It was just past twelve, I was standing outside the temple complex on the main road which is known as the Nagar-Manmad Road. A tempo trax was ready to leave. There will be many of these vehicles which will be making that last ditch effort to get that one last passenger. A lone pilgrim was an easy prey. Around three taxi drivers literally pounced on me. I took the first tempo trax which already had around 13 pilgrims, I was supposed to be the 14th one excluding the driver. I was squeezed next to the driver. Seeing a question mark on my face the driver said with a twinkle in his eye, "Sir! this vehicle is like pushpak vimana, how many ever you put, there will be one place left." Our so called pushpak vimana lumbered out of Shirdi for a divine trip to Trayambakeshwar.Half an hour into the journey, I was able to decipher that the language spoken in the vehicle was a mixture of Kannada and Tamil. It was an assortment of two families comprising three generations who had come from Bengaluru. A grandpa with grey hair, trimmed beard and a flowing white kurta was passionately describing Nashik in a dialect which I can call Kannadized Tamil peppered with lot of English, catering to the whole group of inquisitive audience. I was able to pick up bits and pieces of the gyan, being Telugu myself. The poor driver had no inkling what wisdom was being imparted in his vehicle. Grandpa said with passion dripping from his eyes, "Nashik is a place sanctified by Lord Rama, mother Sita. You can feel their presence in every inch of it. Panchavati, Kalaram Temple, temple of mother Godavari and of course dip in holy Godavari are a must." He continued, "Do you know how the name Nashik came?" He quickly replied gauging that none in the group were wise enough, "Surpanakha's nose was cut here, hence the name Nashik meaning nose." I had to do a 180 degree turn with my neck to enjoy his expressions.The heat was taking its toll on all the inmates of the trax. One hour into the journey, the driver said, "Let's stop for a refreshing sugarcane juice." He stopped at a small roadside outlet made with a temporary tarpaulin roofing and we beheld a peculiar sight. An ox was our host, diligently churning sweet juice out of sugarcane.
Samadhi Mandir- This is where Shirdi Baba's mortal remains are kept. When you enter the Samadhi complex, don't forget to have a look at the wall in the enclosure before entering the sanctum sanctorum. This has all the rare photographs and paintings of the devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba. It takes anywhere from half an hour to 5- 6 hours depending on the rush. Dasara, Diwali, New year, Gurupoornima, Ramanavami, Summer Vacation time witness particularly heavy crowds.Dwaraka Mayi- This according to me is really special as Baba spent his whole life in Dwaraka Mayi. He said that stepping into the Dwaraka mayi will remove all your afflictions. As soon as you enter, there is a dhuni (sacred fire) burning continuously from the time Baba lit it.
We reached Shirdi at 1030hrs & straight away entered in the temple premises. Sai Baba Temple is one of the richest temples in the India. Both Shirdi & Shani Shingnapur comes under the Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra (not to be confused with the Gujarat one). The first timer should always wary of local shop owners or touts. After entering the premises, you need to submit your electronics items i.e. camera, mobile along with your Shoes/ slippers to designated counters at a nominal fee (do carry your photo IDs). For those who don’t have the luxury of VIP Passes, they can get the free passes from the counter. Each & every person has to obtain their pass by themselves as they either take your retinal scan or click your photo then generate the pass. A certain no of batch can only go in the certain time period for “Darshan”. One should check from which gate no. is their entry as mentioned in the pass.We joined the Queue at around 1100hrs & finished at 1400hrs. It took us 3 hours to do the “Darshan” of Sai Baba. Being stuck in the Queue was a tedious job, & we realized it in the middle that our timing of reaching there was not good. Apparently, they do the Prayers at around 1130hrs so for approximately 45 minutes “Darshan” was stopped. We got amused by the way the queue took us, the layout is such to cross one room, one has to take the 4-5 round of the same area.Finally, we found ourselves in main temple hall to see the Sai Baba. Seeing was way quicker than waiting for it, as security personnel was trying to rush each of the persons over there. Sai Baba statue is placed in the middle, & one can do the “Darshan” either by from front or through the sideways. The priests will help you out in placing the flowers, garlands or sheets.There is also the small “Pratishtha” of Sai Baba outside of the main premises along with the Sai Shrine. I realized it was the debatable question sometimes back that is Sai was a Hindu or Muslim.While exiting, do note that from which main entrance gate you entered first, otherwise chances are you will have to roam around unnecessary to find that idle gate (same happened with us, we were walking or say jumping barefoot in that heated floor to reach our desired gate).We didn’t explore the market as we were getting late, so we decided to straight away go to Shani Shingnapur.