By : B. Rajeshwari
Lakshmibai Shinde was a well to do woman. Her full name is Lakshmibai Tukaram Shinde. Bhagoji Shinde was her husband’s uncle. She used to prepare food for Baba every day. She had, during her entire lifetime, served Baba during day and night with utmost devotion and unswerving faith. Baba used to address her as “Laxmi Ma”. She was allowed access into the masjid at all times including nights, similar to the privilege granted to Mhalsapati and Tatya Patil.
Once, in the evening, as usual Baba was reclining against the wall and chatting with Tatya Patil. Lakshmibai came there and bowed down before him. Baba said, “Lakshmi! ! I am very hungry.” Lakshmibai rushed to her home and gladly prepared rotis etc. immediately and brought that hot food to Baba. Baba picked up the plate of the hot food and placed it before a hungry dog. Lakshmibai was surprised to see this. She immediately said, “Baba, I hurriedly cooked the food for you; but you gave it to the dog. You did not even taste a morsel.” Baba replied, “Lakshmibai, there is God in every being. If your food enters any mouth that is hungry, be assured that it has fallen into my own mouth.” Thus, Baba indicated to Lakshmibai that feeding any hungry animal was same as feeding him. From that day onwards, Lakshmibai started bringing rotis etc. for Baba. She mixed it with milk and with great love brought it to Baba. Baba on his part also waited for her rotis to come and did not touch any other food before her food arrived. On some occasions, the food from her would come late even though everyone in the masjid would be feeling very hungry. But still Baba would not start his meals till Lakshmibai’s food arrived. After some period, Baba started demanding kheer (sweet) made from Shevaya from her. After Lakshmibai brought such type of kheer, Baba would ask her to sit by his side. Lakshmibai served Baba for about 45 years. Baba used to give her four rupees on a daily basis.
Lakshmibai brought meal for Baba, which was his last supper on 15th October 1918. Lakshmibai Shinde was one of the seven devotees who were present with Baba in the masjid when Baba passed away into Mahasamadhi. Baba gave her first five silver coins and then four silver coins, total 9 (nine) silver coins of British Era. All were very much surprised to know as to how Baba got those silver coins of British Era and how he preserved them. They knew that Baba did not keep anything with him. Thus, as to how and from where Baba had got these 9 silver coins, had become a mystery.
When Baba’s marble idol, made by B.V. Talim, the celebrated sculptor of Mumbai, was brought to Shirdi before installation, Lakshmibai Shinde was one of the few living devotees who saw the idol of Baba and expressed happily that the idol looked exactly like Baba and felt that Baba came back to Shirdi in the form of Life-Like idol. She was also lucky to observe the installation ceremony of Baba’s idol at the hands of Sri Sai Sharananand in the Samadhi Mandir on 7th October 1954, the Vijayadasami day, exactly 36 years after Baba’s Mahasamadhi.
She lived for 115 years up to 1963 and passed away on 2nd June 1963 which was an Ekadasi day. The nine coins were kept with the statue of Lakshmibai in the small house which is open to the public for darshan.
The house with her Samadhi in front, is located a few meters near the Chavadi. In 1963, Lakshmibai handed over these divine coins to her daughter-in-law, Sonubai who performed puja for these coins from the year 1963 to 1984 in the house. Later these coins were handed over to her son. Afterwards the coins were handed over to her fifth generation of descendants. Thus, the coins are moving from one generation to another and her descendants are keeping them as a treasure. All the family members from generation to generation, were happy and did not have any financial problems and on the other hand they were financially well off through Baba’s Grace.
Even now Lakshmibai Shinde’s descendants have preserved these 9 coins very carefully and they shine now in the same way as they were when Baba had given them to Lakshmibai. It was a fact that when Baba had come to Shirdi for the first time, it was Lakshmibai only who had offered food to Baba. Now many devotees visit their house for the darshan of these 9 blessed coins and it is believed that mere darshan of these 9 coins, one’s problems get solved.