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Sunday, March 3, 2024

“Sai Baba can be a saint, can be a fakir but cannot be God”, says Bageshwar Dham’s Dhirendra Shastri, Uddhav’s Sena takes offence

An FIR has been registered against Bageshwar Dham’s Sri Dhirendra Shastri for his comment on Sai Baba. A formal complaint was submitted on April 3 in Mumbai’s Bandra police station by Yuva Sena (Uddhav faction) leader Rahul Narain Kanal against Sri Dhirendra Shastri for allegedly ‘spreading hatred’.

Uddhav faction Yuva Sena leader demands action against Shastri

“One of Shastri’s devotees queries him on the persona of Sai Baba’s worship being compared to other deities of the Hindu religion. Astoundingly, Shastri responds to the question of his devotee in the manner most schemingly veiled with an ulterior motive and denigrates the honour, adorability and invocation of Sai Baba”, Kanal says in his letter.

Furthermore, he has demanded action against Bageshwar Dham under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 153A pointing out that his statement amounted to spreading hatred and enmity within the community and its subsects.

“The conduct of the Bageshwar Dham Sarkar in raising objections against Sai Baba and the devotee who sought a response appears to be insensitive and appears to be deliberate in order to insult Sai Baba. This is evident in creating a communal rift within a peaceful society and comes under the ambit of hate speech. This should be thoroughly investigated in view of the guidelines of the Supreme Court to prevent hate speeches in public assemblies”, Kanal’s letter reads.

What did Sri Dhirendra Shastri say about Sai Baba?

Bageshwar Dham Sarkar Sri Dhirendra Krishna Shastri is in Madhya Pradesh’s (MP) Jabalpur where he is conducting his Katha Vachan & Pravachan sessions. In one of his sessions, he was asked about the Shirdi Sai Baba by a devotee named Shailendra Rajput.

“Shankaracharya of our Dharma did not give Sai Baba the place of a deity. It is the duty of every Sanatani to obey Shankaracharya because he is the prime minister of our religion. Any saint of our Dharma, be it Goswami Tulsidas ji or Surdas ji, is a saint, a great man, a Yug Purush, a Kalpa Purush but not a God”, he said. Bageshwar Dham Sarkar Dhirendra Shastri was responding to one of the devotees present at his assembly who had inquired about Sai Baba.

“People have their faith. We cannot hurt anyone’s faith. Sai Baba can be a saint, a fakir but he cannot be a God. If I say it in this way, people may call it a controversy, but let me tell you, a vulture cannot pretend to be a lion”, he added.

“If I dress up like Shankaracharya, take the throne, etc., and say that I am Shankaracharya, will I become Shankaracharya? I cannot. God is God and saints are just saints. One should keep it as one believes. But Sai is not God, our Shankaracharya says”, Dhirendra Shastri ji further said in an attempt to explain his stance on the issue. “The court has said that Sai Baba is not a Sanatani, is not a Hindu, and has also apologized to Shankaracharya”, he said citing a court judgement.

He opined that a human can never be God although he can be a Guru or a saint. When asked about worshipping Sai Baba, he said when there are so many Hindu deities why does one need to worship Chand Mian?

Who was Sai Baba?

Sai Baba was a nineteenth-century saint who is believed to have ‘appeared’ at Shirdi though many consider the temple town to be his janmasthan. Former Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray had to face the wrath of citizens of Shirdi and 25 surrounding villages when he announced the development of Pathri as ‘Sai Janmasthan’.

There is no clarity about his year of birth but Sai Baba was a spiritual leader who drew followers from different faiths and lived up to the year 1918. Some say he was a Muslim Fakir while others believe he hailed from a Hindu Brahmin family as his ears were pierced.

His origin is equally shrouded in mystery as available accounts say he never revealed his actual name, caste or religion during his lifetime. Even in his teachings, he combined elements of both Hindu Dharma and Islam. He is believed to have acted as a bridge in resolving the discord between the Hindu-Muslim community. It is possible that he had to adopt some Islamic rituals in order to act as this bridge between the two communities.

“There are contradictory claims about Sai Baba’s antecedents. According to the residents of Pathri, Sai Baba was born in their town and they cite the eighth edition of his biography ‘Sri Saisachharitra’ as a source to back their claim. However, according to Tamil accounts, Sai’s mother was Vaishnavdevi and his father’s name was Abdul Sattar and he came to Shirdi later where he took Samadhi”, notes OpIndia.

There are other accounts giving different parentage for Sai Baba. Sri Sai Leela Traimasik magazine’s 1952 October to December issue identifies Sathe Shastri and Lakshmibai as his parents while Gujarati magazine Sai Sudha says he was born in Jerusalem to Gujarati Brahmin parents. According to Suman Sundar’s 1959 book Sai Leela he was born to Gangubhau and Devagiri Amma in erstwhile Hyderabad state’s Pathri.  

For some Sai Baba is a Guru/saint/fakir for others he is God. In Hindu Dharma, Guru is equivalent to God but Hindus as a society might want to be careful in assigning Godhood. Although Sai Baba can be considered a God in one’s personal capacity, in the wider context of the Hindu Dharma, he can be said to be a Guru or saint.

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1 COMMENT

  1. According to Sanatan Dharma, it is stated that there are two gods- one is Kuldev/Kuldevi and other is Ishta dev. Both are to be prayed to and it comes as a tradition in one family of Seven generations above – one is father , grandfather, great grand father and above upto seven generation. The seventh generation above who has prayed to should be accepted.

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