A city and a municipal council in Solapur district, Akkalkot is situated 40 kilometers southeast of Solapur and very close to the border between Maharashtra and Karnataka. The city is known for being home to Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj, a 19th century saint who is believed by his devotees to be an incarnation of God Dattatreya. During the British Raj, Akkalkot was a princely state ruled by the royal Bhonsale dynasty.
At Akkalkot it is a very common sight indeed to find pilgrims making their way to the shrine complex of Shri Swami Samarth, continuously chanting his name. According to references found in the ‘Gurucharitra’, a religious text, Shri Nrusimh Sarasvati took ‘samadhi’ in 1458 CE and remained in that state for more than 300 years. With the passage of time a huge ant hill grew over him and he was lost to the outside world. One day, a woodcutter’s axe accidentally fell on the ant hill. He was shocked to find the axe draw blood. He therefore immediately cleared the ant hill and found there a person in deep meditation. This yogi and reincarnation of Dattatreya came to be known as Swami Samarth.
Swami then travelled all across the country and finally settled in Akkalkot. It was in 1856 CE, on a Wednesday, when he appeared at the Khandoba Mandir at Akkalkot. As per his devotees, Swami then looked older by age but there were no wrinkles on his body. He stood tall and healthy with his long hands touching his knees. His belly protruded and he had broad shoulders. His feet were long too. He adorned a sacred mark - a ‘tilak’ on his forehead - and he always wore a codpiece. He also had a rosary and crystal with him.
His teachings to his followers were very simple. “Once you meet the Supreme Master, meditate and focus upon him,” he would often say. He also exhorted his disciples to have firm belief in god because he alone exists everywhere in the universe and to earn a livelihood through sincere efforts. His words of assurance and courage to his followers were: Never be afraid of anything for I am always there to support you. Till date, his followers chant “Shri Swami Samarth, Jai Jai Swami Samarth.” In the months of April and May of 1863, and on the thirteenth day of the dark half of the lunar month of Chaitra as per the Hindu calendar, Swami Samarth breathed his last. He used to stay at the residence of his follower Cholappa, which has since then been converted into a temple and shrine dedicated to Swami Samarth.
The shrine complex is known as Vatavruksh Mandir since it encloses a Banyan tree beneath which the swami used to preach his message. Shri Swami Samarth Annachatra Mandal provides free accommodation and meals to pilgrims. That apart, Akkalkot continues to retain its link with the Bhonsales who ruled here. There is an exhibition of arms in the newly constructed palace of Fattesinh Bhonsale. Some of the other important places include the Balappa Math, Khandoba Mandir, Joshibuva Math, Mallikarjun Mandir and Hatti Tank. Shivpuri, just 3 kilometers away from Akkalkot, is known for Gajanan Maharaj and for the practice of the ancient Vedic therapy of ‘agnihotra’.
Distance from Mumbai is 437 kms.