Shirdi Sai Baba Temple
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.
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.
HOLY PLACES IN THE SHRI SAI MANDIR PREMISES
To the devotees of Sai Baba, Dwarkamai is one of the treasures of Shirdi. The spirit of tolerance, acceptance and welcome for all is very much alive. Baba has said that merely going inside the mosque will confer blessings, and the experiences of devotees confirm this. Sai Baba respected all religions , and all had free access to the mosque.
Gurusthan means “place of the Guru”. It is both where Baba spent most of his time when he first came to Shirdi, and also where, according to Baba, the tomb of his own Guru is located by the neem tree. Gurusthan is therefore one of the most important places in Shirdi. From underneath the NEEM tree there is an underground tunnel to the place of Dwarkamai.
Khandoba was the tutelary deity of the Mhalsapati family, and Mhalsapati was the temple’s hereditary priest. Khandoba, originally a pastoral deity, is popular in Maharashtra and is now worshipped as a form of Shiva. The temple here was a simple, rural temple; today, it is a small, well-maintained and neatly kept building.
Chavadi is also very significant to Sai devotees as it played a major role in the inception of formal worship of Baba. Once Baba started sleeping at Chavadi, the custom arose of offering regular arati to him on his arrival from the mosque. This was Sej (night) Arati. Later, Kakad (morning) Arati was offered when he woke up there.Chavadi means “village office”
Lendi Garden. Lendi is significant as a place which Baba used to visit every day. It contains some tombs, a shrine, and most importantly the perpetually burning lamp lit by Baba and placed between the two trees he planted. A few months before Baba’s mahasamadhi the land was bought by a Bombay devotee, M. W. Pradhan