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Where is Shirdi?

In the central state of Maharashtra on the Indian subcontinent lies the small village of Shirdi some 200 miles east of Mumbai (Bombay) and 130 miles north of Pune. It is a rather dry dusty region on a plateau several hundred feet above sea level. The elevation gives it a more even and stable climate than many places on the lower plains.

In the Rahata Taluka of Ahmednagar District, Shirdi is home to about 22,000 people and is the pilgrimage destination of a further eight to ten million a year. It is said to be the most frequented place of pilgrimage in India after Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. And why do people come to this dusty rural corner of India in such vast numbers? To seek the blessings of Sri Saibaba, as they have done for more than one hundred years!

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History of Gurusthan

The gurusthan as Sri Sai described in His own words was the resting place of His Guru, He had called it His ‘Holy Watan’. It was the very spot where Baba had sat and meditated for days on end when He had first come to Shirdi as a lad of merely 16 years. When a few of the local villagers took to digging near this area Baba is said to have told them that it was the place wherein resided the Samadhi (tomb) of His guru. However the references to Baba’s Guru in the Satcharitra being rather ambiguous, it was never established as to whether Baba was referring to a Guru in his present life or past.

The present day Gurusthan is located just behind the Samadhi Mandir of Sri Sai. The single room structure faces the west and its’ three walls are built partly with bricks and partly with grills. A wooden door is placed in the front, which is fitted with a grill, which enables the devotees to have darshan even when the Gurusthan is closed. It was built in such a way as to resemble a small temple complete with the brass bell hung outside. A few paces in front of the temple is a wrought iron container on a pedestal which until recently had a burning fire kindled every day by embers brought from the main dhuni at the mosque, but this is now done only on Thursdays and Fridays, when devotees also burn incense in it. Sri Sai Baba had said that whoever cleans this area and burns incense here on Thursdays and Fridays would be blessed by Allah (as Thursday is sacred to Hindus, and Friday to Muslims). We assume that out of love and respect for his guru, Baba had wished the place to be venerated and kept clean.

Inside this miniature temple is a small but life like statue of Sri Sai in marble as well as a photo of Him. The person who sculpted this statue is the grandson of the sculptor who brought to life the likeness of Baba in the Samadhi Mandir. Inside the temple in front of the statue is a set of small padukas (foot imprints) of Baba carved in marble.

The most striking feature of this sacred abode of Sri Sai’s Guru is the neem tree at the center of the Gurusthan around which the entire structure was built. Inside the temple the trunk of the tree is encased in a wire mesh for protection. It was under this tree that Sri Sai rested for many lengthy hours during his initial years of stay in Shirdi. Hence all Sai devotees attach a great deal of importance to the tree and revere it as sacred. Although neem leaves are said to contain a bitter taste, many devotees have commented that the leaves of this tree are sweet.

During Baba’s lifetime, Gurusthan was completely open and looked quite different from the fully paved and enclosed area it has now be done.

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Significance of Gurusthan

Sri Sai always emphasized on the importance of the Sadguru who would act as a guide along the path that leads to the final destination. He always spoke reverentially and lovingly about his Guru. Thus he regards the resting place of his Guru as sacred and hallowed ground. Thus for all the Sai devotees who look upon Sai Baba as their Sadguru the Gurusthan holds a double prominence. The neem tree inside the Gurusthan symbolizes the loving grace that Sri Sai showers upon all those who seek refuge in him. Sai Baba once commented that his devotees are simply resting in the shade of the neem tree while he bears the brunt of their deeds. Devotees visiting the Gurusthan perform pradakshinas around as an indication of their veneration and also to seek asylum in Baba’s lap away from their difficulties.

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Samadhi Mandir (The Shrine)

This is the most important site in Shirdi and the main focus of Sai worship and devotion, for it is here that we find the samadhi (tomb) of Sri SaiBaba. Before he left the body Baba promised, I shall be active and vigorous even from the tomb and people are drawn

from all over the globe to offer their prayers here and take Baba’s darshan.

Baba took mahasamadhi in 1918. The shrine which houses Baba’s tomb was originally constructed as a private house by a wealthy devotee. The building work was started in 1915 after the devotee had been blessed by a vision of Baba and instructed to do so. The exquisite white marble statue of Baba which sits on the platform around the tomb was installed much later, in 1954.

Arati is offered four times a day in front of the tomb and abhishekam is performed in the early morning. Devotees may enter the Samadhi Mandir via the Queue Complex through out the day until the night arati at 10 p.m., after which the shrine is closed.

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Source by Mahesh Dobariya