The Temple at Smt. Chandrabai's House
[Original article written in Marathi by Shri Chandrakant D. Samant, and published in Shri Sai Leela magazine (Marathi) for the month of Nov. 75]
The old suburb of Bombay city from Bandra to Vile Parle had the good fortune of housing a number of Sai devotees, who were lucky in having a close association with Shri Sai Baba during his life time. Shri Dabholkar alias Hemadpant, the author of Shri Sai Satcharita, was a resident of Bandra, while Solicitor Hari Sitaram alias Kakasaheb Dixit was a resident of Vile Parle. From Sai Satcharita, chapter 20, pages 106 to 110 (7th Edition, 1974) we find that Shri Sai Baba directed Shri Dasganu to go to Vile Parle, as the maid servant in the house of Shri Kakasaheb Dixit would give him the reply to his problem.
Rao Bahadur M. W. Pradhan, who wrote a book in English captioned "Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi" as early as 1933, was staying at Santacruz. Similarly Shri Raghunathrao Tendulkar and his wife Savitribai, Shri Ramchandra Atmaram alias Babasaheb Tarkhad, Shri Balaram Mankar, Shri Balaram Dhurandhar and Shri Shamrao Jayakar, who has painted the beautiful portrait of Shri Sai Baba in the Dwarkamai, were all staying in this area. Thus this area has become sacred because of the residence of so many Sai devotees.
On the Tilak Mandir road at Vile Parle (East) there is a building known as "Shriram Sai Nivas". No sooner you enter the compound of this building, you are attracted by the statue of Shri Sai Baba in a sitting posture, which is placed there. This statue is carved by the famous sculptor Shri Vasant Govekar. It was installed in the open space near the front wall of the building and is placed on a raised platform nearly four and a half feet tall. This temple has become a favourite resort for all the Sai devotees, staying in the Vile Parle (East) area. It is frequented by many people every day for taking darshan of Shri Sai Baba.
If we look at the history of so many Sai temples, we find that Shri Baba inspired many of His devotees to build those temple in order to spread devotion to Shri Sai Baba in the vicinity of those temples. In the case of this temple also we find some such story. Smt. Chandrabai Borkar was a staunch devotee of Shri Sai Baba. She used to visit Shirdi very often and used to spend much time in Baba's company. Many other Sai devotees from Vile Parle used to accompany her to Shirdi and used to perform the Puja etc. there. Smt. Sharadabai, wife of another staunch Sai devotee, Shri Nanasaheb Chandorkar, was a great friend of Smt. Chandrabai and they used to worship Shri Baba jointly on many occasions. Shri Tatyaba, who was a favourite devotee of Shri Sai Baba, was considered as a brother by Smt. Chandrabai. Due to the blessings of Sri Sai Baba, Shri Tatyaba had a son and it was a strange coincidence that Smt. Chandrabai also had a son in the same year, at the age of fifty years. Her strong devotion towards Baba prompted her to go to Shirdi and she had the good fortune to be with Shri Baba during His last moments. It was Smt. Chandrabai, who placed the Tulsi leaf in Shri Baba's mouth at the time of his Maha Samadhi.
Because of her long association with Shri Sai Baba, Smt. Chandrabai intended to commemorate the memory of Shri Sai Baba in Vile Parle; but somehow the plan for the same could not materialize till 1958. On the Ramanavami day in that year, the statue of Shri Sai Baba was installed by the holy hands of Pandit Padmanabhshastri Palaye in the compound of the bunglow of Smt. Chandrabai. Only on the previous night Smt Chandrabai and her daughter-in-law, Mrs Mangalabai had a dream about the installation of Shri Sai Baba's statue. This incident brought over a complete change in the life and thoughts of Mrs. Mangalabai. She turned overnight from Prarthanasamagist to a staunch devotee of Shri Sai Baba. Smt. Chandrabai appeared to have fulfilled her last wish of installing the statue and closed her chapter of life only about eight months thereafter in the month of November 1958.
One Pujari is appointed to worship and perform the Aarti in the temple. The festivals, that are being celebrated at Shirdi from time to time, are all being celebrated in this mandir all the year round. Smt. Banutai Dukhande, a friend of Smt. Chandrabai, used to perform keertans at this temple for many years. Like Dasganu, this activity also helped a lot in spreading devotion to Shri Sai Baba in the masses. Sai devotees staying in the suburbs should take advantage of this Sai Mandir, which is so near to them.