After checking into my hotel room, I ventured out to visit the Samadhi (tomb) Temple. The way to the temple is through a bazaar, full of shops selling flowers, sweets, incense sticks and other offerings for Baba, which lead you to the main darshan queue. Before proceeding towards the queue, one needs to deposit one’s footwear, leather bags, cameras and other electronic items at the counters outside.
[ Markets selling sweet smelling roses to offer to Sai Baba ]
It has taken me even up to 6 hrs in the queue sometimes, but this time I got lucky as there was less crowd (probably due to the monsoons) and reached the Samadhi room in just about an hour. If you want to evade the heavy rush then avoid visiting the place on Thursdays (Baba’s day), weekends, and festivals of Guru Poornima, Ram Navami, Dusshera.
[ Entrance to the Samadhi Temple - Shirdi ]
While standing in the queue, you have T.V. monitors showing live darshan of Sai Baba’s Samadhi inside. The Sai Sanathan Trust of Shirdi which looks after the maintenance of the temple has done a pretty good job of managing a large number of people and also in keeping the temple premises clean.
[ The Golden spire of the Samadhi Temple in Shirdi ]
Amid chants of ‘Shri Sacchidanand Sadguru Sai Nath Maharaj ki Jai’, I entered the main room which houses the Samadhi and felt a breath of fresh air. The Samadhi hall is huge and spacious and the focal point of the room is the life-size marble statue of Sai Baba sitting on a throne. He was wearing a silky red robe, golden ornaments and decorated with flower garlands.
[ Life size idol of Sai Baba and His Samadhi
photo courtesy shrishirdisaimandir ]
The sidewalls are adorned with portraits of people who had the pleasure of spending their entire lives in His presence by serving Him. The devotion of these people was such that when Baba’s end was near, they refused to let Him go. Then He had said –
“Shirdi is my own place of work where I had come 64 years ago. How can I go anywhere leaving this place? All of you keep your belief in me and be always sure that if I give up my body, my bones will always be inspiring new hopes and faiths among my devotees. Thus not only I, but my tomb too will speak with my devotees and will give them liberation from their sufferings. Those who will innocently come to my tomb and will worship and remember me at any place will have all their works done. Thus, they will get to liberation”.
It’s faith in these eternal words He spoke at the time of Samadhi that has kept Him alive till date and continues to draw innumerable pilgrims from far and wide to receive His blessings.
In front of His idol lies His final resting place, a marble platform - His Samadhi covered all over in huge garlands and sweet smelling flowers. After taking the darshan, I spent a few minutes in the room and fixed my gaze on His final resting place. He had padukas (slippers), chattar (umbrella), throne, mukut (crown) all in pure gold donated by His devotees from all around the world.
Amid all this gold and grandeur, what was most striking though was Faith… faith of the hundreds around me who were coming in from different quarters belonging as they do to different castes, but speaking one universal language of love and peace. A God for some, a Guru (teacher) for others, Sai Baba was a living idol of knowledge, peace and mercy. One thing that particularly draws me towards Him is His message of ‘Sabka Malik Ek’ or ‘God is One’ and that He didn’t care what caste you are. Instead He just used to say one thing - Have ‘Shraddha and Saburi’ that is Faith and Patience in God.
[ The Gate showing His two teachings Faith and Patience ]
This gospel of pure unconditioned love which He expressed through selfless service has today been embraced by all religions, castes and age groups creating one big human family, sans any cultural boundaries. This is I believe the biggest miracle He performs, the miracle of unison.
We then moved out of the temple towards the Neem tree in the premises where Sai Baba was first spotted in Shirdi as a young lad of 16. He often meditated here and referred to this place as His ‘Gurusthan’ (mentor’s place). Devotees light incense sticks here on Thursday and Friday with a belief that this will cure them of their ailments.
Besides this, there are 3 other temples in the premises belonging to Lords Ganesha, Shiva and Shanidev and also a museum. It was very fascinating to take a tour of the museum and look at the Baba’s personal items like robe, sandals, gramophone, paintings, cooking cauldrons, etc accompanied with little snippets of His life.
Shirdi Temple timings:
The temple opens at 4:30 am with morning Kakad aarti and closes down at 10:30 pm with Shejarti. On the occasions of Gurupoornima, Dusshera, and Ramnavmi, the temple is kept open overnight. On Thursdays and the above mentioned festivals, a Palakhi (chariot) with Baba's photo is taken out from the temple.