over the neighbourhood. Perhaps it was a victory over the Sungas that was celebrated by the horse sacrifice. Though the statues adorning the sides of the rectangular cave are now gone, the inscriptions still record some of the achievements of the dynasty. Satakarni (180–170 B.C.E.) may have been killed in battle. He was succeeded by his two young sons Vedishri and Satishri, under the regency of their mother Naganika. In 90 A.D. Vedishri made Junnar, thirty miles north of Pune, the capital of his kingdom. The Nane Ghat records have proved very important in establishing the history of the region. Vedic Gods like Yam, Indra, Chandra and Surya are mentioned here. The mention of Shamkarsan and Vasudev indicate the prevalence of Bhagvat form of Hinduism in the Satavahan dynasty. Reverting back to the description in chapter XXI of Shri Sai Satcharitra.
So, V. H. Thakur had to take a buffalo-ride through the Ghat, which caused him great pain and inconvenience. Thence, he was transferred on promotion to Kalyan, where he became acquainted with Nanasaheb Chandorkar. He heard much about Sai Baba from him and wished to see Him. Next day, Nanasaheb had to go to Shirdi, and he asked Thakur to accompany him. Thakur could not do so as he had to attend the Thana Civil Court for a civil case. So, Nanasaheb went alone. Thakur went to Thana; but there the case was adjourned. He repented for not accompanying Nanasaheb.
Now Thakur left for Shirdi all by himself; and when he reached there, he was told that Nanasaheb had left Shirdi the previous day. Some of his other friends, whom he met there, introduced him to Baba. As a result of having had the good fortune of Baba’s Darshan and His Blessings, he was overjoyed. He trembled with ecstatic emotions, tears filled his eyes, and he spontaneously chanted the holy name of Baba with devotion. Now he realized that Baba was the full-fledged manifestation of the Lord’s energy. Then, after a while the omniscient Baba said to him, “The path of this place is not as easy as the teaching of the Kanareese saint Appa, or even as the buffalo-ride, in the Nane Ghat. When treading the spiritual path, one has to put in ones best exertion, as it is very difficult.” When Thakur heard these significant signs and words, which none else than he knew, he was overwhelmed with joy. He came to know, that the words of the Kanareese saint had turned true. Then folding both hands and placing his head on Baba’s Feet, he prayed that he should be accepted and blessed. Baba said, “What Appa told you were all right; but these things have to be practiced and lived. Mere reading won’t do. You have to think and carry out what you read; otherwise, it is of no use. Mere book-learning, without the grace of the Guru and self-realization, is of no avail.”
The theoretical portion was read from the work ‘Vichar Sagar’ by Thakur; but the practical way was shown to him by Sai Baba at Shirdi.
(Source: Shri Sai Satcharitra Chapter 21, Shri Sai Leela Magazine Sept-Oct 2013 Photo Courtesy:Smt.Shreya Nagaraj, Pune)