Brief Sketch Of Shirdi Temple
The Sri Shirdi Sai Temple is built over the Samadhi or the grave of Shri Sai Baba in the village of Shirdi situated in the Ahmednagar district in the state of Maharashtra in India. The temple was initially built in the year 1922 by the devotees of Sri Sai Baba to continue to carry out services to him even after his death.
The eternal spiritual presence
The Shirdi temple has great implications to people of all faith who flock there to seek his blessings. Just as when he was alive and sought to educate his disciples with his philosophy of shradda and saburi that is faith and compassion, even in death he continues to bestow his blessings. Sai Baba is said to have never returned anyone who came to him empty handed during his lifetime. Similarly the devotees firmly believe that a darshan at this holy temple will fulfill all their material needs. Baba is believed to be omnipresent and manifesting in different ways to the believer.
The main deity
The presiding deity of the Sri Sai temple is of course that of Sri Sai. While he was alive, Baba had promised his devotees that he would always be active and alive among them even from his tomb. The omnipresence of Baba is felt by each devotee before his statue that touches the lives of millions that come to have Shirdi temple darshan. The serene look of the Shirdi temple imagaes of Baba with his blessing posture ensures that no one returns untouched by having a darshan of his living presence.
The marble idol
The idol of Sai Baba is a white Italian Marble statute where Baba is sitting in a relaxed posture with his natural majestic grace with a most benevolent look towards his devotees. The most impressive part of the statue of Baba is the lifelike eyes with which he gazes mercy upon his devotees. The face is said to have been sculpted by on the inspiration of that the maker had in his dream when Baba appeared to him to give him an elaborate understanding of the different angles of his face. The statue of Baba is dressed in expensive costumes and a gold crown adorns his head.
The dedicated shrine
The main shrine of Shridi is dedicated to the Sai Baba and there are no immediate shrines within the complex. The main shrine has a golden cone shaped top on the outside flanked by four smaller structures that too are covered by golden plates. The main entrance leads the devotees directly to the Samadhi of Sai Baba before which the white marble statue of the Shridi Sai is kept.
Daily worship rituals
The image of Sai Baba is given the due honor that he used to be given during his life time. Every day in the morning at 4 am Baba is woken up and his mosquito net is removed following which incense is offered to him. After this the ritual abhishek is offered to Bab during which he is bathed in hot water, curd milk and ghee. His clothes are changed four times during the day before the elaborate arati. He is adorned with silver or a golden crown during the arati.
The arati is held at 4.30 am, at noon, at sunset around 6.30 pm and finally at 10.30 pm. He is offered breakfast, lunch and dinner and at night a mosquito et is spread over his hung above his statue and a kaffan like white cloth is placed on the tomb. To assure his comfort, a glass of plain water is kept next to him too. Each Thursday a Palki with Bab’s photo is taken out of the temple in procession. The Shirdi temple timing for Darshan is from 5 am to 10 pm.
Celebration of the special days
There are three main festivals that are celebrated with much fervor in Shirdi. They are Rama Navami that is celebrated in March – April, Gurupurnima in the month of July and Vijaya Dashami in September. Each of these special celebrations are held for three to four days. There are elaborate Shirdi temple puja program during these festivals along with singing of bhajans and public reading of scriptures and devotional texts. There are also exuberant and elaborate palanquin processions along with the Rath or the chariot to take Baba around the village. During these special occasions the Samadhi Mandir remains open all night long for the teeming millions of devotees to have a darshan of Baba.
The festival on Ramnavami is a special occasion in which Sai Baba himself took part and asked for the festival to continue for more than a day. It was originally the Urus during which Ramnavami was celebrated with Baba in 1912 and since then the festival has grown much in magnitude. Gurupurnima is an occasion when the devotee honors her or his guru and seek special blessing and this is especially for each disciple of Sri Sai. The ritual of worshipping Baba was stated in 1908 when he was still alive. Baba left his earthly abode on the Vijaya Dashami day and it is on this day that his Samadhi Mandir was inaugurated and is celebrated with much fervor.
The holy pilgrimage
A pilgrimage to the Shirdi Sai Tmeple is a must for all devotees who have felt the presence of the Omnipresent Sai in their lives. Baba came to serve humanity during his lifetime curing diseases, helping people live a better life and educating them on religious tolerance. People flock to serve Baba with the clothes, fruits and sweets at this Samadhi Mandir and receive his blessings. A glimpse of the serene image of Bab at the temple fills the devotee with inner grace. It is a grace to obtain the Shirdi temple prasad from the temple kitchen as ladoos.