Sai Baba of Shirdi

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Sai Baba (ca. 1856-1918)

Indian spiritual teacher and mystic who, like the celebrated spiritual poet Kabir, was accepted equally by both Hindus and Moslems. Little is known of his early life. It is believed that he was born into a Brahmin family in Hyderabad State, left home at an early age to follow a Moslem fakir, and on the death of his teacher became attached to a Hindu guru whom he called "Venkusa." Even these details are uncertain, however, since there was a profound symbolism attached to all the utterances of Sai Baba.

It is known that in 1872 he appeared as a lad of 16 in the village of Shirdi, in the Ahmadnagar district of Bombay. He first attempted to settle at a small Hindu temple but was asked to go to a half-ruined mosque nearby.

He made his home at the mud-walled mosque, where he kept an oil lamp burning and occasionally smoked a clay pipe. He muttered to himself and performed such strange secret rites as emptying and refilling water pots, regarded by devotees as symbolic gestures relating to divine grace. His actions and instructions were unconventional and erratic but often culminated in a great many extraordinary miracles and an outpouring of divine grace. His following grew among both Hindus and Moslems.

In 1886, almost as a rehearsal for death, he told a devotee that he was going to Allah and that his body should be preserved carefully for three days against a possible return. His heart stopped beating, his breathing ceased, and local authorities pronounced him dead. On the third day he opened his eyes and started breathing again.

Sai Baba died October 15, 1918, and was buried in a Hindu shrine. Since his death, the miracle-working guru Satya Sai Baba has been regarded by many devotees as a reincarnation of Sai Baba.


Osborne, Arthur. The Incredible Sai Baba. New Delhi: Orient Longmans, 1957.

Pradhan, Rao Bahadur M. W. Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi: A Glimpse of Indian Spirituality. Bandra, India: R. A. Turkhud, n.d.

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Sai Baba.
1. Hindu spiritual guide and miracle (siddha/iddhi) worker. He died in 1918, and was recognized as one who had direct experience of reality and truth—so much so that many regard him as a manifestation (avatāra) of God. He is known as Sai Baba of Shirdi to differentiate him from the following.

2. Sai Baba (b. 1926) of the āśrama Prasanti Nilayam, who is believed by his followers (now worldwide) to be a reincarnation of the first Sai Baba. He too is well-known for his miraculous powers.