An early morning Indigo flight from Bangalore to Pune was the start of a spiritual journey to the land of Sai Baba – Shirdi ! A place of extreme significance, only heard of or seen on TV , it was time to visit and experience in person. With a plan to stay for a night and hotel bookings done, the trip was set to begin.
Shirdi is about a 4 hour drive from Pune and hoping to find multiple Taxi counters at the airport similar to what we do in Bangalore airport, we went in without doing any advanced booking .With our flight landing on time, Pune airport gave us a surprise with just one pre-paid and a private cab counter for local travel. Luckily for us, the pre-paid Taxi counter did have options for Shirdi drop and we opted for the same and thus began our road journey to the spiritual land.Our driver Rahul was a good guy who helped us understand the fixed taxi rates for a drop and return journey from Shirdi as well as the things to be aware of and to be careful of people who try to extort money in lieu of helping us to have a quick darshan and avoiding queue’s. On the way we had a brief stopover for breakfast and the weather and the place where we halted was just perfect.
It took exactly 4 hours to reach Shirdi and we reached the hotel bang on during our check-in time. Daiwik Hotel was our stay destination here and with the temple just a 5 mins walk and having read good reviews of this hotel , it was all but an obvious choice to book here. They had our room ready and with us having made an online booking for darshan at 5 pm in the evening, it was time to rest and soak in the atmosphere ! After a much needed rest post lunch – we headed out to the temples –
Sri Khandoba Mandir
We first visited the Khandoba temple which is a place of great significance because it is said that the priest here is the one who had greeted Baba as ‘Aao Sai’ when he had first come in and that’s how he came to be known as ‘Sai Baba’. This temple is not in the main Sai baba temple complex but on the main road leading to the temple. A small temple but once inside, the environment is blissful and it retains the aura of the time it is representing. It was at a walkable distance from the hotel as well as to the main temple.
Sri Sai Baba Mandir
Next we set out to the main temple. We had to go the Shani Gate which was specified in the ticket and to reach this gate , we had to enter via Gate 3. The route from the hotel was via a street with an array of shops selling different stuff like food, prasad, clothes and toys. Mobile phones are strictly not allowed inside the temple and it is best to leave it in the vehicle if you have one or in the hotel itself, we wanted to take some pics outside, and I am sure most of us do and so we dropped in the mobiles in the Cloak roam before going inside. The Cloak rooms and the Shoe stands are very near to Gate no. 2 and 3 and I am sure, the other gates would also have similar counters there. Rs.3 is the charge per mobile in the cloak while one can leave your footwear for free at the designated counters
Once inside, the Shani gate was nearby and after showing our tickets, we followed a systematic queue system which was well organised. Television sets are placed at different places along the queue as well as outside the temple for devotees to witness the darshan live. After a while of standing in the queue and some pushing/ shoving around with the crowd, we reached the main area and it was a mesmerizing sight of Sai Baba adorned beautifully. Peace and tranquility takes over and it was time to seek blessings. It was only about a minute or so that one could have darshan on as the line keeps moving with the crowds surging behind, but that minute is the moment to cherish. Stepped out after being blessed and sweet boondhi packet was the prasadam for the evening per person. We spent some time sitting in the temple complex after the darshan amidst a blissful environment. We managed to take a snap of the outside view of the temple as camera’s or phone’s were not allowed inside. Outside Gate 3 was also a canteen selling Tea/Coffee for Rs.2 and it was one of the best tea’s we have had for a while. Price was not a deterrent to quality or quantity.
We went on to see Baba’s Chavadi which is said to be the place where Sai Baba used to sleep and also meet his devotee’s. It’s a small place with separate worship area for men and women. A sense of calmness is achieved when we step inside and pray. This place is within the Sai Baba complex and next to Dwarkamai and Maruti temple