Shirdi was once a small village in Ahamad Nagar District of Maharashtra, away from the limelight and people’s attractions. Now, easily accessible by major cities in the region, it is one of the most visited pilgrimage center in India. Millions of devotees from all around the world come every year to seek the blessings of Sai Baba of Shirdi. He is revered equally by Hindus and Muslims, as by people of other religions around the world.
This story began in the beginning of the 19th century, when a divine saint came in this village. A local temple priest recognized him as a Muslim saint and greeted him with the words “Ya Sai” meaning Welcome Sai. That divine saint lived there for many years and the village was blessed by his miracles. As the stories of those miracles widespread in the region, many people from different parts of India started coming Shirdi to seek the blessings of that saint.
They considered him as an avatar (form) of the God, however Baba was actually lived an ascetic life. He gave the mantra (epigram) of Sabka Malik Ek (One God Governs All). His teaching was the combination of elements from Hindu as well as Muslim religion. He was a charismatic person, whose blessings were sufficient to heal the pain of the mankind. His touch was sufficient enough to cure the patients. The ashes from his dhuni (fire place) were sacred enough to cure the incurable diseases. The taste of the leaves of a Neem Tree under that he used to sit turned in to a sweet one from bitter.
The fame of Baba was widespread with the time. But, nobody is immortal and so was the saint. He left this mortal world in the year 1918 to the God’s Adobe. He was buried in Shirdi Village by his devotees. As the time passed, his devotees erected a grand temple over the Samadhi (burial place) of Sai Baba.
I made a quick visit to Shirdi, while I was travelling to Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Aurangabad. It was 2-days hectic weekend trip from Hyderabad, but I did not want to miss that chance for a trip to Shirdi, when I was so closed to that place. I reached Shirdi from Aurangabad in the night around 11.30 PM. The temple remain closed between 11.00 PM to 05.00 AM. So, there was no chance to visit the temple on that night.
I searched for the hotels around the temple. I was looking for a budget accommodation to spend the night. After 20-30 minutes of search, I found a room in INR 200 to spend the night. There are many luxury as well as budget hotels in Shirdi, so accommodation is not an issue at this place. These days, you can also book MakeMyTrip Shirdi Hotels online.
The room at my guest house was very nice with an attached bathroom. I had a plan to visit the Ellora Caves on the next day, so I was supposed to visit Sai Baba Temple in the early morning. My plan was to leave Shirdi as early as possible in the morning to visit Ellora Caves comfortably.
I woke up around 03.30 AM in the morning. By 4.15 AM, I was at the main entrance to the temple. The whole temple complex is surrounded by 10-12 feet high boundary walls. There are two main entrances for the temple, one is near to Gate No.2, which is used by all devotees without passes. Another entrance is from Gate No.3, which is used by senior citizens and handicapped people. Foreigners and NRIs can also convince the guards to get an entry through this gate. Gate No. 1 is only used for the Mukh Darshan of Sai Baba from a raised platform, at a distance. Gate No.2 is no more in use. Gate No. 4 is in the South and can be use for entry and exit both, however Gate No.3 can also be use as an exit. There are various places to visit inside the temple premises. Some of the gates provide you an entry to particular places only. You can not take mobile, shoes and cameras inside the temple premises. So, I already left all those at my guest house. Lockers are also available at the entrance of the temple complex to keep your valuable belongings opposite to Gate No.1 and Gate No.4. You can also keep your shoes in the shoe-rackes available near these locations.
Priority Darshan at Temple: Waiting queues for a glimpse of Sai Baba are very long and sometimes it go upto 4-5 hours. If you need a priority Darshan, then you can buy a Darshan ticket of INR 100 per person for the same. For Morning (Kakad) Aarti, Aarti ticket price is INR 400 per person, and for other three Aartis in Noon (Madhyan), Evening (Dhoop) and Night (Shej) Aarti, ticket price is INR 300 per person. Some notified government officials and dignitaries can also avail the facility of VIP passes. These VIP passes do not issue on Saturday, Sunday and during annual festivals like Guru Poornima, But Paid Darshan facility is available every day throughout the year. The ticket counter open three times in a day between 07.30 A.M. to 11.00 A.M., 01.30 A.M. To 05.15 P.M. and 07.30 P.M. To 09.00 P.M.
When I reached at the entrance adjacent to Gate No.2, there was already a long queue waiting for the Darshan of Sai Baba. Queue was only increasing with the time. I joined the queue and that serpentine queue passed through a hall, then a series of steps took us down, then again we climbed on the steps upwards before reaching to a hall that is partitioned to form 8-10 queues. We moved ahead and reached in front of the life-size statue of Sai Baba. The white marble statue of Baba is amazing. Sai Baba is a man of simplicity, who lived a very simple life and taught people about the simple ways of life, but I was stunned by the amount of gold in that highly decorated room, where the life-size statue of Baba is placed. Recently, an unidentified devotee donated two diamonds valuing INR 1.18 crore to the temple !
We only get 1-2 minutes to remain in that room in front of the idol and then the waiting queue pushed us forward. I took the blessings of Baba and came outside.
In the temple premises, I also visited some other places, where Baba stayed, prayed, meditated, cooked etc. There is also a museum inside the premises, that houses many items used by Sai Baba during his lifetime.
In a side of the complex, I reached near the famous Neem Tree. Baba used to sit under this tree and it is believed that the leaves of one branch of this tree which gave shelter to Baba from sun rays, turned sweet in the taste by his blessings, while rest of the leaves were bitter. I do not know the truth, but people says this legend still exist with that Neem Tree.
Then I came outside from the temple complex and visited two another sacred places Dwarka Mai and Shree Chawadi. that is near South Gate of the temple with separate entrances. Dwarka Mai is basically a mosque where Baba lived for almost 60 years and it is considered very sacred among the devotees of Sai Baba. Giving a Hindu name to a Muslim Mosque is an example of Baba’s blessings to both the religions. Shree Chawadi (Also known as Sai Baba Chawadi) is the place, where Baba used to sleep. The Chawadi is divided into 2 parts. The left portion is “for Ladies” only, while the right hand side is for “Gents Only” where no ladies are allowed. This Gents Only section is the place, where Baba used to sleep from the beginning. The Shree Chawadi remain open from 04.30 AM to 09.00 PM daily.
Then I went to my guest house and returned back again to the temple complex to click some pictures from the outside.
After visiting the temple, I departed from Shirdi around 7.00 AM to Aurangabad. There was a wonderful day ahead as the famous rock cut temples of Ellora Caves were waiting for this Solo Backpacker.