Shirdi (Maharashtra), Oct 24: The famed Sai temple here was Wednesday handed over one of the largest pilgrim accommodation facilities in India with a capacity to house 14,000 people.
Sai Ashram, a state-of-the-art eco-friendly complex, is expected to be inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee next month.
The complex comprises Sai Ashram 1 with 1,536 rooms, Sai Ashram 2 with 192 dormitories spread across nearly one million square feet, constructed at a total of Rs.1.10 billion over five years.
The entire cost of Sai Ashram – laid out in two locations close to the Shirdi Saibaba Temple, has been funded by Shirdi Sai Trust, Chennai, from its resources, for the use of the millions who come each month.
In turn, the Trust at Shirdi provided the other infrastructure for the ashram including roads, walkways, power, street lights, water supply, parking and landscaping at a cost of Rs.450 million.
According to a Trust official, besides a restaurant and common services block for the pilgrims, a massive open air theatre can house 2,000 devotees at prayer meetings, cultural events and also Saibaba ‘palkhis’ (palanquins) which arrive here regularly from all over India.
The 192 dormitories can accommodate over 5,000 people, with facilities for a restaurant and common services block.
In the main Sai Ashram, devotees can book and live in three wings having a total of 384 air-conditioned rooms with similar facilities as above.
The entire complex has got a green cover of trees, shrubs and plantations and gardens.
There are also two sewage treatment plants to recycle water for toilets and other non-drinking purposes. Hot water will flow to all rooms from a solar water heater.
After the inauguration, pilgrims intending to visit Shirdi can make online reservations from Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad or the Trust website.
The handing over ceremony was performed Wednesday with the Trust chairman, Judge J.M. Kulkarni, receiving the documents from the Shirdi Sai Trust, Chennai.