Pandharpur Temple
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Pandharpur Wari

The Wari custom was prevalent even in Sant Tukaram’s household. He turned this private event
into a social one. It is said that he was followed by 1400 devotees carrying the symbolic cymbal.

On the 8TH Day of the waning moon in the month of Jyeshtha (June) Sant Tukaram would to go to Alandi to pay a visit to Sant Dnyaneshwar’s Tomb & on the 9TH Day he would continue in the direction of Pandharpur.

After his death, his younger brother Kanhola & later his Son Narayan Baba continued to follow
the tradition. On the 7TH day, Narayan Baba would keep Sant Tukaram’s Padukas (footwear) in the Palkhi (Palanquin), on the 8TH day he would go to Alandi to keep Sant Dnyaneshwar’s
Padukas in the same Palkhi. The next day he would set off on his journey to Pandharpur.

This custom was followed from 1680 to 1832. From 1829 to 1832 there was a conflict between the descendants of Sant Tukaram More, on the rights of servitude. In 1832, Haibat Baba Pawar Arfalkar, a Sardar of Shinde from Gwalior started a separate Palkhi of Sant Dnyaneshwar from Alandi in order to avoid the consequences of the conflict in the more household on the whole tradition. From then onwards, Sant Dnyaneshwar’s Palkhi & Sant Tukaram’s Palkhi arrive separately to Pandharpur. The Sardar was also helped by Sardar Shitole of Ankali. The names of Khandobaji Baba and his cymbal player Shedge Baba also featured amongst the aides of Haibat Baba. And so the order of dindis (groups) with the Palkhis was fixed: first that of Alandikar, then that of Khandobaji Baba, followed by Shedge Baba. After a few years the conflict in the more household terminated. Since Sant Dnyaneshwar’s palanquin procession was being conducted separately, Sant Tukaram’s Palkhi was taken independently through Dehu City via Pune City to Pandharpur.

Today, 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.

Aware that a common person who has duties to fulfill towards his family might find Hatayog,
hard fasting, re-reading of the holy texts & scriptures and discussions on moral values very
challenging, the Wari tradition offers instead a simple & engaging (form of poem) by the saints
assert that God is mother, father, brother & friend. 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.

Saints in this Warkari clan include Sant Dnyaneshwar (Brahmin), Sant Namdev Shimpi (Tailor),
Sant Chokhoba, Banka Maharaj, Narhari Sonar (Goldsmith), Savatoba Mali (Farmer), Gora
Kumbhaar (Potter), Sena Navhi (Barber), Tukoba Wani (Grocer), Eknath & others. The list also includes the names of female saint poets like Muktabai, Janabai, Nirmala, Kanhopatra,
Bahinabai. These names are as important in the society as they are in the clan. The Warkari clan
thus strongly attacks the established tenets that low caste people are not allowed to worship or
obtain salvation.

The Bharud (form of poem) of Sant Eknath enlightens people & advises them to join the
procession without discrimination. His compositions oppose rituals & superstitions. Through
his poems, Sant Eknath managed to entertain & preach at the same time. The poems spread the
message of worshipping Lord Vitthal even amongst the lowest deemed casts like Godhali,
Bharadi, Vasudev, Dombari & Mahar and also amongst the nomads.

Sant Dynaneshwar is considered to be a Philosopher & a spiritual Guru of the clan. He achieved an excellent blend of devotion, knowledge, deeds & fate. He even wrote about it in his
“Dnyaneshwari” and preached that one should no shun his duties. He translated the holy
Bhagwad Gita from Sanskrit to Prakrit (Marathi) language, making it available to all.

His follower Sant Tukaram too was considered a great saint. There was a beautiful blend of
knowledge, devotion & asceticism in him. He always expected people to give up discrimination & fiercely denounced immorality under the guise of religion. He wanted to take society away from superstitions and belief in ghosts & spirits, black magic, evil god worship & hypocrisy. Sant Tukaram was a folk poet in the true sense. His Abhangs integrated well into the everyday life of society.

The clan’s activities were considerable considering the period when women’s rights & liberation
weren’t even taken into account. Sant Dnyaneshwar’s sister Muktabai (1279 – 1297), his servant Janabai (1260 – 1353), Sant Tukaram’s disciple Bahinabai (1628 – 1708) proved to be effective poets. In times when women were discouraged from worshipping & striving for salvation, they proved otherwise. So women too joined in large numbers in this pilgrimage as Malkaris.

The Palkhi’s timetable is well defined & strictly followed. Early dawn, after worshipping the
Saint’s footwear, the palkhi sets out exactly at six. A Tutari (wind instrument) is blown thrice to
alert the Warkaris. At the first signal, the Warkaris get ready to leave. At the second signal the
Dindis [groups] stand in a queue for the Palkhi procession & at the third one, the procession
starts off. After covering 4 – 5 Km. the Warkaris halt for half an hour for Breakfast. They then
proceed until they stop again later – this time for Lunch when they make their first offerings to the Lord.

There is another halt for Tea and at six, after sunset, the procession halts to camp. In the
morning, when the palkhi starts off, the didni (groups of Warkaris) line up in the given order.
The dindis are positioned ahead & behind the Palkhi, and are given numbers accordingly, the
first one being the one closest a saffron flag. It is not bright saffron but instead the colour which
is got after dipping a mud-coloured cloth in Kaav (dull Orange – Brown colour).

Cymbal players & the Warkaris follow this flag bearer in lines of four. The Mrudung player &
Veena player are positioned in the middle & at the end of the dindi respectively. Then come the
women Warkaris, some carrying the holy basil plant & some carrying pitchers of drinking water
on their head. There is also a huge number of Warkaris not belonging to any dindi. They just
join the procession carrying their belongings on their head. These individuals are totally
dependant, for food & shelter, on the residents of the villages along the way.

Every dindi had its own water tanker & trucks to carry their belongings which include small
tents. The management ensured that these tents are set up and the meals prepared well before
the dindis arrive at the decided spot. Many of the Warkaris, especially women, are not
accustomed to performing their morning ablutions in the open. So they have to get up early in
the morning to get ready before the others awake. They carry wet clothes with them & let them
dry during the first halt of that day.

The dindis also decide the order in which the Abhanga are to be sung. You can find newly joined Warkaris reading the Abhangas from books even as they are walking. The Warkari who adorns a garland of Tulsi [basil] is called a Malkari. His basic duty is to stay away from meat & alcohol. At the day’s end they sing bhajan “Jayajaya Ramkrushna Hari” & Abhangas, and in the evening they pray and listen to sermons which refresh them after the day’s long and tiring walk.
Now-a-days, the Wari also consists of professors, doctors, businessmen & retired administrators in large numbers. The procession of 18 – 21 days reaches the temple town of Pandharpur on the 11TH day of the waxing moon in the month of Ashadh. The Warkaris then bathe in the Chandrabhaga River & worship Lord Vitthal, thus completing their meaningful journey.

For more details see these pages

Ashadi Ekadashi
Kartik Ekadashi

Pandharpur Pilgrimage

 

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