Last to last week I went on , I want to call it pilgrimage , but will rather call a vacation to Shirdi and Nashik.
|Procession of Shirdi Sai Baba|
Shirdi is the abode of Sai Baba, who was an Hindu saint and Muslim fakir, i.e. someone who is followed by both Hindus and Muslims alike. In fact there is a story that when he died , Hindu and Muslims started fighting for his body. Muslims said he is Muslim so they will bury him and Hindus said no he is Hindu so will have a funeral pyre for him. So in order to prevent the communal riots ,his dead body turned into roses. People call him an incarnation of God. My family is his ardent follower and had long wished to pay a visit to his holy land. I don't know whether he was an incarnation or God himself but at least what I really appreciate about him is the social work that he did for the poor people. The way he served and loved people irrespective of their caste ,creed or financial status is really commendable and worth following.
The day after we reached was Ram Navami, the Birthday of Lord Ram, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This day is also auspicious for devotees of Sai Baba and is celebrated as Shirdi Divas. On this day there were close to 25 lakh devotees in Shirdi and everywhere we could see processions carrying Idols of Sai Baba like the one I clicked above.
The day we reached was comparatively less crowded and we could have darshan within an hour or two otherwise it almost takes 5-6 hours to have darshan.
On the evening of the day we reached we went to another pilgrimage nearby by the name of Shani Singhnapur (Pic shown below)
Shani Dev is also one of the 300 million Gods we worship and is the most feared of the Gods because of his anger. Shani Singhnapur is around 75 kms from Shirdi and it costs you around 100Rs for a round trip on the numerous taxis that ply between Shirdi and Singhnapur. The interesting thing about Singhnapur is that there are no doors on the houses and shops around the temple. In fact there is no door on the bank building thats nearby. Such is the ferocity of Shani Dev that no one can dare to do anything wrong.
So as I was saying, on Ram Navami day there were close to 2.5 million devotees in Shirdi so we knew that we can't do much at Shirdi , so we decided to go to Nashik, which is around 95 kms from Shirdi and costs you Rs 200 for a complete tour to Nashik and Trimbakeshwar Jyotirlinga which is further 35 Kms from Nashik.
Before going to Shirdi , I din't know much about Nashik and just thought of it as some important city of Maharashtra, but on reaching there I found out not only its one of the place where the Khumb happens every 12 years but mythologically its one of the most important city of India. Nashik is situated on the bank of Godavari and is also the place of Sangam of three rivers , Godavari, Aruna and Varuna. Below pics show the sangam point.
Nashik is one of the most important place in Hindu mythological epic Ramyana. It contains the place named Panchavati where Lord Ram, Goddess Sita and Lakshman spend their exile as per the wish of Ram's step mother Kaekai. And this was from where Goddess Sita was kidnapped by Demon king Raavana and taken to his kingdom in Lanka (modern day Sri Lanka) and thus leading to Lord Rama attacking Raavana's kingdom to kill him and bring back his wife. Actually Nashik got its name from the fact that when Raavana's sister Surpanakha tried to force Lakshmana to marry him, he cut down his nose and it fell on the bank of river Godavari and thus the place was named Nashik (Nas coming from nasal or nose).
|Krypaleshwar , Nashik|
Above is the picture of another temple named Kripaleshwar at the same point, which got its name from the following story. Lord Brahma who is the creator of this earth according to Hindu mythology, had 4 heads in 4 directions and due to his lust for the lady who was born from his navel (hence was considered his daughter) he created a fifth head on the top. Lord Shiva then cut that head and as Brahma was God , it was still considered as a sin and thus was advised by his devotee Nandi Bull to seek solace and remittance at Nashik and the temple was named in honor of Nandi Bull as Kripaleshwar (Lord of Fore head as he gave that good advice.)
|KaleRam Mandir , Nashik|
Above is the picture of Kale Ram mandir (Lord Rama in black marble) at Panchavati and there was a similar temple named Gore Ram and that was from where Goddess Sita was kidnapped. Also at Panchavati there was a cave in which the real Goddess Sita was hidden and Raavan only took an illusion of her along with him.
From there we went to Trimbakeshwar(pic above) which is a Jyotirling. Jyotirlinga is a shrine of Lord Shiva where he exists as linga of light which is attained as the highest form of spiritualism. There are total of 12 Jyotirlinga in India. And I have been to 5 of these already.
All in all a very spiritual and enlightening trip and truly recommended to all. Although I was little disappointed by the commercialization of Shirdi but nevertheless a nice place to visit to experience various aspects of faith that people have in this world.