23 November 2006

The Truth About Sai Baba's Birthplace

When I first became acquainted with the Sathya Sai Baba sex controversy in 2000, I came across some information that he had not been born in his home village of Puttaparthi as popularly described, but that he had been born in Karnatanagapalli - a nearby village located across the local river. A photo (currently unavailable) of the birth site was also provided, and it was alleged that Sai Baba had been born there because it was the local custom for pregnant women to travel to their home villages to give birth. Whispers about this have circulated even amongst devotees for several decades; I personally conversed with the wife of a Sai Organisation National Co-Ordinator about this matter when we were both in Puttaparthi. As I was a devotee at the time, I dismissed it all as malicious bunk.

I was extremely surprised to come across this information again during recent readings of 'Love Is My Form', a devotional and well-researched biography that - for obvious reasons - unwittingly smashes many of the myths and legends that surround Sai Baba. It seems that the circumstances of Sai Baba's birth is no exception, hence a fitting topic to be discussed today on his "official" birthday of 23rd November.

As I've discussed the topic of the Baba's supposed immaculate conception before, I'll just briefly note the glaring discrepancy between the testimonies of Sai Baba and his mother Easwaramma regarding whether it was a blue or white light that glided into her stomach and how this signified the entrance of the Baba into her womb. Here's the official version by Easwaramma about how it happened:

"Mother said, 'She [Easwaramma's mother-in-law] had dreamt of Satyanarayana Deva and she had cautioned me that I should not be frightened if something happens to me through the Will of God. That morning when I was at the well drawing water, a big ball of blue light came rolling towards me and I fainted and fell. I felt it glided into me.' Swami turned to Rama Sharma with a smile. 'There you have the answer! I was not begotten. It was Pravesha [divine conception], not Prasava [human intercourse]." - Source.

It should be of public interest that Vengamma, Easwaramma's youngest sister, presented a very different account of what happened. Needless to say, it differs significantly:

"Pedda Venkama Raju [Sai Baba's father] owned a few cows. One day, Easwaramma went to collect some grass for the cows, from the fields across the Chitravathi river. It was hot and she was very thirsty. She collected the grass, made it into a bundle and was returning across the Chitravathi riverbed. She put the bundle aside and sat down to rest on the riverbank. She dug a hole in the sand to get some water. Some dirty water surfaced, which she threw away. She then scooped up some clear water with both hands and was about to drink when she saw a luminescence merge into the surface of the water and finally become a part of it. She did not know what to do, and was very thirsty. Thinking of God and keeping faith in Him, she drank the water. The luminescence was so powerful that, in spite of the glare of the hot sun, she could still see it. She returned home and reported the incident to her mother-in-law. Shortly thereafter, she found herself 'expecting' again." - Vengamma, as told to R. Padmanabhan, 'Love Is My Form,' p. 19.

Hot sun? Burning thirst? Luminescence? Ever heard of a mirage?

Ccould have been a hallucination too. That aside, there's no reason not to believe this interesting testimony either! It is a raw and contemporaneous account given by a family member who is perfectly qualified to describe what actually happened. And that's not the last we've heard from Vengamma; she also happens to be a reliable source for claiming Sai Baba's real birthplace as Karnatanagapalli! As in LIMF:

"Easwaramma spent her confinement in her mother's house at Karnatanagapalli village. Her mother's family maintains that Sathya [Sai Baba] was born there." - LIMF, p. 21.

Footnotes affirmatively furnish readers with the information that, according to the local customs, pregnant women stay at their previous family homes to give birth. This is in marked contrast to the statements of the official hagiographies that maintain Easwaramma stayed in Puttaparthi throughout the duration of her pregnancy, even mentioning that she was engaged in formal worship rituals before she started experiencing labour pains. This is also corroborated by Chandramouli Raju (Easwaramma's brother) and his son Ganapathi Raju, who remembers his father telling him of these events on several occasions.

As LIMF is a devotional work, it unimpressively attempts to explain away these problems:

"Since the two families had always been very close and resided in adjacent villages, it is quite possible that they may have mistaken one for the other. Moreover, the flooding of the Chitravathi made movement from one bank to the other a frequent affair. The third day after the child was born, the family feared that the Chitravathi River would flood, and Easwaramma moved to Puttaparthi with the child." - LIMF, p. 21.

Hardly likely. No matter how much fun one may make of country bumpkins, the least one can expect from them is for them to know perfectly well in which villages they reside! In their clumsy attempt to resolve the conflict the editors of LIMF have unwittingly confirmed that Sathya Sai Baba was born in Karnatanagapalli. After all, where was Easwaramma coming from with a child to escape a supposed flood?

Ganapathi Raju also testified that, years later, Sathya Sai Baba supervised the construction of a bhajan hall on the site of Easwaramma's family home in Karnatanagapalli. It was a colour version of this picture that I saw back in 2000 when I first encountered this matter of controversy. The clear implication of this is the Baba's tacit acknowledgement of this venue as his birthplace and a subtle tribute to his maternal family. Why would he do this when had also supervised the construction of a "birthplace temple" in Puttaparthi circa. 1980 and installed an idol of the god Shiva, supposedly on the spot where he was born? It should be noted that he was loathe for years to construct a birthsite building in Puttaparthi in spite of the numerous requests and prayers from devotees to do so. 'Baba Satya Sai' by Ra. Ganapati, originally published in Tamil in 1976, mentioned that the birthplace then was in a state of "shambles", and that requests for a commemorative column there by devotees in celebration of Sai Baba's golden jubilee (1975) went unacknowledged, in spite of the fact that the huge world-religions pillar was being constructed within the ashram at the time.

In consideration of all of these facts, one might wonder why exactly Sai Baba seems intent on insisting that he was born in Puttaparthi, as the reasons are not immediately clear. What's going on here that we don't know about? Why are members of Sai Baba's maternal family still claiming to this day that he was born in Karnatanagapalli? At the very least we can say that he has much to hide and that this represents the latest uncovering of yet another strange episode in his dubious past.

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  • It is easy to become dehydrated when working to cut and then carry grass on a hot day.

    Ive suffered dehydration during athletic events and can tell you that it can affect the mind and cause perceptual distortions.

    One thing our trainers told us was that once you feel thirst, you're likely to already be dehyrated. It would be quite difficult to get enough water by scooping it up on one's bare hands from a seep hole.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 April, 2007 13:50  

  • I completely agree, and I don't blame Easwaramma if she was dehydrated and started seeing mirages and such. It's just the issue of how this incident is used to make a statement about Sai Baba's so-called "immaculate conception".

    Easwaramma told her "blue light" story in the presence of Sai Baba and some devotees, whereas her sister's story contains none of those fancy details. Interesting how the family are not all on the same page when it comes to history, and this is the case with many other stories too.

    By Blogger Swami Saiexposedananda, at 12 April, 2007 05:41  

  • Surprising to see the news that people still believed that some god will be seen in the moon.. so much ignorance and baba is making people fools..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 05 October, 2007 18:57  

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