Shirdi is that mystical magical town near the holy city of Nasik, close to Mumbai. This hallowed town exudes such intense devotion, that even the casual visitor is bound to be charged with fervour. Shirdi was the abode of the saint Sai Baba, who lived here for eighty years – and died here over eighty years ago. It is said that Sai Baba himself calls his devotees to Shirdi and that his blessings can heal even the deepest wound.The town is tiny – just 2 square km of main street and a labyrinth of by-lanes – but packs in much passion. Pilgrims throng for a brief “darshan” at Samadhi Mandir, the shrine of Sai Baba where his mortal remains were interred. The queues outside the mandir are endless, the throng inside is maddening, and the devotion intense. Next to the shrine is the peaceful Masjid where Sai Baba spent most of his life. The sacred fire called “dhuni” still burns here and its ash or “udhi” is smeared on devotees. The Chavadi is a small building where Sai Baba used to spend every alternate night.The Guru Sthan is the shrine where the Baba?s spiritual leader took samadhi (gave up his body). The neem tree at the Guru Sthan where Sai Baba first sat when he came to Shirdi, is said to have absorbed miracle powers. The Lendi Gardens where Sai Baba went for a walk and sat in meditation is a spot where devotees come to pray. The Khandoba Temple, near the STA bus stop, is the oldest temple in Shirdi. The streets of Shirdi are paved with shops selling Sai Baba memorabilia, especially the unforgettable pictures of Sai Baba himself, with his piercing eyes, snowy beard and benevolent smile. For assistance in Shirdi, contact the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan, a charitable organisation with a rest house, canteen, locker facilities and an assistance counter at the bus stand.Pilgrims flock to Shirdi at any time of the year. Shirdi has a dry climate that swings to extremes, from a high of 40 degree C in May, to a low of 7 degree C in January. But the monsoon months – June to August – are pleasant, with scanty rains. Though the shrine is open though the week, Thursday is Sai Baba’s special day.
Routine at Temple
The Kakad Aarti (the early morning worship and prayer) is performed very early in the morning at 5.15 a.m. in the main sanctum sanctorium where Baba’s body has been entombed. Then the Samadhi and the idol are washed ceremonially and clad. Everyday from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. the music of S ai Geet (devotional songs on Sai) is played. Then the abhishek (bathing of the deity) begins at 7.30 a.m. The noon aarti (mid-day prayer) takes place exactly at noon. After this aarti there is a break until the programme of singing, bhajan and kirtan (devotional songs) in the afternoon. There is aarti again at 6.30 p.m. (sunset prayer). Then there is kirtan or bhajan till 10 p.m. and the last aarti, i.e., Shej-aarti (night prayer) takes place at 10 p.m. The idol and the Samadhi are covered by a mosquito net and the Lord Sri Sai Baba is thereafter deemed to have gone to sleep as the devotees lovingly treat Him as a father.
On Thursdays, there is a procession of the palki (Baba’s carriage) and the padukas (Baba’s slippers) at night and five gunshots are fired at the time of the procession. Loudspeakers are arranged at the time of the aarti and on festival days.
About White Marble Statue of Sri Sai Baba
Thalim was a sculptor. He was engaged to carve the white Marble statue of sri Sai Baba, He spent much time to select suitable features for the purpose. He observed in vain many pictures of Baba with different postures. He could not form any mental picture. He was in a fix. Then Baba appeared to him in his dream and gave instructions. Thalim was able to carve the life like size marble stone statue of Baba by His Grace (Baba’s). It has the sanctity of having Grace of Baba.The statue is as big as that of a grown up man. It was in 1956 that the statue was installed (pratishta). It seems as if it has life. It’s features express karuna and Brahma Varchassu. (Heavenly radiance). It is surprising to note that from which ever angle you look at the statue, it seems as if, it is looking with grace at you only. How sweet his smile is ! No where in the world, it is said, can we see such a statue. It is Unique.
After Arati, every time, Baba’s statue is dressed with new clothes and garlanded It is a great wonder to see him as an old man at the time of Abhisheka and as an energetic Young Emperor after he is dressed and garlanded. It is the feeling felt by all pilgrims who visit the Mandir.
Places of Interest
Samadhi Temple -The construction of the Samadhi Temple was started by Sri But! during the lifetime of Sai Baba, with a view to having a temple of Sri Krishna. At a time when the construction was almost complete, Sai Baba said that he would stay over there. So after Sai Baba attained Nirvana (eternal peace) His rnortal remains were buried at the place. The white marble pavement of the Samadhi was made afterwards. The marble statue prepared by sculptor Sri Talini of Bombay was installed by the side of the Samadhi in 1954. The spacious hall in front of the Samadhi was also paved with marble tiles later. The people coming for darshan, come first into the hall, which is decorated with photos,of the saints and devotees of Sai Baba. The statue ot Sai Baba, in a sitting position is such that He looks to every devotee coming for darshan in to the hall. In a room, on the left side of the hall, the articles used by Sai Baba are exhibited. There is a cellar below the rooms on the right-side where valuables are kept. There is gallery on the first floor and there are several rooms.
Dwarkamayee Masjid – This was an old Masjid named as Dwarka Mai by Sai Baba Himself. He lived here all day and used to sit on a big stone, which is still preserved. A portrait of Sai Baba, painted during His lifetime, is also kept here. In front of the portrait, the sacred dhuni (fire) kindled by Sai Baba is kept burning since then. A grinding stone, a bathing stone, a wooden pillar, chulha (stove), padukas (slippers) and Tuls! (Holy Basil) Vrindavan, which were used by Sai Baba are all maintained here. Rath (carriage) and the pallanquin are also kept here in a small room. The udi, taken out from the ever-blazing dhuni, is used by the devotees as miraculous ash.
Chavadi – It is placed to the east of Dwarkamai. Sai Baba used to rest at this place every alternate night. A number of portraits of deities are exhibited here since the days of Sai Baba. A wooden plank and a wheel chair brought for Baba but never used by Him, are also kept here.
Gurusthan – This is the place of Sai Baba’s Guru. Sai Baba used to sit here under a neem (margosa) tree, leaves of which lost their bitterness due to the grace of Sai Baba., Incense is burnt here day and night in a pot, in front of the Temple, wherein Lord Shiva’s pindi and Nandi are installed and padukas of Lord Sai Baba are also kept.
Lendibag and Nandadeep – Lendi nalla (stream) was flowing though this land and there was a burial ground at the place. Sai Baba dug a well here and He used to take out drinking water from it. Now the L4endi nalla is filled and a garden is laid there. A Nandadeep lamp is kept burning there since the day of Sai Baba, who used to sit here on a par (stone) near the Nandadeep, below the neem tree. This park is renovated and maintained. A new Dattatreya (the primordial guru) Temple has been built in the garden in front of the Ashwattha tree. There is the Samadhi of the horse Shamsunder, who used to bow down to Sai Baba and thereafter to the Samadhi daily, till its death. There are the Samadhis of Baba’s devotees Abdul Baba, Nanavalli, Bhau Maharaj and Tatya at the entrance of the Lendibag.
Khandoba Temple – This is a small temple called Khandoba of Lord Shiva situated on the Ahmednagar-Kopargaon road. It was at this temple that Sai Baba was first greeted by Sri Mahalsapati as “Ya, Sai”
Mahadev, Shani and Ganesh Temples – These three temples are built in a line. The Mahadev Temple is very old and a statue of a tiger has been installed behind the Nandi. There is a dhuni in the Shani Temple also. The Ganesh Temple is also very old. There are the Keshav Temple and Mangal Karyalaya, built in recent years beyond the road on the eastern side.
Getting there and Around
By Air – The nearest airport to Shirdi is at Nashik, 75kms away, Aurangabad is at a distance of 150kms, which is connected by all the major towns of India. You can also come till Mumbai by air and travel down to 296kms to reach Shirdi. Mumbai has both international and domestic airports that grant connectivity to the world. Domestic airport in Pune is about 231kms from Shirdi. There are regular public and private transport operators that ensure your easy access to the sanctum of Saibaba.
By Rail – Kopergaon on Daund-Manmad Line is an important railway station about 16kms from Shirdi. This station is on the route of the Karnataka Express from New Delhi to Bangalore. Manmad is another important station about 58kms from Shirdi which carries a number trains from Mumbai and Delhi. Shirdi has a computerized Railway Ticket Booking Center within the temple premises. From here you can have railway tickets of whichever destination all through India.
By Road – Shirdi can be reached by taking a Bus from almost all major cities of Maharashtra. Shirdi is on the Ahmednagar-Manmad Highway, 250 km from Mumbai and 75 km from Nashik. MTDC runs buses from all major destinations.
*Note – Though Aurangabad airport seems close to Shirdi Distance wise, but as i have personally visited Shirdi many times,i would advice all people to visit Shirdi via Mumbai as From Aurangabad ,you wont get many options to visit Shirdi .Moreover the Highway is very quite and Risky,for almost 80 kms ,you wont even see any light while coming to shirdi from Aurangabad whereas from Mumbai you can catch air conditioned buses of Neeta travel or you can come by train from Mumbai.So, my personal advice is that if you are planning to go to shirdi by air, better go to Mumbai .Aurangabad to Shirdi Highway is not a good option to travel.
Accommodation is never a problem in Shirdi – from the MTDC hotel, tourist rest houses, dharamsalas and ashrams, to five star accommodation – the town is totally geared for pilgrims. Hotels offer special packages and check-in/check-out timings. You can stay in comfort and clean surroundings at one of the charitable sansthas and dharamsalas for just a handful of rupees.Some of best Hotels are Hotel Neeta,Hotel Sai Leela, Hotel Sai Kripa etc. Stay clear of touts!
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