My recent visit to Gondavale, a village in interiors of Maharashtra, showed me what exactly it is to serve the people. It was a real-life example of practicing simple living and following the teachings of your spiritual leader.
Gondavale is one of the well-known holy shrines of Maharashtra. That’s the place where Shri Brahmachaitanya Maharaj, popularly known as Gondavalekar Maharaj, used to teach and also preach, the way of living. To be honest, before being there I had very little knowledge about the place and its significance and also the teachings of this saint. I had only heard the name, and was aware you get free lunch at the temple.
We drove down to Gondavale from Sangli. It’s a decent road trip and took us about 3 hours to reach there. Our route was Sangli-Tasgaon-Vita-Mayani-Dahiwadi-Gondavale. We had started mid-morning and throughout our route, we would have hardly seen 1 or 2, public transport buses. So if you are planning to travel by public transport, ensure you the availability and the timings.
Its summer time now, and on top of it, Maharashtra is facing severe drought, so hardly any vegetation can be seen around for miles together on the road. All the water bodies have almost dried up.Of course, there are quite a number of sugarcane plantations, grape-yards and other small farms on the way, which tend to reduce the effect of barren lands.
We reached there, past their (free) lunch time. I was disappointed, as that was the only part I was aware of. But to my surprise, they were still serving food even though the official lunch time was over. The lunch, actually it is prasad, was tasty. And I also learnt, that their free service doesn’t stop at lunch, they provide to all devotees / visitors, right from the morning tea, to breakfast, to lunch and finally dinner. Also, they provide free accommodation. I was dumbstruck. Who, nowadays, gives so much for free??
We decided to rest for a while. The rooms were neat, and clean and so the entire temple premise. At every other corner, mud pots (they are natural coolers) filled with water are available.The area where food is served is very huge. They must be serving thousands of people at a time. There is adequate parking area. Shades are built over open areas for the convenience of people. The team who planned and built this premises, surely consisted of considerate people.
The actual shrine is very calm and peaceful. Not sure, if it would be the same during the peak season. There is a meditation room, and also a couple of other temples within the premises.
While people do donate in cash (and kind perhaps), but I was mesmerized by the fact that all this done just to serve people, not only needy and the devotees, but whoever visits the place. I didn’t find any discrimination, nor any commercialization here. There wasn’t any VIP line nor force-selling by vendors.Something which is rare to find these days in any holy place.
It was indeed a nice experience being there. Hope in this lifetime, at least once I am able to volunteer my services and feel what it is like to serve the community.
Lastly, some basic etiquette to be followed (my suggestions /request) –
- Even though free, please give back/donate in cash or kind. If not more, at least for the food and services you have availed
- Do not waste food
- Be prudent while using the services and the accommodation
- Maintain silence and do not create disturbances of any kind
- Keep the premises clean
Featured image courtesy – http://sudeepsam.com