Shirdi - an appellation that has become equivalent to the name of India’s most revered and most worshipped Saint ‘Sai Baba’ infuses immense veneration in the mind of every Indian. Shirdi is a place where one experiences the zenith of piousness, sanctity and devotion.
A small hamlet in the Rahata Taluk of Ahmednagar District, Shirdi is reckoned far and wide as one of the most blessed and consecrated pilgrim destinations of the state of Maharashtra. Shirdi is ordained as the home of ‘Sai Baba’, the greatest spiritual master canonized for his tenderness and benevolence towards every little creature and the miracles he had performed out of compassion for the welfare of all living beings. Sai Baba, worshipped as the ‘Child of God’ is the epitome of religious unity and advocates universal solidarity.
The history of Shirdi as a township or as a pilgrim station is absolutely submerged with the history of Sai Baba. In the late 19th century Shirdi was a very tiny village where a mysterious and miraculous young Fakir alighted from nowhere and found shelter in a mosque. Nobody could learn where had come from, who he was, what his name was and who parented him. This bearded esoteric Yogi gradually became well know due to his charismatic powers. He could magically heal wounds, cure diseases, solve the worldly problems of his disciples and guide and motivate them in their business. His preaching was very pacifying and striking. The sermons that he delivered advocated the oneness of God. He said that there is only one superpower and it is just that he is known by different names by different people. He said that all the religions have similar ethics at their base and everybody, regardless of their cast, creed, material wealth or social status is equal.
This modest and tenderhearted sage grew more and more popular and his extraordinary powers and influential preaching drew numberless followers both Hindus and Muslims. He was deified by people and a villager and the ardent devotee of Sai Baba; ‘Mahalsapathi’ bestowed a laurel upon him – ‘Sai’. Renowned as Sai Baba since then, this Yogi performed many miracles during his lifetime and finally on October 15th, 1918 he departed for his heavenly journey leaving his mortal remains back. Two of the most remarkable doctrines preached by him are, ‘Don’t be afraid because I am with you’ and ‘Believe and be patient’. Even after almost 10 decades of his demise, Sai Baba enjoys the same, or I should say even more respect in the hearts of his devotees. People believe Sai Baba to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. His devotees hold strong faith that on visiting Shirdi, the sacred domicile of Sai Baba, all their problems will be promptly solved.
The Samadhi Mandir, all the time thronged by the devotees is the place where the mortal remains of Sai Baba were buried. The mosque where Sai Baba used to reside is known by the name Dwarkamai. The small town Shirdi concealed till the early 20th century has now engraved its name in golden letters on the world wide spiritual front.