It’s been a little over five months since Sai Aura team was graced by the honors of having the inauguration of our e-Magazine ‘Aura of Shirdi Sai’ by Mrs. Rubal Agrawal, the recently appointed first and foremost woman Chief Executive Officer of Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SSST), Shirdi. It was a pleasant experience meeting with Mrs. Agrawal, knowing her background as an able and energetic government official appointed by the State of Maharashtra. The encounter led me to imagine the sea of opportunity that SSST further has, to grow leaps and bounds under her executive leadership. The informal dialog between us was not just limited to the SSST temple complex as a facility but also led us to discuss the literature on Sai Baba and its distribution to the young, talented and devoted Sai community. Post the launch of the e-Magazine, as the Sai Aura team eagerly awaits to hear feedback from its devoted Sai readers and learn about opportunities for improvements, I now begin to think of what the role of SSST can and will play for the future of digital media. My mind soon wanders back to my last visit to Shirdi.
Having traveled from the USA when the sun was sweltering hot, while the tender grass blades were ravaging due to the peak summer month of July, Shirdi’s monsoon winds were a soothing relief and an open-armed welcome. As I arrived in Shirdi, I began to wonder how can I, a Non-resident Indian and unfamiliar Sai Devotee get through the SSST’s unknown territory and to its executive leadership tier. All I had on hand was Dr. Suresh Haware, Chairman of SSST’s phone number. Not having any prior introduction to the SSST’s inner workings, I was just marching into Sai Baba’s Kingdom, with undeterred faith telling myself “Baba will come to my rescue”. After docilely paying obeisance to Baba in his most desired resting place – The Samadhi Mandir, I gathered the information of the location of the Sansthan’s Executive Offices. I decisively walked into the walls of the Sansthan’s official terrain expecting an ambiance that would be quiet and screaming for some human activity. God!!! What was I thinking? The building was hustle bustle with activities and it reminded me more of a township than a temple’s office, which was being managed with, not just devotion to Baba but also at most care for the influx of Sai Devotees that would be visiting Shirdi to pay their respect to their most revered Sadguru and Parabrahma.
Having made no prior appointment, I eagerly, yet patiently waited in the halls and rooms of the Sansthan for my opportunity to meet Dr. Haware. Bottled water quenched my thirst while few rounds of steaming hot and most flavorful masala chai fed my appetite for ‘What and How’ question that has always had its primal spot in my thinking cap about the way forward for Sai Aura. The wait itself did not go wasted. It not only gave me an opportunity to connect to several other devotees and office bearers of the SSST, it also exposed me to a plethora of information that Shirdi was prepping for the first time in its history — Shri Sai Baba Sansthan was organizing the first ever Media Conference under the Chairmanship of Dr. Suresh Haware on Sunday, 30th July 2017, in Shirdi. Could the timing of my visit be any better than this? Baba was again holding my hand with his loving care as I was getting ready to walk the path of the publishing world.
Soon enough, the wait came to an end and I was ushered into a small roomful of people that sat in copious attentiveness. As I introduced myself to Dr. Haware, I was humbled by the openness and willingness of everyone present there to listen to the proposal that Baba had propelled into my hand and mind. It gave me a great opportunity to exchange ideas with the Sansthan executives about the role of Aura of Shirdi Sai in a digital medium.
After submitting the mission and vision of Aura of Shirdi Sai with Mrs. Agrawal, Dr. Haware, and other key SSST board members, it was a pleasant surprise when both Mrs. Agrawal and Dr. Haware gave an open invitation to collaborate in promulgating the messages of Baba in both the eastern and western communities. Before I realized, I had an overwhelming invitation to participate in the Media Conference to be held on July 30th, 2017.
Though unable to participate in the media conference in-person, through my discussions with the SSST executive leadership I soon realized that the media conference was SSST’s mechanism for supporting the media that has provided it with an immaculate publicity for the various News items sent to it through the SSST, Shirdi, through the medium of external newspaper / Channel. The Sansthan hoped that the media will continue the work hereafter as well especially given that SSST, Shirdi will be organizing a Shri Saibaba Samadhi Centenary Year between 01 OCTOBER 2017 and 18 OCTOBER 2018. To provide wide publicity in all corners of the world in terms of information and dissemination about all the programs and initiatives that would be undertaken during this Centenary Year, SSST had decided to hold a ONE DAY gathering of representatives from the SAI periodicals across India (Weekly, Fortnightly, Monthly, Bimonthly, Quarterly and Religious Channels (Sai Channel, Serial, Documentary) at Shirdi. The Sansthan organized free-of-cost accommodation, food, VIP Darshan and other facilities for the representatives of the Periodicals/ Channels if the travel arrangements were individually handled by the participants.
The conference was an enormous success with a large attendance from Representatives of various Sai Baba periodicals, magazines and TV channels from around 14 States of India. The event was presided over by Sansthan Vice Chairman Mr. Chandrashekhar Kadam, Chief Executive Officer Mrs. Rubal Agrawal, Trustees Mr. Bhausaheb Wakchaure, Mr. Bipindada Kolhe, Dy. District Collector Mr. Manoj Ghodepatil, Dy. Executive Officer Dr. Sandeep Aher, Chief Accounts Officer Mr. Babasaheb Ghorpade, Administrative Officers to include Mr. Suryabhan Game, Uttam Gondkar, Dilip Ugale, Ashok Auti, and Public Relations Officer Mr. Mohan Yadav.
Representatives from various Sai Periodicals and Spiritual TV Channels used the forum to express their thoughts and ideas to propagate Sai messages and Sansthan’s initiatives. Keynote speakers at the conference included Sansthan Trustees Mr. Bhausaheb Wakchaure, Mr. Bipindada Kolhe and eminent Documentary Producer Mr. Nitin Desai. The event was introduced by Smt. Rubal Agrawal and vote of thanks was delivered by Deputy District Collector Mr. Manoj Ghodepatil
Addressing the conference attendees, Dr. Suresh Haware informed that the more than 250 Sai-media representatives from 69 periodicals, 9 TV Channels and 10 Serials and documentaries producers from 14 States of India have participated in this Sai Patrika Conference. He encouraged the Sai-journalists to perform every work with a self-confidence stating that all virtuous deeds and services, especially those done to the needy are akin to service to Sai Baba. The message of service to the Bhaktas which includes, Organ Donation, Education and others should reach all the Sai devotees.
Addressing the representatives of the Sai Media, Dr. Haware highlighted the initiatives taken by the Sansthan to celebrate the centenary celebrations of Shri Sai Baba’s Mahasamadhi. This is the first time that one of the major temples in India is involving various stakeholders in organizing the celebrations. Many initiatives were taken and major among them were:
• SHIRDI SAI GLOBAL FOUNDATION, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2016: A Global Summit of Shri Sai Temple Trustees over 11th and 12th December 2016 at Shirdi was organized. The summit was a forum to exchange ideas on Shri Sai Baba Samadhi Centenary Year Celebrations 2017-18 and Global Sai Movement. Representatives of more than 1,100 temples from across the world were in Shirdi for this summit. The representatives included 43 foreign delegates, who maintain Sai temples in their respective countries’. Mr. Suresh Haware is the chairman of this trust.
• Many devotees bring Palkhi to Shirdi during the key festival days. As a part of involving the devotees in the Seva Karikram of the Sansthan, the Sansthan had organized a Shri Sai Sevak Conference which was held in Shirdi on 14th June 2017. An appeal was made to register the names for Shri Sai Sevak Yojana with the Sansthan. Consequently, the Sansthan received an overwhelming response. All in all, 570 Palanquin Groups registered their names in this Yojana. Out of which 520 groups will be given an opportunity to serve in the beginning. The number of Palanquin groups registering their names with the Sansthan continues to grow.
• As it is a standard practice of devotees who visit Tirupathi offer Hair to Lord Venkateshwara, so also the Shirdi Sansthan had decided the offering of Blood donation as a standard practice in Shirdi. The Blood Donation Center was inaugurated by Dr. Haware.
A glimpse was given into the key initiatives that are being taken up by the Sansthan which include:
• During Saibaba Samadhi Centenary Celebration Year 12 special programs will be organized. A paper-based special publication covering the programs at Shirdi as well as Paduka Darshan Celebrations both in India and other countries.
• A library will be set up in the New Bus Stand and all literature relating to Saibaba will be available there.
• A stall will be provided wherein literature on Saibaba brought out by various organizations in the country will be displayed for viewing and purchase
• Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi has planned to arrange various religious and cultural programs. On behalf of Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi a festival of ‘Shri Sai Paduka Darshan’ will be organized in every district of Maharashtra, and all the States across the Country, as well as at 25 nations around the World.
• Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi has planned to organize various Cultural & Spiritual programs by nationally and internationally acclaimed, highly reputed and renowned artists in Shirdi. These Cultural and Spiritual performances will be ‘Service at the Lotus Feet of Shri Sai Baba’ with no remuneration.
• A Project to make Shirdi City as a Smart City and to install CCTV Cameras at various places for security purpose has been planned and will be executed with the cooperation of the Department of Information and Technology, Government of Maharashtra.
• Many initiatives for providing better amenities for the pilgrims visiting Shirdi during the year 2017 -2018 has been planned to include parking lots, a place for stay, cultural activities, planetarium, 3D parks, tree plantation etc.
• Sai Movement is the largest in the World. There are 8,000 Sai Temples across India and the number of Sai Temples abroad is more than 500. Dr. Haware further said that the Trust is considering the translation of Shri Sai Satcharitra in 100 languages.
Given the array of initiatives that are being taken up in small, medium and large scale by the Sansthan, ‘Aura of Shirdi Sai’ team is eager to collaborate with SSST to promote and distribute the ideas in electronic format across the globe. As Dr. Haware stated, ‘Aura of Shirdi Sai’s motto for collaboration is: ‘Service to Sansthan, is Service to Sai Baba’ and we stand by with self-confidence to collaborate with Sansthan for information delivery and distribution.
Aum Sai Ram