More Pieces of the SB Biography Jigsaw Puzzle: 1940-1945



Date: 07-09-02

From: Brian Steel




In previous Notes, I have shared my astonishment at the many welcome revelations in LIMF (accompanied by convincing documentary and interview evidence). One of these revelations is that, according to LIMF, SB's twin  teenage Declarations of being Shirdi Sai reincarnated and of being the Avatar took place in 1943, NOT 1940, the official date which, for 60 years, devotees and observers alike have all accepted for those momentous events in the life of Sathya Narayana Raju.


Now that the year 1945 has been brought under the spotlight thanks to Sanjay Dadlani's penetrating analysis of SB=s secret austerities as a Sadhaka (ex-baba/engels/) in caves near  Puttaparthi, I have re-examined my research notes to reach a clearer hypothesis about the crucial period in SB=s life of 1940 to 1945. (Naturally, this still leaves many other points to be clarified about that period.)


First of all, since any evidence that contradicts the official story, or even SB's own words, is often subject to olympian but shortsighted rejection by some, I would suggest that in connection with this period in SB's life, LIMF should be carefully read before making any dismissive comments. I further suggest to such people - and to everyone else - that they  search in the major biographies of SB for specific mentions of the years 1941, 1942 and 1943, which, according to the official version of SB's life story (inevitably followed by all writers until now for want of other evidence), are the first years of his functioning as a guru.


For some time, it has puzzled me that the chronology for those early years of the SB Mission is so blurred, whereas dates are (sometimes) offered from 1945 onward. Although I have not yet been able to make a thorough search for such specific references, my first results indicate that major commentators do NOT mention 1941, 1942, or 1943 in connection with SB's early years in his position as guru.


1941,1942, and 1943, according to the official version of the SB story, are the first years of  SB's life as a guru, when he was setting up his mission in Puttaparthi and busy attracting his first devotees and benefactors. According to the LIMF evidence, however, he was still at school, so such 'guru' evidence should be non-existent. If any writers do mention those years in a guru context, the next step is to check whether the references are plausible, given the new state of the documentary evidence at our disposal. I suggest that when such specific mentions of those three years are found, they will simply not fit in with the new facts that we know today! At some point, therefore, even the official history of SB's Mission will have to be corrected: 1940 = 1943. So any references to SB's Mission in 1941, 1942, and 1943 must be assumed to refer to 1944 and 1945, and adjusted accordingly.


I have found only two such specific references so far. Ra. Ganapathi (Vol I, page 184) says: "For four years from 1941, the house of the Karnam was the habitation of our Lord." But this is impossible, if he was still at school for almost all that time.


Howard Murphet, in the celebrated first book, Man of Miracles, which attracted so many people to SB, states on page 61, (quoting an  alleged Kasturi story which I have not yet traced), "about a year after the announcement, when Satya Sai was 15, he was visited by the Rani of Chincholi." [One of his first aristocratic benefactors.] For Murphet, that must mean 1941, "a year after the announcement", but there is evidence both in LIMF and elsewhere that this meeting took place in 1944 or even 1945, so Murphet's year reference, like Ganapathi=s  is simply NOT valid.


I can find no references to 1941, 1942, or 1943 in the first volume of Prof. Kasturi's 4-volume hagiography. Kasturi mentions the Declaration date of 1940 on page 46. The next date given by Kasturi is 1945 (on page 68) for the planning of the FIRST mandir, which fits in with the LIMF chronology. Then he mentions 1950 (the second mandir) on page 90. But, in spite of Kasturi=s accounts of lots of happenings on those intervening 44 pages, there is no specific mention of those three "missing years" (1941-1943)!


If the literature does contain further independent references to SB as an independent but fledgeling guru during 1941-1943 (rather than as a schoolboy, the victim of the 'scorpion' trauma and the maker of the Declarations), I suggest that they will have to be similarly re-dated to 1944 and 1945, like the ones by Ganapathi and Murphet, because this was when the Mission really began (from 20 October 1943).


On the basis of the above, we can postulate an alternative chronology for those early years which does fit in with what we now know (see LIMF).


1940-1942: at school - but with almost a year when he was apparently not at school, perhaps because of  private tuition from his elder brother Seshama (the teacher), to 'catch up' with his studies prior to being admitted to the High School at Uravakonda, or perhaps for other as yet unknown reasons.


1943: Transfer to Uravakonda, the 'scorpion' incident and the weeks of trauma, the first Shirdi Declaration, 3 months of school at Uravakonda, then the 20 October Declaration.


1943 (late October): Back to Puttaparthi to begin his mission, at Subbamma's house.


1944: Mission continued. The first devotees and benefactors including many from Bangalore and further afield, including perhaps Madras. Perhaps SB became quite tired with all the activity and responsibility, and in particular the strong local resentment and opposition to his activities and to his residence in Subbamma's Brahmin house. He was obliged to move out and go and live in a hut on Subbamma's land. At around this time, he mentioned the wish for Samadhi to some of his close devotees (LIMF, p. 197).


During this year the first known photographs of SB were taken. They show a pleasant, smiling, chubby-faced boy with a garland around his neck. (In view of the still undecided matter of his date of birth, one is left wondering if this is the face of a 17 year old or a 14 year old.)


1945: This begins with the approximate 6 months of ascetic seclusion and Sadhana (and perhaps even occult exercises) in the cave, as described by Sanjay Dadlani in his recent article and more or less hushed up in the SB literature, or referred to in the vaguest of short references. We also know that by 21 July 1945 the seclusion ended through the intercession of Kamalama and Subbamma. (The title deed for the land for the first mandir was granted to SB on that date.) By the time of the "tiger skin" photograph mentioned by Dadlani, SB is looking emaciated and gaunt - almost a different person -  which would be a plausible further proof of his recent total seclusion.


1945, end of July to 15 December: the building of the first mandir on the small plot of land donated by Subbamma. Bangalore builder Thirumal Rao was the principal other benefactor and devotees, particularly from Bangalore, worked on the project. The mandir was inaugurated on 15 December 1945.


And from this point on, the official chronology (as well as that of Kasturi and those writers who bother to mention dates) begins to coincide with the dates mentioned in LIMF. But, officially, 1941-1943 remain in limbo. We now know why.