Shirdi bandh, but temple to remain open

Devotees not ready to accept Pathri as Sai Baba’s birthplace.

Mumbai: While locals of the temple town of Shirdi called for a bandh on Sunday following a controversy over the birthplace of Sai Baba, the trustee of the temple there said that the shrine would remain open despite the shutdown.

Controversy erupted after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced a grant of Rs 100 crore for development of facilities at the Sai Janmasthan (birthplace) at Pathri in Parbhani district. While Pathri is considered to be Sai Baba’s birthplace by some devotees, residents of Shirdi claim that the exact birthplace of the much revered saint is not known.

“The temple will remain open despite the bandh call,” Deepak Mugalikar, chief executive officer of the Shree Sai Baba Sansthan Trust at Shirdi said. Meanwhile, local BJP MLA Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil supported the shutdown called for by the residents.

“The Chief Minister should withdraw his statement that Pathri is Sai Baba's birthplace. Pathri only has one of the several Sai temples in the country. All Sai devotees are feeling hurt, so this controversy should be ended,” the former state minister said.

BJP MP and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil’s son, Sujay Vikhe-Patil, too reprimanded the state government for the dispute over the birthplace of Sai Baba. “There was no such dispute until now. Why have claims that Pathri is Sai Baba’s birthplace come up only after the new government has taken over? The people of Shirdi may resort to legal action,” he said.

Amidst the call for bandh, Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan urged locals that the creation of facilities for devotees at Pathri should not be opposed owing to the controversy over the birthplace.

The Sai Baba temple in Shirdi draws lakhs of devotees from across India every year.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will hold talks to resolve the controversy over the birthplace of Saibaba, the 19th century spiritual figure, an official statement said here on Saturday evening.

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