Shirdi is a small town and the most popular pilgrimage place situated in the state of Maharashtra, India. Shirdi Saibaba temple is the main attraction here. The temple activities are managed by Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust. This is a must visit place at least once in a lifetime.
How to reach:
By Air: Nearest airports to Shirdi are Aurangabad (104 KM) and Pune (186 KM). Cabs can be booked from the airport.
By Train: Sai Nagar Shirdi (SNS) railway station is located in the Shirdi town. Trains are connected to the Shirdi station from major cities. If trains are not available to Shirdi from any location, it is good idea to check the train availability to the nearest locations such as Manmad (57 KM), Nagarsol (39 KM) etc.
By Road: Many travel by road from the nearest cities such as Hyderabad. It is overnight journey. State tourism departments are organizing daily bus services to Shirdi.
Where to stay
There are many hotels (From normal range to 5 star) available along with the accommodation provided by the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust. Temple accommodation is very decent and good. They have 3 accommodation complexes namely Sai Ashram, Dwarawati, and Bhakti Niwas in the Shirdi town at different places. Accommodation can be booked online or offline. However, booking in advance through online portal is a good idea to avoid last minute deals.
Sai Ashram is the best choice when opting for sansthan accommodation as it has big space surrounding the accommodation buildings. Elderly people and physically handicapped people can take battery car to commute within the premises at free of cost.
There are frequent buses available from temple accommodation complexes to the main shrine (Samadhi Mandir) at regular intervals. Further, breakfast, lunch (free lunch), coffee, milk, tea and water bottles are available at a nominal price. I remember paying 5/- for chapatti breakfast.
Many varieties of cuisines from Maharashtrian thali to North Indian to south Indian thali are available in Hotels. There are many Andhra hotels as large number of devotees visit the shrine from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Local food must be tried such as vada pav, bundi Ladoo, poha, chaat items etc. Further, very tasty guava fruits and pomegranates are available in the town. One of the best restaurants in Shirdi was Woodlands, which serves decent food.
Samadhi Mandir is the main attraction in Shirdi. As per my frequent visits to Shirdi, apart from Samadhi Mandir, Dwarakamai and Chavadi are the major attractions in the town.
Samadhi Mandir is a big area where baba was rested after he left his body.
Dwarakamai is the masjid where baba used to live and do his daily chores. Sansthan has preserved the stone on which baba used to sit. Further, devotees can have a close look at the stove used by baba, deepams baba used to lit, and dhuni baba used to lite. Visiting Dwarkamai is a very heart touching experience for devotees of baba.
Chavadi is the place where baba used to sleep on every alternative night. All these 3 places are located very close by. This is a very small area and there were two separate entrance male and female devotees.
There is a small maruti temple near to these three locations.
Samadhi Mandir opens at 4AM and closes by 11:15PM. Free darshan, paid darshan and aarti (Can book aarti ticket online through Sansthan portal) are the 3 various options to visit the Samadhi Mandir. Free darshan requires devotees to follow the queue system from outside the temple. Devotees with paid darshan tickets can enter the Samadhi Mandir avoiding most of the queue. Devotees with aarti tickets can spend the whole aarti time around 40 min. in the Samadhi Mandir.
Devotees, who has booked online darshan/aarti tickets, has to carry ID proof along with the online ticket confirmation copy. There are 4 gates to the Samadhi Mandir and devotees are allowed in different gates as per the darshan and aarti timings. It may be confusing for the first time visitors to decide on which gate to enter, however enquiring with the officials guarding the temple premises clears the confusion.
The best part of the Shirdi temple is LIVE darshan is telecasted in TVs at different locations of the temple such as queue, auditorium etc. Prasadam (sweet boondi) is distributed to devotees at the exit of the Samadhi Mandir.
Once you complete the darshan in Samadhi Mandir, there are many other attractions inside the Samadhi Mandir premises itself.
Exit from the Samadhi Mandir lead you to Gurusthan. This is a place with big neem tree where baba appeared sitting for the first time to the village people. Also, this is the place where baba referred it as Gurusthan (Where his guru is located). And, dhuni is located just behind the neem tree.
There is a museum organized by Sansthan in the same premises which displays the different articles/costumes used by the Shri Sai Baba. A book shop is located in the same premises where devotees can buy books published by Sansthan at nominal prices. One can buy baba displayed pendants in silver and gold from souvenir shop. Devotees can collect dhuni from a counter located just near to souvenir shop. Further, when you move ahead from book shop, one can see the well used by the baba.
Attractions for kids
- Tanga ride (Horse cart) can be exciting for kids. They enjoy watching the city in the tanga ride.
- There are many hotels with kids play area, which can be chosen to stay while booking.
- Sai Ashram is a big spacious dormitories, where kids can play outside.
There are many many souvenir shops available around the samadhi mandir temple. The main attractions are sculptures of Shri Sai Baba. Further, one can find attractive pooja items such as bronze deepams and spiritual books etc. Also, there are many toys available for kids in these shops.
Tourist attractions around Shirdi
- Shani Shingnapur: This place is located around 40KM from Shirdi. There are ample number of autos/cabs available to/from Shirdi. A very nice temple with no roof top dedicated to lord shanishwara is located in this place. On the way to Shani Shingnapur, one can enjoy the sugar cane juice/fresh pomegranate fruits/Guava fruits.
- Grishneshwar: Situated at a distance of 105KM from Shirdi,Grishneshwar jyotirlinga is 12th out of the 12 jyotirlingas mentioned in shiva mahapuranam. Devotees can directly touch the shivalinga and perform pooja/abhishekam inside the temple. Male devotees to visit the garbhalayam without the shirt.
- Ellora caves: Located very close to Grishneshwar temple, Ellora caves is one of the world heritage sites identified by UNESCO. These are the one of the largest rock-cut monasteries dedicated to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.
- Trimbakeshwar: Around 116.7KM from Shirdi, this isalso one of the 12th jyotirlingas situated near Shirdi. The temple is located between three hills namely Brahmagiri, Nilagiri and Kalagiri. A sacred pond located in the temple premises is the source of Godavari River. The temple architecture is very nice and i recommend devotees to spare little extra time for this temple as just sitting in this beautiful premises gives a lot of peace of mind.
- Do not buy peeled fruits such as pomegranate seeds from local people on roadside. For me, it looks unhealthy as I observed the place they keep/peel fruits is not hygienic.
- Do not miss visiting the museum located in the Samadhi Mandir premises. Visiting museum will make devotees feel the real presence of baba.
- Baba can be seen even from outside the Samadhi Mandir through a small window.
- Local shop vendors around the temple interacts with devotees explaining the temple timings, darshan facilities etc. and offer devotees to leave their cheppals and baggage in their shops. Though I never felt the baggage or cheppals were left unsafe, the worst part was that they force devotees to buy some prasadam/flower garland/souvenir from their shops. It is always suggested to leave the chappals/baggage in the counters organized by the Sansthan.
- Toilets are located inside the samadhi mandir. Drinking water is too available in the premises.
- Mobile phones/cameras are not allowed inside the temple.
- Do not forget to visit Dwarkamai and chavadi.