Your arduous road to devotion will soon be on smoother tracks, thanks to the railways.
The railways are planning to introduce the first-ever train service between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Shirdi by the end of this month, in a way that you will be in time for the 'kakad' (morning) aarti at 5.15 am.
The tracks are ready and the station at Shirdi, named Sainagar Shirdi, is waiting for the first train to roll in.
The Central Railway had laid a 17.8-km line to connect the new station at Shirdi to the already existing Puntamba station. Though the railway board is yet to finalise between the two route options available for running trains between Mumbai and Shirdi - one via Pune-Daund and the other via Nashik-Manmad - sources said the former is likely to be favoured.
The train service will help lakhs of devotees, who till now had to access Shirdi by road or air, as the temple town, approximately 296 km from Mumbai, was not on the railway map.
Though train travel from Mumbai would not cut down the time - it takes about five hours by road today - it would make the journey more comfortable and safe.
The highway to Shirdi is notorious for road accidents and robberies, with more than 25 bikers being assaulted and robbed in the last 18 months. The police were stopping all vehicles after Sinnar and asking them to move ahead in a convoy.
Besides, the number of road accidents is expected to go down once regular trains start and passengers shift to railways.
On an average, about 20,000 devotees visit the Shirdi temple every day. The number goes up to 1 lakh per day during festivals.
Local MLA and chairman of Shri Saibaba Sansthan, Shirdi, Jayant Muralidhar Sasane, told Hindustan Times that trains on the route would be of great convenience to the public. "The rail link was necessary and it is the most important project for this temple town," he said.