Located adjacent to Sai Baba Temple in Shirgaon, the Annachatra – also called the Rajwada (the Palace) - is an architectural marvel, where devotees have 'Maha-Prasada' every afternoon.
Even a glimpse from a distance enchants the visitor. And as you move closer the details and the artistic finesse leave you spell-bound! At first glance, anyone can mistake it for a well-maintained historic palace built by a king to exhibit his love of art and sculptures. A palace it is but a new one with a touch of the ancient and traditional combined with modern-day architectural refinements.
The Rajawada’s uniqueness lies in its construction type. Built by using joint moulds, the 14,000 square foot 3-storey building has no bricks at all! Hundreds of skilled workers from Mumbai, Pune and Kankavli worked round-the-clock for two years under the supervision of founder trustee, Shri Prakash Deole, and the guidance of architect, Shri Vivek Khatavkar. The result is a human marvel, which according to Shri Deole, will soon find a mention in the Guinness World Records for its artistic splendour.
At the entrance stand two giant elephants with their trunks held high, welcoming the devotees for a hearty meal (the Maha Prasad). The traditional 'Samais', suspended atop the jumbos, signify the end of darkness and gloom and the beginning of a bright new day full of hope.
Behind the elephants, the pillars are sculpted with a 'Yali' or 'Shardul' - a mythical creature with a lion's head and a horse's body - which is supposed to be more powerful than a lion or an elephant. Mythology has it that a 'Yali' is a royal guard who protects temples and palaces from evil.
The entrance or the 'Maha Dwar' leads to the main dining area which is equally impressive. The interspread carvings of flowers and peacocks on walls and pillars glow under brightly-lit chandeliers, as cool air wafts in and helps one relax, inducing a loving absorption in Sai contemplation and devotion.
The kitchen on the right-hand side is a spacious and clean place that can serve 1500 devotees at a time. The expansion work is in progress as the cooking room will be shifted to an adjacent building. Taking note of the fact that sitting on the floor may cause discomfort to some Sai devotees, the temple trust has thoughtfully provided comfortable dining tables.
The first floor dining is equally big. The top floor houses eight exclusive suites reserved for the VIPs. Explaining the motive behind the creation of the Rajwada, Deole says: “Sai Baba was the king of kings. The Annachatra ensures that Baba's followers also get a kingly treatment."
Building: Annachatra (called the Rajwada or the Palace)
Foundation: Vijayadashmi day in 2006
Inauguration: Nov 22, 2009 by Shri. Sushilkumar Shinde, Union Power Minister.
Type: RCC construction using cement, mortar, sand but no bricks.
Art: A mix of the ancient and modern conceptualised by Mr Deole
Finishing: Colouring by artistes hired from Rajasthan