| Life of Sripada Sri Vallabha Swami Maharaj and Details of Sri Kshetra Pithapur and Kurwapur
Sripada Shri Vallabha Swami Maharaj is considered as the First Avatara (incarnation) of Shri Dattatreya in Kaliyuga. As per some of the experts (Prof. R. C. Dhere) he is supposed to have lived from 1320 AD to 1350 AD. He was born in Pithapuram, a town in Godavari district of state Andhra Pradesh in India. Shripada was the third son to the Brahmin Couple Appalaraja Sharma and Sumati. The Only source of his life's information is from the Marathi book Shri Guru Charitra (Click here to read in detail) written by Shri Saraswati Gangadhar in 15th Century.
Life Story of Shripada Sri Vallabha Swami Maharaj
Shripada Sri Vallabha was born to Sri Appalaraja Sarma (of Aapastambha Shakha) and Sumathi on Bhadrapada Shuddha Chavathi ( Ganesh Chaturthi). Going in to his birth secrecy, when Appalaraja Sarma family was preparing for the Shraddha (a yearly ceremony to pay homage to the departed soul), around noon time some Bhikshuk came for bhiksha. Before feeding the invited Brahmins, she fed this brahmin considering him as Dattatreya. Dattatreya became quite happy and offered her a boon. She asked for a son "knowledgeable like you" for which Dattatreya said "yes". She had two sons before, who were blind and lame and several others who did not live long. Dattatreya blessed her by saying that she will have world famous son who will be guru to all. Both husband and wife became happy to hear the blessings.
In due course of time Sri Dattatreya incarnated as the child of Mata Sumati. Shripada finished his studies of Vedas, Shastras etc by the age of Seven and after his "Upanayan" (Munjavi) he started lecturing on these. When he reached age of 16, his parents thought of getting him married. However, he said that he is married to only one woman "Vairagya-stree" (Vairagya means Dispassion) and thus he should be called "Shri-Vallabha". Thus the name "Shripada ShriVallabha". He left their home for Kashi-Pilgrimage. Before leaving he made his two elders brothers who were blind and lame, as normal humans and asked them to take care of their parents. He left for Kashi and Badari towards North. After the pilgrimage, he went to Gokarna Mahabaleshwar in South. After spending 3 years at Gokarna he went to Shri Giri (Mountain in Srisailam). After staying there for 4 months he visited Nivrutti Sangama and finally settled in Kuravapur, an island in Krishna river.
Ambika Vara Pradanam (Blessings to Ambika)
It is at this place where the foundation for his next incarnation was laid. There was a woman named Ambika, whose children died soon after their birth. Only one who survived too turned out to be a moron. Her husband tried to teach his son, but to no success. Her husband too died in due course. The boy was ridiculed by village people and no one was ready to give him their daughter in Marriage. Both mother and son decided to end their life in the Krishna River. Here they met Shripad Sri Vallabha Swami who happened to be there for a bath. After hearing her whole story Shripad Swami blessed her and asked her to do Shani Pradosha Vrata. She requested him that atleast in the next birth she should have a son like him. Shri Guru agreed and put his hand over the boy's head. The boy became a learned scholar instantly. The woman Ambika in her next birth became Amba-Bhavani of Lad-Karanja and became mother of Shri Narashimha Saraswati.
Rajaka Vara Pradanam (Blessings to the Washerman)
One Washerman (Rajaka) has become the disciple of Shri Guru. One day this man saw the king moving in the boats with his army and women and was quite depressed to see it. When Shri Guru enquired about it, he said that he wanted to have this kind of Royal Life. Though he realized his Foolishness soon , Shri Guru wanted him to quench his Desire so he blessed him to become a Muslim King of Bidar in his Next Birth. Shripada Swami assured him that he will meet him in his next birth as Sri Narasimha Saraswati at Sri Kshetra Ganagapur.
It is believed that the Bidar's Bahamani Sultan Allauddin Ahmad Shah II (1435-58AD) might have been this king who met with Shri Narasimha Saraswati.
The Story of Vallabhesh Brahmin and Shri Guruís eternal Presence at Kurwapur
This Story happened just after the Avatara Samapti of Shripad Shri Vallabha. It seems that Vallabhesh brahmin was a business man, and once he prayed to Shri Guru that if he earns more than his usual earnings, he will go to Kurvapur and feed 1000 Brahmins with the additional profit money. Indeed that year he made some huge profit and so he decided to complete his vow. While he was approaching Kuravpur, on his way he was met with few dacoits who accompanied him in disguise to loot him. Later while travelling through, they attacked, beheaded and killed him. Shri Guru suddenly appeared from nowhere and killed all the dacoits. Only one was spared, who begged his Innocence to Shri Guru. Shri Guru spared him and asked him to stick the head of Vallabhesh on his beheaded body and on doing so he was brought back to life. Vallabhesh Brahmin later completed his vow and became a Great Devotee of Shri Shripad ShriVallabh.
Sri Kshera Pithapuram
Sri Vasudevananda Saraswati Tembe Swami Maharaj brought this place into limelight by identifying the Exact Birth Place. A Temple was established there and Padukas were installed. It is being maintained by Sripada Srivallbha Mahasansthanam. Pithapuram is located on Hyderabad-Vishakhapattanam railway line and is near to (about 10-12 km from) Samalkot junction.
Sri Kshetra Kuravpur
Shripada Swami stayed here for most of his life. The Holy Padukas of Swami Maharaj are located here. Kuravapur is very quiet and has calm atmosphere. There is also a Cave of Shri Tembe Swami where he used to meditate while he was in Kurwapur for his Chaturmasya Vrata.
It appears that this place must have been quite well habituated. The Story of Vallabhesh Brahmin shows that the village must have been quite big enough to at least accommodate about 1000 Brahmins. Now (as of 2006AD) the population has reduced and there are lot many fields in between the temple and the village. The village is at one end of the island and the temple is at the other end. There are two, frequently used, routes to reach Kuravapur. One is via Raichur in Karnataka state and another one is via Makthal in Andhra Pradesh state. Either way one has to cross the Krishna river in a small elliptical boat (Putti or Theppa) to reach this island.
Via Raichur: Raichur is about 10 or 12 hours journey from Pune by train. At Raichur one can hire a bus/rickshaw towards ATKUR (40 km). At ATKUR one can hire a Theppa (a boat) to cross the Krishna river and reach Kuravapura. There is also a KSRTC bus service from Raichur bus stand to Atkur, which leaves for Atkur at 7:30 am, 10:30am, 1:30 pm, 4:00pm and 7:00pm. The 1:30PM bus ends at Atkur, the other buses end at the bank of Krishna.
Via Makthal: Makthal (Mahaboobnagar district, Andhra Pradesh) is 68 KM from Mahaboobnagar bus station and 168 KM from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. Some buses from Hydrabad to Raichur, via Mahaboobnagar, stop at Makthal. Mahaboobnagar is connected by rail route also. One has to hire an auto or taxi (jeep) from Makthal to river bank(ask for Panchdev Pahad or Vithal baba ashram). River bank is 17 KM from Makthal. There are two locations on the river bank where Putti or small boats can be hired. One is Panchdev Pahad and another one is behind Vithal baba ashram (1KM from ashram). Number of boats near Vithal baba ashram are less.
The life and works of Shripad Shri Vallabh should be seen in the context of the time he lived. The area where he lived and travelled is now in Maharashtra-Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh states. These areas were being attacked by the Mughals from the North. Many forced conversions, destruction of temples, old statues and scriptures were taking place. It was at this time that Swami Maharaj lived and must have seen the death and destruction of people. The time was quite hard for the old Hindu religion and thus he and his next avatara, Shri Narasimha Saraswati brought back the old Hindu religion and the life styles. This is the next big leap after Jagadguru Shri Adi Shankaracharya revived Hinduism in India.
Nothing much seems to be known about Shripad Sri Vallabhas life even at the time of Gurucharitra's writer (Shri Saraswati Gangadhar). Some more research on his life may put more light on the historical and cultural state of the 14th century. All we know about this Datta-avatar is only from the Gurucharitra's first few chapters.