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Friday, June 24, 2011

Pandharpur Wari

विठूचा गजर हरिनामाचा झेंडा रोविला ।
The annual Pandharpur Yatra to the famous Vithoba Temple at Pandarpur in Maharashtra is an unparalleled pilgrimage that breaks the barriers of caste, creed, rich and poor. Vithoba Temple is also known as VitthalRukhmini Temple and is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The most important annual pilgrimage is a 21-day trek known as Pandharpur Ashadhi Ekadasi Waari and culminates on the Ekadasi day in the Marathi month Ashadi. In 2011, the Pandarpur Yatra Palki of Tukaram Maharaj from Dehu near Pune will start on June 22, 2011 and will end on July 11, 2011 at Pandarpur on Ashadi Ekadasi.

On the 11TH Day  of  the  bright  moon  in  the  month  of Aashaad [July] many devotees of the Warkari clan, singing & dancing all the way to the rhythmic beats of Cymbals & the Mrudunga (traditional Indian drum), reach the temple town of Pandharpur, to have a glimpse of Lord Vitthal. The clan, which consisted of only a handful of followers about half a century ago, today boasts of four to five hundred thousand pilgrims or warkaris as they are known.

The main Pandharpur Yatra starts from the Sant Tukaram Temple at Dehu. The warkaris or pilgrims follow the Tukaram Maharaj Palkhi procession. This main procession is joined by other palkhis from other towns and villages like the famous Sant Dnyaneshwar palkhi from Alandi.
Pandharpur Yatra takes place twice in a year one during Ashadhi Ekadasi (June – July) and another during Kartik Ekadasi (October – November).
Pandharpur Yatra is a classic example of unparalleled devotion to a personal deity, a great aspect of Bhakti sect. The amazing fact is that the Yatra is attracting more and more pilgrims each year. People young and old travel for kilometers barefooted chanting the holy names. The Yatra presents a perfect amalgamation of all castes, creed, rich, poor, young, old and children.

The Warkari ideology says that God has created all equal without discriminating between  nobility & low-birth, caste, creed or status. Everyone has an equal right to worship God. During this 250 Km. walkathon all devotees travel and eat together, so there remains no distinction between different casts. Even if you take a look at the list of saint’s names, you would find that they come from various casts & background.  
There is no definite information available on  the origins of this Wari Tradition which is a pilgrimage on foot to Pandharpur. However, there are some references made by Sant (saint) Namdev about Vitthalpant, Sant Dnyaneshwar’s father, joining the Wari to visit Pandharpur in the month of Aashaad & Kartik (October / November). So we can infer that the state of Maharashtra has seen this tradition being followed since at least the last 800 years. 
History tells us about many sects that have developed under of a King; however the Warkari clan has developed entirely due to the patronage of the people. This is perhaps because it is a people’s movement – constantly working towards creating awareness about devotion & righteousness. Defying existing rituals, the clan willingly opened its doors to people of all casts & creeds, giving everyone a sense of belonging to a group. This has given warkaris a measure of popularity. As such, the number of people joining this clan has increased considerably. 
Sant Tukaram’s Palkhi procession starts from Dehu & reaches Pandharpur via Aakurdi, Pune. Lonikalbhor, Yavat, Varvand, Baramati, Indapur, Akluj  & Wakhri respectively. Sant Dnyaneshwar’s Palkhi goes through the cities of Alandi, Pune, Saswad, Jejuri, Lonand, Faltan, Natepute, Malshiras, Velapur, Shegaon & Wakhri to Pandharpur. 
Both the Palkhis meet at Wakhri and proceed to Pandharpur. In this procession, a wide variety of people from all social and economic backgrounds flow into the sea of Warkaris and worship with same fervour & devotion. Apart from its spiritual benefits, this pilgrimage has other positive effects. People become aware of diverse regions & agricultural conditions, social variety & change…and most importantly, how to live life on meager necessities. A person who has experienced a lot of worldly sorrows achieves a sort of detachment from the everyday life and manages to get temporary relief from it.
In the eyes of Lord Vitthal, everyone is equal. They are his worshippers & have no other identity. This  doctrine  of  parity  & humanity  is  integrated into participants by means of this wari. Even though we live in a world that is becoming increasingly materialistic, thousands of devotees still find the time & commitment to join in the journey on foot, braving the sun & the rain, to get a new lease of life and gain spiritual happiness.  They walk 250 Km. to seek the blessings of Pandurang (Lord Vitthal) in Pandharpur. The Warkari, who had left for Pandharpur chanting the names of saints all the way, returns home with renewed zeal.

According to the Warkari ideology, the soul is the essence of every being’s life. God is a part of this essence. So, the sole objective of a Warkari in life is to ensure that the divine remains a part of the living experience.  

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