Revered by followers of all religions, Saibaba, who lived and preached in Shirdi and surrounding regions during the late 19th and early 20th century, took ‘samadhi’ on October 15, 1918.The 95th death anniversary functions shall begin from Saturday, October 12 and continue till October 14, according to a spokesperson.

The Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust has made arrangements for the lodging, boarding, darshan, distributing prasad, local movements, vehicular regulations and other requirements for the hordes of pilgrims who have already started arriving in Shirdi from Thursday.

"To ensure that everybody gets an opportunity for darshan in the Saibaba temple, VIP passes, aarti passes and other puja arrangements will be stopped for these three days," said Ajay More, executive officer, Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust.

The trust has made arrangements for round-the-clock entry to the Saibaba Samadhi temple and other important sites nearby, besides a host of cultural and devotional programmes to keep the devotees engaged.

Top artistes from across Maharashtra like Manoharbuva B Dixit, Vishwanath Ojha, Madhumati Mishra, Pandit Kailash Harekrishnadas and KV Satyanarayana, will present a variety of bhajans, kirtans, dance and other devotional programmes on the occasion.

The 95th anniversary is considered a dry run for the death centenary in 2018 when more than 10 million devotees are expected to arrive, the spokesperson said.

In Mumbai, a 24-hour programme of devotional music, bhajans and kirtans has been planned from Oct 14-15 at the century-old two-storey Indira Niwas, where an original ‘kafni’ (kurta) purportedly worn by Saibaba is kept in Kurla.

"It was gifted to my father, Keshav B Gawankar in Shirdi in 1918, just a few months before he (Saibaba) attained ‘samadi’ and became immortal," Sainath Gawankar said. The Gawankar family will also perform certain ceremonies and rituals like Aradhana Vidhi, which is performed only at Kurla and Shirdi.

The Gawankars have only invited a few devotees for ‘darshan’ as the century-old Indira Niwas was in a bad shape. "This building is on its last legs. Despite our best efforts, the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation, in connivance with the landlord, has denied permission to carry out even basic repairs," Gawankar, 64, said.

His wife Asmita, 57, and son Dnyanesh, 31, said even the annual Dussehra and Ekadashi rituals are becoming dangerous in view of the shaky structure with increasing number of devotees, including foreigners, who throng to see it.

"So far, Saibaba's blessing has kept this structure from collapsing. But, for how long? If there is any major disaster, the civic authorities will have to answer for their negligence," Dnyanesh said.


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