Divine ash and nectar
The Patel Manifestations
In May 1988 the Patel family, who lived in a terraced suburban house in Harrow near London, arranged an inauguration ceremony for a small billiard room extension that had just been built onto the back of their house. The ceremony was to give thanks to the earth-spirits (bhumideva) for the use of this land, and involved the communal chanting of ten thousand short mantras or prayers. Many of the Patels friends who came to this ceremony were Sai Baba devotees, who brought pictures of Sai Baba and other Hindu gods, as well as some small deity statues to decorate the billiard room. They also brought along five coconuts smeared with red vermilion powder (kum-kum), which are commonly use as offerings in many Hindu ceremonies and rituals.
The chanting was nearly finished when loud cracking noises were heard as four of the coconuts spontaneously split open horizontally; while the fifth coconut began to leak, the juice forming on its shell the unmistakable pictorial outline of Shirdi Sai Baba in his characteristic seated posture, with one leg resting across the other.
At this time the Patel family were not devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba or Sathya Sai Baba, although the father of Mr. Patel had been a follower of a guru named Jalaram Baba from Bombay, whose main teaching was to perform selfless service to others - and the Patel family had been following these teachings until this time. So after the ceremony the Patels wanted their friends to take away all their photos, pictures and statues so that they could play a few games of snooker. But their friends persuaded them to leave the room as it was for a few days to see what might happen.
A few days later Mrs. Patel was somewhat disturbed to find lots of 'grey dust' around the pictures and statues, so she used her dustpan and brush to sweep up this dust, not realizing that it was the sacred ash or vibhuti for which Sathya Sai Baba is so famous, which had begun to stream from the pictures and statues. Since then this room has been used as a shrine room for the devotional singing of bhajans. Billiards were never played there after Sai Baba 'snookered' these plans for good, and many miraculous manifestations have occurred in the years since that day, as can be witnessed by the continuing manifestation of vibhuti and kum-kum powder.
In 1992 and 1994 the shrine room was seen to contain about 150 pictures, mostly of Sathya Sai Baba, about 40 of which had vibhuti forming on them. A picture of Shiva-Shakti (Ardhanarishvara) had grey vibhuti on the Shiva or male half of the deity, and red kum-kum powder on the Shakti or female half. Kum-kum appears on pictures of goddesses, while vibhuti appears on pictures of the gods. One of the first pictures to manifest vibhuti on its surface was that of Jalaram Baba, the guru of the Patel family, who never kept a penny for himself and used all he received to serve the poor.
On several occasions the 'divine nectar of the gods' (amrita) has streamed from the palm of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and good fortune, who somewhat like Sai Baba is traditionally depicted with a stream of golden coins manifesting from the palm of her hand. And for several days water flowed from between the big and second toe on the right foot of a Shirdi Sai Baba statue, filling up several cups. Mrs Patel at first thought the makers of this statue had filled it with water, but this phenomenon specifically relates to a miracle that Shirdi Sai once performed in response to a disciple who believed that Ganges water only flowed in the river of this name. Ganges water has also issued from the head of a statue of Shiva, and brilliant lights have also shone from the palm of Shirdi Sai Baba and several other pictures of deities.
On one occasion a large waist-high flower vase was left in the shrine room overnight, and in the morning it was found to be full of vibhuti weighing several kilos. Mr. Patel's brother-in-law left an empty family-sized Nescafe jar in the kitchen one night, which was full of fragrant vibhuti in the morning. The vibhuti that materializes in this house does so in a variety of different tastes and textures, which are unmistakable Sai Baba fragrances for those who have received his vibhuti personally, or obtained it from the many other shrines where it manifests regularly throughout the world. A pair of little silver sandals or 'foot-soles' (padukas), which are traditionally associated with Shirdi Sai Baba, were found one morning beneath a fallen mound of vibhuti. In some cases the amount of sacred ash that falls from a single picture can amount to several kilos, and the continuity of these materializations has been taking place for the past eight years.
On another occasion a group of people were sitting on the shrine room floor when the full figure of Sathya Sai Baba appeared from the central shrine and walked through the group before disappearing on the other side of the room. Several of those present described him as being enveloped in a bright golden light, and afterwards they found he had left vibhuti-shaped footprints on the carpet across which he had trodden. These imprints are typical signs of Sai Baba's presence, and are similarly found in shrine rooms all over the world. Typical also are the healings that have resulted from the use of the vibhuti that appears in this room. Evidently one man's inoperable orange-sized brain tumor had been shrunk to the size of a small nut on the outside of his skull by the external application of vibhuti, which was then removed in a minor surgical operation. Another person's spinal tumor had similarly surfaced above the skin before shrinking away to nothing, and some other cancer healings have also been reported. However, not everyone is healed, and as in the case of all sufferers who seek the help of Sai Baba, no one can predict who will or will not be helped.
A skeptical reporter from the UK's national 'Evening Standard' newspaper visited the shrine room in 1992, and wrote a full account of the 'Patel Manifestations' along with photographs and the actual address of the house. For in accord with all Sai Baba activities the Patels allowed guests to visit at certain times, with no fees, donations or obligations imposed. All were welcome, questions would be answered, photographic evidence could be examined, and on some evenings healing prayer sessions were also held. Later another skeptical visitor traveled to Prasanti Nilayam, Sathya Sai Baba's main ashram in India, and during a personal interview asked whether the Patel manifestations were genuinely his. To which Baba replied: "Yes, the manifestations are mine, but not the publicity."
As a footnote: Just a day after publishing this blog article an e-mail arrived from an old friend in the US who is a Professor of Sanskrit studies, saying that he had once visited the Patel house in the 1990's and witnessed these materializations himself. The youtube link below shows video footage of two small ceramic medallions of Sathya Sai and Shirdi Sai that produce a constant flow of amrita or divine nectar. These medallions are kept in the temple of an orphanage near Mysore in South India, and have been producing amrita since 1984 when trhey were given by Sathya Sai Baba to the keeper of this temple.