She left Japan at the age of 20 looking for spiritual growth, worked with tuberculosis patients in Nepal, and climbed mountains for a year. She was drawn to social service and decided to follow the philosophy of Acharya Vinoba Bhave.
She arrived in India and made Paunar ashram in Wardha her home. For over three decades, she has never missed the annual pilgrimage from Alandi to Pandharpur. She has walked every year for 34 years during the pilgrimage. This year, despite her age and a swelling on her leg, she is on yet another ‘’wari.’’
Uriko Ekeneya has spent half of her 60 years at Vinoba Bhave ashram.
“To develop world attitude is our discipline of thought and it is a unique experience to walk with the devout in this annual pilgrimage from Alandi to Pandharpur,” Uriko told Newsline.
“We are not bound to any community or caste. Serving others is our goal and I have derived immense satisfaction in this work,” says Uriko. “I have been athletic and my love for climbing mountains has helped me take up this annual pilgrimage every year,” she says.
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However, this year, she admits she will not be able to walk all the way to Pandharpur due to a compound fracture. “There is a swelling on my leg but still I will walk,” she said as she left with warkaris on Saturday from Alandi to Pune city. I will rest and walk on Monday from Pune to Saswad and return, she adds.
According to Rajabhau Chokdar, who is in charge of the wari, people from all walks of life come for the pilgrimage and Uriko has been taking part in the pilgrimage for the last 34 years.
“I decided at the age of 13 that I would not marry. There was always a deep urge to visit places and learn more about the spiritual connect,” says Uriko. “How can I miss home when this is my home,” she said.