Home and seat of the revered, legendary saint, Sai Baba, Shirdi is one of the most sacred and popular Hindu pilgrimage sites in India. Sitting in the heart of Maharashtra, the shrine of Sai Baba Devasthan is visited by hundreds of thousands of devotees every day, from all over the country, and even from international locations. Even the natural landscape of the town and its surroundings along with the divine vibes attracts travelers to discover this holy destination.
Whether you are traveling for pilgrimage, or with the agenda of simply discovering the mystical town, you can make your travel worthwhile by keeping a few points in mind. Here’s a handy guide to help you plan and conduct your Shirdi trip successfully.
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Pick the right time to travel.
Being located in central Maharashtra, the town of Shirdi and its adjoining areas experience harsh temperatures. Summers are very hot and dry with temperatures running as high as above 40 degrees (Celsius). Winter and spring months, between November and February, are typically the best time when most people plan their Shirdi trips. Alternatively, you can also travel during monsoon, when the rains bring down the temperatures and also enhance the greenery, making it more conducive to explore the outdoors or explore other areas nearby. When planning your travel schedule, you also need to check if it coincides with any major festival or religious date. The temple receives a high influx of pilgrims during Gurupurnima, Dussehra, and Ram Navami.
Choose the time of the day to visit.
When finalizing your travel dates, also keep in mind that Thursdays are a special day at the temple of Sai Baba and attracts more crowd than other days of the week. Unless it’s your heartfelt desire to visit on a particular day, you might want to skip these days or occasions, especially if you are visiting for the first time.
The best time of the day to visit the temple is during any of the aarti held at the temples. There are typically four sessions of aarti starting at 5 AM and ending at 10.30 PM.
Find the right mode of transportation.
Shirdi is well connected to the nearby metros of Mumbai and Pune and other major cities of Maharashtra. The distance from Mumbai to Shirdi is about 238 KM and from Pune, it is about 185 KM. Typically, it takes approximately five hours, which can be quite a long one and exhausting, if you don’t find the right mode of travel. While there are numerous trains and buses plying to Shirdi from neighboring towns and cities, it is more convenient to hire a cab from your place of origin. The Mumbai to Shirdi taxi fare is cheap and you can easily book online. You can also opt for tour/pilgrimage packages which will include a roundtrip journey and local tours.
Opt for suitable accommodation.
When booking your hotel, ensure you are near the temple or other sightseeing places, so you can travel back and forth easily. You can also opt for a stay at the Sai Baba Sansthan, provided they have a vacancy. When staying at the temple community’s guest houses, opt for locker facility to safeguard your belongings. It is better not to carry any valuables when traveling, and even if you do, the lockers, which come for a nominal fee, can come in handy.
Apart from these, there are a few other points to remember when traveling around Shirdi.
- The queues for aarti and darshan can stretch for hours. You can easily cut down on the waiting time, especially when traveling with children and seniors, by registering online. You can fill up an online form and pay a fee of Rs 100 (or Rs 500 for aarti) and skip the long queues. There are also special entrance options for seniors and people with disabilities.
- In case you are visiting Shirdi during Ram Navami, don’t miss watching the palanquin procession that starts from Dwarkamai and ends at the Samadhi Temple.
- A trip to Shirdi is incomplete without visiting its neighboring pilgrim town of Shani Shignapur, and the ancient religious site of Devgad Khandoba Mandir in Sangamner.
- If you are traveling directly from Mumbai or Pune airports, you can book directly from Pune airport or book any affordable Mumbai airport cab.
- Be careful of pickpockets at the temple queues, especially during aarti or special religious occasions, when the temple receives heavy crowd.
- Lookout for imposters who pose as ‘real devotees’ or ‘descendants’ of Sai Baba and try to fleece pilgrims.
The idea of visiting a holy town is to fulfill your need for divine intervention or to satisfy your soul. So, ensure that your trip yields the results that you expect. You can only do it when you plan your trip well. And the rest, as they say, is destiny.