Road trip to Shirdi
Last week, we visited Shirdi. It was my first ever visit to the Holy shrine of Shirdi Sai Baba. Although I am not a staunch devotee of Baba, I have been wanting to visit Shirdi for quite some time and when I finally made my tryst with Baba, I was mesmerized. Whether you are a believer or a skeptic, Baba won’t disappoint you. The entire town owes its existence to the presence of his shrine. The influence of Baba is felt in everything and everywhere. Just about every institution or establishment in Shirdi has a name starting with Sai.
We hired a Tavera for this journey. Shirdi is about 220 kilometers from Dombivli, (a suburb in Mumbai) where I live. We started at 3.30 pm and reached Shirdi by about 8 pm. The road trip from Mumbai to Shirdi is a memorable one. That said, only an experienced driver can negotiate the winding roads. The roads are in good condition, so the journey isn’t tough.
Accommodation in Shirdi
We had booked accommodation in one of the lodges run by the Temple trust a couple of days ago. You can find more information here. Shirdi Sai Sansthan runs several lodges where you can find cheap accommodation. We were a group of six adults and four children. We booked 2 rooms that can accommodate five people each. The best part is that a room costs just Rs. 150 /night. It comes with two attached bathrooms and three beds that are large enough for five or more people. If you are willing to spend more, rooms with better amenities are also available in these lodges.
Want to splurge? Well, Shirdi has luxury hotels as well. There are over 250 lodges and hotels in this small town to cater to the needs of millions thronging to it. If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Shirdi, the lodges run of Sai Sansthan are the best choice.
We arrived in Shirdi at about 8 pm and checked into our rooms. Lodges run by Sai Sansthan provide typical Maharashtrian meals (rich, chappathi / puri and dal) free of cost. There are also plenty of restaurants in the vicinity of the temple. After finishing our meals we retired to our rooms and went to bed immediately. We got up at about 1 am, took baths and rushed to the temple. Tens of thousands of people visit Shirdi every day, so if you want to get darshan or see the morning arti (kakad arti), you must be prepared to stand in queue for several hours. The morning arti is considered the most auspicious and starts at 4 am. We were lucky enough to get an opportunity to see it. People start forming the queue from 12 am itself, so be prepared to reach the temple before 3 am if you want to participate in the morning arti.
We completed darshan by about 5.30 am. After completing the darshan, we visited other shrines near the main shrine. There is a Hanuman temple. We also visited Dwarakamai. This is the name of the mosque where Baba lived for 60 years. They have still preserved the objects he used. You also get to see the holy fire (dhuni) that Baba had lit and maintained. It still burns. Baba used to give holy ash (udi) from the dhuni to his devotees. The healing powers of this ash are well documented. Udi is still collected from the dhuni. A small tray of it is also kept near the steps for devotees. Baba loved lamps and fire. He always maintained a fire and had this habit of lighting oil lamps at night. Dwarakamai is the place where Baba performed several miracles. Though it is a simple, unassuming structure, you cannot miss the mystic energy surrounding it. Peace descends on the visitors as soon as they step into it.
After completing the darshan we had breakfast. The temple trust provides tea and coffee for just 2 rupees. You can also buy a breakfast coupon (5 puris) for just 5 rupees. Lunch is provided free of cost at the Prasadalaya. This is a famous building that can seat thousands of people at the same time.
How to reach Shirdi
Shirdi is well connected by roads and rail. Direct trains to Shirdi are available from many towns. If you live in Mumbai or its suburbs, consider booking seats in the Dadar – Sainagar Shirdi Superfast Express train. It leaves Dadar at 9.45 pm and reaches Shirdi at 3.51 am.