K. J. BHISMA
[BEGINNING OF PUJA TO
SAIBABA & COMPOSITION
OF ARATI SONGS]
(Bhishma prepared a booklet
entitled “Shri Sainath
contained, besides the arati
-psalms composed on Baba
and sung at the time of Arati
to Baba, some traditional
hymns from the Hindu liturgy
like, Purusha Suktam, Sree
Suktam, Mantra Pushpam &
Sri Lakshmi Ashtotharam. In
all, there are thirty psalms in
Krishnashastri Jageshwar Bhishma (K.J.Bhishma) was a resident of a village called Bori or Butibori in the district of Nagpur. He lived on the income derived from his farms. He got married but his married life was short lived. He married once again. He had four children. He became restless after the death of his second wife. He was Revenue Inspector at that time and left the job. His relatives, friends and well wishers advised him to remarry again but he declined. During 1908, on one night, he had a dream in which he saw a person of dark complexion in traditional dress with tripundra mark on his forehead, sandalwood paste mixed with saffron was applied to his body and puja was performed at the feet of that person who appeared as a vaishnava holy man. In the dream, that holy man gave Bhishma a newspaper and Bhishma desired to know who he was and enquired; but the holy man did not reply but pointed to the newspaper on which
was printed in bold letters. When Bhishma wanted to know what it was, the holy man again simply pointed to the newspaper wherein appeared another set of words,
“Mantra va shikava” which means “chant mantra and learn”.
It was not clear to Bhishma and Bhishma wanted to know further about him. But both the holy person and the newspaper had disappeared. Bhishma could not make out anything and before he posed another question the Vaishnava saint vanished with his mystic scroll. Bhishma was puzzled and totally confused, but in the meantime he heard a knock at the door and his dream ended. He immediately recorded the dream and was thinking about the import of the dream for some time, but was unable to unravel the mystery and significance of the dream. After some time a sadhu, a devotee of Ganesh, visited Bori. Bhishma narrated his dream to the sadhu who told him that
“Sat-Chit-Ananda Swami” was his guru, and gave him the mantra “va shikava”.
He had 90 acres of land and was affluent. He renounced all his property and became an ascetic and started wearing ochre robes. He was a prolific writer and wrote many religious books. He started spending his life in performing kirtans and bhajans(eulogies to God). He was interested in social work and removing untouchability.
After sometime Bhishma happened to visit Amraoti where Dadasaheb Khaparde, his friend, was preparing to visit Shirdi. He asked Bhishma whether he would like to accompany him to Shirdi. Bhishma agreed and accompanied Khaparde to Shirdi. Khaparde was in the habit of maintaining diaries and there is a mention about Bhishma in Khaparde’s diary pertaining to his second visit to Shirdi. Khaparde stayed for a long time in Shirdi beginning from 6th December, 1911. When Bhishma went into the masjid for Baba’s darshan, Baba uttered with folded hands,
Bhishma, though perplexed initially, was wonder-struck as to whether the holy man of his dream was Baba himself. But he thought that the holy man of his dream was a Vaishnavite while Baba appeared to be a Muslim. In spite of this, why Baba uttered those words was not clear to him. A thought appeared in his mind that Baba might be the holy man who appeared in his dream. But, he thought that the holy man who appeared in his dream was a Vaishnava saint while Baba in Shirdi was a Muslim Guru. He further reconciled thinking that due to his orthodox proclivity, he was unable to identify the holy man of his dream with Baba whom he considered as a Muslim. While at Shirdi though he saw many Brahmins devoutly receiving Baba's pada teerth without any orthodox scruple, he gently avoided taking Baba’s pada teerth. Baba was in the habit of smoking tobacco from a chillim and as he smoked he used to offer a puff to the devotees present. Bhishma was apprehensive at heart at the possibility of smoking a chillim polluted by the lips of a Muslim. As per his internal thought, for the first few days, Baba never offered a puff to Bhishma even though he was sitting very close by. One day while Baba was narrating a parable to a group of devotees including Bhishma, a devotee got the chillim ready and gave it to Baba. Baba held it out to Bhishma and directed him to smoke after merely touching the chillim to his mouth. Bhishma followed Baba’s order without any demur and had a puff and then returned it to Baba. Baba accepted it and remarked,
“I roam everywhere, my friend – Bombay, Pune, Satara, Nagpur; all those towns are filled with the presence of Rama”.
Then he suddenly said to Bhishma in a complaining tone,
"Well, Why do you eat the laddus all yourself without offering a single piece to me? At least now give me five laddus!"
As Baba spoke those words something happened which changed the basic outlook of Bhishma. His mental outlook and orthodox proclivity suddenly got changed, as if blown away in the single puff he had from Baba's chillim. Baba’s remark had created the desired effect on Bhishma and it resulted in the disappearance of the distinction between the Vaishnav Saint who appeared in his dream and Sai Baba of Shirdi. He was also convinced that Baba only appeared in his dream in the garb of a Vaishnav holy man. Then he himself asked for Baba's pada teerth and wholeheartedly placed his head on Baba's feet. Baba blessed him by placing his hands on his head for a few moments which brought about a strange ecstasy in his mind which was only felt by him and which could not be described in words. Then he went to the wada and started worrying as to how he could prepare five laddus in a new place where he himself was a guest. But he was still thinking in his mind about Baba's cryptic remarks about the five laddus. He did not take Baba's words literally. He also could not understand what actually Baba meant by “five laddus”.
In the beginning, there was no regular worship of Baba except accepting garlands brought by the devotees. In one of Nanasaheb Chandorkar’s visits to Shirdi, his second son, Mahadeo alias Bapurao Chandorkar at the age of 4 years took the liberty of performing puja to Baba by decorating Baba’s head with flowers and this happened in 1900. At the age of 4, he also started applying chandan to Baba’s forehead and this became the practice subsequently. Only Bapu Rao was permitted at that time to perform puja to Baba and this became a practice later on. It was Mhalasapati who first started a formal puja to Baba in the masjid. But later on, Baba started allowing devotees to apply sandal-paste to his fore-head, and offer him flowers. It was Tatyasaheb Noolkar who introduced for the first time puja to Baba by offering arati by waving of five lighted lamps around Baba in an arch and this practice started on a Guru Pournima Day and later this became the regular practice. Thus, the regular worship of Baba with arati and with singing of Arati song, composed by Madhav Adkar and playing of musical instruments started at that time which was continued further. After Noolkar, Megha started offering arati to Baba in some more traditional and rigorous way. Whenever Megha was performing puja to Baba, he used to stand on one leg and perform the puja with utmost devotion. After Megha, Bapusaheb Jog continued these aratis till Baba’s Mahasamadhi.
In the beginning, there were not many psalms which were especially composed on Baba except a few psalms composed by Madhavrao Adkar and Das Ganu Maharaj. Das Ganu used to affectionately call him ‘Baban’. Madhavrao Adkar was an expert singer, as well as an accomplished actor. Madhavrao was blessed with a sweet voice and good looks. Das Ganu used to go to the extent of making Madhavrao sit for pooja, then garland him and wash his feet; though Adkar did not like all this, but allowed him not to displease him. Das Ganu took him in about 1897 to Sai Baba. There, Madhavrao got what he was searching for all the while. Adkar stayed in Shirdi for long periods. Adkar sustained his living by taking private tuitions. In 1903-04, he was in Shirdi, totally immersed in Baba’s thought and suddenly a poem got composed in his mind. It was a poem devoted to Baba in the form of an Arati. Dasganu was amazed and very happy with the song. Most of them were adaptations of the traditional arati-psalms composed by the mediaeval saint-poets of Maharashtra on Lord Vitthal of Pandharpur. It was only about a year after the commencement of traditional aratis at Shirdi, a number of arati psalms were composed.
After Bhishma’s arrival in Shirdi, on the next day in the morning, he got up seized by an overwhelming impulse to write a poem, which he started composing immediately. He continued his efforts of composing further poems also and thus he composed five poems in all as if under a divine inspiration of Baba. When he offered those five songs to Baba in lieu of the five laddus he had asked for, Baba approved them and also blessed him. After completing the five poems,, he tried very much to compose further poems, but he was unable to do despite his serious attempts. And perhaps this was due to Baba’s five laddus order.
After some time, Bhishma composed further four more arati songs with Baba’s Grace. In all, Bhishma composed nine songs. Thus, after the arrival of Bhishma, a shape was given to an Arati-Psalm-Book, by incorporating the arati psalms composed by him and also collecting several other arati songs written on Baba by other devotees. The entire credit of giving a formal shape by way a book for all the Shirdi Arati songs, goes to Bhishma. Thus, Bhishma prepared a booklet entitled “Shri Sainath Sagunopasana” which contained, besides the arati-psalms composed on Baba and sung at the time of Arati to Baba, some traditional hymns from the Hindu liturgy like, Purusha Suktam, Sree Suktam, Mantra Pushpam and Sri Lakshmi Ashtotharam, intended for use in the daily worship of various deities. Then all these songs were published and Khaparde had paid all the expenses for the publication. After Baba's Mahasamadhi, the book was adapted as the
official “Book of Daily Worship” at the Samadhi Mandir.
Khaparde continued to bear the expenses for the publication of the arati-palms booklet till 1922, Shri Sai Baba Sansthan, Shirdi, made, in consultation with Bhisma, some additions in the book and had taken up the publication of the revised edition of “Shri Sainath Sagunopasana” from 1923 onwards.
Madhavrao Adkar was one of the earliest composers of hymns on Baba. He was a very good friend of Das Ganu Maharaj. Both of them considered Baba as their spiritual guru. Both of them were gifted with a sweet metallic voice and used to sing spiritual and religious songs. They became an excellent medium for popularizing Baba through their compositions and kirtans. It was Das Ganu, who took Madhavrao Adkar to Baba. Mahavrao Adkar treated with respect Das Ganu as his elder brother. Madhavrao managed himself by offering private tuitions. In the year 1903-04, when he was in Shirdi, he was fully immersed in devotion to Baba and due to his ecstasy, he suddenly composed a poem in the form of arati song. He wrote it on a piece of paper which was read by Das Ganu who became very happy. Thus he wrote the earliest arati song on Baba. This was the arati song which Ramgir Bua took to Jamner, on instructions from Baba, to Nanasaheb Chandorkar at the time of difficult delivery of Maina Tai, daughter of Chandorkar (Jamner Miracle).
In all, there are thirty psalms in the Book of Shirdi Aratis for daily worship of Baba. Out of these thirty psalms, only sixteen were mainly composed on Baba. Out of the remaining fourteen, thirteen are traditional arati-psalms composed by the medieval poet-saints of Maharashtra and the fourteenth one is a Vedic hymn.
Out of the sixteen psalms mainly composed on Baba, as many as nine psalms were composed by Bhishma, three by Das Ganu Maharaj, one each by Madhav Adkar, Upasani Maharaj, Mohini Raj and B.V. Dev.
Of the fourteen traditional psalms, five were composed by Sant Tukaram Maharaj, two each by Sant Namdev and Sant Janabai, one each by Shri Ramjanardhan Swami and Shri Rameshwar Bhat. Shri Janardhan Swamy was a Minister in Devgiri kingdom, a Rigveda scholar and a staunch devotee of Lord Dattatreya and also a Guru to saint Eknath. Shri Rameshwar Bhat was the main disciple of Sant Tukaram Maharaj. From out of the remaining three psalms, one is a Vedic hymn and the other two are traditional prayers. Incidentally Sant Janabai was the maid servant in the house of Sant Namdev whose unswerving devotion towards Lord Vithoba of Pandharpur attracted her more to the Lord of Pandharpur. She was a famous woman-saint in Maharashtra who composed many abhangas (short spiritual poems) about the Lord and the closet follower of Sant Namdev. Sant Tukaram Maharaj, Sant Namdev and Sant Janabai were born in lower castes and had attained the highest spiritual progress through continuous devotion and ultimately got merged with the Lord.
Incidentally a few words about devotee-varkaris: Varkaris are devotees who were visiting every year, the temple of Lord Vithoba in Pandharpur as a tradition in the pursuit of their devotional approach. All people belonging to all castes can become varkaris. Prominent among them are Jyaneshwar Maharaj, Tukaram Maharaj, Namdev, Janabai and other saints and Jyaneshwar Maharaj was the leader of the Varkari group during their times.
Linguistically, of the thirty arati psalms, twenty five are in Marathi, two in Hindi, two in Sanskrit and one in a bilingual anthology expressed in Marathi and Sanskrit languages.
The annual Urus festival, started in 1897, went on till 1912 and the Hindus and Muslims participated in the festival with equal fervor. After the arrival of Bhishma to Shirdi, Bhishma mooted just before the Urus festival, the idea of celebrating Ramnavami festival in 1912. Bhishma suggested to Kaka Mahajani and both of them approached Baba for permission which Baba approved. Thus Urus festival and Ramnavami festival were combined in 1912 and the celebration of both the festivals was performed with great zeal and on a grand scale. Bhishma and Kaka Mahajani were thus instrumental in celebrating the Ramnavami festival in Shirdi.
Once Kaka Mahajani suffered from diarrhea. Kaka Mahajani was doing some service to Baba. In order that there should be no break in his services to Baba, Kaka kept a pot full of water in some corner of the Masjid and whenever there was a call, he would go out. He did not inform Baba of his disease and of course, Baba knew everything. The work of constructing the pavement in front of the Masjid was permitted by Baba, but when the actual work was begun, Baba got wild and shouted out loudly. All the people ran away, and as Kaka was also doing the same, Baba caught hold of him and made him sit there. In the confusion that followed, somebody left a small bag of groundnuts. Baba took a handful of groundnuts, rubbed them in His hands, blew away the skins, and gave the clean nuts to Kaka and made him eat them. This groundnut eating went on for some time. Baba Himself also ate some of them. Thus the groundnut bag was finished, Baba asked him to fetch water as He felt thirsty. Kaka brought a pot full of water. Then Baba drank some water and made Kaka also drink it. Baba then said, "Now your diarrhea has stopped, and you may attend to the work of the pavement." In the meanwhile other persons, who had run away, returned and resumed the work; and Kaka, whose motions had stopped, also joined them. Are groundnuts a medicine for diarrhea? According to current medical opinion, groundnuts would aggravate the disease and not cure it. The true medicine, in this case was Baba's word. Later Kaka Mahajani was the editor of Shri Sai Leela magazine and the life time member of Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan.
Bhishma is remembered for
his composition of
hymns on Baba. He acquired
spiritual powers and spent
his last years in the
Murlidhar Mandir at
Mohappa near Nagpur where
he passed away happily on
August 8, 1935. His was a
🌷 SRI SATCHIDANANDA SADGURU SAINATH MAHARAJ KI JAI 🌷