To visit Shirdi you need HIS grace. When the time comes the trip happens. I have been to Pune numerous times over the last 15 years but never realised that Shirdi was so close by. Since March this year I was getting repeated signals that the calling was coming and as per the Masters Grace a wonderful trip happened on Apr 23 / 24th. 2018 is the 100th year since Sai Baba attained Samadhi, and we were blessed with good weather and sparse crowds all of which translated to a very satisfying trip.
This Blog will provide all the details that a first time traveller to Shirdi would need
Getting to Shirdi
You have many options to get to Shirdi. There are direct AI flights from Mumbai & Hyderabad that reach around 4 PM. There are trains and buses. Travelling from Bangalore the best way for us to get there was to take an early morning flight to Pune and then drive to Shirdi (Indigo 6E 408 departs Bangalore at 5.25 AM and reaches Pune at 6.50 AM) – yes that means you wake up at 2 AM to get to the airport. Our flight reached before time and we had our car from Savaari.com waiting for us (https://www.savaari.com) – this is a reliable, reasonably priced company with excellent service for booking outstation cabs. The distance from Pune to Shirdi is ~ 200 Km’s and we reached our hotel at 11.30 AM. Its a 4 hr drive including a 30 min stop – excellent road, lots of places to stop for tea / restroom breaks.
Where to stay
Like in any temple town there are multiple options, including rooms that are provided by Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust(Shirdi) – https://online.sai.org.in. We picked Hotel Bhagyalaxmi a nice hotel, very clean, spacious rooms, reasonably priced ( Rs 2200 per night for a double occupancy room), and a nice restaurant attached. Its a mere 2 min walk from the Temple. (In the map below it is at the bottom where you have Hotels and lodges written)
Other options to stay suggested by friends included Vasavi Bhawan (http://www.saivasavi.com) and Saish Hotel which is owned by the great grandson of Baijamma a great devotee of Baba.
Shirdi can get very crowded. So ensure that you book your Darshan online. You can register to get a customer ID and book your Darshan tickets here. Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust(Shirdi) – https://online.sai.org.in. You have two options – you can book tickets for Aarti that happens 4 times a day or Darshan tickets for slots thru the day. (The Kaakad Arti was priced Rs 600/- and the Darshan Arti Rs 200/- per head. You are allowed to book tickets for multiple people – but ensure to carry your ID)
- Kaakad – Early Morning
- Madhyan ( Noon)
- Dhoop ( Evening)
- Shej ( Night)
We attended the Kaakad Arti – its at 4.30 AM , but you stand in the Q at 3 AM even with a VIP ticket to get a front row spot. The Arti goes on for almost 45 minutes. the good thing about Shirdi is it is very well organised and you can get enough time at the Sanctum Sanctorum – its not a Tirupathi where you will be pushed away in a few seconds. ( TIP – while standing in the Q try and be in the inner line – this allows you to to take a U turn and come out from the open space in the front of the Sanctum Sanctorum – giving you a lot more time in the main temple, the outside row exits from the left)
We also attended the 5 PM Darshan on day 1 with pre- booked VIP ticket – there were less than 100 people at that time on a Monday, the Kaakad Arti had over 500 people.
The Temple Complex – What is there to see (On a good day you can cover all that is to see in less than 90 minutes)
The main Temple or the Samadhi Mandir – is where you have the Samadhi of Sai Baba and the marble statue of him in a sitting pose. There are a few more places to see inside the temple complex
Gurusthan – The seat of the teacher. This is right next to the Samadhi mandir. Gurusthan is the place where Sai Baba first appeared to the world as a 16 year old boy. The place is situated under a massive Neem tree. It also has a shrine on which Sai baba’s portrait is placed with a Shivalingam and the Nandi bull right in front of it. Gurusthan means- the seat of the teacher.
Dwarkamai – They say that Dwarkamai is the heart of Shirdi, the place where the great Sai Baba spent a significant part of his life including his last moments. This site, at first, was a dilapidated mosque. Dwarkamai is probably the only mosque which has a temple in it! The original Dhuni of Baba is still active here. You can walk by it and see the place where he slept and lived.
Chavadi – During his last years, Sai baba used to spend alternate nights at Chavadi. The place is located right next to 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. The Chavadi & Dwarakamai are located outside the main Temple complex – but its a 5 min walk after you exit from Gate 3 (Shani Gate)
Lendi Baug – Sai Baba used to spend a lot of his time here watering the plants daily in the mornings and evenings.
Dixit Wada Museum – The Wada museum is located in the vicinity of the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan trust that 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. The museum is open for public to visit from 10 am to 6 pm. Between the museum and the Lendi Baug are a few Samadhi’s of Sai Baba’s closes devotees both Hindus & Muslims.
Few Important Points for visitors
- Cell phones are not allowed inside the temple complex – so leave it in your room. Also leave your belts and bags. Only wallet is allowed.
- Footwear has to be left outside – you can leave it in any of the shops outside
- You get prasad as you walk out after darshan – a packet of Boondi and some small pouches of “Uddi” (ash from the holy Dhuni) – you cannot buy extra.
There are a few more important places you must visit. The first of which is the Mahalsapati Kutir – located very close to the Chavadi. Mahalsapati was a great devotee of baba and to this day the afternoon prasad from the temple is delivered to their house. If you are lucky and are visiting around 1230 – 1 you may get the prasad. The house is currently inhabited by the 4th generation
A minutes walk from Mahalsapati’s house is the residence of Laxmibai Shinde Patil. She used to cook for Sai baba and on the day before he left his body he gifted her 9 silver coins. these are on display. Ask the locals and they will guide you to these places.
Between 23rd afternoon and 24th early morning we had experienced to our hearts content the energy and divinity of Sai Baba and left Shirdi at 9.30 AM on 24th. On the way back we took a 90 min detour and stopped by at Shani Shingnapur.
The unique Shani Shignapur Temple of Ahmednagar district is well-known for the magical and powerful Lord Shani, who is believed to reside in a black stone. The Hindu God symbolising the planet Saturn is referred to as Swayambhu, which means that he has emerged himself in the form of the black stone. It has absolutely no architectural beauty, and just the simple stone with the spiritual aura of the lord entices scores of devotees every year.
The trust of people in the lord is so strong that none of the houses in this village has doors and locks. People believe that Lord Shani is protecting their valuables
The drive from Shirdi to Pune is partly scenic / partly barren. This is home to lovely Pomegranate and Guava orchards and you can pick them up at throwaway prices. So do remember to keep some bags handy.
Our flight to Bangalore was at 10.20 PM and we had time to visit the Samadhi of Dnynaeshwar at Alandi. A 13th century Marathi saint considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu he took samadhi at the tender age of 22. Alandi is located 20 Km from Pune – the Temple complex that houses his Samadhi is located on the banks of the Indrayani river and is accessed by foot. The Dnyaneshwar Samadhi Complex includes the Samadhi,the Shri Sidheshwar temple and the famed Ajanvriksha tree. The Sidheswar temple is an ancient Shiva temple and a “Swayambu”. The whole complex is a highly energised space – within a few minutes of meditation you can sense the intensity of the place.
We were back in Pune by 6 PM and met up with a close friend at Vaishali – and as we walked down FC road and JM road could not but help compare Pune with Bangalore. And Pune does score high on all counts. After dinner at Shreyas (A nice homely place that serves authentic Marathi Thali) we reached the airport by 9 PM well in time for our 10.20 PM flight to Bangalore reaching home by 1.30 AM.
It was a long day waking up at 2 AM for the Kaakad Arti – almost 24 hrs of no proper sleep. Two consecutive days of waking up at 2 AM. There was a sense of happiness at having accomplished a lot and we thanked the Masters and Sai Baba for an excellent Darshan and a safe and fruitful journey.
Other Useful Points
- Weekends and Thu are very busy at Shirdi – avoid school holiday season – best time to travel is Nov – Feb
- Nasik is 100 Km from Shirdi – so is Aurangabad. You can make Shirdi as your base and cover these two cities. They both have a lot to see including a Jyotirlinga each. Aurangabad is also the getaway for Ajanta and Ellora
- The total cost for this 36 Hr trip was ~ Rs 40,000 for the 3 of us ( Rs 13,000 each ie $ 100 / day ) inclusive of Flight, Cab, Hotel, Darshan Tickets , Food – that is value for money