if ever you have wanted to witness what deep faith is all about, visit Shirdi, the home of Sai Baba’s ‘samadhi’ that has his followers coming here in multitudes to seek his blessings and in hope of miracles that can change their lives. Just 83 kilometers from the city of Ahmednagar, Shirdi is also amazing for the fact that it draws people from all communities and castes, with each visitor firmly believing that his or her requests will be granted by the saint.
Shirdi is where the holy soul of Shri Satchidanand Sadguru Sainath Maharaj - affectionately known as ‘Saibaba’ rests today. The mysterious ‘fakir’ (wanderer) came to this village in his teens and lived in Shirdi for more than 60 years. He was knowledgeable; had no desire for worldly objects; and was gifted with the ability to present the many facets of god to human consciousness. He was also a master ‘yogi’ and is said to have demonstrated his skill upon many occasions. His simple ascetic life and high virtues drew devotees during his lifetime and continues to do so till date.
Initially, Saibaba stayed on the outskirts of the village of Shirdi under a Neem tree for four to five years. This spot, called Gurusthan, as also Dwarkamai where he later shifted to stay in an abandoned mosque and Lendi Baug where he grew plants, have now become places where pilgrims congregate to pray and ask for blessings. At Dwarkamai, there’s just a garlanded wall with no image or photograph of any deity. Essentially, a visit to Shirdi relives the values that Saibaba propagated to get closer to god. He embodied all religions and preached the universal religion of love and compassion. And for the huge number of devotees who come here, this is the lesson they take back home.
It is said that an average of 70,000-75,000 devotees and tourists come to Shirdi each day with the numbers easily crossing a lakh and above on Thursdays, Sundays and holidays. The Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (Shirdi) has provided 2,500 rooms of varied capacity for accommodation. Up to 40,000 subsidised, hygienic, good quality meals are served every day. Visitors will find here a slow and simple pace of life that connects with a sense of peace.
Samadhi Mandir, the final resting place of Saibaba, is a sacred place. The edifice of this main temple was constructed by an ardent devotee, Shri Gopalrao Butti of Nagpur. It is therefore also known as ‘Butti Wadi’. The temple is built of stones and the ‘samadhi’ inside and the statue of Saibaba just behind it is of white marble. The front of the temple has an assembly hall that can accommodate 600 devotees. Surrounding the hall are showcases displaying things used by Saibaba. Pictures depicting his life are showcased on the first floor. The temple complex is spread over 200 square meters and has provisions for drinking water; a bookshop selling posters and publications related to Saibaba; and a ‘prasad’ outlet to cater to the devotees. A separate prayer hall is provided near the temple for quiet meditation.
Shirdi is easily accessible. A new railway station called Sainagar Shirdi, just about 2 kilometers from the town centre, has been operational since March 2009. Trains arrive here from Chennai, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam via Secunderabad, Mysore, and other cities. Alternately, one can alight at Kopargaon (15 kilometers), Ahmednagar (83 kilometers), Manmad (87 kilometers) or Nashik (119 kilometers) and reach Shirdi by road. State-run and private bus services are available from many cities in Maharashtra and other states. In terms of lodging facilities, apart from the rooms made available by the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust, there are many options ranging from budget to star category. MTDC has a hotel called Pilgrims Inn located near the temple. Operational since 1981, it offers 53 rooms, including the recently added three luxury rooms, along with ample parking space.
Distance from Mumbai: 260 kms