Shirala, 16°59´ north latitude and 74° 11´ east longitude, is the headquarters of the mahal of the same name, with 6,411 inhabitants in 1961. It lies 14.43 km (nine miles) south−west of Peth on the Varna valley and has sprung up on either side of a stream which flows into the Morna, a tributary of the Varna a mile down−Cream. It is surrounded on three sides by barren hills with broken and undulating ground in the neighbourhood. The chief crops grown are paddy, groundnut and sugarcane. In recent years, however, a tendency to switch over to sugarcane plantation is noticed. Shirala has primary schools, two high schools. a primary health centre with a maternity home attached, a veterinary dispensary, a branch post office, a police station and branches of the district co−operative and the urban bank. The brass lamps or samais manufactured here are well−known all over the district. Monday is the bazar day. Drinking water is obtained from the wells and the river. The village was surrounded by mud walls and during the times of the Marathas was fort of some strength. A hereditary officer of some dignity was always posted at Shirala for the administration of the surrounding tracts and custody of records.
About three quarters of a mile from the village there is an antique shrine dedicated to Gorakhnath situated amidst a small grove of tamarind trees, In ancient days the grove was very large and was frequented by a large number of peacocks whose lives were carefully respected and which fed on the grains thrown to them by the Gosdvlsinhabiting the math or the monastic house. The image of the presiding deity is a large mill−stone placed on the north side of a gigantic old tamarind tree of the species known as Gorakh Amli. There is an image of Gorakhnath installed in the math by the Gosavis.A remarkable property is attributed to this tree. Its bark is scored everywhere in every direction by natural lines and cracks. These are believed to be the characters written by the deity in an unknown tongue and every Kanphata devotee coming to worship there has his name written on the tree. A fair in great local repute is held in the month ofCaitva or March−April. It is attended by many Lingayat Varus, Marathas and other people. Nagapancami Festival.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the village is the way the Nagapancamifestival is observed and celebrated by its inhabitants. It is celebrated by the village folk of Battis Shirala with a difference in that venomous snakes are made to sport by the village folk. This unique way of observance of the festival has aroused the curiosity of even foreigners. Legend tells us that the village was formerly known as Srigal and the local inhabitants used to worship a clay image of the snake−god. One day while Gorakhnath was on his usual rounds for alms he had to wait on the threshold of a house for quite some time. The woman of the house, who came with alms a little later, regretted the delay and told the saint that she was engaged in the worship of clay image of Naga. The saint thereupon produced a live snake by his divine powers and asked her to worship it instead, assuring her and the village folk at the same time that on Nagapanchami day the snakes would do no harm. The inhabitants of the thirty−two neighbouring villages following this incident became his ardent devotees and hence significantly enough the village has earned the name Battis Shirala.
Following this practice, even to this day, when the festival approaches, people round−up hundreds of venomous snakes from the neighboring hilly regions and take them out in a procession on the Nagapanchami day. A spacious platform has specially been constructed on which snakes are made to dance to the tune of pebble filled earthen pots which are gently made to roll on the ground. It is. Very interesting to note the village folk both young and old going about merrily with snakes round their necks without the slightest expression of fear on their faces. Fights between snakes and ghorpads are also arranged. To witness this unusual spectacle thousands of enthusiasts gather, coming from Bombay, Kolhapur, Poona, Satara and many other places. Ambabai Temple.
Ambabai temple is to the west of the village. It has an enclosure on three sides and is built on an elevated ground with three arches in the front. The mandap is 1.85 m2 (20 ft. square). At its farther end, just near the gabhara there is a ling and nearby is a hole in the ground. A story is current about this hole It is said that a certain Brahman used to read pothi in the temple every morning and that a snake emerging out of this hole listened to it and gave the Brahman a mohar or gold coin each day. One day as the Brahman had to go out of the village on business, he commanded his son to perform the duty, telling him all about the snake. As usual when the snake turned back after delivering the mohar, the Brahman’s son tried to hit it with the intention of taking the whole store of mohars. But the aim missed and the snake never again appeared. Thegabhara lintel is decorated with an image of Ganapati and on its either side there are other images of deities carved on blocks of stone. The vestibule contains the image of Ambabai depicted as sitting on a full bloomed lotus. Outside the enclosure there is adipmal with a banyan tree nearby. On Nagapanchami day a fair is held in honor of the goddess. On this occasion live cobras are worshipped, The temple is a solid work in masonry.
The Hanuman Mandir situated on the left bank of the Torna stream, is reported to be one of those established by Ramdas Svami. It is of masonry, situated amidst fine natural surroundings with a cluster of trees around and an extensive sugarcane field in the front. The front side of the mandap has three arches bearing some carvings. On either side of the gabhare which is 0.929 m2 (ten feet square) there are dvarapalas and inside, an idol of Hanuman besmeared with red lead. Hanuman Jayanti attended by the local people is celebrated.