28 September 2006

Sai Baba's Shirdi LIES 3

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It is at this point that we come to the incident of 8th March, 1940, where the young Raju was believed to have suffered a near-fatal scorpion bite. He was living at Uravakonda, a town approximately 139km from Puttaparthi, with his elder brother (Seshama Raju) and his family to continue his schooling. Uravakonda was notable for it's proliferation of venomous snakes and scorpions and a strong superstition abounded that stings effected in the area would cause certain death.

Raju was different. He leapt in the air with a piercing shriek while holding his right toe. Although no scorpion was found, he fell into a deep sleep for the whole of the next day and woke briefly only to fall into an unconscious state exactly 24 hours after the previous day's bite. His limbs became stiff, he didn't speak and his breathing was very faint. Several doctors were brought to try and effect a recovery and numerous acts of worship were performed at local village temples to propitiate the deities, but to no avail. After a coconut was broken at the local Muthyalamma temple, Sathya woke briefly to declare that the coconut had broken into five pieces before again falling into his near-comatose condition.

As described in the official biographies, this incident is widely accepted as a turning-point whereupon further trials and tribulations were undergone before the young Sathyanarayana Raju transformed into the Sathya Sai Baba that we know today. While some have questioned whether this process was due to the effect of the scorpion bite, Sathya Sai Baba has registered his rebuttal:

"You might have heard some people say that I became Sai Baba when a scorpion stung me! Well, I challenge any one of you to get stung by scorpions and transform yourself into Sai Baba. No, the scorpion had nothing to do with it! In fact, there was no scorpion at all!" - 23 February 1958

The real truth is very different. Raju's elder sister, Venkamma, left behind her unpublished diaries where she had described all of these incidents and which were consulted during the research phase for LIMF. It is surprising to find significant diverging between the official hagiographic accounts and a 'live' contemporaneous narrative. Sticking to the essential points, Venkamma's report furnishes us with the fact that Raju himself claimed to have been bitten by a scorpion while he was in the bathroom and that this happened on the night of 4th March 1943, which was incidentally the occasion of the Shivaratri festival. Rather than sleeping the whole day, Raju was sent out to the local market by his elder brother to procure the vegetables for the evening meal. Shortly before dinner he told Venkamma that he would visit the nearby Sunkulamma temple, and was served his dinner upon his return from there. Instead of eating his food, he became physically immobile and fell to the ground when touched concernedly by Venkamma. Only then did the hysteria around Raju's coma start.

Even then this was not all; Raju oscillated between consciousness and unconsciousness, and approximately twelve hours after the second fall he broke into high literary expositions of classical literature that were unknown to him as a mere schoolboy. His behaviour had also undergone a severe change. He was no longer the fun-loving and cheerful prankster, but became decidedly 'other-worldly', muttering sacred incantations and random incohererencies that made no sense to his close observers. His periodic but extremely violent epileptic seizures caused Raju's family to believe that he was possessed by an 'evil spirit' and so he was taken to various witch-doctors and exorcists in the hope of removing the 'demon', one of which put him through horrendous torture. Throughout the process of having his head shaven, four 'X' marks drilled across his scalp, a highly acidic paste (consisting of turmeric, chillies, pepper powder, lemon juice and garlic) being vigorously rubbed into the open wounds, having 101 pots of freezing cold water being poured on his head from a certain height and having his head and eyes swell beyond recognition, he was allegedly calm and unruffled through it all.

After these exorcisms proved largely unsuccessful, Raju was taken home by his family and, after continuing with his alternated bouts of other-worldliness and disturbing behaviour, the day commonly referred to in the official biographies as 'Annunciation Day' dawned, 23 May 1940. It was on this day that Sathyanarayana Raju formally and publicly debuted as 'Sai Baba'.

Except that it was really 1943. And during one of the conscious periods which he underwent after the scorpion bite, Raju had made possibly the most intriguing and cryptic statement to Kasibatla Sriram Murthy, a neighbour:

"Don't worry. Sai Baba will take care." - LIMF, p. 100.

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