Nearly a century after his death, the image of Sai Baba, the serene old man with a white beard from Shirdi village in Maharashtra, is instantly recognizable to most South Asians (and many Westerners) as a guru for all faiths. During his lifetime Sai Baba accepted all followers who came to him, regardless of their religion, caste, or gender, and preached to them a path of spiritual enlightenment and mutual tolerance. These days, tens of thousands of Indians and foreigners make the pilgrimage to Shirdi each year, and Sai Baba temples have sprung up in unlikely places around the world, such as Munich, Seattle, and Austin.
Tracing his rise from village guru to global phenomenon, Karline McLain uses a wide range of sources—hagiographies and memoirs, songs and films, posters and photographs, temple rituals and sermons, fieldwork and interviews—to investigate the different ways that Sai Baba has been understood in South Asia and beyond and the reasons behind his popularity amongst Hindus in particular. Shining a spotlight on an incredibly forceful devotional movement that avoids fundamental politics and emphasizes unity, service, and peace, The Afterlife of Sai Baba is an entertaining—and enlightening—look at one of South Asia's most popular spiritual gurus.
This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of religious studies, media studies, anthropology and sociology.
Note on Translation, Transliteration, and Orthography
1. Shirdi Is for Everyone: The Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust’s
Plea to Pilgrims
2. Shirdi Is My Pandharpur: Das Ganu’s Plea to Brahmins
3. Shirdi Is the Future of Religion in India: Narasimhaswami’s
Plea to Hindus
4. Shirdi Is for Unity in Diversity and Adversity: Bollywood’s
Plea to the Nation
5. Shirdi Is for Humanity: Many Gurus and Their Pleas
to the World
KARLINE MCLAIN is Professor of Religious Studies at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.