With the blessings of Lord Sai Baba, this post serves as a tribute to the revered Sadguru Sri Sivanesan Swami (Apr 12, 1927 – Feb 12, 1996) on the occasion of his birth anniversary, which falls on April 12th.
Swami – A Devoted Apostle of Sai Baba
Swami, a devout follower of Sai Baba, played a pivotal role in spreading the teachings of his beloved guru. One of his significant contributions was introducing the practice of Nama Japa, which involved chanting “Om Sai Sri Sai Jaya Jaya Sai” in groups. Additionally, he imparted valuable advice to devotees on the benefits of ‘Pradakshina’ or circumambulation around Gurusthan, Nanda Deep, and Dutta Mandir.
Throughout the four and a half decades that Swami spent in Shirdi, he tirelessly devoted himself to spreading Baba’s message. In this pursuit, he emerged as one of the most ardent apostles of Sai Baba. Swami’s efforts to propagate Baba’s teachings were far-reaching and included encouraging devotees to build Baba temples, share their experiences, engage in Satsang, and participate in Naam Jap. As a result, Baba’s name spread far and wide, and His teachings reached people across the globe.
The Life and Legacy of Shri Sadguru Sivanesan Swami
Early Life of Swami: A Glimpse into His Childhood
Sivanesan Swami was born on the auspicious day of Sri Ramanavami, April 12th, 1927, in Nayakkar Palayam, Coimbatore district. His parents, Shri. Muthaiah and Smt. Alamelu, were cultured and well-to-do. Interestingly, at the time of his birth, he already had two front teeth and a small tuft of hair at the back of his head, which astrologers predicted was a sign that he would not lead the life of a householder but become an ascetic or sanyasi.
As the youngest child in the family, Swami had a rather disinterest in formal education, despite completing up to the 8th standard. He had cherished memories of his maternal grandmother and paternal uncle, who had a vast collection of books he loved reading. He was withdrawn and often wandered off to meditate in solitude, sometimes even missing his meals.
In his youth, he worked various jobs to support himself, including as a Record Room Assistant at the Madras High Court. He worked as a daily wage helper in the Electricity Department in Coimbatore, despite not being eligible to work due to his age. When officials visited the department for inspection, he would hide in nearby fields to avoid being caught. He also worked as a sales assistant in a bookstore but was let go as he spent more time reading than selling books.
After his mother’s demise, Swami left home and embarked on a spiritual quest, seeking the light he yearned for. At 17 years of age, he landed in Bombay in 1944 and took up odd jobs to earn a living, including working as a railway porter at a railway station. He enjoyed meditating and often did so by the seashore.
Swami’s Spiritual Journey: Meeting His Guru and Discovering “The Light” at Baba’s Dwarkamai
After arriving in Bombay, Swami met Muthaiah Swami from Vallanadu village, who became his mentor and guru. Under his guidance, Swami made rapid progress in spiritual learning, including the teachings of the Self and Vedanta.
Despite his progress, Swami felt a deep longing for spiritual enlightenment, and he continued his journey to the math of Sree Nityanand Swami in Vajreshwari. He eventually moved to Trimbakeshwar, where he studied under Mauni Baba.
In 1953, Swami arrived in Shirdi and stepped into the Dwarkamai. It was there that he discovered “The Light” he had been searching for, and Baba enveloped him with his grace. The bond between Swami and Baba was so deep that Swami never left Shirdi, knowing that he had found his spiritual home.
Seva Routine and Spiritual Practices: Swami’s Life of Devotion at Shirdi
Swami’s life at Shirdi was dedicated to seva or selfless service. He took care of every temple in Shirdi, but his favorite was Dwarakamai. After cleaning the lamps of Dwarakamai, they shone like gold. He was appointed as the in-charge of Chavadi, but he never neglected Dwarakamai. In his free time, he would clean Dwarakamai from top to bottom.
Performing the Dhuni Puja was a must-ritual for him. Many devotees benefited from it and continue to do so. He gave Baba’s Udi and Tirth to everyone who visited him, and no one returned empty-handed. Before leaving Shirdi, he would offer some spiritual or bhajan books with Baba’s photos to the devotees.
Life at Shirdi was not easy for Swami, as he often went hungry and had no place to rest. However, this only made him more energetic. He started the practice of performing Akand Nama Japa, chanting “Om Sai Sri Sai Jaya Jaya Sai” by groups of devotees, which helped spread Baba’s message to all places.
Swami was a great advocate of “Pradakshina,” or walking around a sacred place in a clockwise direction. He would wake up at 3.00 or 3.30 AM and do Pradakshina around Gurusthan, followed by Lendi Bagh and Datta Mandir. He also advised his devotees to do the same for their physical and spiritual well-being. He initiated the Chavadi Bhajans after the Evening Arati for an hour, singing bhajans like “Sai Naam Sukhadaayi,” “Haridwar Mathura Kashi,” but his favorite was “Sai Bhavani,” which is sung by devotees all over the world.
His attire was as simple as his pure heart, consisting of a white cotton towel wrapped around his waist, a Maharashtrian vestment with a pocket and half sleeves, and a small towel wrapped around his head as a turban to cover his long hair. All clothing items, including dhotis, shawls, and sweaters presented to him, were immediately distributed to the poor and needy. He lived a modest life and taught by example the importance of serving all, particularly the sick, lepers, and the needy. Any Dakshina he received went towards purchasing sacred books or providing food for the poor. Three days before his Mahasamadhi, he arranged for the distribution of blankets and bed sheets received during his short period of illness.
He slept on the floor with a blanket and thick bedspread, using a gunnysack as his seat and a paper-stuffed pillowcase as his bolster. He disregarded the scorching sun and rain, distributing umbrellas he received. He always moved barefoot during his entire stay in Shirdi, embodying simplicity and humility.
He ate sparingly and generously shared any fruits offered to him with devotees. He sang several bhajans in a sweet voice, including those he composed himself, leading such devotional singing for more than two decades until his Mahasamadhi. He recited bhajans from memory with the correct words.
Swami was a multilingual linguist who knew about ten languages, allowing him to hold Satsang with anyone, using the mother tongue of the devotees to advise and assist them on their spiritual journey. He was passionate about helping devotees and encouraged translations of Sai Baba’s life, mission, and miracles from Marathi into English, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and other languages, ensuring widespread knowledge of Sai Baba’s teachings throughout India and beyond. He read Sai Leela Magazines in Marathi in the Sansthan library and assisted Acharya Bharatwaja and others in writing books on Sai Baba.
Swami also shared his knowledge of other saints, such as Devi Mayi Amma of Salem, Videhi Annusaya Mata of Padasinga, Ram Reddy Tatha of Kurnool, Nayampalli Baba of Hyderabad, and many others, with the devotees. He encouraged those who expressed a desire to have darshan (spiritual audience) of these saints to do so.
Moreover, Swami advised devotees who felt inspired to write about Baba to first seek the blessings of Goddess Saraswati by visiting Baser for darshan before beginning their work.
Guided by Revered Sivanesan Swami: The Journey of Sri Zarine Taraporevala in Translating Sri Sai Samartha Satcharita
Zarine Taraporevala, the renowned author of “Sree Sai Samartha Satcharita” – a translated version of “Sri Sai Satcharita Marathi” – has acknowledged the valuable contribution of Sri Sadguru Sivanesan Swamiji in guiding her throughout the creation of the book. In the preface of the book, Zarine Taraporevala expressed her gratitude towards Sri Sadguru Sivanesan Swamiji and dedicated a special chapter at the end of the book in his honor.
Through her heartfelt words, Zarine Taraporevala has conveyed how Sri Sadguru Sivanesan Swami’s teachings and guidance helped her in the arduous task of translating and bringing to life the teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba. She has attributed the success of her work to the wisdom and blessings of Sri Sadguru Sivanesan Swami, and the book is a testament to their collaboration and devotion towards Shirdi Sai Baba’s teachings.
More than twenty years ago, Sri Zarine Taraporevala had a chance conversation with her revered guru, Sri Sadguru Sivanesan Swami, during a visit to Shirdi. The conversation led to her discovery of the Sri Sai Samartha Satcharita in Marathi, which she began to study with the help of her teacher, Mrs. Mohini Varde. As she struggled to absorb the teachings, Sri Zarine started writing out an English translation of the text, but the project was interrupted by the deaths of her teacher’s father and her own mother, Dhunmai.
Seeking guidance from Sri Sadguru Sivanesan Swami, Sri Zarine was directed towards other projects, resulting in the translation and publication of the Sri Sainath Stavanamanjari, the Sri Sai Baba Ashtottarshat Namavali, and the Sri Sai Sagunopasana. However, Sri Zarine’s passion for the Sri Sai Samartha Satcharita was rekindled, and she resumed the project with the guidance of Mrs. Usha Tembe, who had also helped with the publication of her previous works.
Throughout her work, Sri Sadguru Sivanesan Swami remained a source of inspiration and guidance for Sri Zarine. She dedicated her translation of the Sri Sai Samartha Satcharita to him and expressed her gratitude for his presence in her life. Sri Zarine acknowledged that Swami’s quiet presence and shunning of crowds meant that few Shirdi devotees knew of him, and included some salient features of his life at the end of the book for interested readers. She also recommended the book “God’s Rainbow and other short stories of Sree Sadguru Sivanesan Swamiji of Shirdi” for those seeking a deeper understanding of his life.
Despite her passing on 28th December 2006, Sri Zarine’s legacy lives on through her work and the Samadhi made in her honor at the Shri Sivanesan Swamiji Ashram on Pimpalwadi Road in Shirdi. Sri Zarine’s dedication to her guru and his teachings continue to inspire those who seek to understand the teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba.
Shree Sivanesan Swami’s Mahasamadhi: A Tribute to a Life of Service and Devotion
Over the course of about four and a half decades, Shree Sivanesan Swami dedicated himself to serving Sai Baba and his devotees in Shirdi. He was a sincere, whole-hearted, and selfless apostle of Baba, embodying the teachings of love and service.
On Monday, February 12th, 1996, Swami passed away in Shirdi and merged with Sai Baba. The same year, an omen occurred in the form of a swinging lantern (known as a kandil), which many devotees believed indicated that a significant change or event was about to take place in Shirdi. Despite changing the location of the lantern, it continued to swing for a week. Ultimately, the only significant event was Swami’s Mahasamadhi on February 12th, 1996. Swami had a deep affection for Dwarka Mai and took care of it with love and tenderness from the early 1960s. Some devotees believe that the swinging of the lantern in Dwarakamai symbolized Swami’s merger with Sai Baba.
Swami’s Mahasamadhi Mandir and Its Significance
The Mahasamadhi Mandir of Sivanesan Swami was constructed in Shirdi, situated two and a half kilometers away from the Sansthan’s Prasadalaya, by his devotees. Swami was a true devotee of Sai Baba and spent his life propagating Baba’s messages. He always advised visiting devotees to build Sai Baba temples, serve Baba, and spread his teachings. Swami’s life was indeed blessed, and he was one of the greatest devotees who dedicated himself to the welfare of all.
Swami’s devotion to Sai Baba was evident in his songs, where he sang “Haridwar, Mathura, Kashi Shirdi mein saba thirtha samaye hai Sai Baba ke charano mein Charo dhama hamare hai.” This translates to Shirdi being a holy place where all four great places of worship, namely Haridwar, Mathura, Kashi, and Shirdi, are embraced and encompassed in Sai Baba’s holy feet.
The Sree Sadguru Sivanesan Swami Gurukulam, his Samadhi, and the Museum are maintained by M/s. Meher Dhun Endowment Trust (R) as a Public Charitable Trust. The Museum has a vast collection of rare pictures of Swami, and articles used by him like clothes, books, idols, etc.
Although Swami is not physically present with us, his love and legacy continue to live on. Baba temples are now found all over the world, constructed upon Swami’s advice and instructions. His love for Naam Jap and Bhajans continues to flourish everywhere. In Gangapur, the Dattaguru Bhandara Trust (R) is dedicated to Pujyasri Sivanesan Swami, where Akhand Naam Jap and Nitya Anna Daan take place throughout the year. What is most endearing is that Swami gives dream visions and Sakshatkar in which he advises, encourages, blesses, and inspires his devotees to continue doing Baba’s Seva.
The Sivanesan Swami Samadhi Mandir is open from 5:30 AM morning till 11:00 PM at night.
In conclusion, it is difficult to capture the magnificence of Sri Sadguru Sivanesan Swami in mere words. We will always be grateful to Swami for guiding us on the path of Sai Bhakti and imparting the Tarak Mantra “Om Sai, Shri Sai, Jai Jai Sai” to us. We bow to the lotus feet of Swami with reverence.
Pujyaya Dharma Padaya Saitatva Vrathayacha
Sadashivaya Shantaya Sri Sivanesan Swami
Observing The Day Of Sri Sadguru Sivanesan Swami
Join us in honoring the memory of Swami Sivanesan on his birthday, April 12th, by participating in our special Whatsapp group dedicated to the practice of Naam Jaap and bhajan singing, which were so dear to Swami. Devotee readers are invited to join the group and chant 108 Naam Jaap on this auspicious day, as well as sing the bhajans listed, which can be easily found on YouTube. Don’t forget to report your chants in the group, as we come together to celebrate the life and teachings of this great spiritual master. Additional details can be found in the group description.
Join the Whatsapp group: https://chat.whatsapp.com/CeJHEcnupEgGLRVIlBGBuM
This article is based on the book “Ambrosia in Shirdi” by Sai Bhakta Dr. Vinny Chitluri, Shirdi. The photographs used are courtesy of Meher Dhun Endowment Trust (R), Shirdi. Additional information was sourced from the following websites: http://saiamrithadhara.com/mahabhakthas/sivanesan_swami.html, http://saibabalives.org/sivanesan_Swami_saibaba_maha_bhakt.html, and http://bonjanrao.blogspot.com/2012/09/sree-sivanesan-Swami.html.
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