Sai Mahabhakta Vishwanath Iyer alias Baba Iyer is an ardent devotee of Shri Sai Baba. He is born to Late Shri.Ramakrishnan Iyer alias Swamy Iyer and Late Smt.Chellammal. They are Palghat Iyers originally residents of Kerala State. However, Baba Iyer's father and his grand mother were residents of Matunga in Mumbai. He is a resident of Shirdi and has been serving Shri Sai Baba for the last 70 years.
Late Shri Ramakrishnan Iyer struggled a lot for livlihood in the initial days. The family completely surrendered at the lotus feet of Swami Nityananda of Vajreshwari. But they were ardent devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba as well but did not know how to reach Shirdi. When They went and prostratrated at the lotus feet of Swami Nityananda, he understood their plight and directed them to go to Shirdi and serve Sai Baba and His devotees. Then the couple asked Swami Nityananda "Swamiji, how to go to Shirdi? What shall we do in Shirdi? We do not know anyone in Shirdi and how to go to Shirdi". However, Swami Nityananda did not utter a single word. Despite the couple staying in the proximity of Swami Nityananda for half an hour, Swamiji did not utter a single word. The couple repeatedly started asking Swami Nityananda about Shirdi. In the end, Swamiji said: "Go away from here". The couple were offered Lemon Juice by Swamiji. Later, as directed by Swami Nityananda the Couple left for Shirdi. They asked someone about Shirdi who directed them to go to Kopargaon. The couple reached Kopargaon. During those days, to go from Kopargaon to Shirdi was not an easy task. Except Bullock Cart there was no other means of transport. They took a bullock cart from Kopargaon and reached Godavari River. From there they took a boat in the Godavari river which was overflowing. After crossing the river safely, they had to walk for some distance before they took another Bullock cart to reach Shirdi.
Shri.Vishwanath Ramakrishnan Iyer alias Baba Iyer
Late Shri.Ramakrishnan Iyer alias Swamy Iyer
When they reached Shirdi, they found that Shirdi was a small village surrounded by thick forest. They saw a big Temple and nothing else. Since they did not know anyone or anything to do, Ramakrishnan Iyer started thiking what to do under such a circumstance. Near the Temple they saw a Gentlemen who said: "Come and stay with me. Whatever you want to do, go ahead and do it but don't leave Shirdi but stay put in Shirdi itself". The gentlemen offered them a big Cow Shed. Baba Iyer's parents started living there. The goshala situated on the southern side of the Temple. The couple started a small hotel to serve devotees. The hotel was adjacent to Samadhi Mandir near North Facing Chavadi in Shirdi. They also used to visit Samadhi Mandir many times in the day. They used to draw Rangoli in the Samadhi Mandir.
Sai devotees must be aware that Shri Sai Baba got up early in the morning every day. Madhav Fasle, Tukaram and other attendants would fill buckets of water for Baba to use. Sai Baba never brushed his teeth. He would rinse his mouth softly and wash his face, hands and feet. Those suffering from leprosy would take the water Sai Baba had used to rinse his mouth and would apply it to the leprosy affected parts of their bodies which would get cured.
Rambaji of Nasik, who was a devotee of Sai Baba, suffered from various ailments. He took bath in the water which flowed off after Sai Baba took his bath and was cured of his ailments. Thus, he made a humble offering of a square stone stool to Sai Baba on which Sai Baba sat and bathed.
Even after Baba took Samadhi, the ritual of bathing Baba or abhishek to Baba's Marble Statue and Samadhi has diligently continued. Though the ownership of this abhishek belongs to Shri Sai Baba Sansthan. Ramakrishnan Iyer had a wooden stove in his hotel. Once, he supplied hot water from their hotel to Samadhi Mandir. Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan used to use hot water for abhishek of Sai Baba and every devotee who was present during that time was allowed to use the hot water for abhishek of Samadhi. Hot water of the boiler in Sansthan was not sufficient during that period. Hence, Iyer family used to supply the hot water to Sansthan. But subsequently they stopped the supply of hot water. Once, Sai Baba came in the dream of Baba Iyer’s mother Later Chellammal and said, "you use hot water for bath but you deny the same to me?". This event happened around the year 1950 much before Shri Sai Baba's Idol was installed in Samadhi Mandir. The same day, Sansthan Official called Ramakrishnan Iyer and his wife and requested them to continue supplying hot water everyday to Samadhi Mandir. Thereafter the supply of hot water continued until this day.
Baba Iyer says: "the idol needs to be protected without any damange. Hence, as per the season, I supply hot water to Samadhi Mandir. If the water is very hot, I will mix cold water and adjust it. There is a well in the back side of Samadhi Mandir. I draw cold water from that well and mixes it with the hot water that I bring from my hotel. Looks like Baba has brought our family here to do this Seva to Him. This is not a self promotion. Baba has blessed us and has given the opportunity to perform this Seva. Even If I am not there, any of my family members will go and offer Hot water to Samadhi Mandir. Shri Sai Baba Sansthan has permitted me, my wife and son to go inside Samadhi Mandir. After Kakad Aarti, this hot water is poured on Shri Sai Baba's Idol and Samadhi. The same water is given as Teerth to sai devotees. If any devotee asks for Baba's teerth, I happily offer it to them".
Vessel containing Baba's Holy Teerth
Baba Iyer continues to say: "I get up everyday at 1:30 am. I do small Pooja at home and take the blessings of Shri Sai Baba. Then, I go to Dwarakamai and take blessings of Baba. I do darshan of stone on which Baba sat. Dwarakamai will be closed at that time. It does not matter whether Dwarakamai is open or closed. Dwarakamai is a very powerful place. I hardly take two minutes to have darshan at Dwarakamai. Then I will go to my Hotel and oversee preparation of food for Sai devotees and start my day. Thus, from 3 am to 4:30 am, I will be in my hotel overseeing preparation of food for Sai devotees. Once, Kakad Aarti begins at 4:30 am, I go to Samadhi Mandir. After Kakad Aarti, I go and place Hot Water inside Samadhi Mandir. I will collect some Teertha from Idol and Samadhi of Shri Sai Baba. While coming back to hotel, on the way I visit Hanuman Mandir and Chavadi. Then I will come to Hotel and offer holy teerth to some of the devotees present at that time in the Hotel. On some days, I get more teerth and on some days I hardly get any teerth. But, it does not make any difference to me. Baba has given me strength to do this Seva. With Baba's grace, I don't suffer from any disease till now. I pray Baba to give me strength to continue this Seva".
Baba Iyer says: "The Holy teerth is very powerful. I cannot even imagine or comprehend the medicinal property of this teerth. This holy teerth cured the ailment of my wife. My wife was suffering from a heart ailment. The doctor had suggested for immediate surgery to which I had agreed. However, we took a second opinion The second doctor also gave the same opinion. My daughter also showed to another doctor. She took my wife's file to that doctor. That doctor also said that there were three blocks in the heart and surgery needs to be done. Hence, my family mentally prepared my wife for heart operation and my daugher Kavita, Prema and all of us were arranging for the funds. When we were in search of funds, one Sansthan Official Shri.Bhagwe told me: 'Baba, why don't you take one more opinion in our Sansthan Hospital? Kindly bring the patient and her case file and taken an opinion from Sansthan Hospital doctor. Let's take one more opinion. Even then if surgery is the only alternative, you can go for surgery'. One night around 9 am, I was called to Sansthan Hospital. Me and my wife went along with her Medical history file. At that time doctor was very busy. He was performing a surgery in the operation theatre. Shri.Bhagwe took me and my wife to the operation theatre. Doctor saw the file and the CD which was there along with that file. Then the doctor replied: 'nothing to worry. Why are you going for surgery? No.... Not required at all. Give this medicine which I am going to prescribe to your wife for five to six months. Let us review her case after 6 months. I feel, there is no urgency for this operation at this moment. I was astonished to hear the doctor's words because, when four other specialistis had advised for Surgery how come this doctor is telling me there was no need for surgery? I was bewildered to hear doctor's words. However, I had full faith in this doctor as he was from Sai Baba Hospital in Shirdi. Hence, my family members decided to follow this doctor's advise. Accordingly, I informed my daughters that I had visited Sai Baba Hospital and the doctor there has prescribed medicine and advised me not to go for surgery. But, I also decided that incase my wife health deteriorates, I will immediately take her to the hospital for surgery. However, by Baba's grace, till her last breath, there was no need for any surgery. I strongly believe that It was only because of Baba and Baba's teerth, that my wife's surgery was averted".
Baba Iyer continues: "One devotee had come from London and I don't remember the name. The devotee asked for Baba's teerth as his father was ailing from final stage of Cancer. I gave little quantity of Baba teerth. Seeing such a little quantity of teerth, he asked me 'how to give this little quanity of teerth to my father on a daily basis?'. I told him to mix little quantity of teerth with half glass of water and give him on a daily basis. After few days, the devotee brought his father along with him to Shirdi. He introduced his father to me. The devotee, myself and his father went to Samadhi Mandir. Mandir Incharge was present at that time. I told him 'this person is a cancer patient. He was very serious but now his condition has improved. He wants to have Baba's darshan'. The cancer patient was very delighted to have Baba's darshan. He also performed Annadan at my resturant. He said 'I want to perform Annadan today in your restaurant. Please perform Annadan on my behalf'. I told him: 'Annadan you are doing as per your wish and for your wellbeing and not for my sake'. But he repeatedly said: 'I want to do Annadan'. After this incident, he came many times to Shirdi and every time, he had Baba's darshan and performed Annadan at my restaurant. Many Sai devotees have got benefitted by doing Annadan in this place. I can't tell about each and every incident here'. I tell every devotee who comes here to take Baba's teerth, see the effect of teerth for themselves and tell the result directly to Baba and not me".
Hotel Swami Madras is a South Indian Hotel started by Baba Iyer's father Late Shri.Ramakrishnan Iyer alias Swamy Iyer. In this small hotel, Ramakrishnan Iyer used to prepare Idli, Vada, Upma etc. and during the afternoon used to prepare lunch for our family. During that time, Ramakrishnan Iyer used to give Tea at 5:00 am in the morning to everyone who came near the restaurant free of cost. During afternoon time, he also used to provide free lunch to eleven people everyday. Baba Iyer's father performed this Seva as his daily duty. Later, when any devotee wished to perform Annadan and gave him money, Ramakrishnan Iyer used to perform Annadan for that amount. Once, devotees gave money in advance and asked Ramakrishnan Iyer to perform Annadan on Thursday. Thus, Annadan Seva continued from that time onwards. The Iyer family was very poor when they came to Shirdi and started the restaurant. There were no restaurants in Shirdi at that time. The restaurant was not doing well after sometime. Hence, Iyer closed down the restaurant and started a small lunch home in his house itself. Iyer had to face many problems at that time. Iyer did not have enough money. No one was ready to lend money. Shirdi was a small village at that time. When Iyer used to ask money with some they used to say "No. We don't have money to lend you freely". One gentlemen from Matunga in Mumbai visited Shirdi at that time. He asked Shirdi villagers: 'where is Swami? Where is the lunch home of Swami?'. The villagers replied: 'Swami is not here. He left Shirdi. There is no one by name Swami here'. At that moment, an orphan boy asked this gentlemen from Mumbai: 'Whom you want to meet?'. The gentlemen replied: "Swami". That boy agreed to take him to Swami's house. That gentlemen came and met Ramakrishnan Iyer. His son Baba Iyer was also with him at that time. He asked Ramakrishnan Iyer "Oh Swami. What happened?. Ramakrishnan Iyer replied that he does not own a resturant of his own and is going through difficulties at that time. The gentlemen from Mumbai said: "Don't worry. You start Annadan seva everyday from today on my behalf. Start from one person a day. I will take care of the money part". Saying like this, the gentlemen gave around Rs.4000 towards performing Annandan seva everyday. It was a very big amount at that time. It is equivalent to many a lakh of rupees by today's standards. The Iyer family brought back the same restaurant which they had closed and started this Annadan Seva. From that day onwards, till date the Annadan Seva is continuing without any problem. However, there was no trust to manage this Annadan Seva in the beginning. One devotee from Chennai Shri.Jagadeeshan guided Baba Iyer to perform a family trust, collect some fixed amount for Annadan Seva and perform Annadan seva in a perfect manner. He also guided and helped Baba Iyer to get Trust registration done. After some months, Baba Iyer got a sealed cover and when he opened he saw the Trust Registration Certificate and by Baba's grace got the registration number as E-786. However, Baba Iyer did not know the significance of the number 786 at that time. One devotee told me the significance of 786 and said "You are very lucky to get this E-786 as registration number. It represent Allah and Ishwar". To which Baba Iyer replied: "All right! Sab Ka Malik Ek". We are Iyers. We have Allah with us in the from of 786. And E - is for Ishwar". At that moment, Baba Iyer felt very proud that he has acquired E-786 as registration number. Advocate Shri.Choudhary helped Baba Iyer to get registration of trust done. E-786 proved to be very lucky for Baba Iyer and from that day onwards Annadan Seva is happening without any problems. On festival days like, Ram Navami, Vijay Dashmi, Guru Poornima, New Year, Christmas Holidays, Datta Jayanthi and other special days, Mass Annadan Seva is done. It is surprising to know that number of people who partake food crosses more than 10,000 on festival days. It is also a matter of pride for him. It was possible only because of the grace of Sai Baba. Shri Sai Baba helps Baba Iyer in mysterious ways! Once, Baba Iyer's family went through financial difficulties. Ramakrishnan Iyer's family is very big. Education of Children and marriage expenses were huge. Hence, Ramakrishnan Iyer had to go through lot of financial problems. Baba Iyer's mother Smt.Chellammal passed away on the auspicious Dhan Trayodashi day in the year 1974. His father Shri.Ramakrishnan Iyer passed away in 1988. Once when Shri.Ramakrishnan Iyer was going through lot of financial difficulties, one Sai devotee asked him "Swami, why your face looks very dull. What is the problem?". Ramakrishnan Iyer said: "I am facing lot of financial difficulties at the moment. I am not able to share my problem with anyone". The devotee asked him to share his problem with him. He reassured Ramakrishnan Iyer that his problems will be resolved soon. Saying like this he gave some amount to Shri Ramakrishnan Iyer and told him that there is no need to return the amount back to him. Ramakrishnan Iyer refused to take that amount from the devotee and said: "I don't want any money. Please tell me who told you that I am in need of money". Ramakrishnan Iyer was a respectable man. How can he take money that too from a stranger?. However, this ananymous sai devotee forcibly kept that cash bag on the cash counter in the restaurant and went away. After some time when Ramakrishnan Iyer checked the cash bag, there was around 60000 rupees in the cash bag. Ramakrishnan Iyer thought "what will I do with this huge amount? My problem will get resolved by 8-10 thousand rupees itself. The gentlemen sai devotee has left huge amount of money. What to do with this extra money?". Ramakrishnan Iyer started crying out of happiness.
Ramakrishnan Iyer thought that the person who left such huge sum of money must be none other than Sai Baba Himself. Ramakrishnan Iyer went with that money to Shri Sai Baba Samadhi Mandir, kept the money onSamadhi and Lotus feet of Sai Baba and took His blessings. Afterwards, he put some money in the donation counter and thanked Baba for helping him at the right time to resolve his financial difficulties. Even after many years, the family was never able to know the identity of the sai devotee who helped their family during the hour of crisis. This incident not only left an everlasting impression in the life of Baba Iyer but also was a turning point in his life.
Even after this incident Baba Iyer faced financial difficulties many times. His mother Smt.Chellammal passed away on Dhan Trayodashi day and her cremation took placed on Deepavali day. He was not able to perform her final rituals in a befitting manner due to poor financial condition. Only Sai Baba knows how the family lived during their difficult days. A day before Baba Iyer's mother passed away, she prepared Laddu for everyone. It was midnight when she finished preparation of Laddu and went to sleep. Next day early morning i.e., on Dhana Trayodashi day at 4:00 am, her health deteriorated and she passed away. Thousands of people including Rich and poor participated in her funeral procession. Baba Iyer had never seen such a huge crowd earlier. Baba Iyer thought "we are very ordinary people belonging to middle class. How come many people came to know about my mother's demise and how come such a huge crowd has come for my mother's final journey?".
Once, Kanchi Shankaracharya had come to Nasik and Baba Iyer had gone to Nasik to have his darshan. After Nasik, Shankaracharya was to go to Pune via Ahmednagar. He halted at Kopargaon for half an hour to attend a program at Ram Mandir. Baba Iyer requested Shankaracharya to visit Shirdi enroute to Pune. Shankaracharya agreed and came to Shirdi. Baba Iyer welcomed Shankaracharya in Shirdi. As per their protocol, they don't visit the Samadhi of Saints. Hence, Shankaracharya did circumbulation of Samadhi Mandir and expressed his wish to perform Sandhya Vandana at Sunset time. Accordingly, Shri Sai Baba Sansthan made arrangements for Shankaracharya's Sandhya Vandana. During conversation Shankaracharya asked Baba Iyer "what are you doing in Shirdi? How long you are residing in Shirdi?". Baba Iyer replied: "I run a restaurant in Shirdi and daily supply Warm Water for the the abhishek of Baba's Samadhi and Statue". Hearing Baba Iyer's words Shankaracharya got astonished and said: "normally Holy water from Ganges, Rose Water, Milk, Curds and Panchamrut are used for the Abhishekam of God. How come Warm Water is being used for the holy Bath of Lord Sai Baba's Samadhi and Statue?!. Definitely there must be some secret behind this. Baba directing a traditional Iyer family to send Warm Water for the Abhisheka of His Samadhi and Statue is a matter of pride". Baba Iyer humbly replied that their family is really fortunate that they are blessed by Saints like Sai Baba and Shankaracharya. Shankaracharya replied: "You must definitely be having Rinanubandhic ties with Shri Sai Baba from past life. Otherwise, it is not possible to do His Seva". Baba Iyer feels the words of Shankaracharya are blessings to him and his family.
Baba Iyer says: "Any devotee who visits Shirdi will defintely experience a very unique and different feeling. All types of devotees - Rich and Poor, Educated and Uneducated visit Shirdi to have Sai Baba's darshan. I will get the benefit of establishing a bondage with lots of new devotees with the divine grace of Baba. Baba helps me to meet thousands new devotees everyday and they instantly become my family members. Educated people hardly belive in the existence of God and but is interesting and quite surprising to note that educated people who visit Shirdi for the first time instantly become devotees of Sai Baba for life. I say that this is definitely the greatest miracle of Sai Baba. People cannot come to Shirdi on their own. It is Sai Baba who pulls them to Shirdi and blesses them. I have seen many devotees coming to Shirdi and not able to visit Samadhi Mandir for some unknown reason!!! For some Baba only gives darshan at the Samadhi Mandir and for some other devotees, He arranges for His Aarti darshan!!! and blesses them. It is only because of Shri Sai Baba's blessings, that I am able to serve Sai devotees who are coming to Shirdi.
Even to this day, Shri Vishwanath Ramakrishnan Iyer alias Baba Iyer is happily and selflessly doing Seva to Sai devotees and contuing the service of supplying hot water for abhishek of Sai Baba’s idol and Samadhi without fail. He is also continuing the Annadan Seva without fail. Sai devotees who wish to participate in Annadan Seva can do so by paying a nominal amount of Rs.60/- per person.
Family Tree of Ramakrishnan Iyer alias Swamy Iyer
Family Tree Courtesy: Shri.Prasad Iyer
Shri.Vishwanath Iyer alias Baba Iyer's wife Smt.Lakshmi Iyer passed away peacefully on 17th April 2020. Vishwanath Iyer has a son by name Shri.Prasad Vishwanath Iyer. He is taking care of the hotel along with his father. Shri.Prasad Iyer is married to Sowmya P. Iyer blessed with a Son Master Sahil P.Iyer and Daughter Kum.Shreya P.Iyer. Vishwanath Iyer is also blessed with two daughters namely Smt.Kavita Sunil Shinde and Smt.Prema Manoj.
We are giving below the contact details of Shri.Vishwanath Ramakrishnan Iyer alias Baba Iyer for the benefit of Sai devotees:
Shri Sai Bhagavathi Prathistan,
(Courtesy: Personal Interview Shri.Jignesh C.Rajput, Surat had with Shri Baba Iyer on 18th November 2023. Photo Courtesy: Shri.Jignesh C.Rajput)