Shirdi is one of the holiest places in India and is a very popular pilgrimage spot. Hindu devotees pay a visit to Shirdi before most auspicious occasions in their life, as well as for immersing the ashes of their loved ones after they depart. A small village situated in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, Shirdi is most famous for the shrine of ‘Sai Baba’, which is the main attraction for the devotees who visit this place.
Sai Baba, who belonged to the 19th century, is known as one of the greatest saints to have walked on earth. He was a spiritual master, regarded equally by both Hindu and Muslim devotees. Despite his appearance as a Muslim fakir, he quoted eloquently from Hindu scriptures and treated devotees of all religions, castes, and creed equally and brought together people from all faiths. He chose to make the ordinary village of Shirdi is home and today the economy of this village flourishes because of the shrine of Sai Baba. Even today people of all religions worship Sai Baba and millions throng the temple each year. Thursdays are special days at the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple since the day is deemed special for a Guru or guide.
Sai Baba of Shirdi is said to have demonstrated many miracles, most of them involving healing and curing of the sick. Also known as the ‘Land of Sai’, Shirdi is famous for its wish fulfillment and healing. Thousands of devotees pledge to visit the temple each year when their desires are fulfilled and accidents averted. Many sick devotees come here with the belief that the prophet shall heal them of their illnesses. As his following started to increase, the village became a place where devotees could always find food and shelter. Rich devotees contributed towards building rest houses and distribution of food. The temple premises have all basic facilities such as drinking water, restrooms, and places to sit and rest. A number of shops selling religious articles, books, pictures, and food have also come up in and around the temple.
The mosque and the Chavadi in the temple premises, which had come up even during his lifetime, were the primary places of worship for the devotees of Sai Baba of Shirdi. These have now been rebuilt into grand structures. The Samadhi Mandir – the main temple is the tomb where Baba’s mortal remains lay buried. A life-size marble idol of Baba is placed here which is worshipped by the devotees who throng this temple. A large hall in the Samadhi Mandir accommodates hundreds of devotees for prayers and darshan each day. Besides the various spots and structures within the temple, which showcase the life of Sai Baba, the temple also houses a museum which exhibits his personal articles of use.
The current temple is administered by the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust of Ahmednagar District and is one of the richest temple organisations.
Shirdi is located approximately 296 km from Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra in India. The closest and most highly connected city from Shirdi is Ahmednagar and Nashik city.
How to reach Shirdi :
By air: The nearest major airports are at Aurangabad and Pune, 115 km and 186 km respectively from Shirdi.
By train: Shirdi has a railway station called “Sainagar Shirdi”, which became operational in March 2009. There are trains from Chennai, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Mysore and other cities/states that have Shirdi railway station as their terminal stop. Buses and taxis ply from these railway stations and locations to and from Shirdi.
By road: Shirdi can be reached by bus from any of the following cities in Maharashtra – Ahmednagar, Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Nashik, Akluj, Dhule, Nagpur and Aurangabad.
AbhiBus has plenty of buses plying from Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Baroda, Surat, Nashik, Hyderabad to Shirdi. So log on to abhibus.com and book your bus tickets online.
Tourist Attractions in and around Shirdi :
Described below are some of the places in and around Shirdi, that people frequent very often.
Dixit Wada Museum :
The Wada museum is located in the vicinity of the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan trust and showcases vintage pictures of Sai baba with his followers. It also displays his leather padukas, long robes and a smoking pipe along with gramophone records, bathing stone and cooking utensils, among others.
During his last years, Sai baba used to spend alternate nights at Chavadi. The place is located near Dwarkamai mosque from where the procession of Sai baba along with his followers was carried out in a palki. Even today, the procession takes place on every Thursday with the idol of the saint inside the palki. Therefore the place is of great importance to Sai baba’s followers.
Dwarkamai, a mosque is a simple, unadorned structure, locally called as the home of ‘God on earth.’ It is one of the treasures of Shirdi for the devotees. Something worth marvelling here is the various ways in which people express their devotion. Some people are seen kneeling before Sai Baba’s picture making offerings, others as praying before the dhuni, some doing japa or reading from sacred texts, and others sitting in contemplation. Baba had said that merely going inside the mosque will confer blessings, and the devotees have confirmed this from their experiences. Sai Baba regarded “the mosque” as a mother.
Lendi Baug :
The beautiful garden is situated at Shirdi-Manmade State highway. Sai Baba used to spend a lot of his time here watering the plants daily in the mornings and evenings. The Neem tree in the garden once provided shade and rest to Sai baba. There is a marble ‘Deepagraha’ in the garden where Sai once lit a deepak (lamp) which burns from dusk to dawn even today.
Shani Shingnapur :
Located a mere 65 kms away from Shirdi and therefore one of the most visited places on the trip to Shirdi., the hamlet of Shani Shingnapur is famous for the temple dedicated to the hindu God Saturn (Lord Shaneshwar). A quaint custom of the locals of not having/locking doors of their houses has also made it a popular tourist destination. The villagers believe that the temple is a ‘jagrut devasthan’ which means the temple is alive and god safeguards the temple and the nearby region. It is believed that god punishes anybody who attempts to steal. So potent is the fear of God Saturn that despite the absence of doors, there are no reports of thefts in the village.
Wet n Joy Waterpark :
Although most famous for its shrine dedicated to Sai Baba, one can also enjoy the Shirdi Water Park. This destination has a number of thrilling rides and activities which are equally pleasurable for children and adults alike. Located about 5 kilometres away from Shirdi in Nighoj Village, this destination is a much-needed respite from the heat and is a fun filled way to spend some time with near and dear ones.
If one feels like extending this holy trip to a more leisurely one, taking in more sights, one could also visit Nashik (78 km), Bhandardara (81 km), Malshej (88 km) and Aurangabad (89 km) which are relatively close.
Picture Credit : Tour My India