Uddhav Thackeray
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray Image Credit: ANI

Shirdi (Maharashtra): Locals have called for a shutdown at the temple town of Shirdi in Maharashtra on Sunday over a controversy on the birthplace of Saibaba, the 19th century spiritual figure.

However, the famous Saibaba temple in the town will remain open, its trustees said on Saturday.

The temple attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees from all over India every year.

Controversy erupted after Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced a grant of Rs1 billion (Dh51 million) for the development of facilities at “Sai janmasthan” (Sai’s birthplace) at Pathri in Parbhani district.

Pathri is considered to be the birthplace of Saibaba by some devotees.

But residents of Shirdi claimed that the exact birthplace of the famed saint was not known.

Deepak Mugalikar, chief executive officer of the Shree Saibaba Sansthan Trust at Shirdi, said the temple will remain open despite the shutdown call.

Local BJP MLA Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said he supported the call for shutdown given by the local people.

“The chief minister should withdraw his statement that Pathri was Saibaba’s birthplace,” he demanded.

“Pathri only has one of several Sai temples in the country. All Sai devotees are feeling hurt, so this controversy should be ended,” the former state minister said.

Congress leader and former chief minister Ashok Chavan had said on Friday that creation of facilities for devotees at Pathri should not be opposed over the controversy over birthplace.