Sai Baba devotees across Mumbai, who are planning their annual trip to Shirdi, the iconic Sai Baba shrine, are on a shoe-string budget following the Centre’s demonetisation decision.
Not many mandals are keen on scrapping the annual yatra. They are cutting down on expenses on food and lodging, say mandal members.
“We accepted old currency notes as ‘chanda’ (donation) from participants and deposited them in banks. Banks gave us the highest denomination notes of Rs 2,000 in exchange,” said Mahesh Bhoir, organiser of Sai Mangal Padyatri Mandal in Borivli.
“We are looking for sponsors to ease down the crunch because not many people are registering their names for the procession,” he said, adding that the journey would start on November 25 and would reach eight days after.
Shirdi, a town in Ahmednagar district of the state, is around 275km away from Mumbai and thousands of people flock the temple to seek blessings every year. The mob walks a little over 30km every day chanting hymns.
Some groups had made lodging arrangements days before the ban on high denomination currencies. Another mandal in Dahisar has arranged for bicycles, and will start their trek on December 10. “Accommodation was already taken care of months back. Now that entries are not as expected, fewer people have to contribute a larger share in such crunch times,” said Sachin Bhoir, who heads Sai Baal Cycle Yatri Sangh for 15 years.
“Lodging facilities are more and people are few. We are figuring out every permutation and combination to somehow make it work this year. We will eat less if it comes to that,” Bhoir added.
After the mandals return from the yatra, every group organises a ‘Bhandara’—an all-day meal offering to people, which is deemed as blessings from the god, group members say.
Jayant Khaire, a Borivli resident said he opened a bank account some days back. “I am not going this year since I don’t have any new money. This year, I will pray from here and hope the situation improves next year,” he said.