Pandharpur Wari

By Sanjeev Nayyar | 2015

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I had no plans of going to Pandharpur in Aug 2015. Week prior to event visited Naladurg Fort near Solapur. Shilpa from Trekmates India told me about annual Pandharpur Wari event next weekend. Trekmates group was full so decided to go by myself. Enroute to Pandharpur saw this. Centre of pic is Sant Dnyaneshwar, right is Sant Tukaram. Behind them is Vithhala and Rukmini. Captions are courtesy Deepak Gaikwad, Saurabh Chatterjee etc. Hae given links to their travelogues.

I took a train from Mumbai to Solapur, got off 1 hour before, took a State Transport bus to reach Pandharpur by 8 am ish. Devotees stay in various Dharamshalas, this one is Gadeh Maharaj Maratha Dharamshala. "The worshipers of Vitthal perform a pilgrimage to Pandharpur, the place of Vitthal. This holy journey from different places to Pandharpur is called Wari to Pandharpur. The people who perform this vari are called as varkari. Varkari’s are worshipers of Vitthal."

Had breakfast, walked around the road to Vitthala Mandir. U see Shri Sant Tanpur Maharaj Samadhi. Extreme left is statue of Shivaji Maharaj. "This pilgrimage happens twice a year - one during Ashadh (around July) and second in Kartik (around November). Varkari’s start this journey on bright Ekadashi (11th day by lunar calendar) and complete in 15 day to reach Wari to Pandharpur on the immediate next Ekadashi."

This is the time to buy bangles that are sold by Muslims from Osmanabad. "Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj Palakhi starts from Alandi near Pune. Sant Tukaram Maharaj Palakhi starts from Dehu road near Pune. Both the palakhis merge at Vakhari just before Pandharpur. Each small group of varkari, called Dindi, has their own sequence number in the Wari to Pandharpur, and they have to walk at designated place only." The walk is about 250 kms one way.

At Vakhari met this devotee. "These people called Vasudev belong to a nomadic tribe seen in Maharashtra. They roam around temples, villages and cities singing songs of Krishna. They wear a distinctive hat made of peacock feathers and dhoti, the traditional men’s wear."

At Vakhari groups of varkaris stay in tents, trucks before proceeding to Pandharpur. There are bhajans, kirtans and Bharuds. There were many groups like what you see who were singing praises of Vithhala. Took this pic about 6.30 am. "Vari" means moving or going on pilgrimage, and "Kari" means one who undertakes it. The regular pilgrim to Pandharpur is known as Varkari. A Varkari is a strict vegetarian and wears a mala or rosary of Tulasi beads, round his neck."

At Vakhari saw many groups of varkaris. One group is called Dindi. The singing, love for Vitthala, enthusiasm was to be seen to be believed. Every group has a palakhi. "The Varkari Movement propagates a duty based approach to life emphasising moral behaviour, strict avoidance of alcohol and tobacco, strict veg diet, self restraint during student life, equality and humanity for all, reading of the Haripath every day and regular bhajan and kirtan."

Reached Vakhari at about 5.45 am. There is a endless procession from there to Pandharpur as you can see in this pic. Pic is somewhere mid way between the 2 places. Why did I reach so early. Was told that Ringan would be on Sunday at Vakhari about 9 am, so reached. There was a program change so Ringan was held on Saturday at 4 pm. A friend clicked pics of that, which we present separately.

U see group in Pandharpur proceeding to Vitthala Temple. Every group has a person, with red dress as you see, who controls the group members as they walk to Pandharpur. He also has a whistle ie used to control crowds. For a brief introduction to Vitthala and the Varkari Movement Click here

This is one of the entrances to the Vitthala Temple. Some devotees come here, dance and sing bhajans and then proceed to Chandrabhaga Ghat for a dip in the river before returning for darshan. It is of 2 types. One is ''mukut darshan'' where it took me 1 hour to get in, the longer line where u go close to Vitthala had a waiting period of about 40 hours, such was the rush of devotees. There are separate shrines for Vitthala and Rukmini.

U see devotees dancing and singing praises of Vitthala outside the temple entrance that u saw in previous pic. Read about Unique features of Wari Click here

There is a lane ahead of temple entrance at whose corner was a police post. It gave me a bird''s eye view of procession of varkaris. U see one such procession. Their dress is spotlessly white punjama and kurta/shirt with Gandhian cap. At Vakhari saw a dhobi who was ironing their clothes - u can see pic later. Vitthala Temple was built by the Yadavas of Devgiri in the 12th century.

They are bowing down and offering pranams to Vitthala in direction of the Vitthala Temple.

The procession moves on. Numerous processions like these are seen through out the day. Groups are singing, dancing, happy and disciplined. "The common refrain ie repeatedly chanted and heard in the WARI is “Dnyanoba-Tukaram”. The two names are like two sides of the same coin and complement each other, forming the basis for SOHUM SADHANA (part of Yoga tradition, SOHUM refers to the sound of air, the sound of energy provided by the life force itself). The term SOHUM composes of two expressions – SO (inhaling of air) and HUM (exhaling of air)."Info taken from Click here

Some women carry Tulsi (basil) plants on their head to offer at the temple whilst others carry copper pot with coconut in it. Tulsi the sacred plant is associated with Lord Vishnu.

This pic is of Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2013. Here you see pics of girls with steel and not copper pot. Like the ladies in Pandharpur the pot has a coconut and tulsi leaves. It is common symbols of Indian culture that bind the nation and help people overlook superficial differences. To see pics of Jaisalmer Desert Festival Click here

Another procession of varkaris on the same road. What u see in centre is a Palakhi. This point is equi distant from temple and Chandrabhaga river. To read all about Vithoba of Pandharpur Click here

A close up of the palakhi with padukas (feet) of the Guru. To see some lovely pics of Pandharpur Wari by Saurabh Chatterjee Click here

Left of pic is from where devotees walk down to Chandrabhaga river that you see in pic. After a bath they go for darshan to Vitthala Temple. As I mentioned earlier the devotees had to wait for over 40 hours for darshan, it was so crowded. On either side of steps were two old structures made by the Scindias and Holkars. Shri Dwarkadish Mandir is in active worship and maintained by the Scindia Trust. The Holkar structure is in ruins. Post decline in Mughal rule the Marathas made number of temples and ghats across Central and Western India for eg Somnath, Kashi, Gaya, Trimbakeshwar, Bhimashankar etc.

I took a boat and crossed the river. A view of the temples on river bank. There were huge crowds on right of pic and ahead. To see pics by Vinod Khapekar Click here

"These people called Vasudev belong to a nomadic tribe seen in Maharashtra. They roam around temples, villages and cities singing songs of Krishna. They wear a distinctive hat made of peacock feathers and dhoti, the traditional men’s wear."

Vasudev''s were seen all over Pandharpur. Saw many a devotee touching the feet of a senior Vasudev and seeking their blessings. This is what Bharat is all about.

Took a boat to VISHNUPAD Temple. Group that you see in front from Chennai. They had taken a Indian Railway Pandharpur Shirdi Special Train and came visiting - loved it here. In 2015 cost of a six day trip was I think Rs 6300/. They eat and sleep in the train.

Stone structure in water is Vishnupad Mandir. U can come by road as well.

Enclosure has feet of Shri Krishna. Attracts large number of devotees. Would have missed had it not been for a friend.

From river banks close to Vishnupad Mandir walked for about 5 minutes to reach Gopalkrushna Mandir. It is about a 15 minute walk from Vitthala Temple.

As I was walking towards Vitthala Temple, a prominent local Swami had started a langar where food was served to devotees for free. U see kheer being served.

Local ladies doing sewa by washing steel utensils in which food was served. Was very happy to see that food was not served in thermacol plates ie bad for the environment.

Next three pics are of Banjara women, was told they were from Karnataka. This lady wondered why I wanted to click her pic and happily posed. Note the ornaments.

This lady wanted Rs 100/ for me to click her, ended giving her Rs 20/. Note her anklets and bangles. Quite similar to what I saw ladies in Barmer, Rajasthan wear. To see pics of ladies inBarmer Click here

These group of Banjara ladies from Karnataka. Solapur is quite close to Karnataka. Saw similarly dressed ladies in Badami. See pic no 43 Click here

Musical instruments shop that I saw along the way. There are many many such shops. People carry musical instruments like local veenas, mridungas, dholkis and chiplis.

In temple area and on banks of river Chandrabhaga you find men and children who apply the Vishnu sign on your forhead, centre of eyebrows. U see one such person. I found similar persons in Kashi. To see pics of Vitthala Temple Hampi Click here

When I crossed the river saw this Sadhu sleeping so peacefully under a truck.

Another group of varkaris walking towards the temple. See ladies with Tulsi plant on head. In front of pic with red color headgear, popular in Maharashtra, is person who controls the crowds.

I walked in small lanes, saw these men making delicious laddos. They were very happy to be clicked.

Early morning at Vakhari - devotees take water from tankers and have a bath. Men and women bath together including changing of clothes. Those from big towns might bother but the varkaris are too immersed in Vitthala to even think about who is seeing.

At Vakhari mother and son sitting in shop. Whenever they saw any Vasudev (referred to earlier) they would give him some snacks for free ie the spirit of Varkaris.

I was surprised to find a dhobi at Vakhari. Saw number of devotees getting their clothes ironed before the last walk to Pandharpur.

Entrance to Shri Sant Kaikadi Maharaj Vishwapunyadham Mandir. This complex has temples of all the famous dhams across Bharat. It is very popular with devotees. Was told this was one ofthe most important places to visit in Pandharpur after the temple ofcourse.

Overview of main temples on banks of Chandrabagha river. On extreme right is the Pundlik Temple. The main shrine of Lord Vitthal is a five story building, with a pyramid shaped spire, consisting of a statue of Lord Vitthal.

Met him at Vakhari, was sitting with the police. Not sure if he was a cop or Swami.

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