RESTING on the pavement near Sangamwadi Bridge with a group of warkaris, unaware of her age, a “70-plus” Manjula Dhondiba Jadhav said, “My legs are in excruciating pain but my Lord Tukoba will make everything fine. Just wait and watch, I will start running soon.”
Jadhav’s undying faith and devotion is shared by lakhs of devotees who walk several kilometres as part of the annual Sant Tukaram and Sant Dnyaneshwar palkhi processions.
Wearing a dark green saree, Shantabi Dhumal can be seen sitting in a circle of warkaris on the footpath opposite Sambhaji Park, sipping a cup of tea.
“The drought-like situation last year, had affected many last year, especially people like us who reside in rural areas. However, we had deep belief in Mauli (Lord Vitthal) and knew that he will make everything okay. We know that he will keep answering our prayers. I am almost 70 years now and my kids were not in favour of me travelling so much but I insisted,” said Dhumal, a native of village Bordi in Velhe Taluka. Dhumal was a part of a dindi, with nearly 50 members.
Nitin Shivaji Shandekar, from Someshwar in Baramati, has been attending the processions from the last 18 years, and said he does not attend it “to seek anything from the god, like others.” Yet, he added, I have noticed a gradual change in my financial status since I became a warkari.
“Before I started attending this procession, my financial condition was rather strained. I could hardly arrange for food. But now, my life has taken a U turn. It has become better financially, as well as emotionally,” said the 48-year-old.
Sharubai and Shindubai are sisters from Aurangabad and have been attending the yatra since childhood.
“We have inherited this pious dedication from our mother, who used to attend the processions religiously. Every year, our family walks from Alandi to Pandarpur. Our faith in God keeps us going till the end. We’ve been blessed with such a privileged life, and we try to give back through this.”
For Asha Tai Dhanashree Maharaj, from Borsuli in Latur, her life is “dedicated to palkhi procession.”
She also plays the instrument veena for her dindi during the yatra. “Every year, I try to bring kids of the house too, so they can be showered with the blessings of Lord Vitthoba. Being a Maharaj of the dindi, I have to teach people about these religious aspects,” she added.