With its corrugated iron roof and rough stone walls, the mosque could never be described as grand. Yet, in spite of this - or rather, because of this - it seems to have suited Baba very well. Describing himself as a simple fakir, Baba was a model of dispassion and non-attachment. His personal possessions amounted to little more than a few pieces of cloth, some chillim pipes, a stick, a begging bowl, and a change of kafni - and not always even that. Whenever his devotees wanted to refurbish the mosque, Baba resisted, saying that it was not necessary, although basic repair work was gradually carried out.
To the devotees of Sai Baba, Dwarkamai is one of the treasures of Shirdi. The spirit of tolerance, acceptance and welcome for all is very much alive. Baba has said that merely going inside the mosque will confer blessings, and the experiences of devotees confirm this. Sai Baba respected all religions and creeds, and all had free access to the mosque. It is typically unique of Sai Baba that he regarded a place of worship - the mosque - as a mother. He once told a visitor, "Dwarka-mai is this very mosque. She makes those who ascend her steps fearless. This masjid ayi is very kind. Those who come here reach their goal!" As Sri Babuji has observed, "The Islamic concept of the masjid as the solemn court of the sovereign Creator has been transformed by Sri Sai Baba in his own unique and inimitable way, into the loving lap of a doting mother, the masjid ayi."
On entering the mosque, one is struck by its powerful atmosphere and the intensity and absorption with which visitors are going about their worship. Another point we notice is the great diversity of devotional expression. Some people will be kneeling before Baba's picture or making offerings, others will be praying before the dhuni (perpetually burning sacred fire), some may be doing japa or reading from sacred texts, and others will be sitting in contemplation.
If we spend some time here we may become aware of a mysterious phenomenon. The "ayi" aspect of the masjid reveals itself in a number of ways and we feel we are sitting in Baba's drawing room. See that child over there happily crawling around with a toffee in its mouth, or her sister colouring a comic book? And what about that old man complaining to Baba about his aches and pains, or that woman sitting with her son on her lap telling him a story? Opposite is a large family group. The grandmother has a tiffin tin, and having offered some to Baba, she walks around giving a handful of payasam (sweet rice) to everyone in the mosque. We almost feel we are receiving prasad from Baba himself, and perhaps we are then reminded of some of the stories in Baba's life in which devotees brought offerings, or when he affectionately distributed fruit or sweets with his own hands. The atmosphere is so homely in this abode of Sai-mavuli! But what is perhaps more remarkable, is that this homeliness co-exists with a powerful experience of the sacred and transcendent. The spirit is profoundly moved by "something" - something indefinable, something great, something mysterious, something magnetically attractive.
As we explore Sai Baba's Shirdi, this aspect of Baba - at once the concerned mother and the Almighty - is shown again and again. Many devotees relate to Baba as a mother, and many as a God supreme. That these two are so perfectly synthesized in Baba - see his care for both the smallest domestic detail as well as the ultimate spiritual attainment - is perhaps the most beautiful and unique aspect of Shirdi Sai.