Saturday, July 26, 2014

Shree Swami Samartha of Akkalkot

As I was walking down the steps of the Akkalkot Durgah, I heard the Azan. I looked at my watch, it was around 7 pm. For some, it was time to pray, but for me a hectic day in Akkalkot had come to an end. My bus was at 8:30 pm from Akkalkot bus stand, it was time I reached there.

Akkalkot is on my way to my native place, but for some or the other reason; I had not been able to visit the sacred place. This time I decided to take a break in the journey and visit Akkalkot.

Akkalkot is famous for the spiritual master, popularly called Shree Swami Samarth. He is also known for his famous quote “Bhiu nako, me tujhya paathishi ahe” i.e. don’t be afraid, I am with you. He lived in Akkalkot for 22 years, left this world in the year 1878.

In the morning, I visited his Samadhi and Shrine, then the Vatavruksha Mandir. Also had Mahaprasad at the Annachhatra.

I was told by my father that he lived in very close proximity of the shrine, and visited the Samadhi and shrine quiet regularly as a child.

Akkalkot is bordered by South Sholapur to the west and other districts. The district covers an area of 1,407 km. and contains 138 villages, apart from the town. The total population of the district is approximately 290,000 (2001 census), giving a population density of 209 per km. The soil is classified as 'medium to deep black' and is of rich quality. Jowar, bajra and pulses are the main crops grown in the district. Akkalkot is in a routinely drought hit area as it is in a rain shadow in geographical terms, and no major river passes through this taluka.

Akkalkot is widely known for its association with Shri Swami Samartha Maharaj held by some to be a reincarnation of Lord Dattatreya. Swami Maharaj 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 messages, is the hub of devotions for his followers. Free accommodation and meals are provided to pilgrims by the Shri Swami Samarth Annachhatra Mandal. The other local shrine is the samadhi of Akkalkot Swami located some distance from the main shrine, but still within the city limits. (Source - Wikipedia)

After having Mahaprasad, which also turned out be a very good lunch for me, it was time to see some princely Akkalkot. There are two forts in Akkalkot that are privately owned by the Bhonsles. This time around, I managed to take a few pictures of the forts, as it was permitted, unlike in the shrines. This picture is of the main gate of the old fort. As you enter in the fort, through a small door of the giant gate, on the right side, in a corner, there is an office. One is welcome there, can get all the information about the Bhosales, the other new fort and also about the Armory Museum that is there in the new fort.

On my way to the new fort, I shot this picture of the old fort from the street and also of an old building that has now been turned into a government school.

It is believed that the Armory Museum owned by the Bhosale’s is
one of the best in Asia. Cpt. Fatehsinhrao III Raje Bhonsle, who was in the British army, had a great desire of collecting the armories. At this new fort Armory Museum, one can buy a few artifacts, if one likes collecting them.

Though, I was not allowed to take pictures inside the museum, I was more than happy to shoot the new fort from outside.

During the British Raj, Akkalkot was the seat of a princely state of the same name. The non-salute state came under the Deccan States Agency and was bordered by Hyderabad State and the presidency of Bombay Presidency. The area of the state was 498 sq. miles; its population in 1901 was 82,047, while the population of the town itself was 8,348 in that year. In 1911, the state enjoyed a revenue estimated at Rs.26,586/- and paid a tribute to the British Raj of Rs.1,000/-.

The ruling dynasty descended from Ranoji Lokhande, who was adopted by Chhattrapati Sambhaji, grandson of Shivaji, around the year 1708. Upon his adoption, Ranoji assumed the name 'Fatehsinh Bhonsle' and received in appendage the town of Akkalkoth and surrounding areas. These estates remained a fief within the state of Satara until 1848, when the rulers of Satara (Chhatrapati Sambhaji designated successors) were deposed by the British. Akkalkot then became one of several vassals of Satara that were recognized as separate princely states by the British Raj. The political history of the state is remarkable in having been altogether free of major incidents; however, given their stability and association with the dynasty of Shivaji, the family came to be linked by marriage to nearly every major Great Maratha ruling family in India. The ruling chiefs of Akkalkot were:

1707-1760 Fatehsinh I Raje Bhonsle (born Ranoji Lokhande)

1760-1789 Shahaji I (Bala Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1789-1822 Fatehsinh II (Appa Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1822-1823 Maloji I (Baba Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1823-1857 Shahaji II (Appa Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1857-1870 Maloji II (Buwa Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1870-1896 Shahaji III (Baba Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1896-1923 Cpt. Fatehsinhrao III Raje Bhonsle

1923-1952 Vijayasinhrao Fatehsinhrao Raje Bhonsle

1952-1965 Jayasinhrao Vijayasinhrao Raje Bhonsle

Upon the withdrawal of the British from India in 1947, Akkalkot state acceded unto the Dominion of India, and was later merged with the province of Bombay. Mrs Srimant Nirmala raje Bhosale, wife of Jayasinghrao Bhosale was Minister for states in Bombay Province government. Their two daughters namely Shrimant Sunita Raje & Shrimant Sanyukta Raje are looking after the property. In 2006 Shrimant Sanyukta Raje Bhosale adopted a child from Kolahapur Maratha family and named him as Shrimant Fattesingh Raje ( Baba raje). (Source - Wikipedia)

Akkalkot, a trip to remember!


Shree Swami Samartha's photo source - Internet

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sex-a taboo!

Why sex is a taboo? As a visually challenged couple, we have gone through this, a lot. Many times, walking with my wife on the streets, holding hands, has not been appreciated by the passer byes or the people on the street. They look at us strangely, pass some mindless dirty remarks, as though we have committed some heinous crime, by holding hands and they are there for the society, appointed by the society, for moral policing. But, their supervisory ideas turn into sympathy, not even empathy, only when they realize that we are visually challenged. It happens only with some, there are many who still have a comment or two to pass, or, they keep staring at us, till we have gone far away, as though we are animals from the zoo.

To deal with this problem, my wife has found a noble idea of carrying her folding white cane in her hand, in such a way that people notice it and realize that she is blind and I am helping her while walking.

I feel, sex a taboo, has always been a problem world over. What differs is the way the societies look at it.

This reminds me of a couple of incidences which happened with me in the past. In the first case, I was with a group of American friends, who had come to India, to take part in the Himalayan run. While in Delhi, site seeing, I happen to escort a blind colleague of mine to see the Kutub Minar. While I took my blind colleague around, I realized that one of my American friend looked strangely at me and kept distance from me. It was only when we returned to our bus that we had hired for site seeing, he spoke to me and said “People in India are very liberal” I could not understand as to what he was trying to say. So, I asked him what exactly he meant by his statement. And there came the explanation “In US, guys do not hold hands and walk. Homosexuality is looked down upon and it is not freely accepted. People are free to have their own sexual preferences, but I always try to stay away from a few gay people, whom I know, back in the US. Hearing this, I was stunned. I could not believe that he was thinking on those lines. I tried to explain to him that in India, people do not care or even think about it. Though it is prevalent in the society, people just prefer to hide it. But now the trend is changing slowly and surely. Now people might think the way my American friend was thinking.

In the second case, I come across an Australian blind person, who had come to India to play cricket for the blind. While chatting with me in the bus he told me that he always makes sure to keep his folding white cane open, when he is being escorted by a male person and does not bother to do so, when he is with a female.

I understand that homosexuality is not freely accepted in developed countries, as sex in any form in India. Now, since the Indian government has legalized homosexuality, one needs to see what the religious sects have to say about it. I am sure the religious groups will not have anything pleasant to say about this decision by the government.

Personally, I am very happy for the homosexual community, as they have been fighting for there rights for so long.

When we have respect for our own sexuality, why can’t we respect other people’s sexualities? And why sex has to be a taboo, in any form?


Picture courtesy –