Sai Baba of Shirdi (September 28, 1838 – October 15, 1918), also known as Shirdi Sai Baba, was an Indian guru, yogi, and fakir who is regarded by his devotees as a saint.
No verifiable information is given regarding Sai Baba’s real name, parents, place or time of birth. When asked about his past, he often gave elusive responses. The name “Sai” was given to him upon his arrival at Shirdi, a town in the west Indian state of Maharashtra. Mahalsapati, a local temple priest, recognized him as a Muslim saint and greeted him with the words ‘Ya Sai!’, meaning ‘Welcome Sai!’. Sai or Sayi is a Persian title given to Sufi saints, meaning ‘poor one’. The honorific “Baba” means “father; grandfather; old man; sir” in most Indian and Middle Eastern languages. Thus Sai Baba denotes “holy father”, “saintly father” or “poor old man”. Alternatively, the Sindhi and Urdu word “sāī.n”, an honorific title for a virtuoso, a saint, or a feudal lord (i.e. a patron), is derived from the Persian word “sāyeh”, which literally means “shadow” but figuratively refers to patronage or protection. The Hindi-Urdu word “sāyā” comes from the same borrowing. Thus, it could also mean “Master Father.” However, Sāī may also be an acronym of the Sanskrit term “Sakshat Eshwar”, a reference to God. Sakshat means “incarnate” and Eshwar means “God”.
Sai Baba remains a very popular saint, especially in India, and is worshiped by people around the world. He had no love for perishable things and his sole concern was self-realization. He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to God and guru. He gave no distinction based on religion or caste. Sai Baba’s teaching combined elements of Hinduism and Islam: he gave the Hindu name Dwarakamayi to the mosque he lived in, practiced Muslim rituals, taught using words and figures that drew from both traditions, and was buried in Shirdi. One of his well known epigrams, “Sabka Malik Ek” (“One God governs all”), is associated with Islam and Sufism. He also said”Trust in me and your prayer shall be answered”. He always uttered “Allah Malik” (“God is King”).
Some of Sai Baba’s disciples became famous as spiritual figures and saints, such as Mahalsapati, a priest of the Khandoba temple in Shirdi, and Upasni Maharaj. He was revered by other saints, such as Saint Bidkar Maharaj, Saint Gangagir, Saint Janakidas Maharaj, and Sati Godavari Mataji. Sai Baba referred to several saints as ‘my brothers’, especially the disciples of sri Swami Samartha of Akkalkot.