(SHRI SAI LEELA SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 1991)
In Chapter IX of Shri Sai Satcharita, mention is made of Tarkhad Family (father, son and mother).
Babasaheb (Ramachandra Atmaram) himself was a follower of Prarthana Samaj (an off-shoot of Brahma Samaj founded by Raja Ramamohan Roy in Bengal those days) and did not believe in idol-worship, going on pilgrimages and visiting saints and sages. Tarkhads were a great historic and wealthy family. During the capture of Vasai Fort (District Thane, about 50 kms. north of Bombay) by Peshwas, Tarkhads lost 21 members of their family and were awarded 'jagir’ of village Tarkhad nearly. At the end of 19th century, Babasaheb's father Atmaram and uncle Raghoba shifted to Bombay city and settled down there permanently. Those days Tarkhads had each two big (studebaker) motor cars and they used to move in the highest society of British Governors. Babasaheb himself was the secretary of the famous Khatau Mills Group and his monthly income was nearly four thousand rupees those days. Naturally Babasaheb spumed at the orthodox Hindu rituals of idol-worship, going on pilgrimages and visiting saints and sages. But later the same Babasaheb not only became a staunch devotee of Shri Sai Baba, but after Sai Baba's samadhi, took an active part in establishing Shri Sai Baba Sansthan on a firm footing. This transformation in his life and views was due to his devotional wife and youngest son Jyotindra.
Mrs. Tarkhad was suffering from severe headache since many years. In Tarkhad family there were many doctors, but their treatment could not cure her headache. Then somebody advised her to go to Pir Moulana, a very famous Muslim saint of those days at Bandra (now a suburb of Bombay city). (The same saint is mentioned by Hemadpant himself in Chapter XXI of Shri Sai Satcharita). One day Mrs. Tarkhad accompanied by her youngest son Jyotindra went to the saint and conveyed to him the details of her disease. The saint however replied, "Dear lady! I have no cure for this disease of yours. But I have a brother staying at Shirdi in Ahmednagar district, who will cure your disease. So go to Him."
On hearing this, the lady and her son decided to go to Shirdi and soon reached Shirdi. When they went to the Masjid to take Sai Baba's darshan, He said, "Aye (mother)! Have you come? Now stay here" and then looking at Jyotindra He further said, "Aye! you are My mother, so this your son is My bhau (brother)." Afterwards when the lady placed her head on Baba's feet in obeisance, He took some udi from the pot nearly and rubbing it onto head, said, "Aye! your head is aching very much isn't it? Henceforth it will not ache any more" And really from that moment, the lady's headache disappeared for ever. On experiencing this miracle, the lady naturally became a staunch devotee of Shri Sai Baba but in the case of her youngest son, his very life was changed. His interest in Sai Baba's devotion and spiritual activities became the be all and end all -of his future life.
Further on in Shri Sai Satcharita we have read how Sai Baba was pleased when once Mrs. Tarkhad fed a hungry dog and how He revealed to her that the said dog was one with Him and so also other creatures such as cats, pigs, flies, cows etc., and how the same lady sent to Baba 'bharita' (roasted brinjal mixed with curds and spices) and 'kacharya' (circular pieces of brinjal fried in ghee) through Mrs. Purandare and one pedha (sweetmeet ball) through late Mankar's son and how Baba by accepting these with great relish and eagerness (especially the pedha which was stale and already offered in naivedya and sent with a person in mourning) confirmed Lord Krishna's words in Geeta :
"Whoever offers Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, water, that I accept offered by the pure-minded, with devotion. (Ch. IX'- 26)"
Similarly, we have also read how by revealing to Mrs. Tarkhad and her son Jyotindra at Shirdi that on that morning Babasaheb had forgotten to offer Him naivedya of sugar-candy at Bandra, Baba not only proved His omniscience and omnipresence but also assured His devotees that He is present even in His pictures, if the devotee believes so.
But Mrs. Tarkhad and her son Jyotindra especially, had many more experiences later which are not found in Shri Sai Satcharita. One of the other member of Tarkhad family (Mrs. Tarabai Tarkhad, Babasaheb's brother's wife) has narrated some of her experiences to H. H. Narasimha Swamiji in Part I of his 'Devotees' Experiences' under an assumed name of Mrs. Manager. But somehow Swamiji has not been able to get Jyotindra's statement who was also living then. Perhaps Jyotindra himself was averse in narrating his spiritual experiences to public then. Fortunately recently I have had an opportunity of meeting Jyotindra's son Virendra who very kindly narrated to me some of his father's and grand-mother's experiences, heard from his father himself. Hoping that they would be interesting and useful to the readers, I am giving them below.
Mrs. Tarkhad had a great desire to visit Pandharpur and take darshan of Vithoba there. In Maharashtra people believe that they must go to Pandharpur and bow down at the feet of Vithal Raj least once in lifetime. Mrs. Tarkhad therefore asked Baba for permission and also said, "Baba! I shall go only if you permit me. Otherwise my Pandharpur will be at Your feet only." But Baba said, "Aye! Go! you will have a satisfying darshan and pooja of Vithal." Mrs. Tarkhad then went to Pandharpur with her son Jyotindra. At the temple she took darshan of Vithoba and started her pooja. Mrs. Tarkhad had the habit of not taking anybody's assistance while performing pooja of idols at home. In spite of great inconvenience and fatigue, she did everything herself. Now here problem arose while garlanding Vithoba's idol. Mrs. Tarkhad was very short and could not reach the head of the idol. The Badava (Brahmin official at the temple) standing by said, "Give the garland to me. I shall place it on the idol." But Mrs. Tarkhad would not give it to him. The Badava also would not allow her to step on the platform and garland the idol. Mrs. Tarkhad was worried and looking at her son said, "What shall we do now? Baba had promised a satisfying darshan and pooja. How then this problem?" Jyotindra, thereupon, said. "This is your earnest desire. So you only pray to Vithoba. If He wishes to accept your pooja, He will find some solution." Mrs. Tarkhad therefore started praying with great devotion and tears in her eyes and lo! What a great wonder! The idol of Vithal moved and slowly lowered down. Mrs. Tarkhad then in great joy applied the sandal-paste to Vithoba's forehead and lovingly placed the garland around the neck. Then both mother and son bowed down on the ground in front of the idol.
On seeing the idol moving, the Badava's eyes rolled in wonder and he fell unconscious on the ground. Afterwards when he arose, he bowed down to the mother and son and said, "We have been worshipping here for years and we considered this idol only of stone. Today I realise the truth. Indeed you are Vithal and Rakhumai (consort of Vithal) for us. Please stay on now with us here " Mrs, Tarkhad and Jyotindra however explained lo him that they were no other than ordinary pilgrims and only their earnest devotion must have created this miracle. They then returned to Bombay. Next time when they went to Shirdi. Baba asked Mrs. Tarkhad, "Aye! have you a satisfying darshan and pooja at Pandharpur?" Mrs. Tarkhad replied, "Baba! With Your blessings why should it not happen. I was fully satisfied. Hence-onwards, You are in Vithoba and Shirdi is my Pandharpur,"
We all know how Das Ganu used to compose and perform kirtans (celebrating praises of God and saints with music and singing) without accepting any money. Once he was invited to do so in a small out-of-the-way village near Shirdi. When Das Ganu went to Baba to ask for permission, Baba said. "'take Aye and bhau with you." So Das Ganu went to the village with Mrs. Tarkhad and Jyotindra. In the evening when the kirtan was going on, some aboriginals happened to pass thereby with a dead body. Seeing the kirtan going on they hailed, placing the bier (bamboo frame for burning the corpse in the burning ghat) on the ground in front. Then suddenly their leader perhaps had a brainwave and he said to Das Ganu, "You are extolling the powers of saints. Let us see if your saints can re-live this dead man of ours. Only then we will believe your words." Das Ganu almost trembled with fear and was nonplussed. Looking at Jyotindra questioningly he said. "Raosaheb! What should we do now?" Then both of them decided to continue the kirtan and Sai Baba's nam-gajar (non-stop recitation of Sai-nam), in between. Slowly the kirtan developed a great form and even the aboriginals started singing. Then suddenly a miracle occurred. The dead body started moving. The man on the bier broke open the rope and got up. Smiling on the bier, he started clappin his hands in tune with the bhajan going on. Everybody was highly pleased in wonder and they shouted "Victory to Shri Sai Baba."
Thus not only Das Ganu's prestige was saved but the danger to his life and to that of those accompanying him was also averted due to the grace of Shri Sai Baba. Who knows if Das Ganu had not succeeded, the aboriginals might have beaten up or even killed Das Ganu and company.
Once Sai Baba took Jyotindra to a lonely place and there removing some earth made a small ditch and asked Jyotindra to look into it. Jyotindra saw there-in bright shining gold and told Baba accordingly. Baba said, "Take it. It is all yours." Jyotindra replied. "I don't want it." Baba said, "I am giving it to you." Jyotindra said, "But I don't want it. I do not come to Shirdi for this. It is poison." Then Baba said. "One should not disrespect Laxmi the Goddess of wealth, when she comes on her own. She gets angry and never comes again." Still Jtotindra did not change his mind and replied, "Does not matter. I do not want this poison." Thereupon Baba filled up the ditch and retumed to Masjid with Jyotindra.
Now this incident was seen by a villager, and he suspected that Baba was trying to give something valuable to Jyotindra out of the ditch. So in the darkness of the night he went to the place with a pick-axe and dug the hole again. With great eagerness he placed his hand in the ditch and started looking into it. And lo! To his misfortune a big scorpion stung him severely. The villager threw the pick-axe there and ran back shouting in pain. Next morning also the poison did not subside. So he went to the Masjid and bowing down to Baba prayed for relief. Baba applied udi and the pain subsided immediately. Then Baba said, "You fool! Laxmi comes only to those who deserve it."
During Baba's life-time, Jyotindra used to visit Shirdi quite often. Two incidents narrated in Shri Sai Satcharita. Jyotindra had seen with his own eyes and his descriptions of the same are worth hearing. As mentioned in Ch. XI, when in Shirdi, there was a terrible storm, the winds began to blow forcibly, the clouds began to roar loudly, the lightning began to flash incessantly and the rains began to descend in torrents, Jyotindra was present. At that time to protect the villagers and the cattle gathered there, Baba standing on the edge of the Masjid, shouted repeatedly at the storm in loud and thunderous voice to subside and be calm. Jyotindra had heard these shouts and he says that everytime Baba's shouts were louder than those of the clouds. It was a battle between two great powers and ultimately Baba's power won. In few minutes the rains subsided, the winds ceased to blow and the storm came to a stop.
The second incident in regarding the tiger described in Ch. XXXI. Jyotindra says once after that incident Baba asked him, "Bhau! Do you know what the tiger was asking from me?" Jyotindra replied, "How do I know'.' I had seen you both staring at each other for some time but what communication you two had I do not know." Thereupon Baba said, "The tiger was asking for Mukti (liberation or final beatitude) and I promptly gave it to him." Hemadpant also while describing this incident in Marathi Shri Sai Satcharita has rightly said :
"In previous life perhaps, this tiger was a virtuous person. But trying to show off learnedness, happened to insult a great devotee and due to that devotee's curse was born in this cruel form. Now having reached the feet of Shri Sai Baba, the curse got mitigated, the sins burnt to ashes, the bonds released and the tiger was emancipated automatically."
It was sometime end of 1917 or early 1918, Baba was asking the devotees gathered round Him as to what they wanted since perhaps His end was nearing. Some asked for a son, some wealth and some recovery from diseases. Jyotindra said, "I do not want anything." Baba said, "Bhau! This is our last meeting. Ask something. Whatever you ask I shall give you." Still Jyotindra continued to say "No", But Baba continued to press inncessantly, so ultimately Jyotindra said, "Alright Baba! If You insist I shall ask, but then You will have to give in. Then You cannot refuse." Baba said, "Yes", and then Jyotindra said, "Baba! Next birth You may give to me in any form - man, beast or even an insect - but in that birth I must meet You again." Hearing this, Baba said, "No! This is not possible. You are trying to bind me for a future birth." Then Jyotindra replied, "Why have You then promised to fulfill my demand'.' Now You cannot go back on Your promise." At last Baba said, "O.K. Your wish will be fulfilled. We both will be eating from the same dish in the next birth."
There is no reason to disbelieve this statement regarding Baba taking another birth. In the introduction to Marathi Sai Satcharita by Hemadpant, late Kakasaheb Dixit has stated that once Shri Sai Baba had mentioned to him that though He would go now, He would come again in this world as a boy of eight years.
Jyotindra later on got married and had a number of children also. He did fulfill all his worldly responsibilities properly but his attention and interest mainly was towards spiritual matters. Sai Baba was his be all and end all place of worship. At last in 1965 on Monday in the holy month of Shravan, he left this world in great peace and satisfaction with Sai-nam on his lips. Indeed great was Jyotindra's devotion and great was his fortune to be greatly blessed by Sai.