In continuance of the centenary year celebrations of Ram Navami in Shirdi, a host of programmes were organized from April 11 to April 13 this year.
The inkling of the celebration starts when the palanquins (Palkhis) start arriving in Shirdi. This year a sum total of 208 palanquins and about 1, 6500 devotees came from Mumbai, Thane and other parts of Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, etc. Shree Sai Sansthan had made provision of mandap, electricity, water, etc. for the stay of these pilgrims from Mumbai to Shirdi at the following locations - Khardi Golbhan, Kasara Bypass, Latif Wadi, Ghoti, Sinnar, Khopdi, Pangari, Vavi, Pathre, Pohegaon, Dushing Wadi, Maldhon Phata, Jhagde Phata and Nimgaon. For the water being provided round the clock, 10 tankers and 23 workers were employed. Along with that mobile emergency medical team was deployed from Sinnar to Shirdi.
On the first day of the celebration, Monday, April 11 at 4.30 a.m. Kakad Aarati was performed. At 5 a.m. Baba’s Pothi, Veena and Photo were taken out in a procession from Samadhi Mandir to Gurusthan to Dwarkamai. In this procession, Trustees Dr. Eknath Gondkar carried the Veena, Shri Ashok Khambekar the Pothi, Shri Pandurang Abhang and Shri Krishnachandra Pandey carried the Photo. Trustees Shri Suresh Wable, Shri Shailesh Kute, President of Shirdi Nagar Panchayat and Sansthan Trustee Smt. Alka Shejwal, local residents and Sai devotees too participated in the procession joyously shouting Baba’s Jay.
When the procession reached Dwarkamai, Shri Sai Sat Charita’s Akhand Parayan (complete reading) was started by Trustee Shri Ashok Khambekar, Sau. Shobhatai Gondkar, Sau. Saraswati Wakchaure, Trustee Dr. Eknath Gondkar and Shri Rahul Shejwal. At 5.20 a.m. Mangal Snan (Holy Bath) was given to Sai Baba’s Statue. At 6.45 a.m. Sansthan’s Vice Chairman Shri Shankarrao Kolhe did Padya Pooja (Pooja to Baba’s Feet).
It is the centenary year of the Sabha Mandap of Dwarkamai. Taking this into account, at 6.30 a.m. Vishnu Yag Yagnya was initiated by Sansthan’s Chairman Shri Jayant Sasane and Vice Chairman Shri Shankarrao Kolhe in the open space in front of Dwarkamai. On the occasion Trustees Shri Pandurang Abhang, Shri Ashok Khambekar, Shri Shailesh Kute, Shri Krishnachandra Pandey, President of Shirdi Nagar Panchayat and Sansthan Trustee Smt. Alka Shejwal, local residents and Sai devotees were present.
After the noon Aarati at 12.30 p.m. Tirth-prasad was distributed. Hari Bhakta Parayan (H. B. P.) Shri Vikram Nandedkar’s melodious Kirtan programme was rendered from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dhoop Aarati was held at 6.30 p.m.
The ‘Vividh Geet Gayan’ programme by Shri Ninad Shukla was held on the stage in Sai Nagar ground. On behalf of the Sansthan, Trustees Shri Shailesh Kute, Shri Suresh Wabale, Shri Pandurang Abhang and Shri Ashok Khambekar felicitated the artistes, who participated in the programme. After that, at 9 p.m. Akashvani (Goa) singer Smt. Shakuntala Bharane’s ‘Sai Bhajan Sandhya’ programme was held on the stage in Sai Nagar ground. On behalf of the Sansthan, Trustee Shri Ashok Khambekar felicitated the participating artistes in the programme. At 9.15 p.m. the Palkhi of Shri Sai Baba was taken in a procession around the village accompanied by musicians playing. Alongwith the Palkhi, the lezim and bhajan groups of Shri Sainath Secondary School’s girl students, Saileela Digital Brass Band, Shirdi, the cymbals band of Sanmitra Yuvak Mandal, sanai and choughada musicians and local bhajan groups, registered their attendance. After the Palkhi entered the temple premises, Shri Subhash Jakhadi, Shri Prakash Bhalerao, Shri Kishore Gagare and Shri Sharad Pathare presented the bharud programme in front of the Palkhi. On this day, Dwarkamai was kept open throughout the night for the Parayan.
Tuesday, April 12 was the main festival day. The Kakad Aarati of Shri Sai Baba was done at 4.30 a.m. At 5 a.m. after the completion of Parayan of Shri Sai Sat Charita, the Shobha Yatra of Baba’s Photo, Sacred Book (Pothi) and Veena was taken from Dwarkamai to Samadhi Mandir. Trustees Shri Suresh Wabale carried the Veena, Shri Shailesh Kute the Pothi and Dr. Eknath Gondkar and Shri Pandurang Abhang carried the Photo and participated in the Shobha Yatra. After the Shobha Yatra arrived in the Samadhi Mandir, Chairman of the Sansthan Shri Jayant Sasane and Trustee Shri Shailesh Kute performed the Kavadi Pooja and a procession was taken out. Baba was then given a Holy Bath. After that, Shri Sasane and Shri Kute performed the worship of Baba’s Holy Feet. On the occasion of the centenary year of the Ram Navami festival, Sansthan’s Trustee and Maharashtra State Minister for Agriculture and Marketing Shri Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, on behalf of the Sansthan, felicitated the producer of the film ‘Shirdi ke Sai Baba’ that promoted and spread the work of Baba – Shri Manoj Kumar Goswami, the producer of Doordarshan serial ‘Sai Baba’ Shri Prem Sagar, the actor who played Sai Baba’s role in the film ‘Shirdi ke Sai Baba’ Shri Sudhir Dalvi.
Sansthan’s Chairman Shri Jayant Sasane, President of Ahmednagar Zilla Parishad Smt. Shalinitai Vikhe Patil, Trustees Shri Suresh Wabale, Shri Pandurang Abhang, Shri Shailesh Kute, Shri Ashok Khambekar, Executive Officer Shri Kishore More and Deputy Executive Officer Dr. Yashwantrao Mane and other dignitaries graced the occasion.
On Ram Navami day, it is a tradition to replace the old sack of wheat with a new sack in Dwarkamai, after performing the ceremonial worship. This year the ceremonial worship of the sack of wheat was performed in the Samadhi Mandir by Sansthan’s Trustee and Maharashtra State Minister for Agriculture and Marketing Shri Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and the President of Ahmednagar Zilla Parishad Smt. Shalinitai Vikhe Patil and then placed in Dwarkamai. Marking the centenary year of the Dwarkamai Sabha Mandap, the ritual worship of the pillar of the Mandap was performed by the Trustees Dr. Eknath Gondkar, Shri Pandurang Abhang and Shri Ashok Khambekar. Marking the centenary year of the Dikshit Wada, the Kalash Pooja at Dikshit Wada was performed ritually by Sansthan’s Trustee and Maharashtra State Minister for Agriculture and Marketing Shri Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and the President of Ahmednagar Zilla Parishad Smt. Shalinitai Vikhe Patil. Sansthan’s Chairman Shri Jayant Sasane, Trustees Shri Suresh Wabale, Shri Shailesh Kute and other dignitaries graced the occasion.
In the morning from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Ram Janma (birth) Kirtan was rendered by H. B. P. Shri Vikram Nandedkar on the temple stage in front of the Samadhi. The noon Aarati was done at 12.30 p.m. Being the centenary year of the Ram Navami festival and the Sabha Mandap of Dwarkamai, this year the cradle of Rama’s birth was placed in the Dwarkamai hall. For this, the hall was decked with attractive flowers. At 1.30 p.m. the total offerings in the Vishnu Yag Yagnya in front of Dwarkamai was completed.
This year too, the annual worship of the Nishans (symbols) brought by the Rasane and Nimonkar families were traditionally performed and placed on the Samadhi. The procession of the Nishans was taken out at 4 p.m. from the Samadhi Mandir first to the house of Late Kondaji Sutar’s ancestral home in front of Sainath Chhaya building. As per the tradition, the worship of the Nishans and Kathi (the stick) was done at that place and the procession was taken through the Palkhi route and near the tomb of Tajim Khan Baba to Dwarkamai. There the Rasane and Nimonkar families placed the Nishans on Dwarkamai. At 5 p.m. the procession of the Chariot was taken through the village and after it returned, the Dhoop Aarati was done and Tirth-prasad was distributed.
After the procession of the Chariot Saileela Brass Band, Sainath Secondary School’s girl students’ lezim and bhajan groups, Sanmitra Yuvak Mandal’s cymbal band, local bhajan mandals, sanai and choughada musicians of Shrirampur and others participated in the procession. After the Chariot Procession arrived in the temple premises, the local artistes Shri Kishore Gagare, Shri Sharad Pathare, Shri Subhash Jakhadi, Shri Prakash Bhalerao, Shri Ulhas Walunjkar and others presented the bharud programme. After that Dhoop Aarati was done.
At 8.30 p.m. the 250 artistes’ grand drama ‘Shirdi ke Sai Baba’ produced by Smt. Asavari Tidke, Sanskar Multi Services of Nagpur was staged on the 5000 sq. feet stage erected in the vast compound of Sainagar. On behalf of the Sansthan, the artistes of this grand drama were felicitated by Sansthan’s Chairman Shri Jayant Sasane, Sau. Rajashri Jayant Sasane, Trustees Dr. Eknath Gondkar, Shri Suresh Wabale, Sau. Sindhutai Wabale, Trustee Shri Ashok Khambekar, Sau. Minal Khambekar, former President of Shirdi Nagar Panchayat and former Trustee of the Sansthan Shri Kailas Kote, the Deputy President of Shirdi Nagar Panchayat Shri Vijay Kote, Councilor Shri Rajendra Kote and Shri Mangesh Tribhuvan. Artistes presented their programmes in front of Sai Baba from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Being the main day of the festival, the Samadhi Mandir was kept open for Darshan throughout the night.
On Wednesday, April 13, the concluding day of the festival, after the Holy Bath of Sai Baba, a small Aarati ‘Shirdi majhe Pandharpur’ was sung. After that, worship of the Holy Feet of Baba was done by Trustee Smt. Rimpal Lohia. On this day Rudrabhishek was done by Trustees Shri Ashok Khambekar and Smt. Rimple Lohiya at Gurusthan. Being the centenary year of Shri Ram Navami festival, Rudrabhishek of Sai Baba’s Samadhi in the Samadhi Mandir was done from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. H. B. P. Shri Vikram Nandedkar presented the Gopal Kala Kirtan.
At 12 noon the Dahi Handi was broken. After that, the noon Aarati was done. Trustee Shri Ashok Khambekar felicitated H. B. P. Shri Vikram Nandedkar on behalf of the Sansthan for presenting melodious Kirtan programmes on all the three days of the festival.
Dhoop Aarati was done at 6.30 p.m.
At 7 p.m. ‘Sai Bhajan Sandhya’ programme was presented by Smt. Mita Pandit of Delhi on the stage in Sainagar ground. Trustees Dr. Eknath Gondkar, Shri Suresh Wabale and Shri Ashok Khambekar felicitated the artistes, who participated in this programme. After that, at 9.30 p.m. cine singer Shri Nitin Mukesh presented his ‘Vividh Geet Gayan’ programme on the stage in Sainagar ground. Artistes participating in this programme were felicitated by Trustees Shri Suresh Wabale, Dr. Eknath Gondkar, Shri Ashok Khambekar and administrative officer Shri Ramesh Sabale. On the occasion of the festival, under the auspices of the Sansthan and the Shirdi villagers a grand wrestling tournament was jointly organized. The first prize winner of the tournament, wrestler Machindra Jape was presented the ‘Shri Sai Kesari’ title and cash prize of Rs.51,000 on behalf of the Sansthan by Trustees Dr. Eknath Gondkar, Shri Suresh Wabale and Shri Ashok Khambekar. More than 100 wrestlers including female wrestlers participated in the wrestling tournament this year.
Devotees were spellbound viewing the Mahadwar (grand gateway) displaying scenes from the life of Shri Sai Baba at the main entrance done by Dwarkamai Mandal of Mumbai. LED screen was installed on the Mahadwar, on which facility to view all the programmes in the Samadhi Mandir was provided. The electric lighting done by the Mandal in the Samadhi Mandir and the temple premises drew the attention of all devotees. The artistes, who did the decorations were felicitated with a shawl and coconut by the Sansthan’s Executive Officer Shri Kishore More and Deputy Executive Officer Dr. Yashwantrao Mane. Trustee Smt. Rimpal Lohia donated for the attractive floral decorations of the Samadhi Mandir and the premises. TV 9 Maharashtra and Star Majha did live telecast of the festival.
On the first day of the festival sheera was included as the sweet dish in the Prasad meal, jalebi on the second day and bundi on the third day. To enable everyone to get the ‘motichoor ladoo’, considering the massive turnout, 150 quintals of sugar ladoos were prepared.
On all the three days of the festival, free Prasad meal was served in the Sai Prasadalay, from donations made by Shri Naman Ahuja and Shri Narendra Rishi of Delhi, Shri M. Bharat Kumar and Smt. M. V. N. Malleshwari of Vijaywada, Shri R. Annapurna, Shri R. Ramkumar and Shri R. Krishna of Vishakhapatnam, Smt. Jakka Bhaskarrao of Machhalipatnam, Smt. Radha Hirji Thakkar and Shri Shantilal Ambalalal Joshi of Ahmedabad, Shirdi Sai Sevak Mandali Charitable Trust of Kantipur (Orissa), Shri Madhukar Baburao Kalanke of Nasik, Shri Suryaprakash Druvedi and Shri Srivastav Druvedi of Varanasi, Shri Rajendrakumar Garg of Jevara, Kailas Reramic of Gujarat, Sai Properties (Chandigadh), Shri Balasaheb Tukaram Gondkar of Shirdi’s Sai Chhaya Group, Shri Devanand Gunjal of Nanded and villagers of Shirdi.
During the three days of the festival, 1,79,706 Sai devotees took the benefit of Prasad bhojan and 2,50,389 packets of ladoo Prasad were distributed.
Under the guidance of Sansthan’s Trustee and Maharashtra State Minister for Agriculture and Marketing Shri Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Sansthan’s Chairman Shri Jayant Sasane, Vice Chairman Shri Shankarrao Kolhe, all Trustees, Executive Officer Shri Kishore More and Deputy Executive Officer Dr. Yashwantrao Mane, all the administrative officers and employees toiled round the clock for the successful conduct of the festival.