Akkalkot is a city and a municipal council in Solapur district in the Indian state of Maharashtra, situated 40 km southeast of Solapur near the state border with Karnataka. Akkalkot is home to Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj, a saint in 19th century who was believed to be an incarnation of God Dattatreya by his devotees
Akkalkot is widely known for its association with Shri Swami Samarth a reincarnation of Lord Dattatreya. Swami Samartha lived for over two decades at Akkalkot, mainly at the residence of his disciple Cholappa, where his Samadhi and shrine are now located. The shrine complex, The Vatavruksh Mandir , which also encloses the banyan tree beneath which the Swami would preach his message, is the hub of devotions for his followers; free accommodation and meals are provided to pilgrims by Shri Swami Samarth Annachhatra Mandal also. The other shrine is of Samadhi of Akkalkoth Swami located at some distance from the main shrine.
Initially Shri Balappa Maharaj used to stay in Budhwar peth area of Akkalkot, in a room behind the samadhi of Shri Swami Maharaj. Later on he shifted to the house of Shri Gramjoshi where Shardamata, wife of Paramsadguru Shree Gajanan Maharaj was born.
As the fame of Shri Balappa Maharaj grew, it became difficult to accommodate the increasing number of devotees in a small house, thus the residence of Shri. Chitanand was also used. This house was later bought by Khairatkar family. Shri.Baburaoji Khairatkar was later on to serve dedicatedly as the official representative of Paramsadguru Shree Gajananmaharaj and Math.
Even this place proved to be insufficient to accommodate the increasing number of devotees gathering on the days of festivals. In the year 1901 the devotees appealed in a letter to the then ruler of Akkalkot state for providing a bigger place giving information about all the functions and festivals of the Math. On 8th August 1901 a piece of land belonging to Shri Dajiba Bhosale was donated to Shri Balappa Maharaj.
As ordered by Shri Swami Maharaj a Math was now founded in the heart of Akkalkot town and His ‘Padukas’ and all other blessed insignia were established .
Around the same time Shri Balappa Maharaj bestowed his grace upon Dr. Sir Chimanlal Harilal Setalwad of Mumbai. Sir Chimanlal was a renowned lawyer and a leader of the Pragatic party. In the year 1906 he constructed the main Garbhagruha (sanctum sanctorum) of the Math by bringing in skilled craftsmen and artists from Mumbai. The Sanskrit verse which Shri Swami Maharaj had recited when ordering Shri Balappa to construct the Math were carved on the wall of the veranda in front .
Madarcham sampratisthapya mandiram karayet dhrudham
Pushpodyanani ramyani pujayatrotsavashritan
This Math became well known as 'Balappa Math'. It is this math which was glorified by Paramsadguru Shree by inheriting the Divine tradition of Masters.
Shri Vitthal Tikaji the administrator of the state of Akkalkot constructed the building at the back of the Math for circumambulating the main cellar.
One day Shri Balappa Maharaj had a vision in which he was told to travel to a town called Murtijapur. Accordingly next day morning he set out on the journey. On reaching the town of Murtijapur he camped in a temple. That night Shri Balappa Maharaj had a vision in which he was told “Narayanrao Jamadar would soon be bestowed with a son.” In the morning Shri Balappa Maharaj made enquiries about this unknown person about whom he had been given a vision. Narayanrao Jamadar was a rich landlord of province.However he did not have any offspring for which he was always dejected. Shri Balappa Maharaj blessed him saying he would soon be blessed with a son. Within a year Shri Narayanrao had a son who was named Vitthalrao.
Shri Narayanrao was very happy and became a devout follower of Shri Balappa Maharaj. He built an assembly hall for the Math. On entering the hall there are two strong wooden staircases on the left and right sides which climb up to the two galleries that run along the length of the hall on both sides. The common ceiling to the Hall and two galleries is elliptical in shape and constructed out of best quality wood. Shri Vitthalrao, son of Shri Narayanrao then constructed the Mahadwar (Main entrance door). The door has the following inscription
“ In obdience to the wishes of Late Bhramanand Swami this Mahadwar is built by Mr. Vitthalrao Narayan Jamadar of Murtijapur with permission of his father – 1914 A.D.
Cost : Rs. 6800/- “
The Mahadwar is built of quality black stone and has a Nagarkhana ( a small room used for playing musical instruments during the times of religious services).on its top.
The Ram Mandir towards the North side of the Math was donated by Shrimant Mrudularaje Bhonsale the ruler of Akkalkot in 1972.
The house adjoining the rear side of the math belonging to Shri Pantoji was bought for use of the Math where the kitchen and dining halls are located.
In later years another house was also bought to accommodate the increasing number of devotees. This purchase was done as service by Shri Bhupatbhai Vora of Mumbai.
'Balappa Math' which is a symbol of the Eternal Guru-shishya tradition was renamed as ‘ Guru Mandir’ by Paramsadguru Shree Gajanan Maharaj, during His regime.
In 1974 the Main Hall of the Math was renovated. A renowned architect, ‘Ramaswamy’ of Tamilnadu was deputed for the job. The expenses for this were donated as service by Shri Rajeshbhai Khurana of Mumbai.
Immediately on entering through the main gate on the left were the bathrooms and Cow-barn. Along side the main hall was Shree’s kitchen above which was His rest room. He used to do Anushthana in the afternoon in this room. This room was built with Shree’s permission by Shri Baburaoji Parkhe in 1956-57.
On this place a separate two storied building was constructed for Shree’s residence by His disciple Shri Gajananrao Rangnekar of Mumbai during the period from 1971 and 1973. This was named ‘Ramaramashram’. Bhagavan Parashuram had visited the math in physical form, had taken meal, and had been seen standing at this place where today ‘Ramaramashram’ stands. The place where Shree used to dine is exactly on the same spot.
The room used by Shree for His daily ‘Anushthana’ was renovated in 1978 by Shri Baburaoji Parkhe. Previously this room used to be Shree’s kitchen, in the same room Shreeji had the vision of the Holy Fire (Siddhagni) He used to spend most of His time doing Japanushthana ie. chanting of mantras in this room. The flooring is of Marble and the ceiling is decorated. This work was done by Shri Ramswamy of Tamilnadu.
Joshi Math -
There was a little vacant space and a well along sides the house of Shri Joshi who was an ardent devotee of Shri Swami Maharaj. Occasionally Shri Swami Maharaj used to come and sit here under the Audumbara tree. Once Shri Gopal Bhide, Shri Mirajkar and other devotees of Swami Maharaj thought of setting up Padukas (Sandals) of Swami Samarth and building a Math under the Audambar tree. But the plan did not materialize due to lack of funds. Swami Maharaj, reading their minds once said unto them “ Try to raise funds and you will get help, then use them for constructing a building for setting up the Padukas.”
Then the devotees started collecting funds and soon they had thousands of rupees. Through these funds was built the Joshi Math that we see today in Akkalkot. This Math was built while Shri Swami Samartha was still in his bodily form. The audience hall in front of the Math was built by Shri Vasudev Vinayak Barve of Mumbai.
Shri Chintopant Tol (Joshibua) was serving in the Akkalkot state government, which was under the British patronage. He was a devout follower of Shri Swami Maharaj and used to perform regular pooja (worship) in his house. Once When Shri Swami Maharaj had come to his house, Shri Chintopant Tol worshipped Him by performing an elaborate pooja at His feet and prayed “ Let thy lotus feet be here always for me to worship” On hearing this Shri Swami Maharaj immediately said “ Right, I am always here” and went away.
When Shri Joshi cleared the leaves of Tulasi offered at lotus feet of Shri Swami Maharaj ,he saw the imprints of Shri Swami Maharaj’s feet on the wooden platform on which Shri Swami Maharaj was standing during the pooja.
More than 125 years have passed and still these padukas are worshipped in Joshi Math which presently is maintained by Gurumandir Trust.