Maharashtra, the land of saints. The teachings of these saints manifest themselves in various ‘Sampradaya’ or families of beliefs in Maharashtra. The Datta Sampradaya, with its rich tradition of purity of Karma, the Waarakari ampradaya, with its emphasis on uttering the ‘Naam ’,the name of the Lord and the Ram Sampradaya, which looks to create religious and social well being, all not only co-exist in Maharashtra but hold each other in esteem and eventually emphasize ‘Bhakti ’, love of the Lord. Even within the State, one finds that Saints have had more presence and more impact in Central Maharashtra, especially so in the Marathwada region. Shri Dattashram, the Ashram founded by Parama Poojya (P. P.) Sau Tai Maharaj at Jalna in Marathwada is perhaps the finest culmination of ideas, thought streams and influences of different Saints and the different Sampradaya they have founded. No wonder then, that it should host many temples and shrines within one premise, unwaveringly signifying that all paths lead to only one reality. Shri Dattashram includes a Ram temple ‘Raghavalaya’, ‘Shri Santadham’, a shrine for the saints, Shri Guru Paduka Mandir, and a Shiva temple also known as the ‘Shri Abhirameshwar Mandir ’.
‘Shri Dattashram’ has been established with the following objectives:-
1. To create a conducive environment for a contended and successful life and for the spiritual development of the human being.
2. To achieve the above through ‘Naamasmaran’ (chanting the Lord’s name) and incessant ‘Anna-Daan’ (literally meaning serving free of charge). The number of devotees visiting Shri Dattashram are ever increasing. The aim of this booklet is to introduce Shri Dattashram, P. P. Tai Maharaj and the history of this place to the newcomers. The way of life that Tai Maharaj has uniquely created at Dattashram is influenced by the teachings of P. P. Shri Dhundiraj Maharaj, who was her Guru, P. P. Shri Kajalkar Maharaj, her father and P.P. Shri Datta Maharaj, the son and disciple of her Guru. Photos of these saints can be seen in the Sant Dham. It must be mentioned that P.P. Shri Datta Maharaj, though her ‘Gurubandhu ’ i.e. a follower of her Guru, was indeed the Guru to P. P. Tai Maharaj. It is in his honour and memory that the Ashram is named Shri Datta Ashram.
Life at Dattashram has two focal points:
Naamasmaran and Anna-Daan i.e. chanting of the Lord’s name and giving food (Prasad) to others respectively. But, other things like worshipping of the deities (Pooja), early morning prayers (Kakad Aarati and Prabhat Pheri), festivals to commemorate saints through incessant chanting (Naam Saptaha), ‘Waari ’ on Ekadashi wherein the ladies walk some distance to the Ashram with Tulsi saplings on their heads commemorating Vithoba, performing various Yag and Go-seva (in service of cow) is also part of the peculiar traditions of Dattashram. The tradition also includes welcoming Waarakari i.e. pilgrims of different sects who walk to religious places from all over Maharashtra and partaking in the worship of all the saints.