Shirdi’s Prasadalaya achieves a first, using solar energy to make meals for devotees

Shirdi (Maharashtra), June 29: With an increasing focus on protecting the environment from the ravages of climate change, and promotion of alternative energies such as solar energy etc., the Shirdi Saibaba Sansthan Trust in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar District is taking the lead in this regard through its food service.

The Sansthan’s Prasadalaya, said to be Asia’s biggest, has taken a conscious decision to use solar energy for cooking food for the tens of thousands of devotees that visit the place where the first Sai Baba is said to have spent a majority of his life.

Previously, 500 metric tons of LPG was used for cooking food for the pilgrims. With the Central Government recently hiking the price of cooking gas and curtailing access to conventional fuel, the Sansthan took a decision to install a solar cooking project at the cost of Rs.1.33 crores.

The benefit has been felt immediately. Today, the Sansthan claims that it has reduced the use of LPG by 74 metric tons and saving over Rs.29 lakhs annually.

In addition it is receiving carbon credits from an international organization.

The Prasadalaya serves meals to 30,000 to 35,000 people every day. This figure goes up to 100,000 during the holidays and the festival period. The poor, bling, physically handicapped and saints get their meals free.

The Sansthan spends Rs.18 per meal, but charges only Rs.10. Children below the age of 10 have to pay only Rs.5 per meal.

To give an idea of the quantity distributed by the Prasadalaya, one need only look at the grocery that is ordered.

It requires 9000 quintals of sugar, 1500 quintals of lentils (Tur Dal), 6200 quintals of vegetables, besides the serving of 2000 Swaminarayan chappatis (the last item is served per hour.)

During its 12-hour shift (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.), the Prasadalaya has over 1000 employees dedicated to the daily service of preparing and serving meals to devotees.

There are state-of-the-art machines in place to make the chappatis and cut the vegetables. There are also automated dish washing machines to clean the mountain of vessels that pile up after the meal. Cooking is done in two shifts – 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The Sai Baba started the distribution of food to devotees in the latter part of the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th century, and the practice continues even today at Shirdi.

The distribution of food in the Fourth Age of “Kalyug” is seen as vital and important. The importance of giving food is well explained in the Shri Saisatcharita’s 38th lesson.
Copyright Asian News International/