Bound In Love: Notes From Shirdi Sai Baba Temple.

The marble statue Sai Baba can be seen from a distance... clad in a colorful robe adorned with a lavish garland, he sits royally on the gold studded throne, a gift from the devouts. The edifice around in the center is stunning as well: glittering in gold. Amid all the affluence, the glitter and the gold rests the Samadhi, the place where Baba still resides, alive and breathing, covered in a colorful chadar (bedcover) and a garland matching the color on the statue. The hall is immensely crowded and though the pace of the queue moves briskly, one can feel the eagerness among the devouts who come from far and wide to reach the altar to feel his presence... to bow their heads, to catch one glimpse of their beloved Baba...  such is the legacy of the great saint that as a popular belief goes - anyone who surrendered to Baba never left from here with an empty heart...

but what exactly does surrendering to Baba mean? 
what attracts lakhs of pilgrims of all faiths
to this little town in Maharashtra's heartland?
what makes the Baba so popular?


I have gone to Shirdi Sai Baba Samadhi temple several times, the last being sometime in 2015. One reason for it being its proximity to Mumbai making it a relatively easier getaway on the weekends. The roads on the Mumbai-Nashik stretch are good too, it takes hardly around 3 hours to reach Shirdi from Mumbai. The drive passes through the towering Sahyadri mountains along the Western Ghats, the rolling hills and the open vistas, the manicured fields and the sights of the countryside that I often miss in my urban existence.

Flowers being sold at Sai Baba Samadhi Temple, Shirdi
Somewhere along the way, on the Mumbai - Nashik highway - Windmills!

Last year Diwali, we planned a yatra to Shirdi and for the first time ever, we chucked the traditional darshan queues and instead opted to book tickets for the online darshan, a facility provided by Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan for the convenience of the bhaktas. We reached the main gate at 6.30 AM as against the prescribed time of 6.45 PM with the printouts of the ticket and found ourselves in the inner hall of the Samadhi Mandir (temple) after barely 20 minutes or so. Never before, had the access to Sai Baba been so easy!

The temple entrance at Sai Baba Samadhi Temple, Shirdi, Maharashtra
Since we had booked tickets via the online darshan,
It didn't take us more than around 30 minutes to reach the inner sanctum.

On my way, I saw pilgrims...

both - young, with a spring in their steps, and old, with a stick in their hands - men, women and children, some barefeet, while some others with shoes and slippers on, but everyone walking in silent anticipation to meet their beloved Sai...

A cauldron of faith at Sai Baba Samadhi Temple, Shirdi
Ya Sai,
amchi nond ghya

A lot keeps changing in the temple town of Shirdi, from a town with barely any good hotels of note to a town where hotels are jostling for space, the town has come a long way. It's today a modern pilgrim town offering every possible amenity for every type of traveler ensuring his comfortable stay. We stayed in MTDC's hotel Pilgrim's Inn located just a stone's throw away from the temple and an excellent option for devotees looking for accommodation at reasonable prices. There is an abundance of flower, prasad shops along the way to the temple. I paused for a while to savour the beauty of the roses peeping out tenderly, from a bunch of greens. Some pilgrims took these to offer on Sai's Samadhi (tomb) as their humble gift. The flowers came in various colors, red, yellow and white tied in a single thread as a garland or a mala.

Flowers being sold at Sai Baba Samadhi Temple, Shirdi

Monitors are placed inside the rooms through which the queue passes to play the live sai darshan for the people waiting for their turn in the queue. The main hall of the Samadhi Mandir remains as crowded as ever, no matter what time of the day, what day of the year, escalating on festivals and Thursdays when a palanquin procession is carried out in honor of the saint who was also a teacher. There is now a fencing built around the Samadhi of Sai Baba making it difficult for the devotees to reach out to it. I gazed at his ornate life-like statue ever since it became visible to me, from a distance and once near, I pressed my head on the marble platform housing the samadhi... the platform felt cold but my heart felt warm.

... Sabka Malik Ek ...

Sai Baba Samadhi Temple, Shirdi
Shraddha and Saburi: Patience and Faith
this was Sai Baba's mantra to all!

Sai Baba was a man of utmost simplicity and sincerity and his teachings were as simple to grasp and apply in life. He had a kafni to cover himself, a loincloth, a small stick, a cloth to cover his head and a pot in his hand. Through the day, he would roam in the village and beg for meals and at the end of the day, he would share it with everyone alike - humans, animals, birds - no distinctions made. He never beat his own trumpet by calling himself an expert, a teacher or a know-it-all, rather he lived his life in an exemplary way emphasizing on experiencing the Truth which he believed was the meeting point of all faiths, religions, castes and creeds into the One Master. He lived in an old masjid (mosque) called dwarkamaayi and encouraged everyone to follow their faith and read their own scriptures.

Who was he?
Where did he come from?
What were his origins? 

No one really knows but his words, his message - that of oneness, of equality in the eyes of the Supreme, of unity in diversity and harmony in differences, the universal pillars of brotherhood connected one and all in a single thread of humanity. He may have long given up on his body but his tomb, the Samadhi, continues to converse with the faith of his devotees and to all those who worship in the goodness of faith and sincerity, he gives them hope in their sufferings and graces them with peace.

Sacred threads threaded in beads as malas,
were being sold as as lucky amulets or keepsakes.

Markets at Sai Baba Samadhi Temple, Shirdi
From the markets of Shirdi.

I saw Sangeeta Jadhav sitting quietly, on a parapet selling chikkis (a sweet made of peanuts coated in jaggery), 2 packets for 20. She has been doing it since as long as she can remember. She has seen the town change, she has seen the crowds swell, she has seen her high days and low, and through it all... she has felt the benign presence of Baba in her everyday life.

'Babachi Krupa Aahe',
she says when I try quizzing about her life,
with one of the most peaceful smiles I have seen.

Sunita Jhadav selling chikkis at Sai Baba Samadhi Temple complex, Shirdi
Sangeeta tai radiating a positive aura with her peaceful smile!

Even in the broad daylight, ornamental lights twinkled on and off, lending the town a delightful character as I ambled around lazily around it after the Samadhi darshan. It was the festival day of Diwali after all, the festival of lights. The town, lanes and alleys were festooned and all lit up in bright lamps and from where I stood, they all seemed to twinkle in a symphonic rhythm as if celebrating the divine message of love and light that Sai Baba had left behind for all of us.

 A woman devout was assembling a row of diyas neatly under a banyan tree, close to the temple. She lighted a diya and from there, one by one, she started lighting all the diyas with that single spark of light.

As I snapped this picture and made my way towards my budget hotel room in Shirdi,
I wondered of the sight when all the diyas would be bound in a single spark of light...

How magical would it look!

Diwali celebrations at Sai Baba Samadhi Temple, Shirdi, Maharashtra

... just like the flowers that were bound together, in devotion,
just like the pilgrims that walked together, in faith,
just like the beaded malas that were threaded together, in prayer...

... and, just like all of us,
you, me and Sangeeta tai,
are bound together...
in love .

Sabka Malik Ek!


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Information, Sai Baba temple hours and darshan timings, aarti timings, etc.

-- The temple opens at 4:00 AM and closes at 11.30 PM

Bhupali - 4:15 AM
Kakad  Aarti (morning) - 4:30 AM
Bhajan in Saibaba Mandir - 5.00 AM
Holy Bath of Shri Sai Baba (Mangal Snaan) in Samadhi Mandir - 5:05 AM
Aarti "Shirdi Majhe Pandharpur" - 5:35 AM

Darshan begins in Samadhi Mandir - 5:40 AM

Abhishek Pooja - 9:00 AM
Satyanarayana Pooja - 8:00 AM,10:30 AM
Dhuni Pooja with rice and ghee in Dwarkamai - 11:30 AM
Mid day Aarti - 12:00 PM
Pothi (Devotional reading/Study) in Samadhi Mandir -  4:00 PM
At Sunset - Dhoop  Aarti

Devotional Songs in Samadhi Mandir and other Cultural Programmes (if any) - 8:30 PM - 10:00 PM
Chavadi and Gurusthan is closed - 9:00 PM
Dwarkamai, water is given to Baba, a mosquito net is covered and a lamp is lit - 9:30 PM
Dwarkamai (the upper part) closes - 9:45 PM

Shej (night) Aarti, following which, a shawl is wrapped around Sai Baba in the Samadhi Mandir, a Rudraksha mala is put around his neck, and a glass of water kept by his side for the night - 10:30 PM

Samadhi Mandir closes after night Aarti - 11:15  PM

Abhishek Pooja timings:

 1st Batch: 7.00 AM to 8.00 AM
 2nd Batch: 9.00 AM to 10.00 AM
 3rd Batch: 12.30 PM to 1.30 PM

-- To book Shirdi Sai Baba Darshan online, you can refer to my step by step online sai darshan booking guide here.

-- Many important traditions are observed in the temple like "Daily offerings by Abdul Baba and Boraoke families", "Palki procession every Thursday", "Jholi parampara in mahasamadhi", "Ramanavami" and "Rrs tradition". Thursday is considered to be most important day for worship of Saibaba and hence one can expect a good amount of crowd. For a unique experience, try attending the Kakad Arti on a thursday followed by joining the palki procession.

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  1. What an inspiring post, Arti. Your photos once again brought your words to life. To live in an exemplary way and to share a message of harmony in diversity is a message we surely still need to heed.

  2. I've been to Shirdi twice and on both occasions felt a great connect with the place, maybe because of Baba's presence. His teachings through life lessons are invaluable and if people even follow 5% of what he conveyed can make a huge difference in anyone's life. Only thing which I didn't like last time when I visited Shirdi was the fact that the place has commercialized a lot. I'm not a great admirer of commercializing a sacred place but I believe, it's something that cannot be controlled. I just hope, the essence should remain the same because it's one place where peace prevails. Thanks for this beautiful post, Arti! :)

  3. Great to read. Thanks a lot for sharing.
    Beautiful pics.
    Om Sai Ram _()_

  4. I had been there just last month. This post is so informative and it captures the heart and spirit of Shirdi perfectly! I wish people acting as touts and agents to facilitate special darshan are barred so that darshan for all becomes uniform.

  5. Your vivid description simply brings the whole scene alive and takes me back to the holy place :) Loved the line where you describe how the platform was cold but it warmed your heart <3 the serpentine queues, the long wait the walk around Dwarka mai , everything is so heartening. Loved your encounter with Sangeeta tai! Beautiful post as always :)

  6. Om Sai Ram! you made my day with this post and showing the picture of Shree Sai :) thank you so much!

  7. Very nice and detailed journey write-up added with beautiful photos 👍
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Awesome captures, nice read with so many details.

  9. I have read your earlier post too.
    But still came to gather some more inputs as you are capable of that.
    I have not visited this one yet though I spent about 6 years in Pune.
    I will wait for His call.
    I am sure He will .

  10. Great post. Lovely reading through it and knowing about the online darshan process.

  11. Thank-you for this post, Arti...For me, it's well timed. :)

  12. Wonderful and very useful post Arthi!

  13. I am really thankful to the holder of this web page
    who has shared this fantastic paragraph at at this time.

  14. Great article, exactly what I wanted to find.

  15. A lovely post with some arresting pics!

  16. Hi Arti, thank you for sharing the teaching of brotherhood and Sabka Malik Ek, the blessing of Sai Baba to the humankind. Felt it touched deep to my soul through your words, Sangeeta tai, pics and the last lines, especially. I am sure, the faith that Sabka Malik Ek will reflect more in my life with this read. Thanks again. :)

  17. Such a detailed helpful for the travellers! I have never been there.

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