The constant rat race of city life makes us long for a break, even if it was for just a weekend. So we decided to head to Shirdi which attracts hundreds of Sai Baba devotees daily.
People from all over the world visit His shrine to offer prayers of gratitude and seek His blessings.
The last time we had been there was with my parents 10 years back. Since we enjoy driving long distance to see new places, we decided to visit Shirdi by car, which is not very far from Pune.
There are several ways to reach Shirdi — hire a private taxi, take a long distance bus or train or drive down from Pune or Mumbai. You can plan a one-day trip or book yourselves into a hotel in Shirdi and make it a two-day trip to visit the temple.
Once you reach Shirdi, it looks like a small town bursting at the seams. There is a lot of noise, dust and pollution. As you near the premises of the main temple of the Sai Baba, you will find several people vying for your attention, trying to coax you into parking your car in their private parking lots — for a fee.
After a little investigation, we got to know that there is no such temple-owned paid parking, but there is a parking area run by the trustee of the main temple, which is a stone’s throw distance away. One can park there for a nominal fee.
You can buy coconuts, flowers, prasad, and chaddar for the offerings to the Sai Baba from several shops around the temple.
Inside the temple
I was impressed by the temple staff — they are professional, and quite helpful. Deposit your shoes at the shoe stand, for a token of Re 1. Photography/video shooting is not permitted in the temple premises, and the temple staff is quite strict about this rule.
When you stand in queue, considering it’s a weekend, you may have to stand for about an hour or more, till it’s your turn to come face-to-face with the pristine Sai Baba seated on His throne. Even if you get a few minutes to pay your respects to the lord, I think it is really worth it.
You can donate cash by depositing it in the cash box inside the temple or there are separate offices within the temple premises where you can donate cash or kind. You can purchase the Laddoo prasad from a separate counter and can also wait your turn for the bhog (meal) offered at specific timings.
Quick travel tips
- Carry enough water and snacks while you drive, as there are spots of complete desolation on the highway where you can see no one for miles. But if you do spot a small restaurant or dhaaba cold drinks and bottled water are the safest to have.
- You could eat at the restaurant at Yash Palace, located on the main road in the city of Ahmednagar. Ask any shopkeeper for directions an he will direct you instantly as it is probably the biggest restaurant and hotel in Ahmednagar.
- For just Rs 65 you get a delicious unlimited Rajisthani thali consisting of — Daal Vaati, two-three kinds of vegetables, hot Phulkas with ghee, rice, Kaddhi, Dahi Vada, pickle, papad, and Moong Daal Halwa. This certainly is a treat, once you’re driving back from Shirdi.
- You have State Bank of India, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank ATMs in the city proper of Ahmednagar. There are several petrol/diesel pumps in Ahmednagar and on the highway, but these may not accept credit/debit cards. So, keep enough cash ready while traveling to such places.
- The total distance from Pune to Shirdi is about 205 to 210 kms.
- Pune to Ahmednagar: 120 kms Ahmednagar to Shirdi: 85 kms
- When you visit Shirdi around this time ie early summer, make it point to buy a dozen of ripe guavas. They are simply delicious and much better quality than what you get in the cities.
For more information about the temple log onto: http://www.shrisaibabasansthan.org/
AddressShri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust,ShirdiAhmednagar, MaharashtraPhone: (02423) 423109
MTDC Pilgrim’s Inn Shirdi HotelAt Post Shirdi, Near Saibaba Shrine Shirdi 423 109 – India
Sun-n-Sand, ShirdiPlot No. 109/P-124/PVillage NighojTaluka KopergaonShirdi — 423 109
Phones: (02423) 255728/29/30
For Rediff.com, 13th April, 2006.