Kashibai Kanitker’s Visit to Shirdi

II Sai Ram ll 

Leela 17

Kashibai Kanitker’s Visit to Shirdi

 Kashibai was born in 1861, in a wealthy Brahmin family in the town of Ashte in Sangli district. At the age of 9 she was married to Govind Vasudev Kanitker who was 7 years older than her.She had no formal education, but on account of her husband’s encouragement she learned to read and write. Kashibai soon mastered Marathi, Sanskrit and English.Kashibai was a prolific writer and received many accolades for both her fiction and non-fiction novels. She wrote the biography of Dr. Anandibai Joshi, the first lady doctor in India who received her education in the United States. It is read even to this day by scholars and aspiring doctors. Kashibai’s talent was a gift from God, as no other member of her family had that kind of writing skill. 

 Kashibai was fortunate to visit Shirdi numerous times, and Baba loved and respected her a lot. In her autobiography, she has written about her frequent visits to Shirdi. In 1899 her daughter Krishnabai was unwell, as she had had a mishap.The bullock cart in which she was riding overturned and she sustained a head injury. The wound on her scalp failed to heal even after the best possible treatment was given. Following this, she had frequent bouts of headaches, dizziness and numerous other problems. In 1901 Krishnabai returned to Ahmednagar where her in-laws resided, and was treated there. Despite the treatment, her symptoms continued relentlessly. Then Krishnabai got treated in Mumbai, Pune and Alibaug, without any respite. So Kashibai and her family went to Ahmednagar to look after her. 

 One day Nana Sahib Chandorkar visited them. Nana said, “You have tried all kinds of doctors, taken her for treatment to renowned hospitals, but every modality of treatment has failed. 

Krishnabai has not improved a smidgen and is getting worse by the day. Now listen to what I have to say. Near Kopergaon there is a village named Shirdi where a wondrous saint called Sai Baba resides. I will give you a little Udi of his which is a ‘cure-all’. This should be applied to her forehead and taken internally. She will definitely be rid of her problems. Thereafter do go and pay your respects to Baba.” Chandorkar then gave a glowing account of Baba’s divinity. However, Krishnabai in-laws and Kashibai’s family didn’t believe in these things, thus they didn’t use the Udi and didn’t go to Shirdi. 

A short while later, Kashibai’s husband Govind got transferred to Dhule, where they stayed for a year. During this period they had quite forgotten Baba’s name. The Kanitkers then moved to Malegaon, and then to Yevola, where Kashibai heard about Baba from the advocates that came from Ahmednagar to meet her husband. They spoke about Baba’s compassion and divinity, and asked Govind to go and meet him. A few days later she found a picture of Baba lying on the table. No one had given them the picture, nor had anyone sent the picture by post to them. Nevertheless, the thought of going to Shirdi didn’t occur to them. 

Govind Kanitker then visited Kopergaon on his tour of  duty and at that time they all visited Shirdi. Immediately after Govind Kanitker finished his work in Kopergaon, he was transferred to Rahata. As Rahata was the neighbouring village, they frequently visited Shirdi. Kashibai says, “These days where they have the Chavadi procession (South-facing Chavadi), that Chavadi was converted into a kitchen and we cooked our meals there. The Marathi school (now the Sai complex) was where we slept at night.” 

Kashibai says, “In those days Baba would accept no more than two paise as dakshina. With that money he purchased wood for his Dhuni throughout the day. He always paid the vendor 6 paise for it. Whether the vendor sold him 5 sticks of wood or the trunk of a huge tree, he would be paid no more than 6 paise. No matter how many times the cart came bringing wood, Baba never failed to purchase it, and the wood would be stacked against the rear wall of the Sabha Mandap.”.        
    
In her autobiography, she writes about the incident of Baba returning the dakshina to her husband. “Prior to visiting Shirdi I had heard that Baba used the money given as dakshina to purchase fire-wood for his Dhuni. I liked the idea immensely as each devotee would receive a fistful of Udi from his Dhuni.So I had brought a large amount of change (coins) with me. 

Every day I gave everyone the same denomination of coins to offer to Baba. On the last day I ran out of change so I gave everyone a different denomination of coin to offer. My daughter Banutai came to receive her money and said, ‘Mother why are you giving everyone different coins? Give everyone a coin of the same value.’ I replied, ‘I have run out of coins of the same denomination, and now there is no time to go and get change as it’s getting late. Just give what you have in your hand, and go and sit in the cart. Besides, for the past 4 days didn’t we give the same amount to Baba? That is enough.’ Then my husband and his entourage went to meet Baba. First the sepoy, the bailiff, and other officers went and offered their respects and dakshina. Then my children and other relatives gave dakshina. 
Following them my husband prostrated at Baba’s feet and gave him dakshina. Then Baba put his hand under the sack that he sat on and took out the money and returned all the money that was offered by the family. Thus my husband got proof of Baba’s omnipresence, but I felt hurt and sad. So I said, ‘Baba don’t you want to buy wood for the Dhuni?’ Then Baba repeated the same words that I had said to my daughter, ‘Didn’t you give me money for the past 4 days? That is enough.’” Thus, Kashibai also got an experience of Baba’s omnipresence. 

On Kashibai’s first visit to Shirdi while they were travelling from Kopergaon, she thought, “How does one recognise a true saint? I am quite naive about this. And I don’t know anything about this.” Then she remembered when she was young, she along with her parents had gone to Akkalkot. There they met Swami Samarth and paid homage to him. So mentally she decided that if Baba was like Swami Samarth then she would have faith in him. Kashibai and her family then went to the Dwarkamai and prostrated at Baba’s feet. However her eldest son Madhavrao and her son-in-law Gangadhar Panth Dabholkar were late in coming. When they went to the Dwarkamai, Baba had just returned from his bhiksha rounds and was seated near the railing. Just as they ascended the steps of the Dwarkamai, both of them saw Swami Samartha seated there. A short while later they saw Baba seated there. Afterwards they narrated this wonderful experience to her. Thus Kashibai got the answer that she was looking for, though unfortunately she was unable to see this leela. 

Thereafter Kashibai became ardently devoted to Baba and she frequently visited Shirdi and had wonderful experiences.

Ref.: Shri Sai Sagar, Volume 12, No. 3, Deepavali issue 2012

Source : Baba's Divine Manifestations by Vinny Chitluri

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