Residents of the temple town of Shirdi in Maharashtra have called for a shutdown on Sunday after a controversy erupted over the birthplace of 19th-century spiritual figure Saibaba, PTI reported.
The residents got upset after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray declared funds of Rs 100 crore for the development of facilities at the spiritual leader’s birthplace at Pathri in Parbani district. Pathri is believed to be Saibaba’s birthplace by some devotees, but residents of Shirdi have claimed that Saibaba’s exact place of birth is unknown.
After a call for the indefinite closure of the Shirdi temple due to the row, Deepak Mugalikar, the chief executive officer of the Shree Saibaba Sansthan Trust, confirmed that it will remain open. Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil supported the call for bandh and asked Thackeray to withdraw his statement that Pathri was the birthplace. “Pathri only has one of several Sai temples in the country,” he said. “All Sai devotees are feeling hurt, so this controversy should be ended.”
BJP MP Sujay Vikhe-Patil, who represents Shirdi, highlighted that the controversy on Pathri being the birthplace had emerged after the new government took over. He claimed that residents of Shirdi may take legal action, IANS reported.
On the other hand, Nationalist Congress Party Durrani Abdullah Khan dismissed the call for a shutdown and said there was enough historical evidence to establish that Pathri was Saibaba’s birthplace. “Pathri is Saibaba’s ‘janmabhoomi [birthplace]’ while Shirdi is his ‘karmabhoomi [workplace]’,” he said. “Both the places have equal significance for all his devotees.”
Khan claimed that locals in Shirdi were not concerned about the fund allocation and were only opposed to the reference of Pathri as Saibaba’s birthplace. “Some locals apprehend that if Pathri becomes popular and developed, then the flow of devotees to Shirdi could fall and affect the local economy,” he added.
An official statement on Saturday evening said Thackeray would hold talks with parties concerned to resolve the controversy.