The Shirdi Sai Baba Temple is one of the most prestigious and revered Temple institutions in India dedicated to the life and teachings of Sri Sai Baba, a Saint or a Fakir respected by all of India’s religious communities. The Temple complex is located in Shirdi, a small town in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.
The life history and philosophy of Sri Sai Baba are recorded in the Sai Satcharitra. The manuscript is the work of Shri Hemadpant, an ardent devotee of Baba. It is said that Sai Baba himself blessed the book and wanted his teachings to be spread around by the medium of books.
The followers of Sai Baba believe that Sai is an acronym of the Sanskrit term “Sakshat Eshwar”, a reference to God. Sakshat means “incarnate” and Eshwar means “God”.
The Shirdi Sai Baba Temple Complex is spread in an area of approximately 200 sq.mt. The Complex consists of six main areas of interest.
- Khandoba Temple – This temple is the spot where Sai Baba was given the name “Sai” upon entering the village of Shirdi. At the entrance to the temple is a large banyan tree which is mentioned in the ‘Shri Sai Satcharitra’ as the place where the bullock cart halted. It is now commemorated with a small shrine and ‘padukas’ at its base.
- Gurusthan – The place is located under a Neem tree where Sai Baba spent most of his time in his early stay in Shirdi. According to Sai Baba, his own “Guru” is buried beneath the Tree and should not be disturbed. Beside the tree, one can see a pair of marble padukas on a pedestal, a ‘Shivalinga’ and a statue of Baba at the place.
- Samadhi Mandir – The Temple was initially constructed in dedication of Lord Krishna. It is believed that Sai Baba advised Gopalrao Booty to construct a temple so that he can satisfy the needs of the people. With Sai Baba’s approval, they started the construction work on the Temple in 1915. When Baba fell ill, he asked devotees to move him into the temple. He breathed his last on October 15, 1918. He was buried in the Temple and an idol of his has been installed over it.
- Dwarkamai – The small mosque where Sai Baba stayed has become the center of attraction in Shirdi as it provides a glimpse of the spiritual life that he lead. One can visit the “Dhuni” or the “Perpetual Fire”, see the Kolamba. Sai teerth, The sack of wheat, Cooking pot, The Nimbhar and several other artifacts that have a personal significance and legends associated with them
- Chavadi – Chavadi is the place where Sai Baba would sleep on alternate days during the last decade of his life It played a major role in the beginning of formal worship of Baba. Once Baba started sleeping at Chavadi, the custom arose of offering regular Aarti to him on his arrival from the mosque. This was Shej (night) Arati. Later, Kakad (morning) Aarti was offered when he woke up there.
- The Lendi Gardens – This is the garden complex which was often visited by Sai Baba to meditate and contemplate on the worldly matters. One can visit the Nanda Deep – the perpetually burning Deep kept between two trees here.
Shirdi Sai Baba temple History
- The Shirdi Sai Baba Temple of Sri Sai Baba was established in the year 1922 to continue teachings and services of Sri Sai Baba. The real name and the birthplace of Sai Baba are unknown
- He arrived at Shirdi at an age of sixteen. The name “Sai” was given to him upon his arrival at Shirdi, by a local priest named Mahalsapati. He recognized Sai Baba as a Muslim saint and greeted him with the words ‘Ya Sai!’, meaning ‘Welcome Sai!’. Sai or Sayi is a Persian title given to Sufi saints. The word “Baba” means “father; grandfather; old man; sir” in most Indian and Middle Eastern languages. Thus, Sai Baba denotes “holy father”, “saintly father” or “poor old man”.
- He initially stayed under a Neem tree in the Khandoba Temple. He remained silent and meditated for long periods of time.He received several visitors like Mahalsapati and Appa Jogie. He stayed for three years in Shirdi and then disappeared. It is believed that he was with the army of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi during the Mutiny of 1857.
- It is believed that Sai Baba returned to Shirdi in 1858. His manner was withdrawn and he often meditated for long hours. He was later convinced to take up residence in an old mosque, where he lived a solitary life. He received visitors in the mosque, later named as the Dwarkamai and gave them sacred ash having healing properties when they left. He performed the services of Hakim for the village.
- Sai Baba believed that Charity is the ultimate way to win God’s grace. He led a simple life and encouraged the concept of sharing with people. He emphasized that people should be treated with respect and should be welcomed in the homes. He asked devotees to give food, water, clothes, money, and a place of stay generously to the poor.
- The Shri Saibaba Sansthan in Shirdi is the governing and administrative body of Shri Saibaba’s Samadhi Temple and all the temples that are in this premise. The Saibaba Sansthan Trust also works towards the general development of the Shirdi village.
Significance of the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple
- Sai Baba opposed the religious orthodoxy. He opposed discrimination based on religion. His teachings imbibe the good practices of major religions like Hinduism and Islam. He admired Bhagawad Gita and asked his disciplines to follow the teachings of the book. His philosophy of “Allah Malik ek” meaning “God is one” resonated truth in communities marred with strife.
- The philosophy and teachings of Sai Baba have followers among almost all religions in the world including Hinduism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity.
- The eleven assurances of Sai Baba states that he is omnipresent. He will help all the needy and guide them to a happy and healthy life. Anyone who steps into Shirdi will be relieved of all their sufferings.
- His devotees believe that he performed miracles to help people. It is believed that he lit the lamps of the Masjid without oil. On the request of villagers, he raised the level of water in the well during the dry season to drink. He saved a 3-year-old girl from drowning after she fell into the well. The villagers saw her suspended in mid-air and pulled her out.
- In the mosque, Sai Baba maintained a sacred fire which is referred to as a dhuni, from which he gave sacred ashes (‘Udhi’) to his guests before they left. The ash was believed to have healing and apotropaic powers. He performed the function of a local hakim and treated the sick by application of ashes. One can visit the mosque and experience the spirituality themselves.
Shirdi Sai Baba Temple Timings
Darshan Timings: 4 AM to 11 PM.
Darshan is stopped during Aarti times.
- Special Abhishek Poojas are conducted every day in two batches. A third batch may be arranged depending on the crowd. The Abhishek Batch Timings are as below –
First Batch – 7 AM to 8 AM
Second Batch – 9 AM to 10 AM
Third Batch – 11 AM to 12 PM
- The Satyanarayana Pooja is performed in three batches daily. Two more batches can be arranged depending on the crowd. The Timings for the Pooja are as below –
First Batch – 7 AM to 8 AM
Second Batch – 9 AM to 10 AM
Third Batch – 11 AM to 12 PM
- The Shirdi Sansthan Trust has opened a Reception Centre opposite the State Transport Bus stand to offer the proper guide to the arriving devotees.
There is no strict dress code applicable inside the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple Complex. However, it is advised to wear decent clothes inside the Temple and Masjid premises.
Poojas and Rituals at Shirdi Sai Baba Temple
- Sai Satya Vrata Pooja – The special Pooja is performed free of cost once in three months in the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple Complex on the Purnima day (full moon day). 108 couples can take part in the Pooja at one time. According to an incident in Sri Sai Satcharita, a Tuberculosis patient by the name of Bhimaji Patil was cured by Sri Sai Baba. After being cured, he started a tradition of worshiping Sai Baba as Satyanarayan. The Pooja has been renamed to Sai Satya Vrata Pooja.
- Sai Satcharitra Parayan – The reading of the book Sai Satcharitra takes place once every month in the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple Complex. The reading of the book starts at 8 AM in the morning and usually concludes before either the Dhoop or the Shej Aarti.
- Bhupali – The Bhupali Aarti is performed at 4:15 AM every day. It is the first in a series of Aartis and Bhajans that are sung in praise of Sai Baba. The Aarti is composed of four songs and takes about 10-15 minutes to complete.
- Kakad Aarti – The Morning Aarti is called the Kakad Aarti and is performed between 4:30 AM to 5:00 AM. In Kakad Aarti, a piece of cloth is dipped in ghee and then lit on fire to perform the Aarti. The Aarti is performed to wake up Sai Baba and get his blessings.
- Mangal Snaan – Shri Sai Baba is bathed in holy water at 5:05 AM in the Samadhi mandir.
- Satyanarayana Pooja – The Pooja is performed between 7 AM to 12 PM. The Pooja is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Devotees can perform the Pooja by paying a nominal amount at the Pooja counter.
- Madhyan Aarti – The afternoon Aarti takes place at 12:00 PM to 12:30 PM. Several songs are sung in praise of Sai Baba and his disciples.
- Dhoop Aarti – The evening Aarti is performed at Sunset for 20 minutes every day. The Aarti is divided into eight different song sequences, each praising Sai Baba and his virtues.
- Shej Aarti – The night Aarti is performed for 20 minutes at 10:30 PM to 10:50 PM. After the Aarti, a shawl is wrapped around the idol of Sai Baba and a Rudraksha mala is hung around his neck. The mosquito net is lowered and a glass of water is kept near the idol.
- On Thursdays, a ‘Palki’ procession takes place at around 9.15 PM, from Samadhi Mandir to Dwarkamai and then to Chawri.
- Devotees who want to feed the poor can arrange the for the process by making a cash payment at the Prasadalaya or at the Account office.
Festivals celebrate at Shirdi Sai Baba Temple
- Ram Navami – The festival is celebrated at the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple in March or April. The festival is celebrated with a lot of zest and excitement. According to a story, Gopalrao Gund in 1897 proposed to hold Urus (a Muslim festival to honor a saint) dedicated to Sai Baba to thank him for granting him the wish of a child after many years. Sai Baba agreed but asked him to celebrate it on Ram Navami. As a result, on this day, both Hindus and Muslims celebrate the function enthusiastically resulting in communal harmony. The flags of Dwarkamai are replaced on this day along with the sack of wheat kept there.
- Guru Purnima – On the Full moon day of the month of July, the Guru Purnima is celebrated in Shirdi with much reverence and dedication. The day is dedicated to Guru and special poojas are performed to honor him and seek his blessings. Vyasa Pooja is held in honor of Ved Vyasa, the writer of the epic Mahabharata.
- Vijayadasami – The Vijayadasami day is also the day that Shri Sai Baba left the mortal life for his heavenly abode. This day is also called Shri Sai Punyathithi. During this festival ‘Brahman Bhojan’ is arranged with Guru Dakshina (Donation to Guru). Pilgrims from all over India flock to Shirdi to pay their respects to Shri Sai Baba.
How to reach: Road, Rail and Air
- By Air – Aurangabad is the nearest airport to Shirdi. It is located at a distance of 144 km. Bus service is available from Aurangabad to Shirdi.
- By Rail – Shirdi is well connected to all major cities in India. The station name at Shirdi is “Sainagar Shirdi” which has started operations since March 2009. Regular trains are available to the city from Chennai, Mumbai, Vishakapatnam, Secunderabad and Mysore. The other main railway stations located nearby are Kopergaon (15 km), Nashik (119 km), Manmad (87 km), and Ahmednagar (83 km). Regular buses are available from these cities to Shirdi.
- By Road – State transport buses are available from major cities in Maharashtra as well as from the surrounding states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Tamilnadu.
Where to stay
Accommodation at nominal rates is available. Devotees must immediately contact The Shirdi Sansthan Trust Reception Centre near the State Transport Bus Stand, where they will be allotted rooms. Locker facilities are also available for luggage storage.
There are three major accommodation options available run by the Shirdi trust: Sai Ashram, Dwarawati, and the New Bhakta Niwas. Air-conditioned rooms, large normal rooms, and dormitories are available.
Online accommodation can be booked by visiting the site http://shrisaibabasansthan.org.in/
Several privately operated hotels and lodges are also available as an option for staying purposes.
Where to eat
A Tea canteen and a “Prasadalaya” are run by the Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan Trust. Devotees can have Tea and Meals at the premises at subsidized rates between 10 AM to 10 PM.
A large number of small restaurants serving vegetarian food can be visited near the Temple premises. Alcohol and smoking are banned.
- Shani Shinganapur Temple – The village Shinganapur in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra is home to the Shani Shinganapur Temple dedicated to Lord Shani Dev (Personification of Saturn). An idol of Lord Shani made of black stone is placed in the temple to which devotees from all over the world pay their respects. The unique thing about the village is that none of the houses in the area have any doors. The strong belief is that Lord Shani will guard all homes against any mischief. The Temple stays open from 5 AM to 10 PM. The Poojas and Abhishekam can be performed by the devotees themselves.
- Maruti (Hanuman) Mandir – The Temple is located 1 km away from the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple. A life-size black idol of Shri Hanuman is the presiding deity here. It is located inside the Shirdi temple Complex. It is believed that Sai Baba performed satsangs
- Jain Temples – There are two main Jain Temples present near the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple. The first Temple is dedicated to Shri Adeshwar Bhagawan and was built by Sri Jain Shwethambar Theertha trust. The unique feature of the temple is that iron has not been used for constructing the temple. The second Temple is called Sheesh Mahal. It was built by the Shri Shanti Niwas Digambar Temple Committee. The temple is dedicated to Sri Shanti Niwas Maharaj l6th Teerthanka.
- Mahalaxmi Temple – The Temple is located on the Pimpalwadi road. The temple has a life-size idol of Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth along with Navagraha idols and a Shivling.