Pandharpur Wari – a spiritual walk of the Warkaris

52 Getaways in Maharashtra (Part :3)
October 30, 2020
52 Getaways in Maharashtra (Part-2)
October 30, 2020

Pandharpur Wari – a spiritual walk of the Warkaris

Pilgrimage and yatras are valuable assets to India’s religious culture. A religious procession in India is more of a festival than a ritual. One such famous yatra or spiritual journey in the state of Maharashtra is the Pandharpur Wari, a Hindu pilgrimage walk conducted annually by a large group of devotees of Lord Vithoba, a Hindu deity worshipped predominantly by the Marathis. Wari or vari means a periodical pilgrimage to a sacred place and Warkari means one who performs the Wari. Visiting Pandharpur is a religious ceremony honouring the deity.  These devotees walk for several days to Pandharpur, a town in Maharashtra known as the seat of the Hindu god. They carry Palkhis (palanquins) consisting Paduka (sandals) of Lord Vithoba’s famous saints Dnyaneshvar and Tukaram. According to some theories these two saints started the pilgrimage in 13th and 17th centuries respectively. They used to travel to Pandharpur on foot for fifteen days to pay their respects to Lord Vithoba.

Pilgrims in previous years’ Pandharpur Wari

The spiritual walk commences from the shrines of the two saints Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram in Alandi and Dehu respectively, both of which are located in Pune, Maharashtra. Numerous other Palkhis join the wari on the way which has the main Palkhi and Paduka. There are two routes on which the Wari is performed. Dehu – Pandharpur and other Alandi – Pandharpur. The whole procession is divided into sub groups called as Dindi. There are more than 200 Dindis on each route. Each Dindi has between 100 and 500 members. The people participating in this procession wear holy basil beads and sing the glories of Vithoba with songs like “Gyanba Tukaram”.

The devotees carrying Palkhis complete the journey in 21 days culminating on the day of Ekadashi (eleventh lunar day) in the Hindu month of Ashadha (June-July). On the holy occasion of Ekadashi, the devotees reach Pandharpur and take a dip in the sacred Chandrabhaga river before proceeding for darshan at the Vithoba temple to celebrate their most revered deity.

Lord Vithoba and Goddess Rukmini inside the Pandharpur temple

Along with honouring the deity through the procession, the devotees also take part in some seva (selfless service) namely Amrut Kalash (donation of food to the needy), Narayana Seva (medical help to the poor and destitute) and building or repairing of rural infrastructure. Participating in this procession and performing these services (seva) are said to bring prosperity and peace in one’s life and help cleanse one’s mind, body and soul.

Dnyaneshwar Maharaja Palkhi in previous years’ Pandharpur Wari

The Wari is participated by millions of devotees who join from different castes and socio-economic background in Maharashtra and nearby states. This yatra is widely known for its age long existence amassing millions of devotees across the state and beyond. It is said to be one of the World’s largest and oldest movement where people gather on a specific day every year and walk for a distance of around 250 km in a span of 21 days.

The ongoing COVID-19 health crisis has over shadowed this year’s yatra and the Warkaris of Pandharpur Wari will not be walking to Pandharpur this year. Instead, the padukas of the saints will be sent by helicopter to the Vithoba temple in Pandharpur and the Palkhis will be returned back to the respective shrines after a short procession in the respective location of samadhi shrines in Alandi and Dehu.

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