Shirdi Sai Baba | Blessed Soil of Shirdi & Shirdi Sai

Blessed Land

Bhagwan Sri Shirdi Sai Baba

Om Sri Sai Ram

" Verily Shirdi is my Pandharpur and Sai Baba is Lord Vittal. Pure and unalloyed devotion (which flows at Shirdi) is the River Chandrabhaga; mindful awareness in the hearts of devotees in Shirdi is the holy locus where Bhakta Pundalik is ensconced. Attention one and all! Come, come quickly and make obeisance to Sai Baba! "

--Das Ganu Maharaj (Shirdi Noon Arati, psalm No. IV)

Sai Baba is omnipresent ! The Supreme Lord is everywhere. Why does one need to go all the way to Shirdi to worship him? You can do that wherever you are!" This is the "advice" that many Sai devotees who frequently visit Shirdi very often encounter from their elders, friends and relatives. No doubt the advice not only reflects sound philosophical wisdom but also conforms to what Baba used to say, "Those who think that Baba is a person with a three-and-a-half cubit body or that I am present only in Shirdi haven't seen me at all!" The essential purport of Baba's wonderful deeds and dictum is to make us experience his presence shining in all beings everywhere or, to put it in Baba's words, "wherever you look". To have that "look" should be the object and vision of a Sai devotee. All religions, however, stipulate in one form or other, that seekers should bathe in sacred waters, make pilgrimages to important shrines and visit saints, their tombs or the places where they dwelled. Indian epic literature is permeated with eulogies to such sacred places. The Islamic tradition dictates that every Muslim should make the pilgrimage to Mecca (haj) at least once in a lifetime. The Sufi tradition places great importance on taking refuge in saints and visiting their dargahs (tombs). Aithareya Brahmanam says, "There is no happiness for a person who does not make a pilgrimage. Any individual, however noble he or she may be, inevitably errs. Indra is the friend of one who undertakes a pilgrimage. So, go thou on pilgrimage!" The scriptures, on the one hand exhort us to realize the One which is everywhere and present in all living beings, and on the other hand insist on visiting holy places! How could these two seemingly opposite stands be reconciled?

Apart from what is said in the scriptures, going on pilgrimage is also an example set for us by great sages. The Puranas say that saints and even gods used to stay in sacred places for tapas. Great teachers of Vedanta such as Adi Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva and Vallabha travelled at length to various holy places with fervent zeal. It is worth noting that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was blissfully immersed in the ocean of Krishna devotion and saw the form of his Lord everywhere, made enthusiastic and frequent visits to holy places, as did other great ones, such as Meerabai, Jnaneshwar Maharaj, Sant Namdev, Tukaram Maharaj, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and others. It is obvious that they undertook pilgrimages not because they were unable to see God otherwise! Not only did these great ones travel to holy places with great enthusiasm, but they counselled others to make a point of frequently undertaking such pilgrimages. The Varkari tradition, which was instrumental in spreading Panduranga bhakti, was established by Jnaneshwar Maharaj and Namdev, and popularized by sants such as Eknath and Tukaram. The tradition enjoins that every seeker should undertake a pilgrimage to Pandharpur at least once a year. The Marathi word varkari means "one who makes a pilgrimage". The importance given to pilgrimage is evident in the name given to the tradition. It is a pilgrimage which is both external and internal. The purpose of the external journey is to have darshan of Lord Vittal in Pandharpur, and thereby to have his darshan inwardly (i.e. to experience his presence) in all beings everywhere.

The sacred Godavari River, which has its source a few kilometres away from nearby Nasik, flows not far from Shirdi. Pilgrims coming from the direction of Manmad/Kopergaon have to cross the river near Kopergaon. Visitors to Shirdi often take a dip in its holy waters. Geographically, Shirdi is also linked to the pilgrim sites of Nasik, Pandharpur and Gangapur. Maharashtra itself has a long and rich tradition of poet-saints - Jnaneshwar, Namdev, Janabai, Eknath, Tukaram (several of whose psalms have been incorporated into the Shirdi aratis), and Sufi saints, so it is fitting that Sri Sai Baba should have appeared here and further blessed the land. Any visitor alighting at Shirdi today will find it abuzz with devotional activity and energy, day and night. Moreover, many new buildings have been constructed in the last few years and the Sri Sai Baba Sansthan recently completed its grand master-plan for the reconstruction of the Temple Complex. What emerged is an elegant and spacious complex, fulfilling the purpose of paying homage to Baba and enabling visitors to experience his presence in a more congenial environment. Though still not much more than a village, Shirdi these days is filled with hotels, lodges, places to eat, travel agencies, booths broadcasting devotional music, and small shops selling flower garlands, incense, puja materials, books on Sai Baba, cards of Sai Baba, pictures of Sai Baba, statues of Sai Baba... and an ever-expanding variety of souvenirs: in short, everything to facilitate a pilgrim's visit - for life in Shirdi revolves almost exclusively around Sai Baba. Wherever you turn, you are reminded that this was where Sai Baba spent his life; it was here that the saint settled; it was from here that he influenced and moulded the lives of countless human beings; and it was from here that a divine influence has emanated, so powerful, so mysterious and so irresistible, that it drew - and draws - millions to it. Pulled by the magnetic force of Sai Baba, a tangible sense of the sacred, and a thrill of recognition that the divine is immanent and is responding to our prayers and needs, the number of pilgrims visiting Shirdi is increasing at a phenomenal rate. When G. S. Khaparde, one of the prominent contemporary devotees of Sri Sai Baba, remarked, "Sai Baba fulfils my idea of God on earth," he was expressing the sentiment and experience of many. This continues to be the reality for those who are fortunate enough to come into contact with Sai Baba, and Shirdi is the place where this reality can be most deeply and immediately experienced.

May The Lord of Shirdi , The Ever Merciful Lord , The Auspicious One , The Deen Dayala Bless you .

Om Sai Ram

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