It is said that Food is the almighty! Offering Free Food is the greatest
Hence, the scope of offering free food is enormous. The need for food is felt by all living beings on this Earth. Food quenches the hunger. It has the presence of God. Hence, the food in the form of Mahaprasad gives us the sense of content. We get mental satisfaction eating the Mahaprasad. Realizing the same, as said above, Hon’ble Janmejayraje Bhosale along with his colleagues stared Shri Swami Samarth Annachhatra Mandal and offered free food facility for the devotees visiting from outside cities and places. Presently, 15000 plus devotees from outside seek the benefit of Mahaprasad in the Annachhatra. The Mahaprasad Gruha (hall) is enabled with sitting facility for one thousand devotees at a time.
Grains required for cooking Mahaprasad wheat, rice, mataki, sugar, jaggery, pulses like toor dal, chana dal, peas, etc. and ghee, groundnut oil, spices, etc., are purchased by special active members and staff under the supervision and control of trustees. The purchasing of grains is done watchfully and after enquiring into the quality. Also, special attention is paid towards maintaining good quality of the said grains, spices, oil etc. so purchased. Many devotees donate in the form of grains. Such donations are accepted and a formal receipt is given to them. The said grains are used for preparing Mahaprasad. There is a 40*20’ size go-down to store the supplies.
The vegetables required for Mahaprasad is purchased locally and a Trustee, an active member and staff is appointed. The said vegetable purchasing is done are purchased every day morning. The vegetables required for Mahaprasad such as potatoes, capsicum, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, cucumber, fenugreek, etc. and other seasonal vegetables are purchased with due diligence and at a reasonable price
Four Managers are appointed specifically to look after the Mahaprasad management to carry it out with proper planning and discipline. The Mahaprasad is prepared and distributed under their supervision. When the devotees are seated in the Mahaprasad hall, there are more than 100 volunteers to distribute dishes, glasses, serve water, etc. The Mahaprasad is served correctly by them. In the kitchen, there are more than 50 women who prepare and cook rotis. There is no delay in their work despite of the rush. 15 women staff/ volunteers clean and cut the vegetables with sincere dedication. To clean the grains required for Mahaprasad a staff of 20 women is appointed. These women clean the grains carefully. To clean the plates, glasses, bowls used for distributing the Mahaprasad, another staff of 20 women. They clean the plates tirelessly.
To carry out the day to day working of Annachhatra, separate staff is appointed. To accept donations, special clerical staff is appointed. In Mahaprasad hall, the staff includes a clerk and an accountant. They accept donations towards annadan and construction. To give receipts to devotees visiting from other cities, felicitating devotees donating huge amounts with shawl and coconut (Shreefal), organizing Mahaprasad for all devotees coming to Annachhatra, giving them information about Annachhatra and the construction, etc. is done by the clerk and accountant. They also receive donations sent through postal service and send vibhuti and receipts to concerned donors. Also, there are clerks who send vibhuti along with letters to the devotees who have given a permanent fixed donation. Communication is maintained with permanent donors and donors who have contributed to the construction on a large scale, offering Mahaprasad in their name, maintaining correspondence with people / institutions relating to Annadan, sending letters and invitations of celebrations of foundation day of Annachhatra and Gurupournima, sending greetings on the occasion of Swami Jayanti and Gudhipadwa celebration, etc. Office superintendent and clerical staff is appointed to felicitate the dignitaries visiting the Annachhatra, noting their names and addresses and feedback; also maintaining contact with the governmental and social institutions/ organizations, related correspondence, etc. Accountants and clerical staff is appointed to keep an account of the donations to the Annachhatra every day, food supplies, construction, salaries of staff and other expenses, compliance of work related to the Charity Commissioner’s office and getting the audits done from the auditor appointed by the organization.
The Annachhatra Mandal has decided to construct a new 5 storied and ultramodern building replacing the old one. This building will take approximately 2 to 3 years for completion. Till then, to avoid the inconvenience of the devotees, Annachhatra has constructed a temporary new Mahaprasad shed adjacent to the old structure. This new shed is up to date and decorated like a darbar hall and can accommodate 1000 devotees for Mahaprasad at a time. For this hall, marble and granite is used; also, for ceiling material of topmost quality is used. The kitchen, utensil cleaning unit, vegetable section, roti section, etc., are all contemporary. The staff works humbly in each section. With this new Mahaprasad Hall, there are many changes and many facilities that are made available in the Annachhatra Mandal campus. The huge Deepasthambh and the cow Kapila attract the attention of all devotees. Likewise, the 25 feet statue of Shri Swami Samarth and the sculpture of Him appearing from an anthill has become the centre of devotees’ reverence and attraction. The big road connecting the gate and the out gate at the backside is specially constructed using concrete and tar spending almost 1.2 crore rupees. Therefore, dust and potholes, mud, etc., is avoided permanently. On this road, the white stripes and reflectors are especially visible. The devotees are very much satisfied with the facilities. The statue in the blessings pose erected on the building next to the Mahaprasad hall has become the centre of attraction and reverence for the devotees. Similarly, the Patrons hall and the special Mahaprasad hall for special dignitaries have come out very beautiful. Also, the office of Hon’ble Founder President is also striking. A parking stand opposite the Yatri Niwas is made up to date and it’s coated with tar. Adjacent to this parking stand, to the North, an atrophy pit is created to accumulate the rain water from the entire campus. This atrophy pit (rainharvesting pit) is of the size 30’*30’*30’ like a well and accumulates all rain water from the campus, which increases the underground water levels and helps in environmental conservation and balance.
Bharat Ratna & singing legend respected Smt. Lata Mangeshkar expressed the concept of creating Shivsrushti (Forts world) before Hon’ble Founder President Shri. Janmejayraje Vijaysinhraje Bhosale Maharaj, as it will be a motivation and ideal for the youth. Hon’ble Maharaj instantly liked the idea and started working on it. They sought valuable guidance from respected historian Shri Babasaheb Purandare. The horse ridden statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is sculpted by Shri Santaji Chaugule, Kolhapur and the world of forts is created by Shri Vivek Khatavkar, Pune. There is a huge water fountain and a lush green garden in front of this shivasmarak. There is also a marble bench with a steel railing around it, flooring paver block, etc. and the history of forts displayed. These facilities were made in a short span of time and a huge and beautiful Shivasamark was thus created. This project costed a few crore rupees. There is a pathway to reach to this Shivasmarak and there are 80 beautifully designed poles on both the sides. This Shivasmarak has become a centre of attraction for all Shri Swami devotees and residents of Akkalkot. The said Shivasmarak was inaugurated on the occasion of 1st of May 2018.
For devotees from other cities, there is an excellent facility of an out door gymnasium near the Shivasmarak and Yatribhuvan. There are 13 types of instruments installed here, out of which 9 are for men and 4 for women. These instruments are ultramodern. The gym has lawn flooring and there are display boards regarding the instructions for use of the instruments near each instrument. The timings of the gymnasium are in the morning between 5 to 9 and 6 to 9 in the evening. The visitors and the residents of Akkalkot are very well benefitted due to the said gym. It is free for all and open to all above 16 yrs of age. Founder President of the trust Hon’ble Shri Janmejayraje Bhosale has installed gym instruments worth Rs. 10,00,000 out of the social responsibility to the residents of Akkalkot and the devotees visiting the place. The said instruments are in use presently.
There is an out gate at the backside of the Annachhatra. Devotees visit Annachhatra in huge numbers during festivals, holidays and at the time of celebrations in the templ. To regulate the traffic and avoid traffic jams at such rush hours, the out gate is made on Maindargi- Gangapur road. Inside there is a huge parking space and a tar road. Also, improvements like a boom barrier system, etc., are carried out. This parking lot accommodates huge number of vehicles, private tourist vehicles, cars, jeeps, ST buses, etc. every day.
There is a hill near the out gate and on this hill a garden is planned for the amusement of devotees and visitors and children. This huge and beautiful garden will have a waterfall, etc. and will be costing a few crore rupees. The work is in progress now. Very soon this lawn- garden will come in reality for the devotees and visitors.
Near the outgate of the trust and Yatribhuvan building, mural work depicting the life of Shri Swami Samarth is undertaken. This mural will include selected incidences from the life of Shri Swami Samarth. The murals are being created with the pious intention of spreading the faith and bhakti towards Shri Swami Samarth. The said murals project is also worth few lakhs rupees.
Recently, the Annachhatra is achieving progressing with many improvements and facilities being added and new infrastructure being constructed. The residential building and huge Mahaprasad hall are under construction. Also, facilities like AC elevator, LED screen, lights etc are also provided for the devotees. This has caused increase in the consumption of electricity. And hence, to use the natural resources to the fullest, a solar roof project is proposed and will be soon implemented on the roof of the parking space at the out gate. This will save electricity to a large extent and expected to reduce the expenses on power every month. It is expected that it will produce 125 KV power with the help of the solar unit so installed.
The Annachhatra activity is expanding day by day. There is huge increase in the number of devotees visiting Akkalkot. Hence, the trust has decided to construct a permanent 5 storied attractive building in the place of the old tin shed. The said construction will take 3 to 5 years and meanwhile to avoid inconvenience of the devotees, a new tin shed huge Mahaprasad Hall is constructed temporarily. The proposed building cost is around 45 crores. The said building will be fully air conditioned and will have toilets, lift, donation centre, Mahaprasad Hall, waiting hall, etc. The said building will be beautiful and huge and will bring great convenience for the devotees. The Mahaprasad Hall will accommodate 2000 people at a time and will be spread on three floors of the building. There will be waiting hall on one floor and kitchen and roti section, vegetable section on the other floor. The construction is proposed to begin soon in near future and the planning is already done. The said new Mahaprasad Hall will be soon in the service of the devotees.
The increasing number of devotees visiting Akkalkot and expanding activities of the trust, security needs of the Annachhatra and the devotees were sensed and an efficient security system is in place for the same. The security guards aer on duty will full devotion and responsibility day and night. The main security post and office is located near the gate and total of 32 security guards are appointed with one Chief Security Officer. The security guards are posted at the main gate, Mahaprasad Hall, Entrance Gate, the temple in the Mahaprasad Hall and the donation boxes, Shri Shamivighnesh Ganesh Mandir and the parking lot. They work in shift. Regulating the entry of devotees in the Mahaprasad Hall, keeping a note of all vehicles entering in the Annachhatra area, taking care of the devotees and vehicles coming to Annachhatra, regulating the crowds and traffic, etc. is done by the security guards.
The daily rituals and puja in Annachhatra includes puja of Shri Shami Vighnesh Ganesha, Shri Annapurna in Mahaprasad Gruha, Shri Audumbar in old Annachhatra where Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj used to accept bhiksha, and also in the office near the South entrance of Annachhatra. These puja are perfomed by the pundits appointed by the organization. The main program in Annachhatra every day starts at 11.00 am. The Mahanaivedya is offered to Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj at the hands of devotees donating Rs. 501/- and permanent depositors and Arati is performed thereafter. Annadan sankalp is made after the arati and after Shri Swami Samarth Nam recitation till the food is served, then devotees are served Mahaprasad. The batches of devotees are served one after the other and closed thereafter. Meanwhile, dignitaries and donors are felicitated with shawl, shriphal and Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj's photoframe. The dignitaries' opinion about the Mahaprasad, Annachhtra management is asked and their address and contact details are noted. Mahaprasad serving again starts at 9 pm and is served till 11pm. Special staff of cooks, serving staff including men and women does the serving and distribution. Many Swami devotees donate towards Mahaprasad. A proper receipt is given to them by the staff of clerks and cashier specially appointed for the same. Everyday, an average of 15,000 devotees take benefit of the Mahaprasad here.
This annadaan scheme is designed such to be liked by all devotees. If devotees donate Rs. 11,001/- as a permanent deposit, free food/ Annadan is performed on their behalf on specific dates mentioned by them . Mahaprasad is prepared on their behalf and then served. They can be personally present on these specific days of Mahaprasad given by them. If not able to be personally present, Prasad and vibhuti is sent to them by post. If they are personally present, the mahanaivedya is perfomed at their hands and then served to devotees present there. Apart from the said scheme, devotees may donate through few more schemes. Also, they can donate a fix deposit of Rs. 5000/- which allows them to perform Annadan on specific days preferred by them every year.
The number of donors is increasing with time with the expansion of Annachhatra activities. The donors donating said amounts are given benefit under Section 80 C of the Income Tax Act, 1961. The donors are very much benefitted by the same and also leads to increase in the donations received by the organization. The certificate of section 80 G is received from the Income Tax Commissioner, Pune.
Along with the pious work of Annadan carried out here, Annachhatra Mandal also celebrates Shri Datta Jayanti, Gurupratipada (Ganagapur Yatra), Shri Swami Samarth Jayanti Utsav, Shri Swami Samarth Punyatithi Utsav and Gurupournima (Foundation day of Annachhatra) on a grand scale. At the times of Shri Datta Jayanti, Gurupratipada, and Shri Swami Samarth Jayanti and Punyatithi, thousands of devotees visit Akkalkot and seek darshan and Mahaprasad. Special sweets of five types are prepared on these special occasions. The menu consists of chapatti/ roti, vegetables, curry, kheer, bundi laddu, sakhar bhaat, puran poli, etc. The entire campus is decorated with flowers and saffron pataka on such occasions.
The Annachhatra was founded on 29th July, 1988. Therefore, Gurupournama and the Foundation day hold special grand celebrations here. On 18th July, 2008, the 21st Foundation day of the Annachhatra was celebrated on huge scale. Every year on these occasions, respected dignitaries and guests are invited and a special five sweets Mahanaivedya is offered to Shri Swami Samarth at their hands. After the Mahanaivedya, Maha arati is sung and sankalp is made. After this ceremony, the Mahaprasad is served to the devotees. Meanwhile, the dignitaries, guests and donors are felicitated by giving them shawl, shriphal and a photoframe of Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj.