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Shivamma Thayee's story: 1906-1918

Sri Shirdi Sai Baba

Shivamma Thayee became a dedicated disciple of Shirdi Sai Baba at a young age. The remains of her modest ashram is situated in Bangalore on the road to Madras, where her tomb lays under the main Mandir, dedicated to Shri Shirdi Sai Baba. At Saionline we encourage Shirdi Baba devotees to take the necessary procedures to preserve whatever is left of Shree Shivamma's Thayees ashram, which is soon threatened of being lost and forgotten from financial distress. Shivamma Thayee has deep historical significance to the story on Shirdi Sai Baba, and developed into a saint in her own right.

Given the family name of Rajamma, Sai Baba of Shirdi renamed young Rajamma to Shivamma Thayee in 1917, declaring she would become a saint. Today her samadhi is placed in her ashram in Madiwala on the outskirts of Bangalore city. Shivamma was born in the small village of Vellakinaru in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu (called Madras Presidency at that time) and was the eldest of four children.

The parents, says Shivamma, were simple, loving and religious minded people who encouraged the spiritual inclination of the children. At the age of 13 according to customs, Shivamma was given away in marriage to Sri Subramaniam Gunder. Shivamma gave birth to a son after a year of the marriage and was very happy and content in her new family-life. During this period Shivamma's uncle, Sri Thangavel Gounder, had been inclined to become a Sanyasi (renunciate) and traveled around the country in meeting of saints. One day the uncle brought with him to their town near Coimbatore the famous Saint of Shirdi: Sai Baba. Masses of enthusiastic people thronged to get a glimpse of the famous saint, who was already then well known and they felt proud of his presence in their district of Tamil.

At this time, in year 1906, Baba is believed to have been about 70-71 years of age. Shirdi Sai Baba stayed in the town for two days and Shivamma's uncle did not let escape the chance for his family and relatives to meet the great saint, and hopefully to receive a Matrupadesh (a sacred mantra and initiation) from him. Shivamma tells of this first meeting, "At that very time, I was breast feeding my one year old son Mani Raj, seated behind at some distance from my cousin brothers and sisters. Baba cast a moving glance on all of us, and then he asked me alone to come near him by his gestures."

"Baba told my uncle, 'She is the only girl in the whole lot who will be a highly elevated soul.' Baba then slowly chanted the Gayatri Mantra to me and asked me to repeat the same."

The following morning Shivamma had forgotten her mantra and the uncle again brought her to the saint, asking for pardon. Shirdi Sai Baba wrote the mantra on a piece of paper, and Shivamma, who barely knew how to read, feebly tried to learn the mantra letter by letter in halting Tamil.

As time passed, Shivamma's household duties kept her occupied so as to loosing the precious paper with the given mantra. That same evening she had a dream of Shirdi Sai who told her, "You search for the paper on which I wrote the Gayatri Mantra, in the big pot in which you store rice in your house." The following morning she indeed found the paper in the corner of the rice pot. From then on Shivamma felt that Shirdi Sai was her genuine spiritual teacher and accepted him as her Guru.

Soon after her initial meeting with the Saint of Shirdi, Shivamma felt a desire to have darshan (vision/meeting) of the Saint at Shirdi. Asking her husband the permission to leave for Shirdi, he declined but on one condition: The family cow being old and of no use, had to be sold within seven days. If this was to happen, the husband promised enough faith in Baba and agreed to bring the wife for darshan. As nothing can stop a devotee from seeing his or her master when the time is ripe, within 4 days circumstances arranged for the cow to be sold for a surprisingly good amount!

Shivamma says, "My entire family—my husband, son, myself and my maidservant had Shirdi Sai Baba's darshan in his old Mosque Dwarka 'Mai Masjid.' To others, Baba generally blessed them by saying 'Allah achcha karega' (May the Allah do good to you). But to me Baba spoke these two words in Tamil: 'Nalla iru' (Be prosperous). Baba always spoke to me in my mother tongue Tamil and even to this day in his spirit form he comes to me and talks to me in Tamil, which is the only language I know and understand well."

Baba was always surrounded by many devotees and visitors. Shivamma describes his countenance, "Baba sat in the Masjid in a very simple yet majestic manner. He was about six feet tall. He had very long hands and the fingers of his hands stretched below his knees. His color was very fair and he had a sharp nose with big nostrils. He was neither thin nor fat. His eyes were not black but blue and deep. They shone brightly and penetratingly. People used to say that Baba's eyes glittered in the night like the eyes of a cat or a tiger. I was very much fascinated by the charm of my charismatic divine Guru."

Shivamma witnessed many of Shirdi Sai Baba's miracles and powers. "Baba was fond of cooking for his devotees. Wood was burning in the chullah (clay stove) and the ragi gruel was boiling in the pot. Baba pulled up his sleeve and immersed his right hand into the boiling gruel and stirred it many times. Evidently, there was no effect of the boiling ragi on his hands. Many people witnessed this sort of cooking done by Baba. Baba himself distributed his food to all devotees, and even to animals and birds who happened to come to his Masjid at that time."

Shivamma used to travel alone to Shirdi to see Sai Baba three to four times a year, despite her husbands growing unwillingness. She used to stay in Shirdi for a few days at a time, having his darshan and witnessing his powers in play.

Soon Shivamma became so attached to her Guru, that she started chanting his name in her household and thus grew disinterested in regular out-worldly life. She says, "Baba treated me as a daughter and showered his grace on me. On many occasions, I was the sole witness to his miracles." One extraordinary 'yoga' practice Baba used to do was called Khand Yoga. She explains, "One of my visists to Shirdi was around 1915. I witnessed a very horrible thing; I was staying in a rented room close to the Dwarka Mai. There was no latrine in that house, and one night at 1:30 am I had to out in the open space some distance away to urinate. It was pitch dark. As I walked near the Dwarka Mai in the street, something like a wooden log hit my feet. I took it up. To my horror, it was the leg of a human body with blood on it. I put it down at once and moved ahead in fear.

After about five to six feet I hit upon another mutilated part of a human body—it was a full arm cut off from the shoulder. I was dreadfully frightened. At once I ran to my room and closed the door immediately." Shivamma thought that someone might have murdered Shirdi Sai, and she could not sleep all night weeping and crying.

She continues, "At about 5 am I got up from my bed and mustered some courage to peep through the window of my room towards the Dwarka Mai Mosque. To my amazement I saw Shirdi Sai Baba sitting in the open courtyard silently smoking his chillum (pipe). I went at once and narrated to him the experience from the previous night." Baba then told her, "Daughter Rajamma, I had done my Khand Yoga last night, which I do sometimes. I separate my limbs from my physical body, and then my physical life is no more there. My Spirit have seen you moving in the street and stumbling against my mutilated legs and head."

He had further told her that he would teach her the techniques of Khand Yoga, which she refused to accept. Shivamma says, "To my knowledge, he did not make such an offer to anyone among his countless devotees during his lifetime."

Another 'yoga' she witnessed Baba doing was Dhauti Yoga, where the Mahatma used to swallow a long cloth, about 20 feet, and then pull it out of his mouth by the local well. This was Shirdi Sai's way of 'cleaning the intestines'.

It gets more intense: "On some occasions, Baba used to take me to the well outside Shirdi. There he used to do another thrilling yoga. He would take out his intestines from his mouth, wash them with water, and then spread them by the well. He would entrust me the responsibilities of guarding his intestines from eagles, crows and other birds, because I was his Sishya (disciple). After the intestines being dry, Baba swallowed them again."

For his devotees Baba was a very patient and caring Guru. He knew about their past, present, and future and would deal with each case according to this. At times, he would also become very angry and scold people but his anger was a facade for disciplining his follower. He taught his followers and disciples the higher truths of spiritual life in very simplified words through depicting real life stories, parable, and the accounts of previous lives of many persons, and also other creatures. Shirdi Sai Baba, the incredible saint of Shirdi, left his mortal frame (Mahasamadhi) on October 15, year 1918.

Let us pray at the feet of Sai Baba who is the incarnation of all gods and protector of all, to show mercy on us, and increase our devotion towards him.

Courtesy: http://www.saionline.org/shirdi/thayee.htm

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