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Parsis, Christians, Muslims, Hin­dus, etc—daily in thousands, swelling into tens of thousands during festival days like Ram Navami, Diwali, Dasara, Guru Poornami, etc.

But why Shirdi and not any other place? Because near the old, dilapidated, mud-walled mosque chosen by Baba as His abode lay buried the tomb of His Guru1 in a previous birth. None knew about it till on His advice they dug and found it at the foot of a neem tree. A nice little shrine is built over it and the leaves of the overshadowing branch of the neem tree do not taste bitter. Though sometimes He passed for a mad fakir, He was nobody's fool. He enjoyed discomfiting others with His own humour and practical jokes through which He elucidated a debatable point of philosophy or ethics. Though seemingly unletterd, He startled highly learned scholars with His erudition making them feel small at intellectual acrobatics. He told them they would find not Brahma but brama (illusion) in books. With such purely human qualities streaking through His divine personality, He endeared Himself all the greater to the common people. Infact, as Emerson says, "The human and divine are not separate, but rather various grades of one con­tinuous series." Shri Ramana Maharshi, even as a pure Jnana Yogi, shared these qualities if in a more subtle manner. Valmiki says of Shri Ramachandra:

Mayamanush charitra mahadeuadi pujitaha

Indeed, "the line separating the sublime and the ridicu­lous is nebulous".

Was Baba a Hindu or Muslim by birth? According to the hints dropped by him now and then, He was born to Brahmin parents, was brought up

1 It is to be noted that Baba referred to God as Allah, Ram, Datta etc. and Himself as God's agent, though on occasions He declared, "I am Allah, 1 am Vital, I am Datta" and He manifested Himself as Rama, Krishna, Siva, Maruti, Vittal etc. to different persons to dem­onstrate His identity with God in His different aspects.

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