“An old lady of Shirdi, Nana Chopdar’s mother often talked about the marvel of Baba’s life that this fair, generously built and handsome lad, in the beginning, was first sighted, calmly seated in deep meditation under a Neem tree.” When we read, hear, remember these verses in Shri Sai Satcharitra, we mentally start imagining how the very young lad, who did severe penance and yet his face expressed calm emotion, looked like….and the image of that Gurusthan in Shirdi flashed in front of our eyes, which was eternally sanctified by Baba’s touch and the Neem tree brings memories of the past to light in the present times. That Neem tree has become the place of faith for the innumerable Sai devotees, which He Pointed out to the villagers in Shirdi and said, “This is the spot of my Guru”, where Sai Baba first manifested in Shirdi. The leaves of this Neem tree are not bitter like that of other Neem trees.
Earlier, the idol of Baba, replica of His holy feet, Shiv Linga and Nandi’s idol was consecrated beside the trunk of this Neem tree. In order to enable easy Darshan and Pradakshina (going round) of the Neem tree and to ensure protection of devotees from rain and sun, a temple was constructed around the Neem tree. During this construction concreting was done beside the trunk of this Neem tree and a fixed distance from its base. But, with the constant growth of the tree, the trunk and base also expanded and got wholly entangled in the concrete. Thereby causing pain to the tree and thwarting further growth. It was, therefore, essential to conserve and care for the centre of faith of innumerable Sai devotees. With this in mind, the guidance of renowned archeologist Padmashri Dr, Sadashivrao Gorakhshkar of Mumbai, senior research scientist of Institute of Genetics and Tree Breeding of Coimbatore Dr. S. Mururgeshan and scientist of Forest Research Institute of Dehradun in Uttaranchal Dr. Subhash Natiyal and Dr. N.S.K.Harish was sought. These experts came to Shirdi and physically examined the Gurusthan temple and Neem tree and tested the samples of the bark of the Neem tree and leaves, in the laboratory. After the testing, the experts placed the report of their findings as follows:
1. The skin (bark) of the Neem tree was breaking due to the concreting and flooring around the tree. Thus affecting the supply of nutrition prepared by the leaves to the roots and the supply of nutrition and water from the roots and the supply of nutrition and water from the roots to the leaves and other processes, which was affecting and thwarting the growth of the tree.
2. The roots were denied fresh air due to the flooring around the base of the tree, due to which there was no balanced supply of water and air.
3. Due to complete concretization around the tree, no water could seep in from anywhere.
4. If the place near the tree is left open, then the capacity of the functioning of the roots will increase.
5. The constant growth of the tree resulted in the iron netting around the tree piercing into the bark of the tree causing great pain.
6. Even the roof of the temple caused damage to the tree.
Taking into account the above report of the experts and the faith of the innumerable said devotees on the tree, the Chairman of the Sansthan and Legislator Shri Jayant Sasane, Vice Chairman Shri Sankarrao Kolhe and all the trustees, mutually discussed the issue of conservation and care of this Neem tree and decided to completely remove all the concreting around the Neem tree and the Gurusthan temple. Accordingly all the concreting around the Gurusthan temple and the Neem tree was immediately removed and the trunk and the whole tree was kept open. Sai devotees welcome expressed heartfelt gratitude at the right decision taken by the management committee and the prompt action.
The managing committee of the Sansthan, along with, decided to reconstruct a small temple at the original spot so that Sai devotees can avail Darshan of the sacred location of Baba’s Gurusthan. Accordingly a small temple was erected at that spot at a cost of Rs. 2,51,000/-. The whole temple has been constructed with pre-carved stones.
The idol of Baba, replica of Baba’s feet, Mahadev’s Linga, Nandi and other items from the old temple were installed in this newly constructed temple of Thursday, July 19, 2007 at 7 A.M. by the Executive Officer of the Sansthan, Shri Bhausaheb Wakchure, amidst the chanting of Ganeshasmaran, the main prayers performing Vaidic worship. Trustee of the Sansthan Dr. Eknath Gondkar, trustee and Chairman of the Municipal Council Mrs. Sumitratai Kailas Kote and other dignitaries were present on the occasion. During the installation ceremony the priest of the Sansthan V.S.S. Shri B.R.Joshi alongwith seven priest conductd the Matruka Poojan, Nandi Shraddh, Dikrakshan, Panchgavyakaran, Kundastha Devta Poojan, Agnisthapan, Navgrahasthapan, Chaturlinga-tobhadra, Vastupeeth, Kshetrapal, Yogini, Rudrakalash and other Peeth Deities consecration, worship, Moortisnapan, Prasadsnapan, Prasadastha Devata Poojan, Peethastha Devata Havan, main Deity Havan, idols (Linga, Nandi, feet) installation, Rudrabhishek, Mahapooja, Uttarapoojan, Sthapit Devata Balidan, Poornahuti and Aarati with Vaidic rites were done to re-install the temple.
To facilitate the convenient Pradakshina of the Neem tree by the devotees a platform of pre-carved stones will be erected around which decorative railings will be made. Further to enable devotees to squat for a few minutes in front of the temple, a roof shelter will be provided over the Dhuni in front of the temple.
Source : Sai Leela Magazine