By : B. Uma Maheswara Rao
Hari Vinayak Sathe constructed, on Baba’s orders, a residential quarter called “Sathe Wada” in Shirdi for the convenience of the visiting pilgrims. He also sent Megha to Shirdi who introduced congregational worship to Baba.
Hari Vinayak Sathe was born in 1855. H.V. Sathe became a Deputy Collector and then Land Superintendent at the time of his retirement. Sathe would be remembered for two great services rendered in Shirdi. The first service was to provide residential accommodation in Shirdi for the devotees called Sathe Wada which he constructed in 1905-06. This gave immense relief and comfort for the devotees visiting Shirdi. Prior to the construction of Sathe Wada, visiting pilgrims had to stay in the houses and sometimes under the shade of trees as Shirdi was a small village at that time. The second service he provided in the masjid, was introducing congregational worship by the devotees through Megha whom he had sent to Shirdi. Till then, the devotees were performing individual worship only, to Baba. Sathe had sent one young man by name Megha to Shirdi. Megha was an illiterate orthodox Brahmin, devoted to the service of Lord Shiva. Sathe told Megha that Baba was an incarnation of Shiva and that Megha could perform his devotional service to Baba. It was Megha who started the congregational service to Baba and became the first priest to Baba and a devoted bhakta. Baba liked Megha very much.
Sathe lost his wife when he was 44 years and had a daughter but no son. Though friends pressed him for second marriage, he was reluctant as he was nearing 50 years and was not sure of getting a son. His friend, Barve, the Mamlatdar of Kopargaon taluk, took him to Shirdi in April 1904 and both had darshan of Baba. Barve told Baba about the marital position of Sathe and his desire to have a son. Baba immediately said if Sathe got married again, Allah would bless him with a son. Again, a very famous astrologer visited Pune where he was working and told him about his past and his daughter correctly, and that he would get a son by his second wife after his 50th year. Then Sathe was transferred to Ahmedabad.
A person by name Ganesh Damodar who was called Dada Kelkar was in search of a groom for his daughter. Kelkar wrote a letter to Sathe, enquiring whether any suitable groom was available in Ahmedabad for his daughter. Sathe thought that this must be an act of Baba and hence he wrote back to Kelkar saying that no groom was available in Ahmedabad except himself and it was for Kelkar to decide taking into consideration his age and other pros and cons. Kelkar readily agreed at this proposal. However, Sathe insisted that Baba should see the girl and approve for the marriage. Kelkar being an orthodox Brahmin was not in favor of approaching Baba whom he considered as a Muslim saint and instead was willing to consult any Brahmin saint. However, Sathe insisted on consulting Baba and then Kelkar took his daughter to Shirdi and Baba on seeing the girl blessed her and told Kelkar to send her to Ahmedabad at which Kelkar was very much surprised and felt extremely happy. Sathe married her in 1906 on his 50th year. During first seven years, he got two daughters first and then a son was born in 1913.
Dada Kelkar was also instrumental in starting Guru Poornima day celebrations in Shirdi in 1909.
On Baba’s desire, Sathe purchased a piece of land near the neem tree under which Baba had performed his penance earlier. Sathe wanted to construct a residential quarter for the use of pilgrims who would be visiting Shirdi for the darshan of Baba. Pilgrims accommodation in Shirdi was a big problem in those days. An interesting thing about the laying of the foundation stone for this Sathe Wada deserves to be mentioned. A day was fixed by Baba for this purpose and Sathe was unaware as he was not informed. But Sathe on his own left for Shirdi with Barve. However, Baba was aware of Sathe’s arrival in Shirdi and told Kelkar, his father-in-law that Sathe would be in Shirdi on the day fixed for starting foundation work. Sathe and Barve reached Shirdi on the day fixed for laying of the foundation stone and Sathe was very happy that he came to Shirdi at the right time. However, Baba was not in favor of any formal foundation ceremony with pomp and gaiety.
In 1908, there was an obstruction in the construction of Sathe Wada. Baba when first came to Shirdi, was meditating sitting under the neem tree which was considered sacred. The branches of this neem tree were obstructing the construction work. Hence Baba asked the people to cut the obstructing branches. But nobody came forward to do this and then Baba himself cut the branches, facilitating the construction work of Sathe Wada.
Sathe got the residential quarters constructed in 1908, including the old village wall as per Baba’s desire. These residential quarters were called Sathe Wada
In the year 1915, H.V. Sathe established an organization by the name ‘Dakshina Bhiksha Sanstha’. Ramchandra Patil was its secretary.
Sathe did not approach Baba for his religious and spiritual upliftment and hence did not improve much spiritually. But Baba on his own kindness corrected him from his errors as once he was about to be lured by a wicked woman and put him on the right path. Off and on, he was exhibiting too much anger in his interactions with devotees. In such matters, Baba was immediately intervening, controlling and advising him suitably. In 1905 with Baba’s Grace, there was however a change in Sathe’s life for the better. Sathe frequently visited Shirdi between 1906 and 1916.
Sathe did so many other minor things interfering in the internal matters of Shirdi village and incurred the displeasure of Shirdi residents who developed hatred and hostility towards Sathe which he faced boldly with the ever-vigilant guidance and protection from Baba. At the instance of some of the villagers in Shirdi who were jealous of his official position, Nanavalli became furious and started harassing Sathe. Sathe was so afraid that he fled Shirdi with Baba’s permission to leave. This happened in 1916. He settled in Pune with Baba’s consent.
Baba continued his blessings, guidance and advice to Sathe even in Pune. One instance is quoted here to show how Baba was helping him continuously. In 1914, Kaka Maharaj, a famous Sadhu living in Dhupeshwar arrived in Pune. Though Sathe invited him to his house, he declined. But after a few hours, the Sadhu himself sent word to Sathe, agreeing to visit his house and this was due to Baba’s intervention which Sadhu told Sathe later when he visited his house.
Sathe did not get much encouragement in his job.. He was not in favor of continuing in his job and told Baba accordingly. But Baba advised him to have patience and wait for some more time. After a few months, he got elevated in his position and got a posting as Land Superintendent in Kolhapur with increased salary with scope of higher pension. However, at the time of retirement, Sathe had difficulty in getting full pension sanctioned. But with Baba’s blessings, he got full pension payment settled and released.
When Sri Narasimha Swamiji interviewed Sathe in 1936, he was 81 years. Sathe told Narasimha Swamiji about the importance of Sathe Wada and said that Kelkar also lived in Sathe Wada, Jog did daily parayan in Sathewada, Khaparde also wrote part of his diary in this Sathe Wada and Arathi was also performed regularly to Baba’s picture kept in this Sathe Wada.
Sathe passed away in 1942. In 1924, Sathe Wada was bought by R.S. Navalkar and his heirs gave it to Sansthan in 1939. In about 1941, Sansthan added four more rooms for the use of pilgrims and part of the Wada was there up until 1998 being used by Sansthan as an administrative office. Later it was pulled down when the Temple complex was modified. Thus, great service was rendered by Sathe to Baba and for the comfort of the pilgrims.