In 1952 there was only a photograph of Baba on top of the Samadhi. The Sansthan realized that devotees were flocking to Shirdi and soon the crowds would increase manifold. So they decided to install an Idol of Saibaba. The Sansthan selected and met five famous sculptors from Maharashtra and B.V.Talim was one of them. Each of the sculptors was given a small black and white photograph of Baba.
The procedure to make the model was a long and complicated one. The model is kept in a 'wet state' for two months, so that the final facial features can be made. Following this the model is draped with a transparent film. Talim took all the necessary steps. Talim used to get up early in the morning at Brahma Muhurth, he went and did namaskar to Baba in the model. He prayed earnestly saying "Baba give me darshan once. Let me look at you intently and to my hearts' content. Baba give me the strength and courage to make this murthy resemble you". Talim was doing this prayer every moment of the day. Days rolled by but Talim did not have Baba's darshan. Nor had he sculpted Baba's face. The deadline for the completion of the model was about 10 days away. He received a call from the Sansthan asking him if the model was completed, as they would be coming to see the model.
Talim continued praying day and night as he early awaited Baba's darshan. Talim was a very devout and disciplined man. Every morning he got up before dawn, had his bath, and performed Puja to his Ista Deva Vitthal. Then he went downstairs to his studio, and performed Puja to the deities there and only then did he start his work.
One day he went to the studio at the crack of dawn. His studio consisted of two rooms; the model was in the rear room; so was the switchboard for the lights of both the rooms. He made his way in the darkness to the room in the back. The room was engulfed in darkness. He stepped into the room and suddenly Baba's model lit up like a myriad suns. So brilliant was the light that he closed his eyes. Then he heard "Bagh. Mala Bagh" (Look! Look at me) and there stood Baba in front of him. Their eyes met and he became oblivious of everything except Baba's eyes. In a trance, Talim worked day and night and completed the model.
The Sansthan committee informed him that they had seen the other models and were coming to see his model. Talim took them to the rear room. They stood before the model and Talim unveiled it. As he did this, the committee silently looked at the model; soon their eyes filled with tears of wonder, they came to Talim and held his hand and said "You, and only you can carve Baba's murthy". (As narrated by Harish B Talim in Sai Anubhav).
Please find below the images of original Plaster of Paris Saibaba Statue available in Talim Studio in Mumbai which Late Shri.Balaji Vasant Talim used as Master Piece while doing the Samadhi Mandir Statue.
On Dasara (7th October 1954), the life-like marble statue was installed next to the western wall on the platform, behind Baba's Samadhi by Swami Sharananand. Sai Baba's Idol is installed in the South-West corner inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Samadhi Mandir and the idol is tilted a little in such way so as to make the Idol faces the North-East corner. This idol is made of Italian marble by Balaji Vasant Thalim. The Italian Marble used for Sculpting the Idol of Sai Baba was ordered by Shri Sai Baba Sansthan itself and not found outside the Samadhi Mandir as it has been published in many Websites and Blogs. This Thalim made this idol in a befitting manner, at the time of preparation of this idol, one day Baba gave him Darshan and said "Finish the work and you will not do any other idol in future". In due course Baba gave him Sadgati. So Thalim did not prepare any other idol. This was a benevolent reward for his service. This idol was taken through the village with pomp and ceremony and with due formalities the Pratistha was done.
There is an interesting story behind the installation of the Marble Idol of Shri Sai Baba. A controversy arose as to who should perform the Prana Pratishtapan of the Idol as Swami Sharananand was a Sanyasi and he was not eligible to do the Prana Pratishta. Then chit was put before Baba. In the chit the name Dr.Kehsav Gawankar came. However, since Dr.Gawankar and family had not arrived in Shirdi, it was decided that Dev Saheb andand his wife would perform the Prana Pratishta. In the meantime, the bus in which Dr.Keshav Gawankar and his family were travelling along with 16 other Brahmin Pundits got punctured and came to halt near Atgaon village situated between Shahpur and Katara. As the driver of the bus took the wheal to get the puncture rectified, Dr.Gawankar's family members and 16 others took bath in the nearby river. Later, the driver of the bus came back and they started again towards Shirdi. But, somehow, one Brahmin Pundit did not board the bus and nobody took notice of him. Later the Brahmin Pundit caught hold of another truck and joined these people an hour later. The family along with Brahmin Pundits reached Shirdi late in the evening. By that time Dev Saheb and his wife were about to perform the Prana Pratishta of the Idol. Seeing Dr.Gawankar and his family had arrived and in accordance with the verdict that came in the chit, Dr. Keshav Gawankar couple did the Prana Pratishta of the Idol. Since Swami Sharananad was a Sanyasi, he was not to perform the Prana Pratishta of the Idol. Hence, Swami Sharananad was given the honours of opening the curtain that was put in front of the Idol.
Baba's Murthy is sculpted from a single block of marble. It cost 22,000 rupees during that time. The murthy faces east and the face is tilted towards Ishanya (North East). Every devotee who goes to the Samadhi Mandir feels that Baba is looking only at him or her, no matter where they stand. In fact Baba is not just looking at them but he is searching for them with his benevolent gaze.
The Interview of Sri. Rajiv Talim grand son of late Shri.B.V.Talim regarding the making of Saibaba Idol at Shirdi has been displayed below for the benefit of Sai devotees.