The abode of the great saint of the 20th century, Sai Baba, who lived in Shirdi for more than 50 years of his life, has made this small village in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra a big pilgrimage site for the devotees of the saint from all around the world.
The story of Sai Baba entering this small village is unique enough, the way his miracles were. He came to Shirdi along with a marriage party and then stayed back. He was denied entry into a temple by a priest taking him to be a Muslim from his dress. So throughout his life the saint stayed in the Mosque of Shirdi.
The small place which is barely a 100 km from Nashik today is a bustling pilgrimage centre of India. Nearly every nook and corner of the small village has some affiliation with the great saint. Even today the last few surviving elders of the village vividly recall the miraculous wonders of the sage. Sai Baba left for the heavenly abode in 1918 and his Samadhi is visited by thousands daily.
Places to see in Shirdi:
* Samadhi Mandir
Samadhi Mandir of Shri Sai Baba was actually owned by a millionaire from Nagpur and a famous Sai devotee Shreemant Gopalrao. He wanted to keep an idol of Murlidhar here. However, according to the legends, Baba himself became Murlidhar and the temple became the Samadhi Mandir of Baba. The Samadhi of Baba is built with white marble stones. The railings around it are full of ornamental decorations. The idol of Baba is a marvelous statue made up of Italian marble built by Late Balaji Vasant in 1954.
* Shri Khandoba Mandir
This place is near Shri Sainath Hospital. Baba stepped here in Shirdi at the foot of banyan tree near Khandoba Temple along with Chand Patil’s wife’s Nephew’s Marriage party. The then Pujari Mhalsapati welcomed Him by calling “Aao Sai.”
Situated on the right side of the entrance of the Samadhi Mandir is Dwarkamai, a mosque. This was the place where the sage stayed until the end of his life. Main attraction of the site is the oil paintings of the sage.
* Shri Gurusthan Mandir
This is the place where Baba first appeared to the world as boy of 16 years and this place is supposed to be Baba’s Gurusthan. The famous Margosa (Neem) tree is here which has a reference in “Sai Sat-Charitra”. It is an experience of devotees that there aliments are cured by burning incense hear.
* Lendi Baug / Datta Mandir
This is the place where Shri Sai Baba used to go for stroll. Nandadeep is kept constantly burning near the Pimple tree planted by Shri Sai Baba himself. There is also Datta Mandir in this garden and Shri Sai Baba’s beloved horse ‘Shamkarna’ (Sham Sundar) is taking Eternal rest here. There is also a well here called as ‘Baba’s Shivdi’.
* Maruti Mandir
There is a Maruti Mandir located at some distance from the cottage of Abdul Baba. This mandir was visited by Baba for the sat-sang with Devidas, a Bal yogi, who lived at the Mandir ten to twelve years before Baba arrived. There are also temples of village deities named Shani, Ganapati, and Shankar that are worth visiting.
Festivals in Shirdi:
Ramnavami is one of the most important festivals celebrated with great excitement and fanfare. In the year 1897 Goplarao Gund proposed holding in Urus in name of Saibaba in gratitude of a child which he was granted after so many childless years. Saibaba conceded to celebrate his urus on the condition that it is celebrated on Ramnavami. This was indeed an ingenious touch of Saibaba bringing together the Hindus and Muslims together. People may know Urus is a Muslim festival that is celebrated to honor a saint.
Gurupurnima or Full Moon is also a wonderful time to visit Shirdi. It is the time to honor the Guru and seek his special blessing. Quite a significant festival in Shirdi Guru Purnima was the only festival which Saibaba has asked his devotees to celebrate. This is the time devotees all across the world converge in Shirdi to seek Saibaba’s blessings.
Vijayadashmi is a big festival in Shirdi, venerated as a holy day when Shri Saibaba left his mortal body for heavenly abode. The festival is also celebrated as Shri Sai Punyathithi in Shirdi attracting great number of devotees from all over the world. Various religious activities are arranged Great number of people flock to Shirdi during this Festival.
How to Get There:
The nearest airports are Mumbai (260 kms), Pune (185 kms) and Aurangabad (125 kms).
The nearest railway station is Manmad (60 kms) on the Central Railway, which is connected to many parts of the country with Express trains.
Shirdi is very well connected by a network of roads and road transport to all major towns of Maharashtra and surrounding areas.