The annual pilgrimage or Wari to the Vitthal temple in Pandharpur is seeing an increasing number of young city professionals taking part in it and undertaking initiatives to help the Warkaris (pilgrims)
Amidst chants of Jai Hari Vitthala and Gyanba Tukaram, Pune's Warkaris (pilgrims) are making their pilgrimage (Wari) to Pandharpur carrying along Sant Tukaram and Sant Dyaneshwar's palkhis in a procession. Seven centuries have passed, but worshippers from all the corners of Maharashtra still undertake this holy journey and most observe a fast. On the way, the Warkari will wait with the palkhi in Pune for 2-3 days. This year, they will be in Pune till today evening and then move towards Pandharpur.
A Palkhi procession
Catch them young
Interestingly, nowadays the pilgrims are younger and include several working professionals, especially IT professionals,
college students, foreigners and doctors. Renuk Pawade, who works with an IT company has been part of the IT dindi (a small group of Warkaris is called a dindi), for the last five years and says he enjoys it a lot. “It is an awesome experience. Initially, there were only four to five of us who took part in this but now there are more than 300 people who have joined us. It is almost double than last year. Taking part in this is very de-stressing,” he states.
Women carry the tulsi plant on their heads during the wari
Pawade and his group also try to help the Warkaris by providing them with medicines and food. “We contribute money and help them. Every year, we have a theme and this time, it is to protect the girl child and help them learn to fight for themselves. We had four people from the UK as well.”
Waris see participation from all sections of society
He was supported by Ashutosh Kulkarni, another IT professional, who added that the experience was spiritually uplifting. “I love to walk with these people and the feeling is really different. There are no work tensions and we enjoy the experience. I have been going to the wari for the last three years now,” he states.
A traditional Palkhi procession
Santosh Jadhav, an accountant in a private firm, has been on the wari with his friends. “The feeling is totally unique. When we walk we forget everything. Our legs don't feel the pain. Seeing old people walk along with us gives us the inspiration to keep going.” Earlier, in 2006, IT professionals had gathered together and decided to be part of the tradition. The group walked from Alandi to Pune and was named as IT Dindee.
Revellers having fun during the procession
Services for Warkaris
Some of the free services provided include a free ambulance service for devotees by a dairy product company. The ambulance will be made available from Sahajpur Phata (Uruli Kanchan) and accompany Warkaris till Pandharpur offering any type of medical help, if needed.
Traditional games played during the procession
A leading mobile operator has also announced a unique initiative to join lakhs of pilgrims undertaking the annual padayatra to Pandharpur. They have sponsored buses that will travel with the Warkaris throughout their journey to help them remain connected. The buses will be equipped with a calling facility, mobile phone charging points and recharge vouchers.
They will also enable money transfer services, which will enable Warkaris to transfer money and recharge their prepaid numbers irrespective of the service provider.
Did you know?
Every year, in the Hindu month of Aashad (June and July), the palkhi of Sant Dnyaneshwar starts from Alandi while that of Sant Tukaram starts from Dehu. On the 11th day of the first half of the month, the Palkhi reaches the town of Pandharpur. The journey from Alandi and Dehu to Pandharpur lasts for 22 days. The journey from Dehu and Alandi to Pandharpur is called as ‘Wari’. The Warkaris walk 450 kilometres during the journey to reach Pandharpur. The palkhi carries the silver padukas (footsteps) of Sant Tukaram and Sant Dnyaneshwar.