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Sai Baba birthplace Row: Why it has become a matter of Debate?

The whole ruckus started after Uddhav Thackeray announce 100 crore package for Pathri

Representatives of the temples of Shirdi met Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray on Monday as they were upset over Government’s decision to develop Pathri on Parbhani district as one of the birthplaces of Sai Baba. Shirdi MLA Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the meeting was positive and the protest will be withdrawn.

Maharashtra CM announced in Aurangabad on 9th January that his government would sanction Rs 100 crore for the development of Pathri as a centre of religious tourism and “the birthplace of Sai Baba”. The announcement triggered hope and joy in Pathri, a town of 40,000 people about 180 km to the southeast of Aurangabad. But people of Shirdi got miffed with the announcement and staged an indefinite bandh in protest.

The residents of Pathri presented evidence that Parthi is the birthplace of Sai Baba

The bandh concluded late on Sunday but it was followed by demonstrations at Pathri. The local residents claim that they have evidence that Sai Baba took birth in Pathri. The residents of Pathri presented various texts and scriptures in support of the claim, most notably that of the eighth edition of the “Sai Charitra’ text. This was incidentally published by Shirdi temple trust in the 1970s. In the text, Pathri is, reportedly, said to be the birthplace of Sai Baba.

However, there are several other accounts that stand in contradiction to the claim of the people of Pathri. Sri Sai Leela Traimasik, a quarterly magazines’ 1952 issue cites that parents of Sai Baba were Sathe Shastri and Lakshmibai, with a Tamil text as supporting evidence. Sai Sudha, a Gujrati magazine claims that Sai Baba was born in Jerusalem to Gujrati Brahmin parents. A 1959 book ‘Suman Sundar’ comes in the support of the Pathri saying that Sai Baba was born in a town called Pathri, which was located in Hyderabad.

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In reality, Sai Baba’s early history and movement continue to be shrouded in mystery, with confusion even around his actual birth year. Sai Baba, reportedly, didn’t talk a lot about himself or his past, according to many accounts. However, more is known about him after he came to live in Shirdi.

Since then, Shirdi has become one of the most important places of pilgrimage across the world along with Mecca, Jersusalem or Bodh Gaya. It should then come as no surprise to learn that Shirdi is the most visited place in Maharashtra.

What scares the people of Shirdi most?

The significance of Shirdi, as a destination that transcends religious barriers, cannot be underrated. The place is a primary source of income to its residents. Perhaps, it is the fear that the importance of their village may suffer if Pathri gets more value as a birthplace of Sai Baba. Currently, Shirdi holds uniqueness as Sai Baba’s Karmabhoomi. As such, establishing Pathri as the birthplace of the late saint may be viewed by the people of Shirdi as a diminishment of their village’s place in the story of Sai Baba.

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