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Old Mandir

Karnam's House:

Having declared Himself as Sai Baba, of the Bharadwaja Gothram and the Apasthamba Suthram, Sathyanarayana Raju was thereafter commonly known either as Bala Sai or Sathya Sai Baba, an appellation which He Himself accepted. Bhajan was done in His presence not only on Thursday evenings, but gradually on every day and sometimes even twice a day, for the pilgrims who began to arrive could not wait until the ensuing Thursday, to pay their homage to Him. At first, a small room eight feet by eight, facing the road that led to the house of Pedda Venkapa Raju was utlised as the Bhajan Mandir, but, it could accommodate only a dozen at most, whereas the road too was being filled to overflow! People came in large numbers. So the family of the Karnam put up a shed, which was lengthened as the months passed. Even a tent was rigged up and some devotees who came up from Bangalore and Anantapur brought and pitched their own tents. The spacious house of the Karnam was also insufficient, because Baba insisted on feeding all those who came to see Him, and huge dining halls became necessary. Baba would often say in the later years that the grinding stone in Karnam Subbamma's house was always busy, preparing chutney out of the heaps of coconuts that the pilgrims offered. Subbamma was grinding, grinding, almost eight hours of the day!

Very often, when the food cooked threatened to be too small in quantity, Baba was quietly informed and, in the words of an old lady who was in the Karnam's house during those months, "He asked two coconuts to be brought; when they were given to Him, He struck one against the other and bot broke exactly into halves; He then sprinkled the coconut water on the little heaps of rice and the vessels containing the other items and, gave us the signal to proceed with the task of serving all who have come or may come, until dusk !"

The Kalpa Vriksham:

During the days of the Old Mandir, Baba generally went every evening to the sands of the river with the devotees and Bhajan was done mostly there, because there was no big shed or hall where all could be accommodated. Baba vouchsafed to the devotees who attended these evening Bhajans various miracles. It was then that the tamarind tree that grows solitarily at the crest of the hill on the left bank of the Chitravathi, near where the road meets it, got the reputation of being a kalpatharu. Baba used to take the devotees to that height and pluck from that tree many varieties of fruits, apple from one branch, mango from another, orange from a third, pears and figs from a fourth and a fifth! Of course, as Baba says, He can make any tree any time a kalpatharu, for He is Himself the Kalpatharu!

He got up the rocks quick and fast, to the surprise of everyone; indeed sometimes He did not climb at all; still, He could be talking to the devotees on the sands one moment, and hail them from near the tamarind tree, the next. He usually helped up the older and fatter among the devotees and when they held His Hand, He pulled them up as if they had no weight at all.

He would ask them, in clear commanding voice from the top of the hill, standing by the side of the Kalpatharu aforesaid, "Look up and see"; and lo, they saw a wheel of circling Light, with Baba. s head in the center or a blinding jet of Jyothi emanating from His forehead. Some have seen, looking up from the sands, a huge Shirdi Sai Baba, illuminated by a mysterious effulgence, some have seen Sathya Sai Baba. s face inside a full-circled Moon and miracles like a pillar of fire etc.

The Moharram Pirs:

About this time, Baba was approached by some Muslims of a neighbouring village on a matter of some importance for them. Their ranks were reduced by a fell disease. The worship of what are called Pirs is traditional in these parts during the month of Moharram, the installation, the worship, the ceremonial procession, the immersion, all being celebrated by the Hindu as well as the Muslim communities. Pirs are the hand-shaped objects made of brass etc. which are held sacred as mementos of the sacrifice of Hassan and Hussein on the memorable battlefield of Kerbela. Baba told the Muslims who came to Him that Pirs were being installed in their village since hundreds of years, but latterly the ceremony had stopped. He asked them to continue the worship and revealed to them that if they dig at a certain place which He pointed out, they would get the very Pirs which their forefathers consecrated. They dug at the place and the Pirs were exposed to view! Everyone was so surprised at the objects that none had the courage to descend and pull the Pirs into the open. So, Baba Himself got down the pit and took the Pirs out. There were four of them at the place! For many years thereafter, these were kept at the Mandir itself, rolled up in a mat and packed neatly. They were issued to those villagers for the Moharram celebrations only, and they were being returned duly after the functions were over.

Baba moves to the Old Mandir:

With the arrival of devotees from all around at the news of the manifestation of Sai Baba at Puttaparthi, Baba was busy with the cure of their physical and mental ills. He says that even this forms a part of His Mission, for , no one can have the urge for spiritual discipline when pestered by physical and mental ills. So, many cases of chronic illness, lunacy, hysteria, possession by evil spirits and ghosts, etc were brought to the presence of the Great Healer. Persons who where worshipping Shirdi Baba also came, out of curiosity, to examine the new Manifestation of their Lord. Many persuaded Baba to move to their places and thus Baba went to Bangalore and visited a few houses which had contacts with Mirzapur, Kolapuram, Pithapuram, Sandur, Madras and other places. Some devotees came also from the Ursu families connected with the Royal Line of Mysore. At Bangalore, Baba . operated. a long-standing case of duodenal ulcer and the patient got complete relief; the "instruments" were all "materialised" mysteriously and so, the stream of pilgrims increased considerably.

All these highlighted the need for a bigger Mandir where Baba could reside and where the devotees could be accommodated. This was how the Old Mandir got planned by Thirumala Rao of Bangalore and others in 1945. The place selected was a little away from the village, between the Sathyamma and the Gopalakrishna temples, the very site on which sheds and pandals were put up since some years, during Dasara and other festivals, by the Karnam family and other devotees. The old mandir consisted of a tin shed and a set of rooms across a quadrangle. The tin shed served as a shelter for the devotees, and of the set of rooms, one was a bedroom and the other a simple bathroom. The mandir was the scene of many a miracle in those earlier days.

After the completion of the building, Baba came over from the Karnam's house and began residing in the room to the left of the front veranda, a small room, about 8 feet long and 6 feet wide.

Devotees will never forget the Old Mandiram, for Baba was always moving right in the midst of the people there. He composed a large number of Bhajan songs and Kirtans which He taught them, while there. He trained them and corrected them on the spot, and with great love and attention. Since the number of devotees who were present was not very large, Baba used to go out more frequently, to the sands on the riverbed, or the hills around or the gardens across the river and while they were engaged in cooking the feast, they saw many miracles or signs of divinity.

The gathering of devotees increased in number from month to month. The Old Mandiram was found inadequate; it was not possible to meet everyday on the sands. The devotees felt that Baba's room was too cramped and low. He was being forced to live in the very midst of noise and dust and confusion. On festival occasions, the area around the Mandir was too small to accommodate the persons who came; and so, some devotees prayed to Baba to agree to the construction of the spacious building, which Baba has named, 'Prasanthi Nilayam'.



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