Chennai to Shirdi by flight

There are many tour packages that are available for pilgrimages to various places by flight , by train and by bus.  For Shirdi there are packages operated by IRCTC.  Though we tried our best the dates did not match so we opted for a private tour package operator.

All of them charge between Rs.9500 and Rs.10500 approximately depending upon the flight charges for economy class flights that are slightly variable.

Of course we can have our own custom packages but it is always nice to travel with families that are strangers some of who become our friends during the pilgrimage.

The packages are usually for Wednesday and Thursday or Saturday and Sunday.  Thursday is very important and holy for Shirdi and Saturday, Sunday are weekends.  So there will be heavy rush .
If we want to avoid the crowd we can opt for custom packages on other week days.
To add to the week end factor we went on the 1st of January so we can imagine the crowd that would have been present, lakhs and lakhs of pilgrims were there.

The flights chosen are early in the morning at 5.30 am for departure and 11.30 pm for return - Chennai to Pune and Pune to Chennai respectively.  The advantage is that more time is available and the fares are also cheap.   At Pune our tour operator arranged a bus for all of us ( around 30 ) .  The bus took us to a restaurant .  Incidentally the package does not include breakfast , lunch or dinner .
We are pleasantly surprised to get good quality and hot idly, dosa and coffee in a small restaurant and it was actually very cheap too when we compare with Chennai restaurants.

From there we went to Shirdi by bus , as I said already it was first of January and there was very heavy rush.  We tried for Rs.200 tickets but the counter was closed due to heavy rush.  So all of us went to the Dharma Darshan and waited for a few hours in the queue.  Hot tea was served in the queue by the temple authorities at one point and we were so thankful because we were hungry.

Near the sannidhi a miracle happened , He is known to perform miracles.  The security guards weere pushing everyone out after darshan , when my husband, my daughter and I came near the sannidhi , we tried to move away ( there were dozens of pilgrims around us ) , the security guard pulled my husband inside and said "wait, why are you in a hurry !"  .  Then the priest offered a shawl that was on Sai Baba to my husband and to me he gave a bouquet as prasadam.  We were overwhelmed and overjoyed.

We came out and had dinner at one of the restaurants near the temple.  The next day the bus started and the guide requested all of us sing devotional songs.  Our first stop was Shingnapur  and the next stop was Renuka Devi temple.  Renuka Devi temple is also called the Glass temple as it is decorated with glass.  The Moola Vigraha is a swayambu and for darshan we have to go down a flight of stairs to the basement.

  Then we went Rajangaon Ganpati temple near Pune.  We were surprised to get organic fruits at just Rs.50 per kg ( They are simple people there leading a simple and peaceful life ) while organic fruits are sold at Rs.200 to Rs.300 kg in Chennai.  The temple arch is very beautiful and the temple itself is very beautiful and so is the Garbha Graha .

Few years back, we as a family went to Shirdi from Nagpur ( where my sister lives , her family also came with us ) .  From Nagpur we went to Manmad by train and from Manmad we went to Shirdi by a private taxi.
On the way we were fortunate to have the darshan of Parvari Baba as he is called there. It is very rare and difficult to have his darshan the locals say.

How to make different types of podi

Vatha kuzhambu powder preparation

The ingredients required and measurements are as follows

  • Dhania or coriander 3 cups , urad dhal 2 cups ,  gram dhal 2 cups , 1 1/2 cups toor dhal
  • One cup jeera or cumin seeds , one cup milagu or pepper 
  • One tea spoon fenugreek seeds , little rice and 10-15 byadgi chillies
  • All except chillies are to be dry roasted separately because the roasting time is different for each
  • For chillies add a little  oil and roast so that the oil takes care of the hot vapours emanating 
  • Or dhania and urad dhal are roasted separately
  • Then gram dhal and  toor dhal  are roasted
  • Then cumin seeds , pepper , rice and fenugreek are roaste
  • Finally the chillies are roasted.
  • Allow them  to cool in air
  • Dry grind in a mixer and store in an air tight container.
  • It can also be used as sambar powder




Spices powder  for mixed rice 

  • This podi can be used for increasing the flavour of mixed rice like potato rice  or potato , tomato and capsicum rice
  • Ingredients required are dhania - 2 table  spoons , gram dhal one table  spoon , few red chillies
  • Optional ingredients are lavangam ( cloves ) and cinnamon bark 
  • Dry roast in a hollow vessel and grind in a mixer 
  • This powder can also be used to increase the flavour of bhindi or ladies finger fry or potato fry
  • This can be stored in a dry container and used when ever needed


Bisi bele bath powder recipe 

Bisi means hot bele means dhal in Kannada , it is called bisi bele huli anna which translates into hot dhal sambar rice.  This is one of the most popular recipes of Karnataka now followed in many other states because of it unique taste and flavour.  Like many other recipes there are different methods of making it I share my method which is authentic method handed over by my mother   It is also called mandi sambar bath  and cooked in a special stone vessel.

The ingredients are two table  spoons dhania , one and half  table spoon gram dhal ,  one tea spoon fenugreek , khas khas or grated dry coconut , cinnamon and cloves.  I have used Kashmir red chillies .  It gives excellent flavour and colour .  The quantity is usually 10 to 12 chillies.  Since it is not very hot if needed we can add few common chillies also if we want bisi bele bath hot and spicy.

Take a little oil and roast all the ingredients except grated coconut.   Grated coconut is added finally as otherwise it can get over cooked.  When the dhal turns golden brown in colour switch off the stove.  Allow the ingredients to cool.  When they become cool dry grind in a mixer to get a fine powder.  Bisi bele bath powder is ready .






Fenugreek mustard seeds powder ( kadugu vendhaya podi )

One part fenugreek and one part mustard seeds have to be dry roasted and ground in a mixer.  This powder can be stored in an air tight container.  When added to pudina thokku , tomato thokku and coriander or kothamalli thokku it gives a fine flavour.  This powder is to be added finally , the thokku stirred well and the stove switched off.  If we boil after adding this powder fenugreek will make the thokku bitter.



Idli milagai podi ( powder ) recipe 

  • The required ingredients are one measure urad dhal , half measure gram dhall, asafoetida, 10-15 red chillies and one and half table spoon white  sesame seeds.
  • First dry roast white sesame seeds till the colour changes
  • Next add a little oil and roast the urad dhal, gram dhal , asafoetida and chillies
  • When the dhals are roasted we get a fine "fragrance "
  • Roast the salt required for idli milgai powder
  • I add a little jaggery and that is optional
  • Dry grind in a mixer
  • As the name suggests it is a fine  side dish for idli and of course dosa with oil
  • Some use it as a side dish for curd rice without oil !




Dry chutney powder recipe

  • A simple side dish for rice , idli and dosa or chapati
  • The ingredients are urad dhal  one measure , quarter measure gram dhal , one tea spoon mustard ,
  • asafoetida , 10 to 15 red chillies and a small  piece of tamarind
  • Dry roast urad dhal without oil on medium flame till the colour changes
  • Then dry roast gram dhal also separately
  • Roast the red chillies with a little  oil and tamarind
  • Then add mustard and asafoetida. Finally roast the salt  required also.
  • Allow them to  cool, grind in a mixer and store in an air tight container