The Sai Baba temple trust here has built what is billed to be Asia's biggest
, a dining hall with a seating capacity of 5,500, making it possible to feed more than 100,000 devotees daily.
The Sri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, on an average, spends Rs 190 million annually on feeding pilgrims visiting Shirdi.
The prasadalaya, constructed at a cost of Rs 240 million, was inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil on Tuesday. The complex is built on 7.5 acres of land and has a built-up area of 183,000 sq feet. It is 700 metres from the main Sai Baba temple.
A gigantic hall has been constructed on the ground floor, which can seat 3,500 devotees. Two separate halls have been constructed on the first floor with a seating capacity of 1,000 each.
Fourteen domes made of polycarbonate and Manglorian tiles have been constructed to give ample natural light to the hall, so that power cuts do not disturb the activities in the prasadalaya during daytime.
Raghunath Aher, chief engineer, Shri Sai Baba Sansthan, told IANS: "The work of the prasadalaya has been going on for 15 months and it will be fully functional in two months."
The meals served at the Sansthan are at highly subsidised rates of Rs 5. Huge refrigerating rooms have been built for keeping vegetables fresh. Most of the cooking will be done with solar energy.
VR Wakchure, executive officer of the Sansthan, said: "All the cooking will be done with modern machines, giving top priority to hygiene."
According to the trust, Shirdi has become one of India's most visited pilgrim places after Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. On a normal day, around 20,000 devotees visit Shirdi whereas the number increases to about 60,000 during a festival.
The previous dinning hall had a capacity of 1,000 people together.
The prasadalaya serves simple Maharashtrian food comprising dal, rice, chapatti, two vegetables and a sweet. For pilgrims who cannot afford to pay, there is another hall, which has a capacity of 150 people and the trust serves food for free.
Ganpath Tatya, prasadalaya supervisor, said: "Every day more than 100 people come here to make just chapattis. The prasadalaya is always full. We like serving food to everyone who comes here, we do not want anyone visiting Shirdi to leave hungry, and they should be happy and satisfied."
The prasadalaya is open from 10 am to 10 pm.The food is first offered to Sai Baba and then served to the devotees.