Sai Baba of Shirdi was a crown jewel among Saints. He lived his entire life out in a small and obscure village in India. The villagers of Shirdi each claimed him as a member of their own religion, Muslim or Hindu, but really he came to make peace between them and he always encouraged each to stick to his own religious path. He drew devotees from all over the country though he never traveled and never cared for fame. Over and over his devotees found he knew their innermost thoughts and details of their lives. He effected cures, conferred health, happiness, and prosperity, and made childless couples conceive. His real purpose though was to awaken in them a longing for the spiritual life. Thousands thought of him as a wonderful saint with miraculous powers but his innermost circle knew him to be in incarnation of God himself. Some said of Datta, others of Shiva, still others saw ecstatic visions of their own beloved Guru or chosen Ishta (personalized icon of God) while gazing at Him. He himself said only that he was the humble servant of God and pleased and furthered all who came in contact with him. Many books have been written about Shirdi Sai Baba but the Shri Sai Satcharita, the story of Sai Baba's life and actions (quoted from below) was written in his own lifetime and is best known among Sai devotees. Just before leaving his body he told a disciple he would be reborn in a certain village 8 years hence and so it came to pass. (See section on Sathya Sai Baba.)
Sai Baba was first seen as a youth of sixteen sitting under a neem tree in Shirdi. None knew his origin or past. Even then he seemed to be full of the knowledge of Brahman. He had no desire for worldly objects, even in dream. He kicked out Maya (illusion) and Mukti (illumination) was serving at his feet. This young lad, fair, smart, and very handsome, was first seen under a Neem tree seated in an Asan (meditative posture). The people of the village were wonderstruck to see such a young lad practicing hard penance, not minding heat and cold. By day he associated with none. by night he was afraid of nobody. People were wondering whence that young chap turned up. His form and features were so handsome that a mere look endeared him to all. He went to nobody's door, always sat near the Neem tree. Outwardly he looked very young; but by his action He was really a great soul. He was the embodiment of dispassion and an enigma to all.
A saint name Gangagir who frequented Shirdi said of him on first setting eyes on him "Blessed is Shirdi, that it got this precious jewel". Another saint by name Anandanath said "This is a precious diamond in reality, though he looks like an ordinary man. You will realize this in the near future."
Peace or calm was his ornament and he was the repository of wisdom. He had no love for perishable things and was always engrossed in self-realization. He did not know or care for honor or dishonor. The name of Allah was always on his lips. His inside was as calm as the deep sea. Though he sat in one place, he knew all the transactions of the world. Though a Siddha (realized being), he acted like a sadhaka (disciple on the spiritual path). He was meek, humble, and pleased all.
Shirdi is a town and falls under the jurisdiction of municipal council popularly known as Shirdi Nagar Panchayat, located in Rahata Tahasil (i.e. taluka) in Ahmednagar District in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is accessible via the Ahmednagar - Manmad State Highway No.10, approximately 83 km from Ahmednagar and 15 km from Kopargaon. It is located 185 km east of the Western Seashore line (the Ahmednagar - Manmad road), which is a very busy route. Shirdi is best known as the late 19th century home of the popular guru Shirdi Sai Baba.
Shirdi is located approximately 296 km from Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra in India. It is called the Land of Sai. Helicopter services are available to Shirdi. The helipad is owned by Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust. One has to take the permission of the trust to land here. Shirdi now has a new railway station called "Sainagar Shirdi", which became operational in March 2009. The project was to be completed in 2001, but was actually completed only in 2009 due to various reasons. The new railway station is located just 2 km from Baba's Temple in Shirdi. The Shirdi Sansthan also provides bus transportation from the train station to their guest houses for those devotees that have chosen to reserve a room and stay at the newly constructed Sansthan guest houses (for most updated information pertaining to this, please see the Shirdi Sai Sansthan website).As of 2010, there are trains from Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Mumbai (Maharashtra), Vishakhapatnam via Secunderabad (Andhra Pradesh) and other cities/states that have Shirdi railway station as their terminal stop. This means that devotees can get off the train at the Shirdi railway station and reach Baba's Mandir in less than 10 minutes (unlike in earlier years when one had to take a taxi or bus from Manmad and it took over an hour to reach Shirdi). Most trains arriving at Shirdi now have air-conditioned class, first class, second class and third class compartments, thus providing different levels of comfort and convenience according to the needs and affordability of the devotees. Trains also run from Manmad station which is 58 km from the heart of Shirdi, alternatively from Kopargaon station which is 15 km from Shirdi, or Nashik city, which is 119 km from Shirdi or Nagarsol. Daund railway station is 200 km from Shirdi. Buses and taxis ply from these railway stations and locations to and from Shirdi. Shirdi can be reached by bus from any of the following cities in Maharashtra State (India): Mumbai, Pune, Vashi, Panvel, Thane, Nashik, Akluj, Dhule, Nagpur and Aurangabad. Currently, four-laning of State highway Nagar-Manmad highway is in progress on BOT basis and should be completed by Mid-2010. Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation has been assigned to execute the works of internal roads in Shirdi. Soon, Shirdi will have its own airport by 2012. It is to be located at Kakdi (Kopargaon Tahasil), some 14 km towards south-east of Shirdi. Construction work for airport has commenced this year.
Places to visit
Shani Shingnapur which is a holy place located near Shirdi, is famous for temple of Lord Shani.Sai Baba Sansthan Trust has started work for a new "Sai Garden" based on the life & teachings of Shri Sai Baba on a 25-acre (100,000 m2) campus at Nimgaon-Korhale near Shirdi. It will provide devotees a glimpse of life of Sai Baba along with laser shows, live shows etc.
Shirdi is getting ready for year 2018, the year of 100th anniversary of Shri Sai Baba Punyatithi. It was on the day of Dassera in 1918 that Shri Sai Baba took Samadhi. State Government along with local municipal council & Shri Sai Baba Sansthan have started planning for the 2018. For this they are making a master plan to handle the crowds & create more facilities for staying, ease of darshan in minimum possible time. These planned development has given a boost to Shirdi's infrastructure & overall development in and around Shirdi. In coming years a new Shirdi Urban Development Authority (SUDA)on basis of MMRDA, is to be formed, which will oversee all these developmental works for Shirdi & surrounding 12 villages. Formation of SUDA will make it possible for an integrated development. Looking at this opportunity an increasing number of hospitality groups are entering Shirdi. Taj Gateway, Holiday Inn, ITC Fortune, St.Laurn are some of the properties becoming operational in coming years. Shri Sai Baba Sansthan is also adding to its rooms for devotees. Currently, it is constructing a 1500 rooms "Sai Ashram" behind its Bhakt Niwas (popularly known as 500 rooms).