This Issue

Faces in Focus

The First Devotee

Sri Goddumarri S. Anjaneyulu

"He was the first to recognise My divinity"- Baba

He had taken more than a simple liking for young Raju. The liking was strange for Raju was neither his relative nor his neighbour. While Raju lived with his teacher brother, Seshama Raju on Brahmin Street in Uravakonda, this middle-aged Salt (Excise) Inspector, lived in a spacious bungalow outside the main town. But Raju was his son’s schoolmate.

Goddumarri S. Anjaneyulu (1904-1979), a simple, devoted and orthodox Brahmin who respected holy men and his wife Bhagyalakshmi (1918-1976) had the two children – Narasimha Dass, a son and Subburathnamma a daughter. Raju and the two children went to school together.

Anjaneyulu had possibly known Raju earlier as the latter’s brother was a teacher in the local high school. Raju had already picked up a good number of friends then, many of whom had been witness to miraculous experiences associated with him. Anjaneyulu had then been asked by Raju to procure a Shirdi Sai Baba statue for worship. To please the young boy, Anjaneyulu looked for it in the local market, but could not find any. Raju then told him, "Go to the Lakshminarasimhaswamy Temple festival at Pennohobilam and try". Pennohobilam was situated thirteen kilometres away from Uravakonda. True to Raju’s word the statue was found there.

This Shirdi Sai Baba statue became a spiritual link between Anjaneyulu and Raju. Being a Shirdi Sai Baba devotee himself, Anjaneyulu created a personal shrine for Sai Baba in his garden. He spread a tiger skin on a boulder and placed the statue there for puja every Thursday. For many months Raju would have his Thursday bhajans in the houses of his teacher-devotees. A time came, when he decided to hold the bhajans in Anjaneyulu’s house as it was a quiet place being situated on the outskirts of the main town and did not disturb the neighbours. Raju had possibly allowed the Anjaneyulu family to actually spiritually prepare themselves to receive what was to follow.

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Every Thursday, returning to the Anjaneyulu house, from school, Raju would bathe, then cast off his white shirt and khaki shorts school uniform and don silk dhoti and angavastram. He would then perform puja to the Shirdi Sai Baba statue and then lead the bhajans. One of the bhajans, he sang then was "Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam, dusthara bhava sagara taranam". He would also sing the song. "Baba Raava, Sai Baba Raava". He would ask everyone else to follow the song in chorus.
The Thursday bhajan sessions were great spiritual experiences for the Anjaneyulu family. During these sessions, Raju would stand in deep concentration, glowing in splendour, his body swaying forward and backward as in a trance. He would remain in this state for three to four hours. He would advise, instruct, bless and materialise vibhuti, pieces of cloth reportedly from the kafni of Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi, pictures and fruits for visitors. He would raise his hand, pick up the things from nowhere and give them away. The devotees would open their mouth at his bidding and he would put fruits and candies into the open mouths. He instructed them to eat them immediately and take home post haste whatever other article he gave them. His instructions were specifie for specific people and not meant to be shared with others. Raju would even call people at specified time and place for special spiritual advice. LIMF_1_P150_Sai209.jpg (20745 bytes)
At the end of this long spell, Raju would indicate and say, "I want to go, perform arathi. Break the coconut after arathi." After the arathi, he would fall down. The Anjaneyulu’s family would position themselves in different places in the puja room to break his fall. They were not sure where he would fall. Anjaneyulu himself would then pick him up, keep his head on his lap and wave a fan on him. Raju would gradually get up after about fifteen minutes, his eyes bloodshot with weariness.
There was yet a parent-sibling love between Anjaneyulu and Raju. When the small boy’s school uniform was torn, Anjaneyulu got a new one stitched. When Raju wanted his newly written play, Parijathapaharanam staged at the Anjaneyulu residence, Anjaneyulu had his attendants arrange the stage in no time. The play was meant only for the family. So Anjaneyulu himself dressed Raju in his wife’s sari. Anjaneyulu’s son, Narasimha Dass played the role of Sri Krishna, daughter Subburathnamma acted as Devendra and Raju himself was Sathyabhama.

The most memorable day was when Raju had returned from a visit to Hampi with his brother and school had reopened after Dassera holidays. On his way to school, Raju had been to the Anjaneyulu house. He took the latter’s new born daughter in his arms and exclaimed, "You, too, have fallen under Maya!" He then named the child Sai Prabha. Along with Narasimha Das and Subburathnamma (and another classmate Narasimha Murthy) he want to school. On the way he lost a gold collar pin that the Municipal Chairman at Bellary had gifted Raju. This greatly worried Raju. After the first period of class, the whimpering Raju went and complained to Seshama Raju of the loss. The latter rebuked him and asked him to tell his sister-in-law instead. Picking up his school bag and muttering to himself that ‘Maya is everything’ Raju left the school never to return again.

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On the way home he met Anjaneyulu. Anjaneyulu, seeing a brilliant light around the boy’s face asked him what had happened. Raju did not answer but proceeded home.

The rest has become famous in history.Later in the morning when Anjaneyulu had come to know that Raju had declared his divinity, he rushed to Seshama Raju’s house. Seeing Raju, he immediately observed, "He is not Sathyam, he is Sai Baba Himself" and prostrated before him. He then reminded the boy, "You said you would come home for lunch. All the children are hungry and we are waiting for you." Raju immediately got up, said, "Let us go" and left for Anjaneyulu’s house with brisk steps and the children struggling to keep pace. Raju asked Anjaneyulu’s wife, "Where is the boy?" Anjaneyulu asked Raju, "Sathyam, my dear child, what is the matter?" Raju replied, "I am not Sathyam, I am Baba. I have to live for the welfare of mankind. Do not stop me."

Anjaneyulu was dumbfounded, understanding the purport of what the boy said. He was sure beyond doubt that Raju, their Sathyam, was Sai Baba, whom he so long worshipped. So on the very stone, the shrine of his Sai Baba of Shirdi, Anjaneyulu spread a tiger skin and made Raju sit on it. The Sai Baba Gundu (Sai Baba rock) became the first pedestal for the new avatar and Anjaneyulu his first herald.

After lunch, Raju retired to the rock again and was immersed in himself for two full days. While the others started bhajans and worship, Anjaneyulu put a velvet pillow under the boy’s head.

When he woke up, he desired to go to Seshama Raju’s house and thence to Puttaparthi. He promised to come to the Anjaneyulu house again for lunch before his final departure. On that day, the faithful Anjaneyulu worshipped the feet of the young Sai Baba and that of his parents. They were all garlanded. A photograph, now famous, was taken of the young Sai Baba and the strangely procured Shirdi Sai Baba statue. Very soon the young Baba left Uravakonda never to return again.

Ayyagaru, as Raju would fondly call Anjaneyulu, had helped to provide a link between the two divine incarnations at Sai Baba Gundu. This inanimate symbol of divine expression would even become spiritually potent in later years.

This little known Salt (Excise) Inspector was the first devotee of Sathya Sai Baba. Just as Mhalsapati was the first to recognise him in Shirdi as Sai, Anjaneyulu, too was the first to recognise him in Uravakonda as the young Sai Baba – "Behold the man."

Years later (2000), Sri Sathya Sai Baba would Himself remark of this unassuming devotee, "He was the first to recognise My divinity."

Anjaneyulu’s children have survived him and live in Anantapur as Sai devotees, in the memory of their father and mother and their divine association with Sai Baba at Uravakonda