Shirdi to remain shut indefinitely from Sunday over ‘Sai Baba’s Birthplace’ controversy

The temple town of Shirdi, where the 19th-century saint Sai Baba remained till his death, will be shut for an indefinite period from Sunday. The decision was taken by the administrative body of Sai Baba’s Samadhi to protest against chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s announcement to allot Rs 100 crore for development of Pathri in Parbhani, which is believed to be Sai Baba’s birthplace.

“We have announced to close Shirdi against rumours from January 19. A meeting of villagers will be convened Saturday evening to discuss the issue. Devotees will not face any difficulty if they come to Shirdi,” B Wakchaure of Saibaba Sansthan Trust was quoted.

The local residents are reportedly upset with Thackeray’s announcement and have sought an explanation from the chief minister.

“The locals are unhappy with Thackeray for describing Pathri as the birthplace of Sai Baba. There is no document available about Sai Baba’s birthplace. Sai Baba himself never shared any information about his birthplace or religion during his stay in Shirdi,” Kailasbapu Kote, former trustee of Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust, was quoted.

The temple and all its units like the Sai Prasadalaya, Sai Hospital, Sai Bhaktaniwas and the local medical shops have been kept outside the purview of the bandh.

The buses of Maharashtra State Regional Transport Corporation (MSRTC) and the hotel will also function as usual. However, public transport vehicles are likely to remain off road and could pose hurdles to tourists visiting the temple town by air or by train. The airport is around 15-km from the temple town and railway station is about 2-km away.