Economy of ShirdiLife in Shirdi revolves around Sai Baba and so does the business and economy. If Shirdi wasn't the "Land of Sai" things would have been totally different, the quaint little village wouldn't have seen any five star hotel or burger and pizza joints. But, thanks to Sai Baba Shirdi is no more an unknown village with hardly any civilization and people mainly engaged in agricultural practices.
Rapid Urbanization of ShirdiShirdi is undergoing a rapid transformation from a small village to a booming economic zone. Some five to six decades ago there was a small temple and just a few mud houses here and there and a small eating joint that offered simple food at a nominal amount. Slowly, the small temple gave way to a bigger temple, the small eating joint transformed into posh restaurants and burger and pizza joints, taxi services begun, the ritual of plucking fresh flowers from your garden for offering to the temple stopped as now you could easily buy them from the shops dotting the way to the temple, general stores opened up, bus service started, electricity was brought in and the once kachcha road was replaced by broader concrete streets.
Shirdi is now the second most visited pilgrimage center in India after Tirupati of Andhra Pradesh and receives more than eight million pilgrims in a year. It is estimated that about 25,000 people visit the shrine daily whereas during the weekend the number rises up to 75,000 to 80,000. During the main festivals of Shirdi like the Ramnavmi, Gurupurnima and Shirdi Vijayadashmi you might even see more than 300,000 visitors in a day. Thus, at any point of time, Shirdi has a high range of floating population due to the pilgrimage activities. This floating population of Shirdi is the livelihood of many settled in Shirdi and the entire economy of the town is centered on this population. Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that Shirdi has a pilgrimage based economy i.e. its entire economy is based on the pilgrims visiting the holy shrine of Baba every year. If you take away the temple from Shirdi, its fate would have been something totally different today.
Sai Baba Temple: Central Source of Business and Economy in ShirdiThe Sai Baba temple in Shirdi has created immense work opportunities for the locals as well as lured people from outside the town as well to come and settle here to improve their income. As the temple gained fame, large number of people from different parts of India came flocking and as they were from places far off from Shirdi it meant they could not get back to their native on the same day, they had to rest somewhere. Thus, came the hospitality industry, five star, three -star, two-star hotels came up in the city and those who were rich enough constructed apartments and provided them on a rent to the visitors. In the beginning when Sai Baba temple was much smaller, mere 50 - 100 rupees were enough for accommodation but now you have to shell out a minimum of 1500 for a decent room. The hospitality industry in Shirdi has probably benefited the maximum from the growing pilgrimage economy of Shirdi.
Now as the pilgrims come from outside, it is quite impossible for them to carry puja materials along with them, as most of the items used in puja are perishable and require being pure and uncontaminated. So, there you have the vendors selling all those puja materials that you might require. From coconuts, sweets, garlands, lamps to flowers everything can be bought from these small shops for puja offerings. Although these shops look small but they definitely earn a good amount because of the large number of visitors.
Another category of business that you can find here in Shirdi is that of shops that offer you various trinkets of Sai Baba such as the lockets, DVDs, VCDs, picture frames, laminated photos, miniatures of Shirdi temple, small idols of Sai Baba in various forms such as graphite, marble or mud, finger rings and many more items. Devotees in large number are often seen bargaining here to have a token and a physical form of blessing from Sai Baba to take it back to their home. Some even buy these items as souvenirs to gift it to their friends and relatives.
After a long day at the temple, people come out in search of a good place to eat so there you have more than 200 eating joints and restaurants to choose from. If you are a South Indian and missing your idli dosa you can go to any South Indian restaurant or if you are a Punjabi and want to have roti tadka, you can head on to any of the punjabi dhabas there. Shirdi also has pizza and burger joints, posh coffee shops, ice-cream parlours for the urban group of pilgrims. The constant flow of large number of pilgrims in Shirdi is an excellent source of income for the locals here.
Shirdi Sai Sansthan Trust, which is the governing and the administrative body of the Sai Baba Temple, also known as Samadhi Mandir, has shown full participation in the development of the village. The trust has a lot many things running under its umbrella like providing accommodation to the devotees, toilet and bathroom facilities, prasadalayas, canteens, online booking of darshan, Live darshan and security insurance. The Shirdi Sai Sansthan Trust, also being one of the richest trusts has opened up a lot of hospitals, schools and colleges in the nearby vicinity. Thus creating more and more working and business opportunities for the people of Shirdi. It has also proposed many projects for the development of the town, which means more business opportunities and a growth await in the economy of Shirdi, the Land of Sai.