A row broke out on Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s comments on 19th-century saint Sai Baba’s birthplace, leading to an indefinite shut of Shirdi, a holy town in the state on Sunday.
In response to the bandh shops, eateries and various other commercial establishment and local transport remained shut in the town.
The bandh began at midnight, but the Saibaba temple remained open with devotees being allowed to offer prayers, officials of the temple trust Ahmednagar district administration said.
The temple kitchen ‘prasadalaya’ was open to ensure devotees were not unconvinced. Long queues were seen in front of ‘prasadalaya’ as well as at laddoo sale centres, told sources.
“There is an adequate arrangement of food and accommodation for devotees visiting Sai temple amid the bandh today. A meeting has been called tomorrow by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray,” said DM Muglikar, CEO Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust.
Those who made pre-bookings at hotels were allowed to stay and taxi services from the airport to the temple were also unaffected, the district administration said.
It further added that the state transport buses from other locations were being allowed to come to the holy town.
Over the issue, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has called a meeting on Monday at the state secretariat in Mumbai.
The temple town is in the news after Thackeray’s statement that Pathri village in Parbhani was Sai Baba’s actual birth-place. Earlier in the week, he had also announced Rs 100 crore grant for the development of Pathri to attract pilgrims and tourists.
Thackeray’s decision was not welcomed by the residents of Shirdi as the local residents and leaders took exception to his announcement saying that the birthplace of Sai Baba was not known, and Pathri cannot make claim to being his birthplace.
The opposition led by BJP demanded Thackeray to withdraw his statement that is not historically substantiated.
Local BJP functionary Sachin Tambe Patil termed the bandh as ‘successful’ by saying, “Commercial establishments, shops, restaurants and local transport (autorickshaws and other private vehicles) are closed and a complete shutdown is being observed in the town as well as in 25 villages around Shirdi.”
“However, the temple is open and devotees are coming to offer prayers,” said Patil who is also a former trustee of Sai Baba temple.
Local BJP MLA, who is also a former Maharashtra minister, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil on Saturday said that he supported the bandh call.