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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 Vitthal Rukhmini 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.
One of the most famous pilgrimages in Maharashtra, Pandharpur Ashadhi Ekadashi Wari has been taking place for more than 700 years. The procession was started in the current form by Sant Tukaram's son Narayanmaharaj in 1685. But it is believed that the first pilgrimage was done by the parents of Saint Dnyaneshwar in the 13th century and Sant Dnyaneshwar during his time popularized it.
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.
Pandharpur is located in Solapur District of Maharashtra. The main Pandharpur Yatra starts from Dehu in Pune District. From there it travels to Pune city, Alandi and finally the 21 day trek ends on the previous day of Ashadhi Ekadasi at Pandharpur.
Two Palkhis : Tukaram Palkhi from Dehu and The Dayaneshwar Palkhi from Alandi.
In the month of : Ashadh (June - July) and Kartik (November -December) Palkhi, a unique feature of Maharashtrian culture, is a 1000-year-old tradition followed by the warkaris (people who follow the wari, a fundamental ritual).
People collectively go singing and dancing, chanting Dnyanba-Tukaram in what are called as Dindis (organised group of warkaris) to the holy town of Pandharpur in Hindu months of Ashadh (June-July) and Karthik (November-December). The Palkhi starts in the month of Jyeshth (June) and the whole process lasts a total of 22 days. Every year on the eleventh day of the first half of the month of Ashadh, the Palkhi reaches Pandharpur. Every saint, right from Sant Dnyaneshwar to Sant Tukaram was following the wari tradition.
In the year 1685, Narayan baba, the youngest son of Tukaram was a man of innovative spirit and decided to bring about a change in the dindi-wari tradition by introducing the Palkhi, which is a sign of social respect. He put the silver padukas (footsteps) of Tukaram in the Palkhi and proceeded with his dindi to Alandi where he put the padukas of Dnyaneshwar in the same Palkhi. This tradition of twin Palkhis went on every year, but in 1830 there were some disputes in the family of Tukaram, concerned with rights and privileges. Following this, some thoughtful persons decided to break-up the tradition of twin Palkhis and organise here after, two separate Palkhis - Tukaram Palkhi from Dehu and the Dnyaneshwar Palkhi from Alandi. From that time till date, both the Palkhis meet in Pune for a brief halt and then diverge at Hadapsar to meet again at Wakhri, a village nearby to Pandharpur. Along with times, the popularity of this ancient tradition has soared immensely. A total of approximately 1.5 lakh devotees proceed along with the Sant Tukaram Palkhi from Dehu village, while a total of 2.25 lakh devotees march along with the Sant Dnyaneshwar Palkhi. At present a total of 43 Palkhis including the above two visit Pandharpur every year.
This has been used as a proper noun because it refers to "the Brick" on which the image of Vitthal at Pandharpur stands and is an integral part of the iconography of Vitthal; the Marathi word for brick is "veet", and some folk-etymologists would derive the word Vitthal itself from it; the mythological significance of "the Brick" , is the following story: Pundalik, a resident of Pandharpur and a devotee of VishnuNitthal was visited by God Himself, who had heard of Pundalik's total dedication; Pundalik was so absorbed in his own work that he threw a brick that was handy in the direction of his divine visitor, asking him to stand; after that, Pundalik forgot all about God whom he had kept waiting, while he remained absorbed in his own work; God would not leave without Pundalik's permission; he has remained standing on the brick ever since; twenty- eight eons are said to have elapsed since Pundalik asked God to wait on the brick; this is how God is found in Pandharpur where his devotees can visit Him; "the Brick" may mean Vitthal Himself in Tukaram's poetry; Tukaram worships Vitthal's feet, which are placed on "the Brick", in humility; because God stands on it "the Brick" itself is sacred. "the Brick" is also the "base" or "foundation" of
God in this world, and as such it is a symbol of Bhakti itself, which is the foundation of the Whole Being or Brahman for the Bhakta; "the Brick" is also a symbol of God's patient, obedient, and respectful attitude towards a true Bhakta,epitomized by the story of Pundalik; the Varkari Bhakta-poets consider Pundalik as the arch-Bhakta and founder of the sacred site and image at Pandharpur.