If you think Shirdi is all about the Sai Baba temple, you are mistaken. I mean, the Sai Baba temple is indeed a huge part of Shirdi, THE draw which pulls thousands of devotees from all over the world. That said, there are little bits and pieces of the town that Shirdi is, that still remain unexplored by the average tourist.
Also, considering so many tourists visit Shirdi throughout the year, a number of tourist-centric businesses have come up in the town. From ice cream parlours and saree centres to restaurants serving multi-cultural specialties and horse carriages offering rides to tourists, Shirdi is very much a bustling activity centre. There is plenty to do here to pass the time while you are waiting for your turn for the Sai Baba darshan.
We didn’t do much exploring in Shirdi, since we were super-duper tired, and didn’t want to get more thoroughly exhausted before we went in for the darshan. However, we didn’t want to miss out on visiting this little shop called Sai Manas Textiles, in Shirdi, to hunt for some souvenirs. I am glad we went, for the visit offered us a peek into Shirdi beyond the Sai Baba temple, the stuff of alternate travellers.
The shop sells a lot of beautiful, beautiful things, including Gujarati embroidered ghagra-cholis, Rajasthani bandhnis and embroidered jootis, and Poona cotton sarees. It was here that we came across sarees made out of sugarcane fibre, mixed with silk or cotton. The crushed sugarcane left over after the juice has been extracted, in Shani Shinganapur, travels to Shirdi and surrounding villages, where fibre is removed from the same, and put to good use to make beautiful sarees with some seriously gorgeous patterns. This is something indigenous to Shirdi, a souvenir which will allow you to take a piece of the town home with you.
I picked up one of these sugarcane-silk sarees for myself, as a souvenir.
Another interesting type of saree that we saw in the shop was a Sai Baba saree – a saree depicting a procession of Sai Baba in its border and pallu. Apparently, there are a lot of sarees made all over India which have spiritual processions depicted on them, but a God or Goddess is not very prominently displayed on them. In case of these sarees, however, an idol of Sai Baba could very clearly be seen carried by His devotees, in a palanquin. Again, this is something one will find mostly in Shirdi, we were told.
Interesting stuff, right?