How to get to Shirdi:
Nearest airports are Mumbai (260 km), Pune (185 km), and Aurangabad (125 km). Flights for all the major cities in India and abroad can be taken from Mumbai. The nearest railway station is Manmad (60 km) on the Central Railway, which is connected to many parts of the country with express trains. Most of the trains touching Nasik Road railway station also touch Manmad. Shirdi has railway reservation office for trains from Manmad. Taxis and buses are easily available at Manmad railway station for transfer to Shirdi. Regular taxi service also operates between Manmad railway station and bus stand. State Transport Corporation and private operators run coaches to Shirdi from Mumbai. The easiest way to get to Shirdi is by bus. If you fly into the Mumbai airport, hire a taxi (the ones that are in lines at the very front of the airport) to take you to the Dadar Bus Stand. The cost is about Rs.-150 to Rs.-175 (make sure they turn the meter on). There are also people who will try to redirect you to their own “private” taxis. These “private” taxis charge between Rs. 400 to Rs. 600 to take you to the Dadar Bus Stand. At the Dadar Bus Stand, there are long lines of small ticket counters that sell bus tickets to Shirdi. Preferably, try to get an A/C direct bus (Rs.-300). If you are not able to get an A/C direct bus, get a non-A/C direct bus (Rs.-150). Buses leave almost every 3 hours from Mumbai to Shirdi. So your wait will not be long. The buses make about 2 stops for food. The restaurants are non-vegetarian. So make sure you pack some snacks and bottled water for the trip. Keep an eye on your luggage! Try to get a bus that departs before 11am so you will not arrive too late at Shirdi.
Where to stay and eat:
I would personally recommend (for foreigners) to stay at Hotel Neeta. Hotel Neeta is directly across from the Shirdi Temple Complex. Hotel Neeta is also easy to find, close to bus-booking agencies and gift shops. The best vegetarian restaurant I found was a restaurant called Sai Sagar, which happens to be located on the ground floor to Hotel Neeta. I tried various vegetarian restaurants and found Sai Sagar to be the best. Their prices are very reasonable and the food portions are generous. Hotel Neeta costs between Rs.-700 to Rs.-1200 per night (depending on whether you want A/C or Non-A/C rooms or single or double beds). That is approximately $20 US Dollars per night. If you would like to make reservations at Hotel Neeta, you can call them at: 952423-255802 / 255801. For your information, I do not have any sort of relations or contacts with Hotel Neeta. I am simply recommending them from my own personal experiences with them. I also stayed at Sai Leela, which is also a very nice hotel, but I did not like their food and thought it was very expensive for the portion size and quality. Sai Leela is similarly priced as Hotel Neeta. Sai Leela has a swimming pool and is about a 10 minute walk to the Shirdi Temple Complex. On the way to Shirdi, there are many billboards advertising the Sai Leela Hotel, saying the cost for rooms is around Rs.-500. Those billboards are old and the prices are incorrect. If you want a swimming pool, you can stay at Sai Leela and eat at Sai Sagar.
Things to know while visiting Shirdi:
A majority of the people do not speak English inside or outside of the Temple Complex at Shirdi. Most of the people who speak English are the ones who run the larger hotels. Purchase anti-diarrheal medications before you leave to Shirdi. The Temple Complex has two main places for you to keep your shoes (cost is 1 rupee). If you are wearing chappals or sandals, you have to store them at a separate shoe counter. This is perhaps the most confusing part of the ashram. I would suggest you buy some cheap sandals, mark you name on them and find a place to put them in case you get confused about the shoe counters. Just remember where you put your sandals, because when you come out of from the Darshan area, you are on the opposite side of the Temple Complex. I was not able to find any sort of public internet facilities when I was at Shirdi. Shirdi does have telephone services for local, state and international calls. When booking a return bus ticket to Bombay, make sure you get the earliest bus (it takes 7 hours to get to Bombay) and make sure the bus is A/C (costs around Rs.-300). Try to sit on the left hand side of the bus so you can keep an eye on your luggage, which is stored in a compartment below the bus. The boys who sell flowers, pictures and statues can be very stubborn and will literally follow your for hours. If you would like to help them out (most are very poor), make your purchases a few hours prior to leaving Shirdi. Otherwise, you will attract large groups of sellers. A small bundle of roses (about 3-4 roses tied together) costs Rs.-3, if you would like to offer flowers in the temple.
Inside The Sai Baba Temple:
Once you go inside the Temple for Darshan, you can expect long lines if it is a Holy Day. Otherwise, you will not have to wait long at all. Avoid Holy Days (the lines are extremely long and the wait can easily exceed 5 hours). You can expect police officers and Temple workers to be screaming loudly at people to hurry up and move forward. I would suggest you get in the furthest left-hand side line. In that line, you can touch Sai Baba’s actual samadhi and the silver chappals that are located there. You can offer flowers and there are places where you can offer money. As soon as you offer your flowers and touch his samadhi, kindly leave the area. Winters are the best season to visit Shirdi. The months from September to April being the ideal period. The daytime temperature is pleasant during this period, making the days excellent for visiting the tourist attractions of the town. The summers can get very hot (May-August). Make sure you drink bottled water.
Quotes From Sai Baba:
“Be wherever you like, do whatever you choose, remember this well that all what you do is known to Me. I am the Inner Ruler of all and seated in their hearts. I envelope all the creatures, the movable and immovable world. I am the Controller – the wire-puller of the show of this Universe. I am the mother – origin of all beings – the Harmony of three Gunas, the propeller of all senses, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer. Nothing will harm him, who turns his attention towards Me, but Maya will lash or whip him who forgets Me. All the insects, ants, the visible, movable and immovable world, is My Body or Form…” ~Sai Baba
“If a man utters My name with love, I shall fulfill all his wishes, increase his devotion. And if he sings earnestly My life and My deeds, him I shall beset in front and back and on all sides. Those devotees, who are attached to Me, heart and soul, will naturally feel happiness, when they hear these stories. Believe Me that if anybody sings My Leelas, I will give him infinite joy and everlasting contentment. It is My special characteristic to free any person, who surrenders completely to Me, and who does worship Me faithfully, and who remembers Me, and meditates on Me constantly. How can they be conscious of worldly objects and sensations, who utter My name, who worship Me, who think of My stories and My life and who thus always remember Me? I shall draw out My devotees from the jaws of Death. If My stories are listened to, all the diseases will be got rid of. So, hear My stories with respect; and think and meditate on them, assimilate them. This is the way of happiness and contentment. The pride and egoism of My devotees will vanish, the mind of the hearers will be set at rest; and if it has wholehearted and complete faith, it will be one with Supreme Consciousness. The simple remembrance of My name as ‘Sai, Sai’ will do away with sins of speech and hearing…” ~Sai Baba
“Whoever puts his feet on Shirdi soil, his sufferings will come to an end. The wretched and miserable will rise into plenty of joy and happiness, as soon as they climb the steps of my Mosque. I shall be ever active and vigorous even after leaving this earthly body. My tomb shall bless and speak to the needs of my devotees. I shall be active and vigorous even from my tomb. I am Ever living to help and guide all, who come to me, who surrender to me and who seek refuge in me. If you look at me I look at you. If you cast your burden on me, I shall surely bear it. If you seek my advice and help, it shall be given to you at once. There shall be no want in the house of my devotees….” ~Sai Baba
Places To Visit In Shirdi:
Sai Baba’s place Shirdi (Maharashtra State) is a very sacred, powerful and important place of pilgrimage in India.
Khandoba Mandir: This place is near Shirsainath Hospital. Baba stepped here in Shirdi at the foot of banyan tree near Khandoba Temple along with Chand Patil’s wife’s nephew’s marriage party. The then Pujari Mhalsapati welcome Him by calling “Ya Sai”.
Gurusthan Mandir: This is the place where Baba first appeared to the world as a boy of 16 years & this place is supposed to be Baba’s Gurusthan. the famous Margosa (Neem) tree is here. it has a reference in Shri Sai Sat-charita. Devotees claim that their ailments are cured by burning incense here on Thursday & Friday.
Sai Baba’s Samadhi Mandir: This is the place where Sacred Body of Baba is resting in Samadhi. The articles handled by Baba are preserved & displayed here in a special showroom. All rituals consisting of Pooja. Abhishek & daily four Aratis are performed here. The Samadhi Mandir of Shri Sai Baba was actually owned by a millionaire from Nagpur and a famous Sai devotee Shreemant Gopalrao, also known as ‘Butti Wada’. He wanted to keep an idol of Murlidhar there. However, according to the legends, Sai Baba manifested himself as Murlidhar and the temple became the Samadhi Mandir of Baba. The Samadhi of Baba is built with white marble stones. The railings around it are full of ornamental decorations. The idol of Baba is a marvelous statue made up of Italian marble built by Late Balaji Vasant in 1954. The temple has an assembly hall for about 600 devotees. The first floor of the temple has the pictures depicting the life of the saint. The temple opens on 5 AM with morning prayers and close down at 10 PM with night prayers.
Dwarkamai (Masjid): Baba stayed at this place continuously for 60 years. Innumerable devotees got blessing of Baba here. The Shila (Stone) on which Baba used to sit is located nearby. Also Sacred Fire (Dhuni) lit by Baba is ever burning here. Baba used to give Sacred Udi (Ash) to the devotees to solve their problems in life. Udi distributed to the devotees now is only from this Dhuni. Baba used to cook food here for distribution to devotees. Main attraction of the site is the oil paintings of the sage.
Chawdi Mandir: On every alternate day Baba used to proceed in procession from Dwarkamai to this place at night & halt & sleep here. Now also on every Thursday Palanquin procession of Baba’s Photo. Holy Padukas & Satka is taken to this place between 9.15 p.m. & 10.00 p.m. The Chavadi is divided into two parts. One part of the Chavadi has a large portrait of Baba along with a wooden bed and a white chair belonging to him.
Lendi Baug: At some distance from Gurusthan, there is the Lendi Baug. This garden was made and watered daily by Baba himself. It got its name from a nullah (a drain), which used to flow there. Baba used to come here every morning and afternoon and take rest under a neem tree. Baba dug a pit, 2 feet deep, under the neem tree and kept a deep (a lighting object) lit in that pit. An octagonal deepgriha (lighthouse) called Nanda Deep has been built in marble stone in memory of this place. It constantly burns in a glass box. On one side of the deepgriha is a pipal tree and on the other side is a neem tree.
Other Places: The Samadhis of Shri Tatya Patil Kote, Shri Bhau Maharaj Kumbhar, Shri V.Padmanabha Iyer, Shri Nanawali & Shri Abdul Baba who were ardent Bhaktas closely associated with Shri Sai Baba during His life time are located in Sansthan premises near lendhi Baug.
Lendi Baug: This is the place where Shri Sai Baba used to go for stroll. Nandapeep is kept constantly burning near the Pimple tree planted by shri sai Baba Himself. There is also Datta Mandir in this garden & Shri Sai Baba’s deloyed Horse ‘Shamkarna’(Shamsunder) is taking Eternal Rest here. There is also a well here called as ‘Baba’s Shivdi’.
In addition 3 other Temples are in Temples premises complex : 1) Shri Ganesh Temple, 2) Shri Shani Temple & 3) Shri Mahadev Temple
Fairs And Festivals:
The most important festivals and events that are celebrated in Shirdi are Guru Poornima, Dussehra, and Ram Navami. These are the only days when the Samadhi Mandir of Shirdi opens for the whole night. Every Thursday, a palakhi bearing a photograph of the sage is taken out from the temple.
Situated around 5 km from Shirdi is Sakori. The place is home to the Upasini Maharaj. Shanisinghnapur is 70 km from Shirdi. A temple devoted to Shani is located there.