When man is engulfed by worries, problems and vices, a saintly figure is required to show him the path of Truth to lead him to light. A saint usually glides such a man to become a devotee of God and to lead a life of righteousness. One such saint made his first appearance in Shegaon in Maharashtra on 23rd February 1878. He was called Shri Gajanan Maharaj.
One day as Bankatlal and Damodar, two gentlemen from Shegaon, were taking a stroll they noticed a young boy outside the monastery of a holy figure called Devidas Paturkar. The young boy was eating leftover grains of rice from a plate of leaves that was thrown out as waste food. Then he drank unclean water that was meant for the cattle and he left the place fully satisfied. Observing these events, Bankatlal had a realization that this was not an ordinary boy and that there was something special about him.
As time passed by, several people noticed the boy’s miracles. Shri Govindmaharaj Taklikar was one amongst them. He conducted religious discourses known as ‘keertan’. During one of his discourse at Shegaon in Shri Motey’s temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, he realised that the young boy was a divine incarnation. He got proof soon after. Shri Gajanan Maharaj could effortlessly tame his wild and unrestrained horse.
Once, Bankatlal and Pitamber had offered ‘Zunkha-Bhakar’ to Shri Gajanan Maharaj who enjoyed eating it. ‘Bhakar’ is bread made from millets like jowar and bajra and ‘Zunkha’ is an accompaniment of a chick pea flour dish. After having this dish, Shri Gajanan Maharaj asked Pitamber to fetch water to drink in a jug shaped water pot called ‘tumba’ from a nallah that was flowing close by. A nallah is usually a drainage stream and its water is not potable. To Pitamber’s astonishment the water that he collected in the pot was clean like it was taken from a well.
These events caused Bankatlal to realize the divinity in Shri Gajanan Maharaj and he immediately brought Maharaj to his residence, bathed him and worshiped him. In due course of time, Bankatlal’s cousin lchchalal also asked Maharaj to visit his house and he too duly worshiped Maharaj.
Shri Gajanan Maharaj was very fond of ‘chillam’. Chillam is a smoking pipe originating in India made out of terracotta material. One day, early in the morning Maharaj had the urge to smoke ‘chillam’ but did not have fire to ignite it. When his disciples went to a goldsmith Janakiram, he refused to given them live coals. Yet Shri Gajanan Maharaj was able to ignite his ‘chillam’. Maharaj had asked for live coals on purpose because he wanted to test Janakiram’s willingness to respond to his requests. A few days later on the occasion of the festival of Akshaya tritiya, Janakiram had invited some of his friends to his house for a feast. When the guests were served ‘chinchawani’, a sweet dish made out of tamarind, they found that it was infested with worms. Disgusted, all the guests left Janakiram’s house. Janakiram realised that because he had refused to give live coals to Shri Gajanan Maharaj this untoward incident had taken place. Janakiram accepted his mistake and as soon as he did that, all the worms disappeared within the next few minutes.
Many people have experienced Shri Gajanan Maharaj’s miracles in different ways. In a village called Aadgaon in Akola district, Shri Gajanan Maharaj managed to make clean water appear in a dry well and astonished his devotee Bhaskar Patil and other villagers. On another occasion, when Bankatlal invited Maharaj and some villagers to have roasted corn on his farm, the bees from a beehive on one of the trees in the farm attacked the visiting group. All but Maharaj fled from the venue. Maharaj was undeterred and to Bankatlal’s surprise there were no signs of bee stings on his body.
In Shegaon, there lived a wrestler called Hari Patil. On hearing about Shri Gajanan Maharaj’s miraculous deeds, he challenged him to a wrestling match. Shri Gajanan Maharaj defeated Hari Patil with such ease that Hari Patil was forced to swallow his pride. Slighted by this event, Hari Patil’s sons tried to beat Maharaj with sugarcane sticks inside a Hanuman temple. Strangely there were no signs of the thrashing on Maharaj’s body. Maharaj simply took those sticks and squeezed them with his hands and extracted sugarcane juice from them. In the same Patil family, there was one Khandu Patil who was childless for several years. When he approached Maharaj with his problem, due to the grace of the Maharaj, he was blessed.
Another villager called Janrao was cured of his illness by having ‘tirtha’, the holy water, given to him by Shri Gajanan Maharaj. Similarly, Lakshman Ghude, a resident of Karanja village, was terminally ill. He was brought to Shegaon to seek Maharaj’s blessings. Maharaj gave him a mango. Lakshmana consumed it against the advice of his doctor. Within two days, he got rid of his ailment much to the surprise of his doctor! A few years later, when the plague epidemic struck the state of Maharashtra, Maharaj’s disciple Pundalik Bhokrey, who was a victim of the plague, visited Shegaon looking for a cure. Shri Gajanan Maharaj just touched Pundalik’s armpit with his thumb and in two days’ time, Pundalik’s fever went down and he was completely cured. Shri Gajanan Maharaj then gave his wooden slippers to Pundalik so that he would install them in a shrine and continue to propagate Maharaj’s message of devotion and worship to the Almighty.
Touched by a poor devotee’s selfless worship to him, Maharaj went to his house in Amravati to meet him in person. Shri Gajanan Maharaj has visited several of his devotees often taking the form of the God that they worshiped the most. Balkrishna and Putlabai was a couple staying in Balapur who were great devotees of the highly revered saint Samarth Ramdas. To their delight, Maharaj visited this couple in guise of Samarth Ramdas. On the auspicious day of ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’, an ardent devotee by the name of Bapu staying in Pandharpur could not visit Vithoba temple in Pandharpur. Maharaj was able to soothe his anguish by visiting him in the guise of Lord Vithoba. ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’ is the eleventh lunar day of the Hindu month Ashadha [June-July]. It is a holy day for Vaishnavas, followers of Lord Vishnu. On this day a major pilgrimage culminates in Pandharpur in Maharashtra. Pandharpur is known for Vithoba temple. Vithoba is considered to be local form of Vishnu in Maharashtra. So Shri Gajanan Maharaj understood Bapu’s devotion to Lord Vithoba and made a special effort to fulfil this devotee’s desire.
In another instance, on the occasion of Somvati Amvasya, Shri Gajanan Maharaj went along with a few devotees to take a dip in river Narmada and to visit Omkareshwar temple. As they were crossing the river by boat, the river water gushed inside through a large hole in the boat. Due to Maharaj’s blessings, the river Narmada appeared in the guise of a fisherwoman and helped the people in the boat to reach the banks safely.
On Shri Gajanan Maharaj’s advice, Bandu Tatya found the hidden treasure that prevented him from abandoning his family and going to the Himalayas. Maharaj also managed to tame Suklal’s wild cow that had frustrated many farmers. On another occasion, a sage called Brahmagiri started showing off his knowledge in front of Shri Gajanan Maharaj. Maharaj immediately lit a bed of fire and asked Brahmagiri to sit on it. Maharaj himself was sitting comfortable on that bed as if it was made out of cushion. Brahmagiri accepted his shortcoming and his pride melted instantly like butter.
In a meeting organised to celebrate Shiva Jayanti (birthday of Maratha Emperor Shivaji Maharaj), the freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Shri Gajanan Maharaj shared the dais. Three days after this meeting Maharaj predicted that Tilak will be imprisoned and within a few days Lokmanya Tilak was sent to Mandalay jail.
Besides these events, Shri Gajanan Maharaj exhibited his divine spirit by curing a leprosy patient, by making a dead dog come alive, by decreasing the duration of punishment given to his devotee by asking him to eat ‘zunkha bhakar’ etc. It is believed that Shri Gajanan Maharaj who had conquered all his senses travelled in ladies’ compartment in a train at his will. Several such events are mentioned in the holy book ‘Shri Gajanan Vijay’.
Soon after his first appearance in Shegaon, people wondered what to call him as nobody knew from where he came and what was his lineage. Since he continuously chanted the mantra “gana gana ganat botey” people started calling him Shri Gajanan Maharaj. Often people offered him expensive clothes, ornaments, money, rich food but he would always leave it all at the place where he was offered. He would never carry anything along with him. Most of the times Shri Gajanan Maharaj would move around in Digamber state i.e. without clothes as he had conquered all the senses and had reached a stage beyond them. He would eat anything, sleep anywhere and move at will to any place.
As he realised that his work on earth was coming to an end, he informed his disciples about it. On 8th September 1910, he breathed his last at Shegaon.
In 1908 Shri Gajanan Maharaj realised that he would be soon renouncing the world. At the same time, one of his disciples Mr. Jagu Patil had initiated talks with other villagers of Shegaon to build a temple with Shri Gajanan Maharajas its presiding deity. Everybody willingly accepted his proposal.
During those days there was a feud between the Patil and Deshmukh families in Shegaon and the villagers were divided. Shri Gajanan Maharaj’s earlier monastery belonged to a person from the ‘Mali’ (gardener) community and the persons from this community supported the Deshmukh group. However, the Patil family reigned supreme in the village. Shri Gajanan Maharaj did not approve of this division. Hence he insisted that the new temple be built on a land that did not belong to anyone.
Later Shri Gajanan Maharaj told his disciples “I shall remain here”. It was thus decided that the temple will be constructed at the place indicated by Maharaj. As that land belonged to the local government, Maharaj’s disciple the revered Mr. Hari Kukaji Patil made an application to the government in order to obtain the land. In those days, Mr. Curry was the Deputy Commissioner of Buldana district. He sanctioned one acre of land for the temple in keeping with the 1909 resolution of the District Administration. He put a comment on the document that if the sanctioned land was prudently utilised he would sanction an additional one-acre land.
After obtaining the land, Mr. Hari Patil wished to finance the construction of the temple single handed but Maharaj had other plans. He wanted to involve all his disciples in the project. So he called for a meeting in Mr. Narayan Kadtaji Patil’s shop in Shegaon on 12th September 1909. This meeting was attended by his disciples, merchants and villagers. In the meeting, it was convened that the fund for construction of the temple would be accumulated through religious tax that would be levied on the merchandise traded by the villagers. The rate was fixed: 6 paise on every bullock cart loaded with cotton, 6 paise on every bullock cart loaded with grains and 3 paise on every cart loaded with sand. Soon thereafter on 27th September 1909 there was consensus reached on asking the farmers to pay 1 ‘anna’ (1/16 of rupee) per acre of their land as their contribution towards the construction of the temple.
At the place indicated by Shri Gajanan Maharaj, Mr. Hari Patil placed a stone and the construction of the temple began around that spot. The exact location of the stone was the centre of a piece of land registered as Survey No. 700 (43/45-2). Stone, lime and sand were used to construct the temple.
Bhuyar: After Shri Gajanan Maharaj passed away, his ‘samadhi’ was built at the spot where Mr. Hari Patil had placed the stone. Maharaj’s marble idol was installed on that spot which is now known as ‘bhuyar’. A basement is popularly known as ‘bhuyar’ in Marathi. As the devotees enter the ‘bhuyar’ they climb down the stairs to reach close to the idol. The inner wall of the ‘bhuyar’ is now covered with marble tiles.
Outer structure: The construction of the temple began in 1909. Built of black stone, it measures 48 feet in length and 42 feet in breadth. The spire is 51 feet high. The original outer structure of the temple had mythological figures carved on it. However, on the occasion of the centenary celebration of the ‘samadhi’ day of Shri Gajanan Maharaj, the earlier stone structure has been replaced by intricately carved marble structure. The old structure will be recreated while redevelopment a temple in Adgaon which is at a short distance from Shegaon.
Ram Mandir: After worshiping the idol of Shri Gajanan Maharaj, the devotees come out of the basement to the ground level where they worship Lord Ram. This type of construction is peculiar and has been done intentionally. It is believed that a Saint directs Man to the path that helps him to reach God. So after worshiping Maharaj, the devotees worship Lord Ram. There are two silver representations of Maharaj’s face in the sanctum sanctorum of Ram Mandir. They are used for the processions on special occasions.
Hanuman Mandir: Opposite the Ram Mandir lies the Hanuman Mandir. Lord Hanuman was always at the service of Lord Ram. When a saint guides his disciples to chant the name of the Lord and reach the God, it is the duty of the disciple to be in the service of the Lord. Lord Hanuman inspires people to do such service. In Shegaon, people strongly believe in service. It is translated into reality by the ‘Sevadharis’ (devotees) who selflessly take part in various activities of the temple.
Tortoise: There is an idol of tortoise on the floor in front of Lord Hanuman’s temple. In times of danger and calamity, a tortoise pulls its legs, feet and head inside its shell. The hard and strong shell can withstand any rough weather. Similarly, when devotees come to the temple, they need to withdraw lust, anger, envy, temptation and pride. When these vices are overcome, what remains outside as the shell is the blessing of God. With these blessings, the devotees can experience immense satisfaction.
Flag: In ancient times, the structure of the temple was not very tall. In order to make the exact location of the temple known to the villagers, a flag was hoisted at the top of the temple. This tradition continues to hold good even today in Shegaon. The flag post in Shegaon temple is 31 feet tall and is gold plated. The flag itself has the divine alphabets “Aum” and “Shri” inscribed on it.
Sabhamandap: The hall joining the Ram Mandir and the Hanuman Mandir is called the ‘Sabhamandap’. It has pillars on all sides and above the pillars and below the roof are lovely paintings depicting important incidents from the life of Shri Gajanan Maharaj as written in the book ‘Shri Gajanan Vijay’. The former stone structure has now been re-painted to give it a fresh look.
Samadhi grahan sthal and Shayangriha: Towards the South-East of the main temple entrance is the ‘Samadhi grahan sthal’. It is called as such because it was here that Shri Gajanan Maharaj breathed his last. Within Hinduism, ‘Samadhi’ can also refer to videha mukti or the complete absorption of the individual consciousness into the Self at the time of death – usually referred to as ‘Mahasamadhi’ – as well as the mausoleum of a saint, or spiritual leader.
There is a marble memorial stone structure with ‘paduka’ (footprints of saint) at the ‘Samadhi grahan sthal’ of Shri Gajanan Maharaj and just behind this memorial is a shrine of Lord Vithoba and Rukhmini. Adjacent to this shrine is the ‘Shayangriha’. This is the place where Maharaj would rest or sleep. The bed that he used is preserved and Maharaj’s photograph has been placed on it.
To the left of the ‘Samadhi grahan sthal’ is the ‘dhuni’, the holy fire that was lit by Maharaj. One sevadhari is appointed to keep the dhuni live day and night. For this job almost 1 quintal of wood is required. Several devotees add ghee, raal’ (similar to absinthe), cotton wick dipped in ghee, ganja (hemp) to the dhuni. The tongs that were used by Maharaj have also been preciously conserved.
Parayan mandap: In front of the ‘Samadhi grahan sthal’ and ‘Shayangriha’ is a huge hall called ‘Parayan mandap’. This hall is used by the devotees to chant mantras, to meditate or to read the holy book. ‘Parayan’ is a reading of a holy book.
Several devotees sit in this hall and read the holy book ‘Shri Gajanan Vijay’. There are wooden seats with back rest for those who wish to sit on the floor and do the reading of the holy book. For those who cannot squat on the floor, chairs are also available. The temple ‘Sansthan’ lends copies of the holy book for reading without any charges. Also some devotees like to light incense sticks, so the ‘Sansthan’ provides stick holders. Some people light a cotton wick lamp that may die down due to the circulating air. To prevent this, the ‘Sansthan ‘ provides a glass cover for the lamp to the devotees who wish to keep a lamp lighted during the reading of the book. Furthermore, if a devotee has forgotten his spectacles, he cannot read. Therefore, the ‘Sansthan’ has made arrangement for spectacles with different powered glasses.
Entrances: the main entrance which is known as ‘Mukhya Praveshdwar’ faces north. There is also another entrance from the west.
Pathshala: There is an open space surrounding the temple on all four sides. This space is enclosed by a compound wall and broad corridor like structure called ‘Pathshala’. This stone structure with beautifully carved pillars and arches opens to the side facing temple. This structure houses the trust’s office, donation and ‘abhishek’ counters (abhishek is a ritual to anoint the deity with milk, ghee, honey, curd, sugar and water), a book store that sells holy books and a small area where the musical instruments ‘sanai-chowghada’ are played. ‘Sanai’ is an aerophonic instrument, tube-like in structure that gradually widens towards the lower end. It has six to nine holes. ‘Chowghada’ is a set of two small drum-like instruments.
Outside ‘Samadhi grahan sthal’: There is a large ‘Audumber’ (Cluster tree) tree and a small shrine of Lord Hanuman just outside the ‘Samadhi grahan sthal’.
Outside the main entrance: To the left of the main entrance is a small temple dedicated to ‘Nagdevata ‘ the snake goddess. In the vicinity are ‘Samadhis’ of Shri Gajanan Maharaj’s two disciples, Shri Balabhau Maharaj and Shri Narayan Maharaj.
‘Darshanbari’ and ‘Mahaprasad mandap’: A three storied building was constructed on the non-agricultural land just behind the temple towards the south. This building is 300 feet long and 60 feet wide. On the ground floor, at least 2,500 devotees can sit at a time and have food. On the first and second floor, almost 20,000 devotees can sit or stand while waiting to reach the ‘Bhuyar’ to worship Shri Gajanan Maharaj’s idol.
Every temple has its daily schedule of worship and an annual calendar of events that are celebrated with great pomp and splendor.
In the Shegaon temple the daily routine of worship is as follows:
05:00 a.m. Kakad Aarti
07:00 a.m. Aarti
11:00 a.m. Madhyanaha Aarti and Naivedya
At Sunset Sanja Aarti
09:00 p.m. Shejarati
Temple is closed for-public after the Shejarati
‘Paalkhi’: On the occasion of Shri Gajanan Maharaj’s ‘Prakatdin’ (First appearance) and ‘Punyatithi’ (the day Maharaj left for his heavenly abode) as well as on ‘Ram Navami’ day, a large ‘Paalkhi’ (Palanquin) procession is organised. The ‘paalkhi’ carrying the silver representation of Shri Gajanan Maharaj is taken out of the temple and goes around the village accompanied by flag bearers, decorated horses and elephants and resonating the rhythm of ‘taal’ (cymbals) and ‘mrudunga’ (percussion instrument). This procession includes mena’s (type of palanquin) and chariots drawn by horses.
This procession is received in various localities of the village of Shegaon with colourful floor designs called ‘rangoli’. Married women perform ‘aarti’ and worship the ‘paalkhi’ at different locations. The villagers voluntarily set up free tea and water distribution centres. Several thousands of people participate every year in these celebrations.
In a calendar year, a series of festivals are celebrated in the temple. The list of festivals is as follows
Chaitra Shuddha 1 to 9 (1st to 9th day of light in March – April) Shri Ram Janmotsav Sohala (Shri Ram Navami)
Chaitra Shuddha 15 (15th day of light half in March – April) Shri Hanuman Janmotsav (Shri Hanuman Jayanti)
Chaitra Vaddya 4
(4th day of light half in March – April) Shri Bhaskar Maharaj Punyatithi
Chaitra Vaddya 12
(12th day of dark half in March – April) Shri Akkalkot Swami Maharaj Punyatithi
Vaishakh Shuddha 13 (13th day of light half in April-May) Shri Nrusinha Jayanti
Vaishakh Shuddha 15
(15th day of light half in April-May) Shri Nrusinha Jayanti
Vaishakh Vaddya 6 (6th day of dark half in April – May) Shri Balabhau Maharaj Punyatithi
Jaishthya Vaddya 12
(12th day of light half in May – June) Shri Nivruttinath Maharaj Punyatithi
Aashadh Shuddha 11 (11th day of light half in June- July) Shri Aashadhi Ekadashi (Paalkhi Parikrama)
Aashadh Vaddya 13
(13th day of dark half in June – July) Shri Sant Namdev Maharaj Punyatithi
Shravan Shuddha 1 to Vaddya 30 ( 30th day of dark half in July – August) Shri Shravanmaas Utsav
Shravan Vaddya 8
(8th day of dark half in July – August) Shrikrishna Janmotsav (Janmashthami)
Bhadrapad Shuddha 1 to 5 (1st to 5th day of light half
in August – September) Shri Gajanan Maharaj Punyatithi Utsav
Bhadrapad Shuddha 9 to 15 (9th to 15th day of light
half in August – September) Shri Bhagawad Saptah
Ashwin Shuddha 1 to 9 (1st to 9th day of light in September – October) Navaratrotsav
Ashwin Shuddha 10
(10 th day of light half in September – October) Dasara (Simollanghan – Pallkhi Parikrama)
Ashwin Shuddha 15
( 15th day of light half in September – October) Kojagiri Purnima
Kartik Shuddha 11
(11th day of light half in October – November) Kartiki Ekadashi (Pallkhi Parikrama)
Kartik Vaddya 11
(1 1th day of dark half in October – November) Ekadashi (Kirtan)
Kartik Vaddya 13
( 13th day of dark half in October – November) Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj Samadhi Sohala
Marashirsh Shuddha 10 (10th day of light half in November – December) Dashami (Kirtan)
Marashirsh Shuddha 11 (11th day of light half in November – December) Geeta Jayanti
Marashirsh Shuddha 15
(15th day of light half in November-December) Shri Datta Jayanti
Paush Vaddya 7
(7th day of dark half in December – January) Vivekanand Jayanti
Magh Vaddya 1 to 7
(1st to 7th day of light half in January – February) Shri Gajanan Maharaj
Magh Vaddya 9
(9th day of dark half in January – February) Shri Das Navami
Magh Vaddya 14
(14th day of dark half in January – February) Shri Mahashivratri
Phalgun Shuddha 1 (1st day of light half in February – March) Sant Niloba Punyatithi
Phalgun Shuddha 9 (9th day of light half in February – March) Ramkrishna Paramhans Jayanti
Phalgun Shuddha 15 (15th day of light half in February – March) Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Jayanti
Phalgun Vaddya 2
(2nd day of Dark half in February – March) Tukaram Beej
Phalgun Vaddya 6
(6th day of Dark half in February – March) Eknath Shashti
Adhik Shuddha 1 to Adhik Vaddya 30
(1st day of light half To 30th day of dark half
of extra month in the year Purushottam Maas Utsav
According to the instructions of Shri Gajanan Maharaj, the construction of the temple began in 1909. To manage the activities of the temple, a board of trustees was required. Hence the organisation ‘Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan’ was established on 11th April 1909 with the blessings of Shri Gajanan Maharaj.
On receiving Maharaj’s consent, a few trustworthy people from Shegaon were brought together and the first Board of Trustees of the temple organisation was appointed. The first privileged twelve were
Mr . Maroti Chandrabhan Patil
Mr. Hari Kukaji Patil
Mr . Ramchandra Bhivraj
Mr. Bankatlal Bhavaniram
Mr. Parashram Narayan Saundkey
Mr. Gotu lshnaj i Patil
Mr . Kedarmal Govindram
Mr. Nathmal Shriram
Mr. Ravji Narayan
Mr. Prashram Raybhan Deshmukh
Mr. Bhonaji Fakira
Mr. Bindraj Srikisan
This Board of Trustees fixed a few rules in presence of Shri Gajanan Maharaj which are as follows:
1) Devotees will worship Maharaj from a distance.
2) Ladies will enter the temple for worship from East and men will enter from West.
3) Provision of water will be made. Till the end of summer Rupees 3/- will be spent every month for this provision.
4) Out station devotees can stay in the ‘verandah’ on the West. If any devotee wishes to stay for more than five days, then he must make arrangements for his stay outside the temple.
If the Managing Trustee, Mr. Maroti Chandrabhan Patil, gives his consent to a devotee to stay in the temple premises for more than five days, then the Board of Trustees will accept his decision.
5) Ladies are not allowed to stay in the premises of the temple.
6) Money that is received by the temple must be collected at Mr. Bhikaji Khanduji Patil’s shop.
7) If a devotee puts money in front of Maharaj’s idol, one of the ‘Sevadharis’ must ask the concerned devotee to put the money in the collection box in front of the idol. Nobody will touch this money.
8) Do not amass wealth.
9) Do not stop the influx of devotees.
In a few years’ time, the constitution of the temple was drafted. People abide by the constitution and the above mentioned rules to date.
The current Board of Trustees is as follows:
1 Mr. Shivshankar Sukdev Ganesh Patil Managing Trustee 31.08 .1962
2 Dr. Rameshchandra Champalal Dangra President 18.04.1918
3 Mr. Chandulalji Kisanlalji Agrawal Trustee 31.08.1962
4 Mr. Mahadev Pundalik
Ganesh Patil Trustee 07 .01.1973
5 Mr. Kishor Trikamdas
Tannk Trustee 26.12.1993
6 Mr. Govind Sukdevrao
Kalore Trustee 18.04.1998
7 Mr. Neelkanth Shivshankar
Ganesh Patil Trustee 18.04.1998
8 Mr. Ashok Tryambakrao
Deshmukh Trustee 30.03.2000
9 Mr. Narayarao Yadavrao
Patil Trustee 10.08.2000
10 Mr. Shrikant Shivshankar
Ganesh Patil Trustee 06.02.2001
11 Mr. Vishveshwar Shaligram
Trikaal Trustee 13.12.2006
12 Mr. Pankaj Gajanan
Shitoot Trustee 30.03.2009
The names of Managing Trustees since the inception of the Board are as follows :
Mr. Maroti Chandrabhan Ganesh Patil 1909 – 1913
Mr. Ramchandra Krushnaji Ganesh Patil 1913- 1948
Mr. Purshottam Hari Ganesh Patil 1948 – 1951
1952 – 1953
1962 – 1981
Mr . Sukdev Narayan Ganesh Patil 1951- 1952
Mr. Pundalik Ramchandra Ganesh Patil 1953-1962
Mr. Shivshankar Sukdev Ganesh Patil 1981 onwards
The names of President since the incept ion of the Board are as follows:
Mr. Hari Kukaji Ganesh Patil 1909- 1930
Mr. Sukhdevlalji Ramdevji Modi 1930- 1940
Mr . Gajulalji Ramdevji Modi 1940-1953
Mr . Puranmalji Sitaramji Morarka 1953- 1969
Mr . Shivshankar Sukdev Patil 1969- 1990
Mr. Mahadev Pundalik Ganesh Patil 1990 – 1999
Mr. lndarmalji Puranmalji Morarka 2000- 2008
Dr. Rameshchandra Champalal Dangra 2008 onwards
‘Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan’ is functioning at its optimum best because of the relentless efforts of the members of the Board of Trustees, the priests, the ‘Mansevis’ and the ‘Sevadharis’.
The twelve founder trustees of ‘Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan’ were selected by Shri Gajanan Maharaj from twelve families residing in Shegaon. The tradition continues to date. New members are nominated unanimously to the Board from these twelve families. It may so happen that a person from these families may not be judged suitable for the post by the rest of members of the Board. In such a case, a suitable person from some other family is nominated. Later on, if the Board of Trustees finds that the family that had been temporarily omitted now has a member worthy to be nominated, then he is immediately inducted.
It should be noted that till now all decisions have been unanimously taken by the Board. Strict discipline is followed by the Trustees. These members have the ‘Mahaprasad’ only on four festivals: ‘Prakatdin’, ‘Ram Navami’, ‘Navratra’ and ‘Samadhi grahan din’. On the day the Board meetings are conducted, all members go the sanctum sanctorum to worship the idol of Shri Gajanan Maharaj and have sweets like ‘pedhe’ or jaggery offered to Maharaj. They also have a cup of tea but nothing more than that. No Trustee receives a meeting allowance or any other remuneration. The Trustees generally do not ask for favours such as special lodging arrangements for persons recommended by them. Hence the entire working of the Board is absolutely transparent.
The Trustees are sticklers of discipline and do not exhibit unnecessary power. The day to day activities of the temple run smoothly because the Trustees are assisted by the priests, the ‘Mansevis’ and the ‘Sevadharis’.
Priests: Five salaried priests have been appointed by the Trustees to conduct daily worship such as ‘pooja’, ‘aarti’ and ‘abhishek’. They do not take ‘dakshina’ (money offered to a priest) from the devotees. In fact, they ask the devotees to put the ‘dakshina’ in the collection box. They are people of great principles and devotion.
‘Mansevi’: Around 2,000 people working in the temple premises such as cashier, accountants etc. are paid a nominal compensation of maximum Rs. 5,799/- per month. They are called ‘Mansevis’; persons doing ‘seva’ (work) with a little remuneration. 90% of these ‘Mansevis’ have completed school education. Highly qualified people are not required for these posts as good hands and clean heart is primordial.
All the ‘Mansevis’ come from Buldana, Akola, Amravati and Jalgaon districts of Maharashtra. The ‘Mansevis’ cannot work in the place where they hail from. According to the rule of the ‘Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan’, if a ‘Mansevis’ requires a job he will be given a post either at Shegaon or in any of the five branches of the organisation in Maharashtra but the ‘Mansevis’ cannot choose the place. The place of his work will always be away from his native place.
No ‘Mansevi’ is appointed to a post by recommendation. The appointment is done on impartial basis.
‘Sevadhari’: Shri Gajanan Maharaj taught the world to work with passion and devotion. The seed that he sowed in Shegaon has today developed into a large tree. There are over 3,000 volunteers who are involved in various activities related to the temple. They are known as ‘Sevadhari’ because they work without any remuneration yet with complete dedication and in a selfless manner. There are groups of 25 ‘Sevadharis’ and each group is headed by a leader. They can choose the span of time that they wish to work for. It can range from three days, seven days or up to one month. Today, as the Trust has prospered, each ‘Sevadhari’ is given a certain quantity of grains as ‘prasad’ (blessing received from a saint). Irrespective of the financial status, each ‘Sevadhari’ is obliged to accept the ‘prasad’. However, ‘Sevadharis’ from affluent background accept the ‘prasad’ and in return contribute an equal quantity of grains from their household to the collection of the temple.
Once the tradition of ‘Sevadhari’ began in Shegaon, people from nearby villages like Nagzari, Kasur, Kalamba, Lahar, Dongargaon, Pivandal, Vairagad voluntarily started participating in the various temple related activities. As the scope of temple activities expanded, villagers already participating in this divine cause were asked to propose names of other villages from where volunteers could be invited to join this movement. The ‘Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan’ then invited applications from villages that had no alcoholics and had dedicated people. So the tree of this spiritual work spread its branches to districts of Buldana, Akola, Amravati and Jalgaon.
The special skills of people from a certain village are taken into consideration while assigning them a task. For example, there are villages that specialize in preparing ‘chapatis’, crepes made of wheat (‘chapatis’ of 300 quintal wheat flour are made in 12 hours) ; some are expert at preparing ‘ladoos’ while others are meticulous in cleaning. Some can efficiently manage the crowd in ‘Darshanbari’ or during the festival season, they can organize the crowd into lines to ease the flow of devotees waiting to worship Maharaj. Some others are apt at handling lodging facilities.
Philosophy of Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan
The Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan has been strictly abiding by the principles laid down by Shri Gajanan Maharaj. Maharaj had said that money should not be accumulated because it may lead to ill thoughts and abuse. Similarly, he also specified not to stop the influx of devotees because if people are not encouraged to come to places of worship, they can easily wander and be lead astray due to the various uncertainties of life. These enduring principles of Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan are reflected in the increasing number of devotees coming to Shegaon every year.
Since making money is not the main priority, the Sansthan’s objective is “Sarve Bhavantu Sukhenah” (“May all be happy”). To achieve this noble goal, the ‘Sevadharis’ strive to take all measures possible to make everybody happy.
The Sansthan decided that the purpose of its existence will be service to its devotees. With this objective in mind, it started lodging facilities for devotees at minimal cost and meals at very affordable rates. At noon, free lunch is provided to all devotees. The sentiment of service is shared by everyone. The devotees coming to Shegaon are at Shri Gajanan Maharaj’s service and the Sansthan is at the service of these devotees. When money is involved in such places of worship, there is a lot of scope for business. In such cases, spirituality takes a backseat. However, when the Sansthan has faith, devotion and service as its goals, it can easily achieve them without money.
The day to day affairs and the other facilities are developed from the money that is received from the devotees. Though the Sansthan did not aim to make a profit, as the number of devotees grew, the income of the temple also increased manifold. The Sansthan decided to make use of this money by giving it back to humanity. The trustees were fortunate to be introduced to experts dedicated to a particular service. This acquaintance was developed in order to start major social projects. These institutions continue their meritorious work.
A small sapling has developed into a large tree spreading its 42 branches to various strata of society. While expanding its activities the Sansthan is vigilant not to deviate from its principles. Consequently, the growing income is used for good cause. The Sansthan’s annual budget is 700 million Rupees. 13% of the income is spent on compensation, 7% on sundry expenditure of the temple, 10% on construction activity and the remaining 70% is used to service mankind without the expectation of receiving anything in return.
The Sansthan recognises the value of service and therefore insists on using manpower wherever possible. Use of machines is restricted to only the most essential tools. Due to the different kinds of activities undertaken by the Sansthan, a workforce of almost thirty thousand people is directly or indirectly making a decent living. This includes 72 labour contractors, their manpower, ‘Mansevis’, shopkeepers selling ‘pooja’ items outside the temple etc.
Indian economy has always relied on the confluence of trade and religion. And Shegaon is a model example. Trade and commerce fall under the purview of the intellect which could be unstable. Money, jewels, riches, positions, titles – aII these depend on the acceptance of people. For acceptance, you must have faith. However, faith and belief bring in some stability. So work done by using only the intellect is not wholesome. It requires faith and trust to become stable. With stability, you attain satisfaction and success. In order to develop faith and trust, you need to have the right upbringing and nurturing. Just as a human body requires food for sustenance, the mind also requires correct nurturing.
This upbringing and nurturing is evident in families of the Trustees, ‘Mansevis’ and ‘Sevadharis’. Many of them come from agrarian background where the soil is considered to be the Mother. All these families have extreme faith and trust in this Mother and hence toil hard. They participate with same zest and philosophy in the temple activities. Through these activities, the families are able to find their means to reach God with saints like Shri Gajanan Maharaj acting as their guiding light.
Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan’s work thereby is a fine blend of Indian economy and religion with unmatched excellence.
With the aim of putting into practice its ideology of “May all be happy”, the Sansthan has undertaken several social development projects. While implementing these projects, the Sansthan has always kept in mind that “Service to humanity is service to God”. Consequently, 42 different projects in the field of education, medicine, social welfare and spiritual development are operational under the aegis of the Sansthan.
Facilities for devotees:
The Sansthan has taken several measures to make the stay of devotees in Shegaon as comfortable as possible.
Bus Services: At Shegaon railway station, there is an information counter for the devotees. Based on the arrival timings of trains, there is a bus service to transport the devotees from the station to bus stand and to temple free of cost. Buses are also available to go to the Anand Sagar Complex too. There are total of five buses that are functional day and night.
Bhaktaniwas: In order to provide good lodging facilities to the devotees in Shegaon, the Sansthan has constructed two lodges with in all 161 rooms, just outside the temple complex. Such lodges at pilgrimage sites are known as ‘Bhaktaniwas’ (Bhakta = Devotee, Niwas = Lodging facility). Besides, at a distance of 5 minutes (by walk) from the temple complex, there is another Bhaktaniwas complex with 417 rooms. Some of these rooms are air conditioned. The rooms in these lodges are available on ‘first come first serve’ basis. Minimal cost is charged for these rooms though no advance reservation of these rooms is done. All the lodges were constructed between 1980 and 1995.
During festival days, the crowds far exceed the capacity of the lodges. So an alternative arrangement is made. A special hall has been built in the ‘Sabhagriha’ building, where about 5000 beds are provided to accommodate pilgrims and visitors.
Furthermore, taking into consideration the ever growing number of devotees coming to Shegaon, another complex of lodging facility called ‘Anand Vihar’ is developed in the vicinity of Anandsagar complex at a short distance from the temple. In the first phase of this project, around 666 rooms are constructed. In the vicinity, there will be another complex called ‘Anandsagar Visava’ to accommodate 5,000 persons.
Cloakroom (Security room: Some devotees do not wish to stay overnight in Shegaon. So for them, the Sansthan has provided lockers to keep their belongings. These lockers are in a building just outside the temple complex. Toilets and rooms to change clothes are available on the same floor as the lockers.
Darshanbari: ‘Darshanbari’ is the system followed in Shegaon so that all devotees can systematically take ‘darshan’ (worship) of the idol of Shri Gajanan Maharaj.
Devotees line up in the temple to reach the Sanctum Sanctorum. They enter the temple premises to form a queue from a doorway on the right of the main entrance. This queue moves from the initial two spacious halls towards the main temple. There are iron rods to mark the pathways. Along the rods and columns, seating arrangement is made for the devotees who have to wait for a long time for Maharaj’s darshan.
The two large halls from where the devotees move to reach the temple are equipped with several facilities. There are two huge coolers to keep the air circulating and to prevent the crowd from being affected by heat. Drinking water is provided to the devotees from the two tables located at the end of each hall. The ‘Sevadharis’ provide water to the devotees standing in the queue.
These halls have sufficient number of toilets for men and women. Those devotees who want to use the toilet facilities are given a token number so that when they come back they can join the queue at the place from where they had left. The ‘Sevadharis’ distribute the token from the water tables. Many devotees carry flowers, coconut, sweets and other materials for worship. The Sansthan has made arrangement of wooden cases outside the toilet to keep this material when they go to the toilet.
Considering the huge crowd that visits the temple, some devotees may require medical assistance. Hence there is a First Aid centre just outside one of the two huge halls where a doctor is available all the time. Adjacent to this centre is a spacious and well equipped room for breast feeding little ones.
In the space outside these two rooms, tea is distributed to the devotees who queue up for worship. Approximately 10,000 cups of tea are freely distributed at this counter every day.
All these arrangements astound any visitor. Shegaon temple thus appears to be a place where basic crowd management lessons are translated into reality on a daily basis. Without any formal training in management, the Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan is practicing an ideal and unparalleled system. It has proven that service and duty oriented attitude and behaviour can automatically result in best management practices.
Mahaprasad (food that is a blessing of the deity): The Sansthan has made arrangements for free of cost meal which is consumed by devotees as ‘Mahaprasad’. To the south of the temple lies a building where lunch is distributed on the ground floor to the devotees from 11.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. The devotees queue up and enter the large hall where at the entrance they are served ‘chapatis’, vegetable, flavoured rice called ‘Masaley bhat’ and ‘ladoo’, a popular sweet. The devotees then go to the seating area to have the meal. Almost 2 ,500 persons can sit in this spacious hall. Every Thursday and Sunday, ‘phodnichey varan’, a special ‘toor dal’ (pigeon pea) preparation is served. It is believed that no devotee can be forced to come to this place and nobody leaves the place without ‘prasad’.
The basic preparations of the ‘Mahaprasad’ start as early as 5.00 a.m. The approach is systematic and methodical. First the ‘chapatis’ are prepared with the help of the ‘chapati’ machine. Next the vegetables are cooked. Then the rice is prepared and last of all the ‘varan’ is prepared on the days when it is served. While all these dishes are being prepared in one room, the ‘ladoos’ are prepared in another room.
Including the main kitchen in the temple and other kitchens in the lodges and other establishments of the Trust, there are a total of 18 different places where meals are prepared. Usually every evening, the persons in charge of kitchens make an estimate of the number of devotees likely to visit the temple and fix the menu and the quantities of raw material required accordingly. Almost 33,600 quintals of wheat, rice, ‘toor dal’ (pigeon pea), ‘chana dal’ (chickpea). sugar, oil and ghee are required and 6,300 quintals of ‘kohala’ (pumpkin), potato and other vegetables.
There are 3 to 4 cooks and 20 ‘Sevadharis’ to prepare 2,500 ‘ladoos’ daily and 5 cooks and 8 to 10 ‘Sevadharis’ to cook rice, ‘dal’ and vegetables. Under one supervisor there are 25 to 30 ‘Sevadharis’ who operate the ‘chapati’ rolling machine. There is one manager in charge of the kitchen activities of the temple.
Considering the ever increasing number of devotees coming to Shegaon, a machine to prepare ‘chapatis’ was installed in 2009. This large machine rolls out 10,000 ‘chapatis’ in one hour. There is a separate small machine to prepare the dough. When the activity begins in the morning, two persons pour water, oil, salt and the wheat flour in the small machine that churns and readies the dough. This dough is then put in the inlet of the ‘chapati’ rolling machine. The machine rolls out the dough on the large moving metal plate. Just above this plate is another plate with round moulds. At certain intervals the plate with moulds falls on the flattened dough and round ‘chapatis’ are demarcated. The remaining material goes back to the machine for reuse. The metal plate carrying the ‘chapatis’ then moves over the gas stoves where the ‘chapatis’ are roasted. Stoves are arranged on top and bottom of the metal plate so that the ‘chapatis’ are roasted from both sides.
Before the ‘chapatis’ reach the roasting phase, the ‘Sevadharis’ are vigilant to remove the damaged one. Similarly, the ones which are not roasted at all or not roasted sufficiently are also removed. Such is the quality control done by the ‘Sevadharis ‘! After the ‘chapatis’ are roasted, oil is sprayed on them using a pump. The ‘chapatis’ are stacked in piles of 125 chapatis and then wrapped in soft cloth and put in hot case before being taken to the dining hall. The chapatis that were not well roasted are then put again on the metal plate to be roasted. These ‘chapatis’ are later consumed by the ‘Sevadharis’.
There are almost 10 to 12 ‘Sevadharis’ who serve the food to the devotees at the entrance of the dining hall where they sit and have the ‘Mahaprasad’.
The inspiration behind this project of ‘Mahaprasad’ is Shri Gajanan Maharaj. Shri Gajanan Maharaj was first noticed in Shegaon while he was having leftover grains of rice from a dish thrown out as waste. The Sansthan strongly believes in the Indian philosophy that ‘Food is God’. Therefore, the Sansthan has decided to distribute it free of cost to the devotees at lunch time.
In the early days after the construction of the temple, people would bring food. It would be collected in a huge pot, mixed together and then distributed to all. This system is called ‘bhandara’. As years passed, the number of devotees coming to the temple increased. So the Sansthan decided to provide 50 persons with one meal. As time passed, the number of meals provided has steadily increased from 5,000 to 20,000 people.
No money is charged for this meal because it is not a commercial establishment like a restaurant. Importance is given to belief and faith. Besides, when people have ‘prasad’ it becomes a common platform to unite them. There is no difference between rich and poor, high caste and low caste. Thus the ‘prasad’ is invaluable. Since the ingredients for these meals are bought with the donations given by the devotees, the Sansthan deems it incorrect to make the devotees pay again for these meals. Faith is given utmost importance and this mission continues incessantly.
Low cost breakfast/meals: Apart from the ‘Mahaprasad’., snacks and meals are also provided in the restaurants on the ground floor of different lodges. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available at minimal cost:
There are several departments of the Sansthan that take care of various activities pertaining to the temple.
Construction Department : The Sansthan has a few workshops that build doors, windows, grills and other material required for the construction activities falling under the Sansthan’s scope. There is 1 Engineer and 3 overseers to supervise this work. Till date almost 57 – 50 square feet of construction work has been completed including Anand Sagar complex, 14 marble temples, 14 huge Dholpuri ‘Praveshdwar’ or Main entrances.
One ‘Sevadhari’ is appointed at every construction site to manage the activities at the site. Once a week all the ‘Sevadharis’ managing different sites collect screws, nuts and other scrap or waste material and store them in a particular place. This scrap or waste is auctioned once a year and the Sansthan gets almost 20 to 40 lakh Rupees from the auction.
Electricity Department: The Sansthan has 18 generators of 50 to 380 Horse Power that fulfil the electrical requirements.
Musical Instruments Department: This department takes care of the musical instruments and the musicians. Every morning and evening, there are fixed times when the sound of ‘Sanai’ and ‘Chowghada’ resonates the place and creates a perfect ambience for devotion. These instruments are played throughout the day during festivals and feasts.
Water Supply Department: The Sansthan does not receive water from the local government body called ‘Nagar Parishad’. Therefore, the Sansthan undertook the development of Anand Sagar complex. There is a water conservation plant on the banks of ‘Mun’ river from where water is pumped into Anand Sagar lake. There are percolation wells at the foot of the Anand Sagar lake that are filled with water that is filtered from the lake. Subsequently the village and the Sansthan get sufficient amount of water. Thus 200 acres of land has been irrigated in the village. The used water is then diverted to the farm land where almost 100 acres of horticulture development is done.
There are three large water reservoirs to fulfil the water requirement of devotees coming to the temple and those staying in the lodges. Hot water for bath is provided in the lodges. Drinking water is easily available to the devotees in the temple premises and in the lodges.
Besides, this department has also developed a nursery which has a variety of plants.
Warehouse of grains and other stock: The warehouses of the Sansthan stock grains required for meals, stationery material required in offices, mattresses and bed sheets needed in the lodges as well as sarees and loin cloth required to give to the devotees as ‘prasad’.
The stock of grains lasts for almost two months. The ‘Mansevis’ go to the wholesale market to get the best quality grains. Rice is bought from Nanded, ‘dal’ from Akola in Maharashtra and wheat from Madhya Pradesh. The Grains are first cleaned by the machines. Then destitute women are employed to further clean the grains. The cleaned gains are stored in a separate place. The stock is neatly stacked. Whenever required, the stock is distributed to the kitchen department of the temple or the lodges or any branch of the Sansthan outside Shegaon.
There are some ‘Mansevis’ who are entrusted with the job of keeping the records of the warehouses which they do in a meticulous manner.
Abhishek and Donation Department: This Department works through day and night. It accepts money for ‘abhishek’ and donation for a particular purpose. 1/10th of the donated amount is returned to the donors in form of ‘prasad’. This ‘prasad’ comprises ‘ladoos’, coconut, shawl, saree, blouse piece and / or ‘uparna’ i.e. loin cloth. The objects offered to Shri Gajanan Maharaj are thus distributed to his devotees. No objects offered are sold or auctioned. Gold and silver that is offered is used to make ‘padukas’ which are given to the devotees.
Money order and Postal Department: The Sansthan receives almost 200 money orders every day. All the devotees who send these money orders receive ‘prasad’ from the temple by registered post.
Housekeeping Department: This department is in charge of the cleanliness of the temple premises and the lodges.
Publication Distribution Department: Shree Gajanan Maharaj’s photos of different types and in different sizes are sold at minimal cost by this department. It also sells the holy book ‘Shri Gajanan Vijay ‘ which is available in Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, Telugu and English. The literature of the Sansthan is also sold to the public so that the money is accepted as contribution of the public.
Transport Department: The Sansthan has a total of 57 vehicles for its various activities. They include luxury buses, mini buses, jeeps, ambulances, tractors and cars. The services rendered by these vehicles are free of cost. The body of jeeps and buses is constructed at ‘Bhuskuti Mala’ near Shegaon. The Sansthan has its own diesel pump station.
Parking Department: Two and four wheelers can be parked in the premises of the temple and lodges. The Parking Department makes the necessary arrangements. No parking charge is incurred. (If it had been done, the Sansthan would have earned almost 75 lakh Rupees annually.)
Footwear Department: The devotees can leave their footwear outside the temple at two locations on ‘the left side of the Main entrance. This service is provided free of charge.
Animal Care Department: There are stables and shelters for elephants, horses and cows in the temple premises. These animals participate in the processions that are carried out during festivals and feasts. This department takes care of all these animals.
Education centre of ‘Varkaris’: Shri Gajanan Maharaj respected and encouraged the ‘Varkari’ sect and therefore the Sansthan started an education centre for the ‘Varkaris’ in 1944 at Shegaon. This venture was launched by the revered P.P. (late) Mamasaheb Dandekar. At this centre students study the holy books like ‘Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta’, ‘Shri Dnyaneshwari’, ‘Shrimad Bhagwad’ as well as tales of different saints. They also learn to conduct religious discourses like ‘Keertan’, ‘Bhajan’ and ‘Bharud’ as well as how to play the musical instruments to accompany the religious discourses. Many renowned scholars in this field come to this centre to perform in front of the students so that they can master the art of presentation and also benefit from their knowledge of religion and philosophy. The centre conducts a 4 years’ residential course wherein the students are provided lodging, boarding, clothes and study material free of cost.
Distribution of musical instruments: To encourage the noble cause of ‘Varkaris’ and to further the religious sentiments the Sansthan distributes sets of musical instruments to the groups of ‘Dindis’ coming to Shegaon. Lodging and boarding facilities are provided to these groups. If a ‘Dindi’ is completed as per the customs then the concerned groups are awarded 10 pairs of cymbals, 1 ‘mrudanga’ and 1 ‘veena’. If need be, the groups are also given holy books like ‘Shri Dnyaneshwari’, ‘Shri Eknathi Bhagwat’, ‘Shri Tukaram Gatha’. Till January 2012, almost 12,000 ‘Dindis’ from 52 districts of Maharashtra have received this material.
Dindi and Palkhi: The Sansthan regularly organises the ‘Palkhi’ procession and ‘Dindi’ to Pandharpur. Almost 550 to 600 pilgrims participate in this pilgrimage done on foot which lasts for two months. During this pilgrimage the palanquin is carried in a vehicle up to Alandi, Trimbakeshwar and Paithan. This activity is undertaken by the Sansthan to propagate the teachings of the ‘Varkaris ‘ sect and to make the people benefit from the merit obtained from good deeds.
Philosophical awakening: For philosophical development of the people the Sansthan conducts religious, philosophical and yoga workshops. On several occasions religious discourses like ‘Keertan’, ‘Pravachan’, ‘Vyakhyan’ and workshops are organised free of cost. The Sansthan also tries to disseminate the literature written by different saints.
Pravachan hall: ‘Pravachan’ is a religious discourse without music. The Sansthan has constructed two big halls in the temple premises where around 600 persons can sit at a time and listen to the discourse.
Sadhuniwas: A few kilometres away from the temple at Shegaon, the Sansthan has acquired land where an accommodation facility for ‘sadhus’ is being built. It is called ‘Sadhuniwas’. Indian culture gives a lot of importance to ‘sadhus’ and saints. Keeping in mind the importance of such persons, the Sansthan has made arrangements for their stay in Shegaon.
Considering that ‘Health is wealth’ the Sansthan has undertaken several projects to provide medical facilities to as many as possible. In order to treat the patients and provide them with medicines, the Sansthan has started an outpatient department. The patients pay a nominal registration fee. Almost 39 expert doctors from Shegaon and outside serve the patients from Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and from 3.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. These clinics are located in the building on the right side of the Main entrance of the temple at Shegaon.
Charitable Ayurvedic clinic: In 1963 the Sansthan started the charitable Ayurvedic clinic in order to continue the tradition of ancient Indian system of medicine and to let maximum number of people benefit from this system. Till January 2010, almost 18,14,355 patients have been treated at this clinic.
Charitable Homeopathy clinic: In order to provide health facilities of various types, the Sansthan started the charitable Homeopathy clinic in 1973. Till January 2010, about 38,19,520 patients have made use of this service.
Charitable Allopathic clinic: With the aim of providing latest medical treatment to patients at minimal cost, the Sansthan started the charitable Allopathic clinic in 1974. Pathology division, Injection division, First-aid division, Saline division are active in the same premises. A saline costs only Rs. 10/- in this clinic. If a patient needs further treatments elsewhere or if a patient is almost in the last stage and needs special attention, then these patients are transported to hospitals outside Shegaon. For this purpose, the Sansthan has latest well equipped ambulances. Till January 2010, 74,88,706 persons have been treated in this clinic.
Physiotherapy department: Besides medicines some patients need to take physiotherapy treatment to recuperate. Some require light treatment. The Sansthan has also started Physiotherapy department within the charitable allopathic clinic.
Rehabilitation centre of the handicapped: P.H.C. which has been established in the Temple Complex has been currently providing facilities and helping the disabled. The Government has honoured this work of the Sansthan / Organization / Institution with a memento. A camp for disabled was also organized by the Sansthan. During this camp which received an overwhelming response, 2584 patients were medically examined and 400 of these were selected for operations to be conducted at Udaipur. 418 patients received help in the form of Tricycles, Wheel Chairs, Crutches and Calipers. The cost of this equipment was totally borne by the Sansthan. A state of the art ‘Disabled Unit’ has also been initiated, which facilitates the manufacture of a variety of Jaipur foot & Artificial Limbs for distribution to the needy. The Centre has till 31st January 2012, examined and treated a humorous 2,29542 poor and needy patients.
The good work that was done on the day of the camp needed to be done on a continuous basis. Therefore, the Sansthan also started the Rehabilitation centre of the handicapped on 30th March 1987. At this centre latest technology is used to treat the patients. This centre provides artificial limbs, Jaipur foot, crutches, callipers, wheelchairs and tricycles to the handicapped.
Eye surgery camps: Since 1975 every year the Sansthan organises free eye checkup and eye surgery camps. The needy are given free spectacles. The persons participating in the camp can bring one person to accompany him for the duration of the camp. Both the persons are lodged by the Sansthan. The Sansthan also provides them with snacks and meals. Till January 2012, about 42,045 persons have benefitted from these camps. The Maharashtra government has felicitated the Sansthan for this benevolent work.
Mobile clinics: Several villages in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra are deprived of basic medical aid. In order to solve the problem of medical aid in the rural areas where primary health centres are not available, the Sansthan has started mobile clinics.
Mobile clinics in tribal regions: In the Satpura mountain range, the Sansthan has adopted many tribal villages where medical aid is provided thorough mobile clinics. Similar facility is also made available in the difficult to access areas in the mountainous regions of Pampasarovar lake. This region falls under the purview of Sansthan’s branch in Trimbakeshwar.
Pandit Rural Health Care Centre: The Sansthan conducted a survey of villages having population of less than 3000 persons around Shegaon. These villages do not have any sort of basic medical facility. Therefore, detailed data was collected about the villagers below poverty line from the selected villages. Villagers having less than 15 acres of non-irrigated land were also included in the survey. A booklet of this information was prepared.
To implement the activities of this centre, the Sansthan then selected 3 representatives from each village. Villagers who need help for surgeries usually contact these representatives and fill the necessary form. The Sansthan conducts a detailed enquiry and then sanctions the amount for surgery. The amount is paid via a demand draft. The Sansthan has fixed a particular amount for different types of treatments and surgeries. After sending the requests for help, the villagers are obliged to spend from their pocket. They get the amount sanctioned by the Sansthan one month after making the request for help.
The Sansthan has appointed one doctor and 25 ‘Sevadharis’ for this activity. These people work from the centre’s office in the temple premises. For disciplined and correct implementation of this project the Sansthan has developed special software. This project which started on 1st November 2007 and is implemented in 13 tehsils as well as 1143 villages. More than 12 lakh persons have benefitted from this project.
Medical Aid Centre: Terminally ill patients having poor economic background receive financial aid for their treatment from this centre started by the Sansthan in Shegaon. Special counselling workshops are organised by the Sansthan for such patients. Pilgrims from Pandharpur, Trimbakeshwar, Nashik and Omkareshwar also have received aid from this centre.
Participation in National Programmes: The Sansthan helps the government by participating in National vaccination programmes and other development programmes.
Aid for leprosy Patients: There are several institutions that work for the cause of leprosy patients. The Sansthan provides financial aid to some of these institutions.
Education is primordial for development of any society. Recognising the importance of education, the Sansthan has undertaken the task of developing a variety of education centres where the young are well groomed.
English medium school: In order to provide good quality education to students in rural areas so that they do not lag behind in comparison with students from urban areas, the Sansthan started an English medium school on 1st July 1986 at Shegaon. The school has classes from nursery to 12th standard. The school has a bus service to pick up and drop the children home.
Engineering college: As the Sansthan understands the value of higher education it started the Shri Sant Gajanan Maharaj Engineering College in 1983. The college campus is spread over 72 acres of land and comprises college buildings, 7 hostels, well equipped library, sports centre, canteen, parking lot, self-generated electricity generation centre, medical centre, ATM, bank counter, administrative building, guest house, auditorium, STD/ ISD telephone booth, Photocopy centre, staff quarters, consumer stores, nursery and plantation unit etc.
This college is affiliated to Amravati University. It is ISO 9001:2000 certified. The Directorate of Technical Education of Maharashtra government has certified it as an ‘A’ category institute. It was selected for All India Council for Technical Education-Quality Improvement Programme for the Networking Institutions of Indian Government. It has been recognised by A.I.C.T.E., New Delhi. Thus all the study programmes of this college are recognised by New Delhi and Bangalore.
Besides education, emphasis is also given on all round development of the students. Hence students are encouraged to participate in games, seminars, conferences, yoga, blood donation camps, personality development workshops and meditation sessions.
The Sant Shri Gulabrao Maharaj Library on the campus has a variety of books, journals, periodicals, paper clippings, reference CDs, CD projectors, internet facilities, book bank, digital library, Photocopy machine, lamination machine, binding centre etc.
This library is well linked and connected to Data Net, Dell Net, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, National Geography Society, Bombay Natural History Society, Indian Academy of Science, Institution of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers, I.E.E.E. database, lIT Mumbai and British Council, Pune.
Residential school for the mentally challenged: Many mentally challenged are not accepted in the mainstream society. To change this situation and to make them self-reliant, the Sansthan started the Residential school for the mentally challenged in 1988 at Shegaon. Students from any part of Maharashtra can register in this school. The school also has special hostel facility.
Besides formal education the students are also taught painting and music. In an attempt to make them independent, they are taught to make items that can be sold like greeting cards, thread items, candles, mats, doormats etc. The school has almost 150 students. These students have won 3 gold medals and several certificates at international level.
Residential school for the tribals: In the Satpura mountainous region there are several pockets of tribal areas that are difficult to access. The tribal children in these regions are usually deprived of education. The sansthan has also started a residential school for the tribals in Shegaon. Children from tribal communities like Gond, Korku, Bhilla hailing from villages of Ambabara, Chunkhadi, Hadyamahad, Kahapani are registered in this school. They receive formal education from 1st to 10th standard. They are also trained in physical education, gymnastics, thread making, tailoring and knitting. In order to make them self-sufficient they are taught book binding, music, preparation of fancy articles etc.
In 2004 this school ranked second among the tribal schools in the state and was felicitated by the then Governor of Maharashtra. Yet due to some peculiar rules of the government, the Sansthan could not continue this good work. So it has started 10 pre-schools in the tribal areas mentioned above.
Social welfare work
The temple receives a large amount of money in form of donations from devotees. So the Sansthan has decided to divert this money for the cause of the society and has undertaken several projects. Some of them are as follows:
Tribal development: The Sansthan has adopted some tribal villages in the Satpura mountainous region. The tribals from these villages are given clothes and grains. On the occasion of ‘Diwali’, festival clothes and sweets are especially distributed to them. Besides mass tribal marriages are also conducted and the couples are given household items as gifts.
The Sansthan organises camps for tribal parents where they are explained the benefits of education. Experts talk to them regarding the changing trends in society and how to adjust to them and how education can bring about positive changes in their lives.
Parents meet in rural areas: The Sansthan also organises a parent’s meet for those whose children are slow learners.
Aid post-natural disaster: The Sansthan provides all kinds of help to the people of Maharashtra who are affected by natural calamities like earthquake, flood, drought and fire.
Animal care: Animals from drought affected regions are provided water and fodder by the Sansthan. The registered institutes sheltering cows in Buldana and Akola districts receive fodder on a regular basis from the Sansthan.
Water supply in water shortage areas: The Sansthan understands the importance of water in human life. Hence it provides water to areas that faces acute shortage of water. It has also put up hoarding stating “Use water very carefully. Everything will come to a standstill if we run short of water”.
Tree plantation: In order to contribute to the cause of conservation of environment, the Sansthan initiated a tree plantation programme. Subsequently trees were planted on both sides of the National Highway from Shegaon to Balapur. These trees are not only planted but also nurtured. In the Anand Sagar complex 60,000 trees have been planted and at Sansthan’s branch in Girda almost 3 lakh trees have been planted and nurtured.
Rural welfare service: The Sansthan keeps a keen eye on the difficulties faced by the people in Shegaon and surrounding villages. Noting the water crisis, the Sansthan provides tanker water to these villages. Also, it has constructed large tanks specially to make water available for drinking purpose to the animals in this region.
The Sansthan has done major repair work in 13 schools of the local government. It has painted the schools and has added some rooms too. It has distributed a variety of plants and saplings to schools. These saplings are developed in the nursery.
To encourage entrepreneur skills amongst the villagers, the Sansthan constructed small shops outside the main entrance of the temple and reserved a special area for flower vendors. Thus the small sheds outside the temple gave way to these well-constructed shops and villagers could establish their business by selling ‘pooja’ items and crockery, cutlery etc. In the initial phase the Sansthan provided free electricity to these shops. Slowly trade and commerce flourished and today 85 entrepreneurs are successfully doing business in the temple vicinity.
Art gallery: To sustain Indian art and culture, the Sansthan is currently developing an art gallery in the ‘Anand Vihar’ complex at a close distance from the temple.
Library: In 1975 the Sansthan started a library at Shegaon where free membership is available and anyone can read in the library without having to pay any fee. There are almost 7,000 religious, historical and social events related books. There are more than 25 periodicals in Marathi, Hindi, Urdu and English languages. Several students and avid readers make use of this facility every day.
Shelter for destitute women: The Sansthan noticed that many women were abandoned by their families. They did not have any support. So it decided to create a support system. These women are entrusted the job of cleaning the grains. The primary cleaning is done by machines in the warehouses. These women then do the finer cleaning of the grains like rice and wheat before they are consumed or further processed. Almost 100 women are involved in this project. The Sansthan takes care of their lodging and boarding and also gives them a small amount of money for their sundry expenditure.
Smritibhavan: Just opposite the place where Shri Gajanan Maharaj was first spotted in Shegaon, the Sansthan has built a ‘Smritibhavan’, a memorial. It has a large multipurpose hall which is lent out for marriages, thread ceremonies and other functions.
Extentions of the Shegaon Sansthan
(17040’33.5″N 75019’58.9″E Altitude 712.10 M)
As Shri Gajanan Maharaj revered Lord Vitthal, the Sansthan’s first branch was started at Pandharpur which is famous for the temple of Lord Vitthal. In the sprawling premises spread over 8.5 acres of land a beautiful marble temple was built where a marble idol of Shri Gajanan Maharaj was consecrated with all due rituals. Every day, three ‘poojas’ and ‘aarti’ are conducted without fail. ‘Naivedya’ is offered to the deity on a daily basis. Certain type of ‘prasad’ is distributed to the devotees on specific days such as ‘ladoos’ on the day of ‘Ramnavami’, ‘boondi’ on the occasion of ‘Rishipanchami’ and ‘Kesaribhat’ on the day of ‘Maharaj’s Prakatdin’. On such festive occasions the ‘prasad’ is distributed to almost 10 to 11 thousand people.
The pilgrims worshiping Lord Vitthal follow a special religious movement in Maharashtra. These pilgrims are known as the ‘Varkaris’. The ‘Varkaris’ visiting Pandharpur from Shegaon are lodged in the Sansthan’s premises. During the pilgrimage, on the special five days in the month of ‘Ashadh’ and the special six days in the month of ‘Kartik’ the ‘Mahaprasad’ is distributed to almost 3 to 4 lakh people.
Besides the above mentioned pilgrimage days, devotees are served excellent quality meals in this centre at Pandharpur. In the restaurant on the ground floor of the lodges, breakfast, lunch and dinner is served all throughout the year. On the ‘Ekadashi’ day, special food is served which is usually consumed during the fasting period such as ‘Sabudana khichdi’, ‘Bhagar’, ‘Aamti’ and bananas. For devotees visiting Pandharpur at odd hours, a quick meal of ‘Masaley bhat’ and ‘Kadhi’ is available free of cost from 10.00 p.m. to 1.00 a.m.
ln addition the lodging facilities are of top class. The 5 different types of ‘Bhaktaniwas’ in Pandharpur have in all 252 rooms for devotees. The temple premises typically have 72 feet high and 51 feet wide intricately carved marble ‘Praveshdwar’.
Several community benefit activities have been undertaken at this centre. There is one Homeopathy clinic in the premises. During the pilgrimage period a mobile dispensary is available. On an average 20 to 25 thousand ‘Varkaris’ make use of this service. Further there are two multipurpose halls in the premises. Above and beyond, the Sansthan has bought 18 acres of land in Pandharpur which will be used for the benefit of the society with the blessings and guidance of Shri Gajanan Maharaj.
Keeping in mind the custom of pilgrimage which has been practiced over the centuries, the Sansthan has initiated an institute for the education of the ‘Varkaris’ called the ‘Varkari Shikshan Sansthan’ and to boost their music talent, a music school has been established.
Almost 500 ‘Varkaris’ are given ‘Madhukari’ during the four months of ‘Chaturmaas’. ‘Madhukari’ is an ancient system in Maharashtra of distribution of food to persons who come to collect it at the door-step. However, considering the noble intention of the ‘Varkaris’, the Sansthan provides them ‘Madhukari’.
Furthermore, the ‘Dindi’ groups coming to Padharpur are gifted with sets of musical instruments required for ‘bhajans’. A ‘Dindi’ is a contingent of pilgrims carrying flags as well as musical instruments and who sing and chant on their way. Till date the Sansthan has distributed musical instruments to ‘Dindis’ coming from 1468 villages. To name a few the ‘Dindis’ have come to Pandharpur from Nagpur, Hingoli, Nanded, Parbhani, Beed, Ahmadnagar, Aurangabad, Jalna, Dhule, Nandurbar, Nashik, Thane, Mumbai, Pune, Satara, Sangli, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurga, Latur, Usmanabad, Solapur and Kolhapur districts of Maharashtra, Nijamabad, Bagalkot, Belgaum, Vijapur, Gadag, Koppal, Sumoga, Davangiri, Haveri, Dharwad, Chikmangurul, Karvar, Bellary, Tumkar, Over and Bidar districts of Karnataka, Burhanpur district of Madhya Pradesh and Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh.
(18°40’19.6″N 73°53’21.8″E Altitude 578M)
Alandi has become famous due to Saint Dnyaneshwar’s stay in this town. Saint Dnyaneshwar propagated Lord Vitthal’s worship and thereby the Bhagwat doctrine. After Pandharpur, Alandi is a favourite among the devotees of Lord Vitthal. Hence with the objective to provide various facilities to the devotees and to help propagate the Bhagwat doctrine, the Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan decided to set up a branch in Alandi.
In 1998, the work was initiated by the construction of 3 ‘Bhaktaniwas’. Today in all there are 4 ‘Bhaktaniwas’ with 105 rooms equipped with basic facilities. Besides, there is a large dormitory with 200 beds. Thus almost 800 devotees can be easily lodged in this branch.
The construction of Shri Gajanan Maharaj’s temple has already begun and as per the tradition, the premises will have an intricately carved ‘Praveshdwar’ made up of Dholpuri stone. The temple is located on the ascent of a hill behind the ‘Bhaktaniwas’. The construction and the art work of the temple structure are being done by the sculptors who have been especially invited from Rajasthan. The temple is divided into two parts: the ‘Sabhamandap ‘ will be located on the ground floor and the sanctum sandorum on the first floor. Currently Maharaj’s photo and his ‘paduka’ have been placed in the ‘Pravachan’ hall where the devotees can conduct the ‘Parayan’, reading of Maharaj’s holy book and ‘Namasmaran’, chanting of Maharaj’s name.
Due care is taken of the devotees visiting Alandi. Besides lodging, they are provided hot water for bath. All three meals are easily available. Alandi plays host to a large crowd in the holy months of ‘Ashadh’ and ‘Kartik’ and also during school vacations of Summer and Christmas. During such peak periods almost 1000 persons partake the ‘prasad’. Devotees reaching Alandi after 10.00 p.m. are given ‘Masalebhat’ and ‘kadhi’ free of charge. On the occasion of ‘Maharaj’s prakatdin’ devotees are served the ‘Mahaprasad’ of sweet rice, vegetables and chapatis till 3.00 p.m. and after that sweet rice is distributed to all in a dried banana leaf bowl called ‘dron’. More than 2500 devotees consume this ‘Mahaprasad’. During the ‘yatra’, when Maharaj”s ‘palkhi is stationed at Alandi, ‘Keertan’, religious discourses accompanied by music and ‘Pravachan’ religious discourses are organised. ‘Mahaprasad’ is also served to all.
Moreover, the students of the institute’ Varkari Shikshan Sansthan’ that has been launched by Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan complete the first four years of their education in Shegaon and then come to Alandi for further studies. They are prided good lodging facilities. Almost 500 students are provided ‘Madhukari’ every day.
(19°56’4.6″N 73°32’13.6″E Altitude 712.10 M)
Trimbakeshwar which is located in Nashik district is known for Lord Shiva’s temple. The main aim of starting a branch here was to cater to the basic needs of devotees and to help the tribal population of the surrounding areas.
The branch was started in 1995. Today in the serene premises stands the beautifully carved marble temple. The premises have a ‘Praveshdwar’ made up of Dholpuri stone. The peace and tranquility of this branch instantly strike the chord with the devotees.
In the temple the priest conducts ‘Pooja’ thrice a day and ‘Aarti’ at fixed time on a daily basis. On the days of ‘Chaturthi’, ‘Ekadashi’ and on Thursdays, ‘Bhajan’, singing of devotional songs, is conducted in the temple.
‘Parayan’ and ‘Haripath’ are organised on the occasion of ‘Maharaj’s prakatdin’. Devotees are served the ‘Mahaprasad’ of ‘Masalebhat’ and ‘boondi ladoo’. Moreover, during ‘Nivrutti Maharaj’s vari’, special celebrations are planned on three days: ‘Navami’, ‘Ekadashi’ and ‘Dwadashi’. ‘Mahaprasad’ including a sweet dish is distributed to all the devotees on these three days. Furthermore, musical instruments are also distributed to the ‘Varkaris’.
Lodging and boarding facilities for devotees are available at rates which are easy on the pocket. A total of 4 ‘Bhaktaniwas’ equipped with 177 rooms have basic facilities. In addition, there is a big hall located outside the ‘Praveshdwar’ that can accommodate 250 devotees. Close to this hall is the parking lot for vehicles.
A few community development activities have been undertaken by the Sansthan in this branch. A mobile dispensary has been launched for the tribals in the nearby area. On the festive days of ‘Diwali’, cloths and ‘Mahaprasad’ including a sweet dish are distributed to the tribals.
(22°14’27.7″N 79°09’10.8″E Altitude 188.83 M)
The centre at Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh was started on 4 acres of land located on the banks of river Narmada. The marble temple on the premises has a marble idol of Shri Gajanan Maharaj. Besides as per the tradition, an intricately carved ‘Praveshdwar’ of Dholpuri stone has been erected. For the convenience of the devotees there are 4 well equipped ‘Bhaktaniwas’ having 100 rooms. Also, a dormitory facility with 200 beds is available.
The Sansthan has started an Allopathic clinic in this branch. On the circumambulation path of Narmada river, drinking water facilities, sheds to change clothes for women on the banks of river Narmada are provided by the Sansthan. Similarly, ‘Mahaprasad’ with sweets is distributed to devotees on the occasion of ‘Narmada Jayanti’ and ‘Maharaj’s Prakatdin’, ‘Mahashivratri’ and ‘Karthik mela’. On all these festive occasions a charitable dispensary is available for medical help to all.
Girda: (20.5333°N 75.7500°E Altitude 586 M)
In the pristine and peaceful valley with dense vegetation close to the Ajanta caves, the Sansthan started its Girda branch. On the 90 acres of land, there was a small temple of Swayamprakash Maharaj. It was renovated and a marble structure was raised. Swayamprakash Maharaj’s statue was duly consecrated with all the essential ‘yagna’ ceremonies.
The peaceful ambience of Girda is conducive to meditation. Therefore, this branch has been developed as ‘Sadhanasthal’ place to do penance. Here, the devotees can attain stability and inner peace and thereby meditate well. Keeping this goal in mind, there is a plan to develop a meditation centre on the lines of Anandsagar of Shegaon.
Currently a mobile dispensary is functional. A series of community development programmes will soon be undertaken such as Ayurvedic and Homoepathic research centres, Naturopathy centre, dispensary, ecotourism centre, amphitheatre, cottage industry, craft centre, spiritual workshops, ‘smriti kendra’ and permanent exhibition .
These programmes will be open to persons of different castes, creeds and religions
(19°45’52.2″N 73°36’50.2″E Altitude 669.06 M)
As Shri Gajanan Maharaj stayed for 12 years in Kapildhara before making an appearance in Shegaon, the Sansthan started a branch at Kapildhara in lgatpuri taluka. This place is famous for a sweet water spring which never ceases to provide water.
In earlier days, the tribals living in this region used the water of this spring for all purposes and polluted the water of the stream. The Sansthan constructed a tank close to the spring with a purification plant so that the purified water would be provided to the tribals by tap in their houses. At the source of the spring, the Sansthan constructed a ‘gomukh’ cow’s face considered to be very pious. The tank which is open to the public is cleaned daily by 2 Sevadharis.
As this branch is located in the tribal region, the Sansthan has initiated several social development programmes such as school for tribals called ‘Ashramshala’, hostel, dispensary etc. A mobile dispensary is functional to provide free medical help. Several tribals have benefitted from this scheme. Also clothes worth rupees 4 to 5 lakhs are distributed every year along with sweets to all the tribals.
However, while recognising the Sansthan’s activities in Kapildhara, it is also essential to learn the history of Kapildhara. This pilgrimage centre has been known to all over the past 11,32,000 years. This is the place where the early ‘Kumbha melas’ were organised. Even today the’ Sinhastha kumbhamela’ is celebrated here in its plenitude. It is believed that one dip at this spot gives a human being the ‘Punya’ that he may get when he takes a dip in the Ganges. It is at this spot that Bhagwan Kapil in ‘Satyayug’ preached ‘Sankhyashastra’ to his mother and thereafter she attained the heaven. Therefore, this spot is known as ‘Matrugaya’. It is said that if a person takes a dip in the tank and offers oblation of water in the name of his mother he is freed from the’ Matrurun’, his dues to his mother.
Legends state that Kapildhara is the place where Shri Ram and Lord Shiva met. During the war that Shri Ram waged with Ravana, Lakshman fell unconscious. At that time, Lord Hanuman was on his way to bring the herbs of ‘Sanjeevani’ when the demon Katyanemi stopped him at Kaplidhara. Lord Hanuman killed the demon at this place and hence Kapildhara is also called Kanvai.
Kapildhara is also known as the place where Saint Dnyaneshwar brought back to life a brahmin’s son by giving him water. It was at Kapildhara that Samartha Ramdas told Chhattrapati Shivaji Maharaj, “You are born to protect the ‘Sanatan Dharma’ and hence you must build a hanuman temple in all the villages of Maharashtra”. Samartha Ramdas offered the water from this tank to a brahmin from Kanvai village and cured him from leprosy. Kapildhara is thus known for various such miracles.
Anand Sagar project:
Anand Sagar is a huge complex with a lake and several gardens where healthy entertainment is provided while furthering the cause of Indian religion and philosophy.
The Anand Sagar project developed by the Sansthan is a confluence of religion and science. The genesis of this project is in the water problem faced by villagers in Shegaon and by the Sansthan.
After a lot of brainstorming, the Sansthan realised that there is a lake that was built in the British era. It is located to the South of Shegaon. If water from ‘Mun’ River which is at a distance of 9 kms was pumped into this lake then the percolation wells at the foot of the lake would be replenished and water supply to the village and the Sansthan would be facilitated. To implement this project, the Sansthan acquired the land for Anand Sagar project from the government. This project is located at a close distance from the Shegaon temple and is spread over 350 acres of land.
The main work of this project started on 8th April 1999. The initial estimation of the project to be implemented in three phases was of 300 crore Rupees. The first phase required approximately 125 crore Rupees. However, the Sansthan had only 30 lakhs in its kitty so it took a loan of 15 crore Rupees from the Central Bank of India.
Different types of works related to this project were undertaken simultaneously. People were working almost 12 hours per day. The team included 1 Engineer, 3 overseers, 72 labour contractors, 6 headmen and 2000 ‘Mansevis’. Fortunately, the cost of the work went down and only 5 crore Rupees were required so the remaining amount of the loan was returned. The loan amount was also repaid to the bank within six months of the inauguration of the complex.
Such a huge complex needs electricity for sustenance. It was estimated that nearly 45 lakh Rupees would be the cost of electricity required for the functioning of this complex and also for the water supply project. So the Sansthan after much deliberation decided to develop an artificial island at the centre of the lake and start boating which would generate revenue. But an island without a specific purpose may develop into a place of illicit activities. Therefore, it was decided to develop an island that will have a philosophical base.
Swami Vivekanand Memorial at Kanyakumari was considered as an inspiration. The members of the Sansthan concurred to develop an island in the shape of a ‘shivalinga’ having a meditation centre at the centre with Swami Vivekanand’s statue atop in a special arch called ‘meghadambari’. Thus it would propagate meditation and maintain the Indian ethics and sanctity. Today thousands of people visit the meditation centre and come out with great satisfaction.
This lake is at the centre of the complex. There are several gardens developed around this lake. These gardens are well laid with a variety of multicoloured flowers. The main entrance to this complex is huge and intricately carved.
As the visitors descend a flight of stairs from this main entrance, they get a beautiful panoramic view of the entire complex. After coming down the stairs, they reach an area that has a fountain in the centre. Shri Gajanan Maharaj’s statue is placed at the centre of this fountain. Drops of water are showered on the statue too. At a close distance from the fountain is a semi-circular structure of decorative arches inside which idols of 18 saints from 18 states of India are installed. This structure is called the ‘Santamandap’.
After crossing this semicircular structure the visitors are led straight to Lord Ganesh’s marble temple. At a short distance from this temple on the right is the ‘Navagraha’ temple. It is a marble temple dedicated to the 9 planets. Behind this temple is an amphitheatre that can accommodate 10,000 persons. The seats are covered by thin layer of lawn. The arches of this amphitheatre bear statues of renowned personalities like Saint Dnyaneshwar, Swami Vivekananda, Maratha Emperor Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Rajput King Rana Pratap etc. Every evening there are special musical fountain shows at this venue.
Close to this amphitheatre is an aquarium having a large variety of fish. The visitors enter the aquarium which is dimly lit. The tanks on both sides of the path have such varied types of fish that the visitors are left dumb struck. The lighting arrangement for the tanks is very soothing to the eyes.
On the left side of the ‘Santamandap’ is a children’s park. It has slides, swings, roller coasters and other amenities for children. One road from this park directly leads the visitors to Lord Shiva’s temple. There is also a toy train service to go around the complex.
On the left side of the Lord Ganesh’s temple is a road that takes the visitors to a long closed bridge covered with lovely creepers. This bridge leads to a suspension bridge connecting the island called ‘Dwarka bet’ to the mainland. The suspension bridge has beautiful statues of peacocks with spread out wings and shining fish. The ‘Dwarka bet’ has a coffee house where visitors can get snacks and refreshments at a minimal cost.
There are several statues of Gods, Goddesses, Saints, Kings and revered personalities of India at different locations in the gardens. Thought provoking sayings are put up at various spots. Life-like figures of animals are also placed around the gardens.
While moving in the garden if the visitor wishes to take rest, there are benches with roofs having beautiful carvings on them. The path leading to ‘Dwarka bet’ and Swami Vivekananda meditation hall has many wooden benches. Drinking water is available at several places. Visitors can also avail of umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. Prams for children and wheelchairs for the handicapped are also available.
The visitors coming to the complex can enjoy snacks and refreshments at many snack centres and coffee shops within the Anand Sagar complex. Almost 30,000 persons are served breakfast, meals, evening snacks, tea, coffee and juice on a daily basis. Free parking lot is available on the opposite side of the complex. For the upkeep of this complex, there are 700 ‘Sevadharis’ and ‘Mansevis’ at the service of the devotees and tourists. Today the entrance fee to this complex is Rs. 25/-.
The project that began on 8th April 1999 was dedicated to the country on 12th December 2002 by the then Vice President, Han. Bhairavsinghji Shekhawat.
Centenary celebrations :
Shri Gajanan Maharaj breathed his last in 1910. The year 2010 marked the century of this event. Hence Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan decided to celebrate the centenary. On this occasion it undertook the task of renovating the current temple especially widening the corridor leading to the underground sanctum sanctorum, the “Bhuyar”.
For any renovation activity, consultation with experts is a pre¬requisite. Thus Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan had in depth discussions with the experts.
They stated that the temple was made up of local stone called “Chira”. The temple construction dated back to the last century whereby there was no floor plan was available. In fact, the people who constructed the temple had the plan in their mind and knew exactly all the necessary details such as how to place the spire, where to put the joints etc.
As the original plan was not available the current day experts had to study the structure. The total weight from top of the spire to the base was around 900 tons. The experts were not sure to which stones the spire was joined. As the entire structure was of “Chira’ stone, if the spire slipped, the entire construction would have collapsed. The experts opined that if the temple and the ‘mandap’ hall were not pulled down, it would not be possible to renovate the ‘Bhuyar’.
After obtaining the opinion of the experts, the Sansthan sought the help of its engineers; overseers and contract labourers to understand the feasibility of the renovation activity. Everybody realised that if the temple and the ‘mandap’ had to be raised to the ground and reconstruction of the temple was to be undertaken it would take more than a year and a half. It would thus be impossible (to meet the timeframe of centenary celebration. After much discussion it was decided that renovation work would be undertaken in three stages: renovation of the ‘Bhuyar pulling down the original construction and getting the new construction readied.
The Sansthan realised that for the sake of renovation work, it could not keep the temple closed to the public. It was then concurred that the construction work would start at 10.00 p.m. after the last ‘aarti’ in the temple and would continue up to 4.00 a.m. From 4.00 a.m. to 4.30 a.m. the entire place would be cleaned. The steps leading to the ‘Bhuyar’ would be placed again in the right manner. Thus the temple would be open to the devotees at 4.30 a.m. The work was done as per the plan with clockwork precision. Utmost care was taken such that not a grain of sand was visible anywhere in the premises of the temple giving an inkling of the construction work. Moreover, there was no disturbance in the devotee ‘s routine.
The task of widening the ‘Bhuyar’ and renovating the temple was phenomenal one. The Sansthan solicited advice of its architects, Mr. Kalgutkar from Mumbai and Mr. Shringare from Nagpur as well as that of the marble temple architecture specialist, Mr. Sompura. The trio studied the original structure and noticed that the arches in the temple played a very crucial role. They were very strong and bore the weight of the spire. Hence girders were fitted to provide support. Using chisel and hammer, chips and lead were placed wherever necessary. Thus ‘Bhuyar’ and ‘Ram Mandir’ were packed to start renovation work which took almost a year to complete.
The last stage of renovation was an important one. The door of the ‘Bhuyar’ had to be made big. As a first step, a pillar was placed at the centre of the ‘Bhuyar’ and two doors were made on two sides. Near the arch in the ‘Bhuyar’ one pillar was placed which would bear the weight of the arch. Binding agents were inserted in the gaps that were made above the door so that it would be fixed well. Once the binding agent dried, the pillar was to be removed. There was a huge risk involved in this activity. The pillar needed to be removed with utmost care such that there would be no jerk or a slightest air crack. Otherwise the temple would collapse in a minute. This was the moment of final reckoning.
It was decided that at the time of removing the pillar one of the trustees would be seated next to Maharaj’s idol. Mr. Neelakanth Shivshankar Patil volunteered to sit next to the statue. One Thursday was fixed for this vital occasion. On the said day, the work began sharp at 10.15 p.m. Girders were fitted. Pieces of lead were inserted wherever required using chisel and hammer and the pillar was removed. Not a slightest jerk felt or no miniscule air crack was visible. Thus the renovation work culminated on a happy note. There was a spontaneous outburst of “Shri Gajanan Maharaj Ki Jai”. Immediately, Mr. Neelakanth Shivshankar Patil ran to his house to share the wonderful news with his father Mr. Shivshankar Patil alias Bhau, “Dad, the work is accomplished”. However, everybody felt that the herculean task of renovation of the temple was successful only due to the blessings of Shri Gajanan Maharaj.
As the renovation was coming towards the end, the Sansthan concentrated on three areas to make the devotees comfortable on the occasion of the centenary: “Darshan”, “Mahaprasad” and lodging facilities.
The Sansthan took all the required measures to accommodate the devotees who came to Shegaon attend the centenary celebration. In addition to the ‘Bhaktaniwas’ in the vicinity of the temple, another complex of lodging facility called ‘Anand Vihar’ has been developed by the Sansthan in the vicinity of Anandsagar complex at a short distance from the temple. This place has a total number of 700 rooms each having 3, 4 or 6 beds. In the ‘Anandsagar Visava’ complex there are in all 150 rooms and 31 large halls. All the lodging facilities are available at inexpensive rates. Moreover, other service like hot water, electricity, car parking, breakfast, lunch, tea; snacks and dinner are easily available to all in the complex. The devotees coming to Shegaon with their own vehicle can go directly to Anandsagar complex. However, those using public transport can avail of the minibus facility provided by the Sansthan. No bus fare is incurred. 4 buses ply regularly from the tin shed outside Bhaktaniwas No 2 near the temple up to Anandsagar and Anandvihar complex.
Besides the accommodation, due attention was paid to “Darshan facilities and distribution of “Mahaprasad”. Both these points would satiate any devotee and he would go home with immense satisfaction. This satisfaction was the ultimate objective of the Sansthan.
As a gamut of devotees visit the temple including the sick and handicapped, the Sansthan arranged for four types of ‘Darshan’: ‘Kalas ‘Darshan (worshipping the spire) in keeping with the ‘Varkari’ tradition, ‘Swaroop ‘Darshan, ‘Darshan’ of ‘Bhuyar’ and ‘Darshan’ of the ‘Gadi’ in the ‘Shayangriha’. AII the devotees coming to the temple stand in a queue and take ‘Darshan’ in a much disciplined manner. For the convenience of the devotees there is a board that indicates how long they would have to stand in the queue e.g. four hours to reach the statue, half an hour to get the first glance of Maharaj’s face, to simply join hands you can just walk and move ahead. If people are running short of time, they can quickly go to the ‘Bhuyar’ and then move towards the ‘Shayangriha’ to take ‘Darshan’ of the ‘Gadi’. Thus these different types of ‘Darshans’ satisfy all sorts of devotees.
After the ‘Darshan’ all devotees must have ‘Mahaprasad’. Hence considering the influx of devotes on the occasion of the centenary for almost 72 hours before the centenary day the fire in the kitchen did not die down. All the people who lined up for the ‘prasad’ were served nonstop. There was no shortage of any food item be it rice, vegetable or ‘ladoo’.
These celebrations were successful because the trustees have an immense sense of responsibility and duty. In fact, two generations of trustees have been groomed by Mr. Shivshankar Patil alias Bhau who in turn has 45 years of robust experience of implementing a variety of projects and programmes. During these celebrations Bhau played the role of head of a family. Under his able guidance the young trustees and ‘Sevadharis’ executed all the tasks with great faith and devotion.
Needless to say faith, devotion and service encompass the philosophy of Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan. The centenary celebrations were accomplished in keeping with this philosophy.
Besides the renovation and infrastructure enhancement, the centenary was seen as on occasion to accomplish some literary pursuit. The holy book entitled “Shri Gajanan Vijay” authored by poet-saint Dasganu Maharaj is originally in Marathi. The book has been re-written in English by Mr. Shankar Balwant Pandit. The first edition of this English book was released ceremoniously at “Maharaj’s Vishranti Sthal” in the Shegaon temple premises.
Another noteworthy book entitled “Fountain of Humanity: Shegaon’ was published jointly by Sidhdhishakti publication and the Sansthan on 12th September 2010. The concept and design of the book is of the famous aerial photographer, Mr. Gopal Bodhe. The co-author of this book is Dr. Dnyaneshwari Anil Talpade.
Considering the gamut of projects that have been undertaken successfully in the 100 years since Maharaj took the Samadhi, it can be safely said that Shri Gajanan Maharaj Sansthan’s progress is commendable. Nevertheless, with the blessings of Shri Gajanan Maharaj, the Sansthan will continue its good work in the coming centuries too.
Indian Navy / Western Naval Command
Shri Adhik Shirodkar- Senior Advocate
Shri Gopal Gite
Shri Bal Pande
Shri Gajanan Khorjuwekar
Shri Bibhas Amonkar
Shri Vibhav Manjrekar
Shri Anil Talpade
Shri Abhay Ambadekar- Top Colors
Dr. Avinash Supe- Surgeon KEM Hospital
Shri R.L. Kothari (Kakubhai), Shri Raju Kothari & Shri Sanju Kothari of Photokina
Smt. Jyoti Pai & Shri Eknath Pai
Shri Ajay Turkar
Shri Harshad Bhatia
Shri S Anantharam
Shri Mahesh Kadam, Shri Madhav Phadke
Shri Murali Krishnan, Shri Ramesh Pednekar
Shri Vivek Vaidya
Shri Avadhut Rane & Nilesh Rane of Nawlai Print House Pvt. Ltd.
Gopal Bodhe’s son Shri Kaustubh Bodhe
Gopal Bodhe’s grand daughter Maitreyee Bodhe