The decision by the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SSST) Shirdi follows the recent green signal to the proposal from the Bombay High Court, the chief official at the temple, Yashwant Mane, said.

"Until now, devotees were given a packet of three laddoos as prasad (sacrament) at a subsidized rate of Rs 10. From Thursday (August 15), each and every devotee will be given a packet of two laddoos free," Mane said.

He said that the SST management felt this was the least they could give to each pilgrim. Many pilgrims arrive at the temple after travelling vast distances, from across the country and even abroad. Since queues are long, pilgrims often have to wait hours for darshan.

The distribution of free laddoos has been widely welcomed. This will make SSST the first temple trust in the country to provide free prasad to all devotees. Nearly 60,000 are expected to be given out per day, and over 2.25 crore each year.

Those seeking additional laddoos can buy them for Rs 20 a packet, Mane said. The latest decision will put an additional burden of approximately Rs 13 crore on the SSST, which is among the top three richest temple trusts in the country.

In April, the Sai Ashram Complex with 1,536 rooms to accommodate 14,000 pilgrims simultaneously was thrown open for pilgrims, at heavily subsidized rates.

(Agencies)

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