We went to the Shirdi temple of Sai Baba on 10/10/10.....You have to take your shoes off, but you do this about two blocks from where you actually go into the line. I love being barefooted, but remember, this is India and its hot outside, so I was trying to walk as fast as I could to get into shade, but remember, this is India and there are a gazillion people, so you can't walk fast or you will plow into people. It was a relief to finally reach the shade of the entrance but the entrance was deceiving from the street, ....you actually get in a huge, huge, Disneyland type line, with the rails and everything, except it goes up some stairs, down some stairs and back up some stairs and winds and winds around.
One of the main culture differences that it is hard to get used to, is the close proximity everyone has with one another. There are so many people that they are used to being right up against each other and in that line people had no problem with pushing their way through to move their position up. I think in our country, fights would break out if people tried taking cuts, but no one seems bothered at all. As Jeff mentioned in his email, the close proximity extends to the driving here also....they drive as close together as you can possibly imagine; we saw 5 accidents on this trip!
The temple room itself is not as large as you would think it would be..probably 40 X 30. All the surfaces are gold (not real) and there is a giant statue of Sai Baba on an altar and there are two men dressed in toga like clothes on two sides of the altar. As people pass by on both sides on the side of the altar, they give flowers to the men and they put them in a pile, which is huge as you can imagine with all the people. Some people were handing plastic sacks with flowers in it to the men and they were taking it over to the statue and letting it touch the hand of the statue and then bringing it back to the person that gave it. The Indian family we were with told us to make a wish as we passed the statue, as Sai Baba is supposed to help make them true. Hey, what the heck, I gave it a try...nothing to lose...I'll let you know if it comes true.
On the rest of the temple grounds there are things of significance that people touch and where people congregate, such as the tree Baba was said to have sat under. There is a museum that shows his clothes, bed, and the few possessions he had. It was very interesting.
Outside the temple, there are a bunch of shops selling Sai Baba souvenirs and just about anything else. Of course there were many beggars, including one woman, who through an interpreter told me I was her fair skinned daughter...I never knew! Speaking of fair skin, children especially stared at us in wonder...i'm sure we were the first light skinned/eyed people they had ever seen. It's strange to be a minority!