Ek Yatra of Saibaba temple draws more than 1000 devotees

Ek Yatra of Saibaba temple draws more than 1000 devotees

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Shri Shirdi Saibaba Temple, the oldest house of worship in the US for 
the revered saint, has taken out a palanquin procession marking the 
culmination of weeklong Guru Purnima celebrations.

The celebrations, part of the centennial
 of Maha Samadhi of Shirdi Saibaba, drew a total of 5,000 devotees. The 
highlight of the annual celebrations was undoubtedly the procession, 
which this year was renamed as Ek Yatra.

The banner of Ek Yatra, with devotees following
The procession is usually known as Palki
 (also known as Palkhi or Pallaki) Yatra. Ek Yatra, in which 
representatives of all religions formed a major interfaith segment, 
comprised nine parts representing each of the nine forms of devotion to 
god. Saibaba propagated and worked for the unity of all Indian and other
 world religions in his lifetime, mostly spent at Shirdi village in 
Ahmednagar revenue district of present-day Maharashtra.

A dance troupe and a music band 
representing Indian ethnic groups — mainly Maharashtrian — drew 
particular applause from participants in the procession and onlookers on
 the sidewalks of the Flushing neighborhood in Queens, New York City.

Shiva Haran, the temple president, 
estimated that 1,200-1,300 people participated in the celebrations on 
Saturday, July 28 afternoon, when the yatra was held. There were also 
scores of people waiting in the house of worship to receive the 

An interfaith group
The re-enactment of Chavdi Utsav (the 
festivity at a public place in an Indian village), which used to be 
taken out from Dwarakamai (a dilapidated mosque that Saibaba made his 
home) at Shirdi, was another feature of the yatra. The person who 
appeared as Saibaba, all through the procession with full makeup as the 
saint, drew tremendous praise along with his associates such as 
Hemadpant, Madhvrao Deshpande, Nanasaheb Chandorkar and Kaka Mahajan. A 
horse also formed part of the procession to give authenticityto the 

Haran and other temple officials 
appreciated the temple volunteers, numbering more than 100, who helped 
conduct the yatra in an orderly manner.

One such volunteer spoke to some 
participants in the procession. “It was excellent. Unbelievably great,” 
said Haran, who also walked as part of the yatra. “I should say it is 
perhaps the biggest such event outside India.
 The Punjabi-Maharashtrian dhol; women wearing Marathi-style saris 
dancing to the rhythmic music; and the all-round enthusiasm of the 
participant-devotees as well as the onlookers remind us all of our 
motherland. I felt as if the Chavdi Utsav was re-created here in 

A man dressed as Sai Baba
The band-and-dance troupe, as well as the horse, came from neighboring New Jersey, exclusively for the event.

Narasimha Rao Bonda, the main 
coordinator of the procession, was equally enthusiastic. “Baba himself 
helped us stage the spectacular event. It has never happened here (in 
the US) and might not happen again in our lifetime. He was 
there everywhere and showered his blessings on everyone,” Bonda said 
with excitement.

According to Madhavan Krishnamachari, 
who holds his own religious events twice a year, said the procession – 
with Ek Yatra and the ethnic music and dance segment – should become an 
annual feature of the Saibaba temple. He was glad that all this happened
 in 2018, the centenary year of Maha Samadhi of the saint.

An IT consultant in New York who is in 
his 40s, Satish Sabarad, was the cynosure of all eyes. He appeared as 
Saibaba. When he was coming out of the temple, a few devotees were seen 
bending and touching his feet. He himself sounded highly devotional.

“It was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity 
to appear as Baba,” he said. “I came to know about my role in the yatra 
just three weeks before the event.

I was initially hesitant, but persuaded 
by B.R. Surendra (aka Barasu, the makeup man for the whole Saibaba team 
of associates). Sabarad acted in a few stage shows, but never before he 
had this type of role.

Harvinder Singh Karir felt as if he 
literally went back in time when he played the role of Kaka Mahajan, a 
senior Baba associate. The 49-year-old, who works with the federal 
government, appeared in black coat and with the traditional 
Maharashtrian headgear of that time walking along with the man appearing
 as the saint.

A 53-year-old attorney, Srinivas Kaveti,
 opined that even in India it is not easy to re-enact this kind of 
processions. “It simply was amazing,” he added.

Mukund Khisty works for India Roots, a 
nonprofit based in New Jersey that does charitable work in India, mostly
 Maharashtra. He and his 100-member group consists of professionals such
 as doctors, engineers and lawyers.

Jallosh Dhol Tasha group
The group staged the music-and-dance 
show during the three-hour procession. “We do this kind of shows, but I 
feel this was our exclusive performance.”

A member of the interfaith segment said 
that along with other houses of worship, he visits the Saibaba temple 
once a month. Raj Bhushan’s is a multi religious family as he married a 
Muslim, his daughter-in-law is Jewish and daughter is married to a 
Christian. “If one tries to understand others’ religions and cultures, 
the world will be a more peaceful place to live in,” he remarked. Known 
also as Brother Oneness, Bhushan — a retired person — still occasionally
 takes up immigration issues.

A woman who practices Yoruba, a religion
 mainly based in Nigeria, said ruling classes in several African nations
 practice it. Nana Zakia, who lives in Harlem in NYC and sporting shiny 
stripes on her face, had just one thing to say: “Spread everything that 
is good and be tolerant of others.”

The Flushing temple, though formally 
inaugurated in 2010, has been in existence for the last 30 years. There 
are nearly 50 houses of worship in the US dedicated to the Shirdi saint.
 During the centenary year, the Flushing temple’s activities include the
 Maha Samadhi celebrations (set for the third week of October during the
 Navaratri) and a major fundraiser to be held later that month.

There is also an ongoing quiz program on
 the life and times of the saint. Prizewinners will be felicitated later
 this year, and the top scorer will have a chance to get a roundtrip 
ticket to Shirdi (courtesy Air India).


That person will be eligible for a VIP 
darshan. There is a second spot, which is worth $500, and two third 
prizes. There is also a possibility of a few consolation prizes. For 
further info, please visit www.dwarakamaishirdi.org


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