Shri Pant Maharaj demonstrated the existence of God within everyone and ways to attain eternal bliss in simple ways without needing intricate Yoga procedures or ‘sanyasa’. He explained the concepts of ‘Sahaj samadhi’, ‘ajapajap’, etc. He also preached the message of love, the strength of truth and devotion to Sadguru, the teacher, the guide and the friend on the divine path. He belonged to the Avdhoot sect.
Balekundri is a small village, located about a half hour drive from Belagavi. The temple of Shri Pant Maharaj stands there. The temple situated in a garden of mango trees, the surroundings are so serene, and peaceful.
The ‘math’ houses the ‘paduka’ (ornamental shoe ware) of Shri Pant Maharaj. The usual custom is to offer an ‘Abhishek’, by which the paduka are worshipped. Apart from rudrabhishek, other pujas can be offered here like ‘Panchamruta- abhishek’, ‘Ekadashanis’, ‘palkhi seva’ and ‘butti puja’. Our guru Shri Digambarpant (kaka) always made us perform rudrabhishek with ‘naivedya’.
Just behind the Temple, Sadguru was cremated. The site is marked by an ‘Audumbar’ tree and is called ‘Audumbar katta’. In the main temple facing the ‘paduka’ is a hall displaying the photos of those associated with the Sadguru.
Behind the temple complex is the ‘Aaamrai’, a cluster of mango trees surrounding an open area. On the other end of this aamrai is the ‘dhuni’, a holy fire in Avdhoot sect, which has been kept burning since Sadguru expired. In fact, the fire originated from the pyre in which Sadguru was cremated. It has a photograph showing Sadguru wearing the ‘kafani’ (a loose outer garment worn by sadhus). Holy objects for avdhoot sect like ‘kamandalu’ (a water pitcher) and His ‘aasan-vyaghrajin’ (a mattress of tiger skin) are kept there.
There are many more sites to see here, some of the personal things used by Shri Pant Maharaj also displayed. After a little look around, you can have free prasad in the dining hall beside the temple. The prasad is a simple meal prepared in the local style. The kitchen and dining hall are named after Shri Pant Maharaj’s wife, Yamunakka, who was considered to be an ‘Annapurna’, meaning no one would go hungry from her door, there would always be food available for everyone.
The governing body of the math of Balekundri is “SHRI DATTA SANSTHAN”. It is a non-profit, religious organization established by the brothers of Sadguru after his death to look after the day-to-day running of the temple and to conduct all the ceremonies. It was registered as a Trust and all the rules and acts were decided very back in 1933 under the erstwhile Sangli Sansthan.
The two main ceremonies it conducts at Balekundri are on Shravan vadya 8 Shri Pant Janmostav (birthday of Sadguru) and Punyatithi Utsav on Ashwin vadya 3. The sansthan runs a school in the math complex. Sadguru Pant Maharaj himself was a teacher and what better memorial for him would be than a school. For the convenience of visitors, there are rooms available to stay. These are built by donations of the followers and are given free of charge to the visitors who wish to spend more time with the Sadguru.
On the first day, a procession of the holy Avadhoot flag, the Prem-dhwaj, starts from the ‘Pant wada’ in Samadevi Galli of Belagavi and reaches Balekundri by late afternoon. The flag is hoisted at Balekundri mandir in the evening and the ceremony is declared open.
The second day is the palkhi day. Palkhi is a palanquin symbolically carrying the Sadguru. It is borne by the worshipers who consider it as an ultimate honor. The procession of palkhi is quite long, every one wants to be a part of it. Worshippers sing bhajans in front of the palkhi. It starts from the ancestral house of Shri Pant Maharaj at Balekundri village. After visiting the regular spots, it reaches the main mandir by afternoon.
The last day is of Mahaprasad. All are given prasad, which is prepared by many mandals of different places. As per our tradition, everyone sits together and consumes it. In Avdhoot sect, everyone is equal; there are no differences by castes, wealth or knowledge.
Shri Pant Janmostav or the birthday of Sadguru falls on Shravan vadya 8, the auspiscious birthday of Lord Krishna too. A function is arranged on that day too. A grand function is also arranged at ‘Daddi’, the birthplace of Shri Pant Maharaj.
Other festivals celebrated are : Dattajayanti, Shri Guru pratipada, Shri Pant Mangal Vivahadin, etc.
How to Reach There
Although the nearest railway station to Balekundri is Sulebhavi, the most convenient one is Belagavi. Balekundri can be reached from Belagavi within half an hour by city buses, which have a good frequency, and it lies on the Sambra airport road. There are two bus stops sharing the name of Balekundri, the one to visit is ‘Pant Balekundri’ which is the second stop coming from Belagavi. The buses going to ‘Pant Balekundri’ drop you right in the front of the temple, with other buses going through as if those to Sulebhavi will drop you on the main road entailing a 5-minute walk to the temple.
About Pant Maharaj as a teacher:
Shri Pant Maharaj (Datta) decided not to go in for higher study knowing the financial condition of his family. First, he got a clerk’s job in a government office; but he could not continue it; because the absurd way of working, dubious dealings, bribery, and all false irritating functions did not suit him. Therefore, he applied for a teacher’s job in London Mission School. He did not get the job. Therefore, he took up teacher’s job in Marathi school with a salary of Rs.12 per month. Rev. Smith of London Mission School – when he came to know that his school student is working in Marathi school – it did not please him. He took Datta as a teacher offering him Rs. 20 per month salary.
Thus, in 1880, Dattopant Balekundrikar became a teacher in London Mission School, where he learned for 8 years and passed Matriculation. At that time, a teacher had to teach almost all the subjects to different standards. What he learned from his mentor, Mr. Khot teacher, he faithfully followed and served as an ideal teacher for almost 23 years. He sincerely taught the subjects and helped each student. He helped his co-teachers also. He could take their classes when they had some problems.
He was an extraordinary teacher. Students, as well as his co-teachers, liked him very much. Being simple and noble person he always adjusted even with the office staff of the school. Pant excelled as a teacher in not only teaching subjects but also systemizing the fundamentals of education and attaining academic excellence. Students and colleagues honored him always. Even the school management adored him for his formidable knowledge and compassionate attitude towards students and others. He served from 1880 to 1903. Many students passed and after studies got higher posts; but none of them ever forgot their only one affectionate and humble teacher. He was always busy either in correcting the notebooks or in solving the difficulties of some students.
In 1881-82, his brothers and cousin brother came to Belagavi for education. Therefore, Datta had to shift to a bigger place. He stayed in Mr. Gokak’s compound on rental basis along with his brothers. In the following years, the house of Datta almost slowly transformed into Gurukul. Wherever he stayed, that place became almost Annachhatra and Vidyadan Graha for distressed, helpless, poor, orphans, devotees, relatives and wards. Even in the house, Datta had a regular and rigid schedule and format. He used to get up at 5 a.m. to wake up inmates. He helped them to fill up water, to make water hot, to see that all the inmates and others could take bath. Each one had to perform Sadhya Vandan, Namasmaran, Poojaand physical exercise. Datta in the morning also did correct the homework of the students and inmates and helped his brothers in the daily choir.
In the year 1882, he married Shri Padmama’s daughter Yamunakka, who was just like Mahalaxmi, Mata SakshatAnnapurna Devi. Datta as a strict disciplirian had laid down rigid rules to be followed by each member of Pant Wada. Datta as a teacher insisted on physical fitness doing Suryanamaskar, Yogasan on regular basis. Datta used to take lunch at 10 a.m. before going to school along with all his inmates in one Pangat. There was no discrimination or favouritism. Promptly a few minutes to 11, he could start to school and took many of the inmates along with him. He usually returned from school at 5-30 p.m. Again he used to solve difficulties and correct the homework. An ardent, untiring teacher all the way, he started coaching class of Mathematics to meet the financial need.
In the year 1886, his father left for heavenly abode. Therefore, the full responsibility of household of Balekundri also fell on Datta’s shoulder. He did well with the support of all his brothers and the understanding life partner Sau. Yamunakka.
Datta was very knowledgeable of almost all subjects. He used to read almost many books of different languages. He was very conversant with literature, spiritual texts, epics, and even the righteous scripts. He could guide and discourse on different subjects. In the school, he was very honest and attentive teacher. In the house, also he was an ardent and formidable teacher.
In the year 1891 Gopalrao after passing B.A. examination, he started working in collector’s office. In the year, 1893 Vamanrao passed L.L.B. and started practicing Law in Belagavi only. In the year 1894, Shankarrao and Narasimha Rao passed B.A. and L.L.B. and started practice. After seeing all his brothers well settled he decided to resign and finally in 1903 June he resigned and further fully devoted himself to Avadhoot Sampraday.
Academic teaching work got over Adhyatmic teaching activity continued which was his humble mission, not only just as a teacher or preceptor but as an individual full of pure love and pure mind, dignity, compassion did a lot to the mankind. Society and people adored him in many ways. Many thronged and could come to him to get their difficulties solved, some for guidance, and many for being blessed and for salvation.
He remained unique, always ready to be of some help in whatever way being, to others.