Temple town Shirdi, dedicated to 19 th century Saint Saibaba is almost remained shut following the bandh call given by Bharatiya Janata Party.
The bandh call is given to protest against the controversy over the birthplace of Saibaba. The controversy arose following the statement by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray calling Pathri village of Parbhani district as Baba’s birthday. He also assured to develop the village on the lines of Shirdi.
While residents of Shirdi denounce the claims of Pathri as the birthplace of Baba stating it lacked evidence. They view this as more a political move to shift the temple to another district.
The controversy over the birthplace of Baba came to fore when President Ramnath Kovind stated that Sai Baba was born in Pathri. Later, chief minister Uddhav added fuel to the controversy when he promised Rs 100 crore for the development of Pathri.
But this had annoyed residents of Shirdi, which is flourishing as an economic hub apart from being the spiritual center.
Shree Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan Trust is said to be the second richest temple trust in Inda with an annual income exceeded Rs 400 cr. The temple receives huge quantities of Gold and Silver as offerings from devotees. The trust earns income in the form of interest also.
According to reports the Trust had earned Rs 128.24 crore in the form of interest in 2015 on FDRs of Rs 1,826 crore. With lakhs of devotees visiting every year, the Temple town has emerged as a booming business center. The temple has unleashed rapid urbanization which transformed a quaint village into a thriving business center with star hotels, lodges, pizza joints, restaurants, shopping complexes, taxi services, flower shops, general stores etc to serve as many as 75,000 to 80,000 devotees every day.
Any proposal to shift the focus from Shirdi to Pathri on any pretext is bound to attract stiff opposition from the business people as it would undermine their business and livelihood interests.
The apprehension that CM Thackeray is planning to shift focus from Shirdi led the BJP to express opposition and give a call for a bandh today.
BJP MLA Radhakrishna Patil said if governments were to go ahead, the party would call for an indefinite bandh.
All business establishments such as shops including local transport remained shut in the town since midnight Sunday.
A statement by Deepak Muglikar, CEO, Temple Trust said all religious rituals are observed and facilities managed by the Trust remained functional.
Prasadalaya and the temple kitchen were also open to ensure devotees were not put to inconvenience. Long queues were seen in front of the ‘Prasadalaya, breakfast center and the laddoo counter.
Maharashtra: Devotees visit Shirdi Sai Baba temple amid bandh called today in #Shirdi town, against CM Uddhav Thackeray’s reported comment calling Pathri (in Parbhani) as Sai Baba’s birthplace. pic.twitter.com/z5nPzxMiFZ
— ANI (@ANI) January 19, 2020
According to BJP leader Sachin Tambe Patil, who is a former trustee of the temple, the bandh is being observed in 25 villages around Shirdi town. but, the state transport buses from other locations are being allowed to come to the town.