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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

Akkalkot-A spiritual quest with surprises in store

Akkalkot is a small town about 45 kms from Sholapur, known mainly as the place where the renowned saint Swami Samarth attained Samadhi. We took the overnight train to Sholapur and then hired a jeep to Akkalkot, though we later realized that there are a huge number of buses of the MSRTC plying between various places in Mumbai and Akkalkot regularly. In fact, we were quite surprised by the frequency of buses in that region, and thereafter, we used only ST buses for traveling to and from Sholapur.
All the buses and jeeps drop you at the Bhakta Niwas, built by the Devasthan for the convenience of pilgrims. It has basic lodging facilities, with small and big rooms, but only common bathrooms for the whole floor. The premises and the toilets are surprisingly clean, considering that the charge for a whole family (up to 10 people) is around Rs.150.There is also another Bhakta Niwas, recently built, for people who like to be comfortable, even during a pilgrimage. Here, the rooms all have attached bathrooms, and there are also large rooms for groups. The charges here start from Rs.250. Both the complexes have a vegetarian restaurant on the premises. The food is both cheap as well as tasty.
The Swami Samarth Samadhi Devasthan, the temple housing the Samadhi is a small and neat place, calm and tranquil, transporting one back to the days of yore when the swami was alive. If one reaches the temple before 11:30 AM, one can perform Abhishek and puja of the Padukas of the Swami for as little as Rs.25 per person. It is worth it, as one is allowed into the sanctum sanctorum, and can see the Samadhi and the Padukas up close. After 11:30, the Padukas are decorated and kept for viewing only.
In and around Akkalkot, there are other minor places of interest like the ashrams and samadhis of various disciples of Swami Samarth. These places are not as popular as the main temple, but are worth a visit simply because the places have been maintained quite well, and are exactly as they used to be, and one can still feel the atmosphere that comes from years of meditation and penance. The best way to visit all these places is to hire a local auto driver as a guide. The chaps are only too happy to take one around the village for 50 Rupees.

Around 2 Km from Akkalkot is another place worth a visit for a traveler on a spiritual quest. The Shivpuri Ashram is a legacy of one of Swami Samarth’s disciples, Shree Gajanan Maharaj (not the Gajanan maharaj of Shegaon), and his father, Shree Yogindra Maharaj. They were responsible for the revival of the ancient system of Agnihotra, or the maintenance of the sacred fire. The ashram is a serene place, with the Samadhi of the swamiji and his descendants and disciples. It is amazing how they have managed to phas opularize the age old concept of Agnihotra. The only drawback, if I may take the liberty to call it so, is that the main aim of the ashram being the revival of Agnihotra, the inmates keep trying to get one to take it up. The ashram also has provision for accommodation, and they also cater to foreign tourists by offering massages, treatments etc. In any case, the place is worth a visit, even if one isn’t really interested in following their way of life.
The Arms museum
Now for something a little different. If one is accompanied by kids, as we were, they usually get bored visiting temples and ashrams all the time. Akkalkot offers something for them too! The Akkalkot Palace has been converted to a museum by the royal family, who reside at Pune. The museum houses their personal collection of weapons, ranging from small daggers and knives to the early firearms. As collections go, it is an impressive one. The current king has also displayed his extensive collection of car models and also models of various kinds of dogs (it looks as if a childhood collection of toys grown into that of a professional collector). My 4 year old son who is obsessed with toy guns and bows and arrows loved the place, though the one thing that struck me was how humans have always loved to kill, and find newer and more gruesome methods of killing.
All in all, Akkalkot is worth a visit, whether or not one is spiritually inclined.


  1. Somehow I missed this post, I used to pray to this saint before , as they have this picture in saibaba temple and also I remember reading abt him in Swami rama 's living with himalyan masters . Feel so blessed to have read about the ashram, thanks so much for writing :)

    1. can u pls tell me where swami rama had mentioned abt swami samarth?...

  2. Somehow I missed this post, I used to pray to this saint before , as they have this picture in saibaba temple and also I remember reading abt him in Swami rama 's living with himalyan masters . Feel so blessed to have read about the ashram, thanks so much for writing :)

  3. Hi...
    Good info... V r planing our tour to dis place. Dis info wil definitely help me. Thanks.
    U can add by giving info of good places to stay overnight at Akkalkot..

  4. Thanks Amit! Its been over 6 years since i visited, so am sure there will be lot more options now...


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