Sai Experiences of Muktaram – Part 2 of 3
To dispel the misunderstandings and bad publicity, one of the Sai devotees wrote a detailed letter to the editors of 'Shri Sainath Prabha' under the pen-name of Mitra (friend) which was published in the April, 1919 issue of the magazine. It is reproduced below:
''After reading an article titled 'Shri Sainath Maharajanchya Akhyayika' (legends of Shri Sainath Maharaj), I had certain thoughts which I feel it necessary to communicate to you and hence, this letter.
The story published therein relating to the death of a devotee named Muktaram is not factual. About three months prior to Shri Samartha taking Samadhi, Muktaram was not keeping well. He was suffering from fever and cough. Since he took ill, he was laid down in his room. About 8-9 days after Shri Samartha took Samadhi, he went to the Masjid; but returned to his room in less than 24 hours. He did not sit on the mattress near the railing and also did not place his hand on the railing like Baba used to do. He sat still on a gunny sack near a pillar somewhere near the middle.
Several people thought that it was Muktaram's plan to sit in the Masjid like Baba used to do and this writer is one of such people. However, as Muktaram soon returned to his room, all doubts were cleared.
After he returned to his room, this author posed him a direct question, 'Why did you go to the Masjid and then, why did you return?' He replied, 'As I am not feeling well, I am a very much harassed person. I thought that if I sit in the Masjid and pray to Shri Samartha, I may get some relief. However, it was not possible for me to sit there for long. Further, there was the problem of spitting out phlegm from time to time. Therefore, I returned back to this room to lie down.' Later on, from the month of October, his health started deteriorating rapidly and after about two to two and half months he died of TB in January, 1919.
Secondly, the article published in your magazine is likely to create an impression that Shri Samartha was very cold hearted. However, this writer and many other devotees have experienced that on the contrary that Shri Samartha was personification of Daya (kindness) and Kshama (forgiveness). He looked after His devotees like His own children. Punishment meted out to a wrong doer was mild in nature."
The above letter was published by Shri Sainath Prabha and its editor even added that:
"We had published in our previous issue an account of Shri Muktaram's death. It was penned by a senior devotee of Samartha Sai Baba from Shirdi itself. We were only a medium for publishing it. We were not aware of Muktaram's earlier details. Our friend has furnished the missing information. We are grateful to this friend for the same."
The letter was also published by Shri Sai Leela and its editor stated that:
"The new devotees visiting Shirdi after Baba took Samadhi hear stories about earlier days and about earlier persons–which have travelled by word of mouth. It is necessary for the devotees by using their own judgment regarding credibility and reliability of such stories. Hence, we have published the above letter."
If a person gives some more thought to the three stories appearing above, he is likely to come across some absurdities. There is some confusion about exact day on which Shri Muktaram is said to have visited the Masjid. The first story mentions it as 'one day' while the second and third stories mention 'two days' after Baba took Samadhi. Thus, the exact day on which Muktaram went there is not clear.
In the first and second stories, the cause of Muktaram's death is given as "because he sat on the seat of Shri Samarth, he felt as if pins were pricking him from below, blood started oozing out and he died a painful death." However, in the third story, it is mentioned that "his stomach started having unbearable pains and he died of a swelling in his stomach." Thus the stories give conflicting reasons for his death.
The most important anomaly is about the time of his death. First two stories state that "he dies after two days". Third story says that "he died after two days". Thus the month of his death would be October 1918.
In reality he had gone to the Masjid 8-9 days after Baba took Samadhi, he died in January 1919 and the cause was TB.
The letter writer was a witness to these events and had written the account in his own handwriting. This is sufficient to set at rest all guess-work about Muktaram's behaviour and death.
There are some incidents concerning Shri Muktaram which are worth mentioning here. Whenever Annasaheb Dabholkar (author of Shri Sai Satcharita) visited Shirdi, he stayed on the upper floor of DixitWada. His bedding would be kept below a window. Once, a snake came in from a hole in the window and entered Dabholkar's bedding. Everyone gathered sticks etc. to kill the snake. A person succeeded in hitting it; but it managed to escape by the same route by which it had come. Muktaram, who was present there, said, "The poor reptile would have lost its life. Good that it could escape from the hole."
Hearing this Dabholkar was furious. There was a verbal duel which lasted for a long time. Ultimately it was time to go to bed and the debate was given a rest for the time being. Next
day Baba deliberately raised the topic–"What happened yesterday?" Dabholkar narrated the entire story and posed a question, "Should a person slay a snake at such times?" Baba replied, "There is a part of God in every human-being as well as animal – may it be a snake or a scorpion. Every one behaves as the Almighty asks him to behave."
Thus, Muktaram had propagated what Baba had taught and Baba fully supported his stand. This incident narrates how Muktaram's nature was different from others.
Another incident concerning Muktaram is how Baba made him a medium for constructing a temple at a town called Harda.
Shri Sadashiv Dhundiraj alias Sadu-bhaiyya Naik of Harda once received a letter from Shri Kakasaheb Dixit. It was stated that "Shri Balaramji and Muktaramji will leave from here on Monday the 8th February 1915 and will reach Harda by same day evening by about 5 p.m. Muktaram's home is about one-and-half mile from Raver. There is a large photo of Shri Samarth there. He has an urge to give this photo to you. Please send a person to meet these two in Harda station."
(to be continued)