Posted By: Sachin Nath

I’d like to start by noting that, although my 4th Padayatra took place in December 2018, it’s only now, in January 2024, that I’m sharing my experience. Initially, I documented my journey right after its completion, but unfortunately, a hard disk crash on my laptop led to the loss of all the data, including my account of the Padayatra. This setback, coupled with various delays, postponed my sharing of this experience. Now, as I gear up for my 5th Shirdi Padayatra in January 2024, I felt inspired to finally revisit and share these memories.

Please bear with me, as what follows may be somewhat brief and not as structured, due to the passage of nearly five years since the event. The finer details of the trip have faded in my memory, making a detailed recount challenging. However, I hope my account will still offer valuable insights for those interested in undertaking the spiritual journey to Shirdi on foot, especially in a smaller group setting. I won’t delve into the common challenges of the Mumbai-to-Shirdi walk, as I’ve extensively covered those in my recount of my first experience.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Anil Devshekhar, one of the key organizers of this group, for quite some time. He played a pivotal role in providing me with an extensive list of Shirdi Padayatra groups and their contact details, which I then featured on the website. Mr. Devshekhar has been a constant point of contact for me, and I have frequently shared his information with those interested in embarking on the spiritual walk to Shirdi.

There was a significant hiatus of over three years between my last Padayatra with the Khotwadi group and this one with Om Sri Sai Sevak Mandal. In 2018, when I resolved to join another Padayatra, I was particularly inclined towards Om Sri Sai Sevak Mandal and reached out to Mr. Devshekhar for the details. He promptly informed me of the dates, and I arrived at Park Site on the designated day, quite early in the morning. There, I witnessed the meticulous preparations underway, with Mr. Vijay Anchan and several other group members engrossed in adorning the Sai Palkhi.

A notable difference with Om Sri Sai Sevak Mandal, compared to the previous groups I walked with, is its relatively smaller size. The number of participants was fewer than 40, a stark contrast to the 200-250 walkers in the other groups. This smaller scale had its advantages, particularly in terms of securing more comfortable accommodations for the night, enhancing the overall experience for all Padayatris.

Similar to other groups, Om Sri Sai Sevaks’ Padayatra to Shirdi is a vibrant affair, parading through the main roads of the colony amidst much fanfare. A key highlight is the ceremonial journey of the Sai Palkhi, which makes its way through Vikhroli, visiting most of the renowned local temples in the Palk Site area. Adding to this festive spirit, several women and family members of the group adorn the streets with intricate and large rangolis, marking the path of the Sai Palkhi. While the Padayatra primarily comprises male walkers, the initial leg of the journey up to Thane sees enthusiastic participation from family members and the broader community, after which the core group of walkers and volunteers proceed on their own.

During this Padayatra, I was fortunate to have the company of two amiable companions, Mr. Venkatesh from Hyderabad and Mr. Ajit. However, Mr. Venkatesh, despite his prior experience of walking from Mumbai to Shirdi, encountered a foot infection this time. The pain forced him to discontinue the walk and travel to Shirdi by bus for treatment, with plans to rejoin us later near Sinnar.

For those contemplating a Padayatra to Shirdi, I wholeheartedly endorse Om Sri Sai Sevak Mandal, owing to its excellent organization and superior facilities. The Padayatra with this group spans a full seven days, starting from Vikhroli. The accompanying photographs showcase various rest stops for meals, though the details are in Marathi. The logistics are meticulously planned; Padayatris need not carry anything, not even water bottles, as bottled water is supplied regularly. Meal arrangements are on par with other groups, featuring an early morning serving of tea and biscuits, breakfast around 8:30 to 9:00 am, lunch at 1:30 pm, and dinner at 9:30 pm.

Upon our arrival in Shirdi, we was greeted with a delightful surprise: many family members of the Padayatris and volunteers from Vikhroli had come by bus to join us for the sacred darshan at Sai Baba’s main temple. The sense of community and shared devotion was truly heartwarming. Remarkably, our visit to the temple was smooth and efficient, taking us less than an hour to complete the darshan of Sai Baba. Reflecting on the entire journey, it was, as always, an incredible experience to successfully complete the walk from Mumbai to Shirdi. The journey was made even more memorable by the wonderful company of dedicated Padayatris and the warm reception we received upon reaching our spiritual destination.

Sachin Nath