More than 10,000 people visited the Shirdi Saibaba Temple in Central Auckland during a four-day festival that marked its opening last week.
Festivities, which began on Waitangi Day (February 6) kept devotees and visitors engaged in Bhakti and fellowship for more than 12 hours each day, creating an inimitable environment of amity and goodwill.
With an estimated $6 million investment on a variety of facilities and amenities, the Temple complex, located at 12 Princes Street in Onehunga, is arguably the largest Shirdi Saibaba Temple outside India. With the Main Prayer Hall, Community Centre and the Dining Hall with a well-equipped commercial kitchen accounting for about 3500 Sq metres of built-in area, this Complex will begin to attract communities to organise not only their religious festivals and Poojas but also conduct marriages, cultural and entertainment programmes and other events.
The four-day festivities that marked the opening of the Temple were unique to New Zealand. Apart from traditional prayers, devotees and visitors were invitees to a cultural programme and a discourse by Dr Chandra Banu Satpathy, revered as a doyen of the Shridi Saibaba Movement in India and overseas. He was in Auckland at the invitation of the Sansthan (a separate story appears in Communitylink in this issue).
What makes Shirdi Saibaba a distinct figure? Why do millions of people of various religious extractions follow His teachings? He may appear enigmatic to many but a majority of His followers believe that He is a Godly figure, readily answering their prayers, and coming to their rescue when in need.
Hindus like to decorate His Deity with garments made of silk and other materials, jewellery and flowers, as they do with most other Hindu Gods.
‘Baba’ as he is reverently addressed, may not have approved the ostentation with which He is worshipped but as He may have admitted, “It is the love and adoration of people that matter, and not the way in which they perform their obeisance.”
His real name, date and place of birth are unknown but Baba is believed to have ‘returned to his original form’ or attained ‘Samadhi’ in 1918. He is perhaps the only ‘God’ or ‘Spiritual Master’ worshipped by Hindus and respected by Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and people of other faiths.
According to records, He lived in a Mosque and after death, He was cremated in a Temple. Depending on the intensity of their attachment, people consider Him as a Guru, Spiritual Leader, Religious Head, a Saint, An Avatar, Sadguru (True Master) and Murshad (Master).
Baba remains a very popular Saint to people of Indian origin, and increasingly to Europeans, Americans and others.
An outstanding feature of His preaching was to avoid rituals, shun perishable commodities and strive towards self-realisation.
He taught a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to God and Guru. He gave no distinction based on religion or caste.
While the members and office-bearers of Shri Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan of New Zealand Inc have had their dream project realised, the challenge now is to maintain the flow of activities, and equally important, flow of funds. President Bhaskar Reddy Duvvuru and his team of officials and advisors are conscious of the higher financial outlay required to maintain the Complex and to repay the bank loan with interest (of about $2 million); they are also confident of meeting their targets.