My Pilgrimage to Ganagapur and Akkalkot

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Sai Ram. On the morning of 29th January, my friend Arjun phoned me and started discussing the presence of our Guru, Sankaracharya of Hampi Virupaksha Vidyaranya Peetham in Ganagapur on the next day and whether we could go to Ganagapur and see Him. Since a few days earlier, we were discussing the possibility of making a pilgrimage to Ganagapur and Akkalkot, I agreed. So, in the matter of a few hours, he arranged to get two tickets reserved in a bus leaving in the night for Gulbarga, which is about 200 km and takes about 5 hours by road / bus and from there Ganagapur is just 40 kms. The road from Gulbarga to Ganagapur is not that good and it takes about an hour and a half to reach there.

We left Hyderabad at 0:30 hours of 30th January and reached Gulbarga by 05:30 hours. We transfered to another bus going to Afzalpur etc. and got down at Chowdapur X roads, from where Ganagapur is about 7 km. We normally don't get a bus there and we normally go by an autorickshaw (a three wheeler) which carries about 8 people, in rather cramped conditions. The driver of the auto was waiting for other passengers since we were the only two. The first of several nice mystical experiences started then, apart from the sudden fixing of the program. A bus came but I missed reading the board and later was regretting that it was going to Ganagapur. Within a few minutes another bus came and the auto driver himself volunteered the information that the bus would go Ganagapur and asked us to take it! Thus we reached Ganagapur earlier than expected and in relative comfort.

We went to the usual lodge where we stay and were warmly greeted by the caretaker and were given a good room. We established contact with our Guruji Hampi Swamiji and He asked us to come to a house near the temple, where He was camping. So, we hurried up and took bath in the room itself instead of going to the river as is our usual practice. We reached the place where Swamiji was staying and were asked by Him to go to the temple and finish our puja (worship) and return by about 11 AM (it was just 08:30 AM then). We went to the temple and had one of the best darshans and could get the Paduka Puja in a nice, leisurely manner. We then went to the river and just washed our hands and feet and sprinkled the river water on our head as a mark of respect to the river Goddess. The river was flowing at a higher level than usual and the water was not clear. Thus we were much better off by taking the bath in our room and that was another instance of Guru's grace.

We finished the circumambulation to the Fig Tree located at the river bank (that tree has a sacred history in Sri Guru Charitra) and also paid our respects to Lord Dattatreya at the Sangam. We also visited the Siva temple there and went back to our Guru's place. He went to another house for a few minutes (calling Guru to the house and worshipping His feet is a practice in many Hindu houses). Then He was going to the temple and called us to accompany Him for another darshan. We went inside and could see Him enter the innermost room where the Nirguna Padukas of Sri Nrisimha Saraswati Swami are kept.

Nrisimha Saraswati Swami is the second incarnation of Lord Dattatreya and made Ganagapur, a very holy place by staying there for nearly 30 years. When leaving that place, He left His Padukas (Sandals) for worship. No other visitor is allowed to enter that innermost room and touch the padukas (holy sandals) except the temple priests. But Hampi Sankaracharya is given this honor because Sri Nrisimha Saraswati Swami took sanyas from Sri Krishna Saraswati, a disciple of Sri Vidyaranya Bharati Swami, the founder of Vijayanagar Empire, who was also the head of Sringeri Sarada Peetham.

We returned along with the Swamiji after He finished His worship and we had lunch in a Priest's house where Swamiji took His Bhiksha. A Sanyasi is not allowed to cook food for Himself and has to depend on alms and unlike many other societies where begging is looked down upon, Hinduism accepts begging for alms from monks and sanyasis and they are treated with great honor.

When we left for Ganagapur, my friend was not sure of accompanying me to Akkalkot since he was informed by Swamiji that He was alone and was looking forward to the company of my friend since He was returning to Hyderabad from Ganagapur. Though I wanted his company, I was mentally prepared to go alone to Akkalkot from Ganagapur. Thus I packed a bigger bag with more clothes. When we met our Gurujim, He asked my friend to accompany me to Akkalkot since another couple, both disciples of Swamiji were going with Him to Hyderabad. Thus, I was not required to go alone and I was very happy. Since my friend did not pack enough clothes we decided to go to Akkalkot, have darshan of Swami Samartha and return to Gulbarga by bus or train and then try to catch another bus to Hyderabad.

We left Ganagapur at 4 PM and reached Akkalkot by 7 PM. We went to the Vatavriksha mandir of Swami Samartha, an incarnation of Lord Dattatreya. We washed our hands and feet and had a nice darshan of the Swami's idol there. We came out and reached the Akkalkot Bus Station by about 8 PM. We were rather surprised to know that no bus is available for Ganagapur and some one suggested that we take a train. They told that the train is at 10 PM and the railway station is 12 km away. Fortunately an autorickshaw driver was willing to take us there. Since there was enough time, we thought we will have a light dinner and went to a nearby restaurant. I have many restrictions about what I can eat but by the grace of Guru, I got good items in the restaurant.

When we went back to the autorickshaw, we saw that we were the only two passengers and again we were wondering whether he will go or not. But the autodriver assured us that he stays near the station and thus he waited for a few minutes and then left. The road was desolate and hardly any traffic was seen. When we reached the Akkalkot Road Railway Station, the whole area was in darkness because of a power cut. Only a few emergency lights and the signals were on by means of a generator. We were plesantly surprised to find that the auto driver was an extremely honest man and was asking us to pay just twetny rupees, as if he had a full load and not the just two of us. We paid him a bonus of another ten rupees. We had to wait for about an hour and then the train came. We got seats (rather hard wooden benches) and could manage to sit for the 2 hours it took to cover the distance of 78 km. We could get nice hot tea at a station in between. We reached Gulbarga by 0:30 hrs of 31st January.

We took an autorichshaw and reached the Bus Station a few minutes later. Again, we got a shock when we were told that there is no bus starting from Gulbarga and one bus will come from Bijapur and if we are lucky we will get seats (the Gulbarga station has no control and no quota). We were praying to Guru to continue to take care of us. When the bus came, we were glad that seats were there and we could settle in. We left Gulbarga by 01:30 hrs and reached Hyderabad by about 6 AM.

We thus had a very satisfying pilgrimage and felt the grace of Guru all through. Sai Ram.

madan_gautam's picture


swami Ji
All your experiences and sharing here are very useful to most of us and at the same time most of us come to know the faith,devotion and the old age Indian tradition towards the Pilgrimage.
I would like from you to high light here how even today world the people from interior of India do Pilgrimage on bare feet walking hundreds of miles with groups of male,female and children in great devotion and respect for their Deity.

madan_gautam | Thu, 02/05/2009 - 17:20
Swamy's picture

Madan_Gautam's comment on my pilgrimage to Ganagapur etc.

Dear Madan,

Sai Ram. Many thanks for your kind comments. Yes, seeing a group of people walking barefoot with fairly heavy loads on their heads is a moving sight. Their faith is really appreciable. However, God has given different sadhanas to different people. For people like us who grew up in relative comfort, taking up such an arduous journey is not feasible. What is however needed is full faith in God / Guru. The whole purpose of the pilgrimage is to see the unity in the diversity.

Sai Ram. Blessings.


Swamy | Wed, 02/11/2009 - 05:46