Outside the public school and hospital in Nana Peth,the streets are lined with trucks. A peek into the truck reveals bags of clothes,mattresses,gas cylinders,utensils,sacks of grains and other food supplies. One can see clothes drying outside and inside the truck,just like a house. In a way,these trucks are exactly that moving homes for the swarms of warkaris who entered the city on Monday.
Inside one such truck,sit three silver-haired men,sipping tea and watching the light drizzle outside. During this journey,the truck is many things to us. Its where we keep our possessions,and its where we eat once weve cooked the meals, says Anand Deokar,who has come with 36 other people all the way from Gangapur,in Aurangabad. From Deokars description,the truck sounds just like makeshift caravans or trailers used by avid travellers,albeit with one major difference. The pilgrims themselves dont travel in the trucks; they walk the entire distance from their villages to Pandharpur.
Babasaheb Bhanuse,who hails from Ektuni village in Aurangabad says,We dont travel in the trucks because this pilgrimage has to be completed on foot. The trucks are used to carry the warkaris load during the three week pilgrimage. Our journey is 250 km one-way. How long will we carry everything on our backs? Our clothes,musical instruments,gas cylinder,utensils for 250 people and food supplies for all of us are kept in the trucks. We need more than hundreds of kilos of rice,flour and vegetables for the trip, says Shirgire Venkat Datta,from Biloli in Nanded.
While most of the space is taken up by supplies,most trucks have a small section with mattresses too. These are used by the elderly who cannot walk for long,and by our village priest who has his own mattress on the upper berth. It also makes the ride back home more comfortable, says Bhanuse. At the end of their pilgrimage,they all pile into the truck for the journey home. Some of us sit inside while others sit on the top for the ride back to our village. When we go from our village to Pandharpur,it takes us 28 days. But the return journey takes us just six hours, he said.