An abandoned boy who started his life at the feet of Shirdi Sai Baba, he grew up to be Swami Ganeshananda Giri. After spreading the word about the saint across the country, he came back to his land at the age of 108 and breathed his last on April 29. The desire to return to his motherland made the spiritual guru undertake a journey to the south a couple of months ago as the apt place to attain 'jeeva samadhi'.
Born in Suseendram in Kanyakumari in 1908, Ganeshananda was destined to take the spiritual path. A sadhu had approached his parents and requested them to allow the boy to follow the cult of Lord Murugan, but his parents refused. But fate had other plans. In 1912 during a visit to Tirupati temple, Ganeshananda was separated from his parents. A Maharashtrian family rescued the boy and took him to Shirdi Sai Baba, who adopted him along with 13 children, says S K Vasan, trustee of Shri Dattatreya Siva Sai Trust, to whom Ganeshanandan recounted his early life. He attained 'jeeva samadhi' at Shri Dattatreya Siva Sai Trust office in T Nagar.
As a spiritual person and a naga sadhu he spent a quarter of his life in the Himalayas but it was the memory of Shirdi Sai Baba that he would recollect often. "When Ganeshananda was six years old he was caught stealing a sweet. Swamiji would merrily recount to us how the incident made Sai Baba angry enough to slap him.He considered the slap his biggest lesson," says V Anbalagan, another trust member. But the tales of the spiritual guru, however small, reinforced the aura of Sai Baba.
On another occasion when Ganeshananda and others were cleaning the ashram at Dwarawati in Shirdi, he found a bronze coin. This time, he gave it to his mentor, but was surprised when Sai Baba asked him to keep the money . The coin, a piece of cloth and a 200-year-old bronze kundalam (vessel) used by Sai Baba were the prized possessions of Ganeshananda, which he proudly showed to his devotees, says Vasan. All the belongings of Ganeshananda have been kept at Sivan Koodal, where a Sai Baba temple is to come up.
The spiritual leader's single-minded devotion towards his guru made him set up at least 13 Sai Baba temples in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. He then chose Tamil Nadu as the place to construct a similar temple. "The mahant approached us and informed that he wished to end his life near Sivan Koodal village in Sriperumbudur," says Vasan who was chosen to construct a 106ft Shirdi Sai Baba temple at the site where Ganeshananda is buried.
Vasan said Ganeshananda had healing powers too and had cured a trustee member Paulraj, who was suffering from chronic seizures.
(In picture, Swami Ganeshananda Giri in extreme right along with other spiritual leaders of South India)