Shirdi is a picturesque tiny hamlet located in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, which is located at a distance of about 88 km from the town of Nashik. The tiny hamlet has transformed into one of the most visited pilgrimage centres in the country and is also home to one of the richest temples in the country, the Shirdi Sai Sansthan.
Shirdi was the home of the Sai Baba, a saint who lived in the 20th century. Baba had made Shirdi his home for nearly 50 years which lead to the transformation of the tiny hamlet into a major pilgrimage site. Devotees come in large numbers from across the globe as the shrine is open to all irrespective of religious beliefs.
Shirdi is circled by a number of well-known tourist destinations, such as the world heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora; hill stations, such as Mahabaleshwar, Khandala and Lonavala, and the charming cities of Pune and Mumbai. The town spreads its fragrance of devotional intensity which is spread from the large number of devotees, who have given the hamlet a position in the map of spirituality.
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The Mahasamadhi Mandir, houses the tomb of Sai Baba. The shrine was originally constructed as a large house during the last years of Baba's earthly life.
The structure was erected on piece of dumping ground which was converted into a garden by Sai Baba himself by sowing seeds of jasmine and marigolds which he distributed to the local temples once they blossomed.
The statue of Sai Baba and the samadhi are carved out using Italian marble and are draped in silk; they are decorated further with a gold crown and flower garlands.
The Mahasamadhi Mandir on an average is visited by 25,000 pilgrims in a day and the numbers would reach a lakh or more on festivals and other special occasions.
Before Sai Baba came to Shirdi, Dwarkamai was an old mosque in ruins, which he made his home. At present, Dwarkamai houses a portrait of Baba along with a stone tablet and other articles which were used by him.
One would come across an undying fire which was lit by Baba when he was alive and continues to spread light till date. The ash which emits out of the burnt wood from this fire is considered sacred and is believed to have powers of curing any sort of illness of his devotees and visitors.
Gurusthan in translation means "the place where Guru stays". It is the place where Sai Baba spent most of his time when he first came to Shirdi; according to him, the tomb of his guru is located below the neem tree which marks the spot.
As per legends, it said that some villagers were digging the earth to lay the foundation of a structure behind the neem tree and that they came across a number of bricks in the soil which appeared to be an opening to a tunnel. Puzzled they consulted Baba who asked them to stop digging further as it was the resting place of his ancestors.
The temple holds a very significant position in the town. When Baba came to Shirdi for the first time along with the marriage procession of Chand Patil, the party made a stop at the entrance of Khandoba Temple and the priest welcomed Baba saying, "Aao Sai"; since then Baba came to be known as Sai Baba. However, nobody has knowledge of his original name.
Sai Heritage Village
Those of us who are very keen to know more about the life and times of Sai Baba must visit the Sai Heritage Village which house sculptures that depict the life, miracles and major happening in the saint's life. One of the major attractions here is the scene which depicts Baba feeding the needy and his devotees at the same time.