With the happiness of a timely onset of monsoon lighting up their faces,lakhs of warkaris entered Pune city on Tuesday,spreading a wave of devotion and joy in the city. The devotees accompanying the palanquins of Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram were given a grand welcome. After a brief stopover in the city,they will head towards Pandharpur,the final destination of the palkhis.
Authorities said there was a significant rise in the number of devotees this year,attributing this to the timely onset of monsoon after one of the worst droughts in the history of the state.
Vishwas Pandhare,Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic),said: Approximately,there has been a rise of 20 to 25 per cent in the number of warkaris as compared to last year. The reason for this could be good rainfall in the first fortnight of June in Marathwada and central Maharashtra,which resulted into timely sowing. A lot of enthusiasm can be seem among the warakris this year.
The processions,which started on June 29 from Dehu and Alandi,will cover approximately 250 km on foot to reach Pandharpur,the abode of Lord Vitthal. The devotees have come from all over Maharashtra and outside the state in over 750 groups called dindis. During their stay in the city,the warkaris will be offered food and shelter by the residents of Pune.
The Sant Dnyaneshwar palkhi was welcomed by Mayor Vaishali Bankar,Pune Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Pathak,corporator Reshma Bhosale,PMC standing committee chairman Vishal Tambe and others at Sangamwadi. The Veenekaris (those carrying veena) were felicitated with coconuts.
From five to 90,devotees belonging to all age groups are part of the processions. Carrying mrudangs,veenas,cymbals and saffron flags,they chanted Dnyoba Tukaram and Jai Hari Vitthal as they walked briskly to match the pace of the decorated palanquins driven by bullocks.
This is my first wari. I am overwhelmed. We have been walking for the last six hours but I dont feel tired at all, said Sucheta Varma,a student of Abasaheb Garware College who participated in the procession with her college group.
A teacher of Adha Tirtha Ashram,who accompanied the dindi of sons and daughters of farmers who committed suicide,said: This is our fifth year and about 50 boys and girls participated. We think this is a good opportunity to create awareness about the (farmer suicide) issue among the public and collect donations. Our kids are overjoyed by the experience.
The Tukaram Maharaj palanquin reached Tukaram Paduka temple on F C Road at 6 pm,while the Dnyaneshwar palanquin reached the Dnyaneshwar Paudka temple at 8 pm.
While the Sant Tukaram palkhi will spend the night at Shri Nivdunga Vitthal temple in Nana Peth and leave for Pandharpur via Loni Kalbhor (Pune-Solapur Road) on Wednesday,the Sant Dnyaneshwar Palkhi will stay at the Palkhi Vithoba temple in Bhavani Peth and resume the onward journey via Saswad on Thursday.
Meanwhile,in order to give a smooth passage to the palanquins and the processions,the traffic police had blocked access to several key roads in the city,leading to traffic snarls on connecting roads,especially during the evening. Jams could be seen in Yerawada,Ganeshkhind Road and Senapati Bapat Raod.
Pandhare said: We had closed the Dapodi to Sancheti Hospital section of Pune-Mumbai highway,F C Road and Laxmi Road during evening. As soon as the procession passed,we immediately began our efforts to normalise the traffic.
However,several important roads including University Road,King Welsely Road,Baner Road,Ghole Patil Road,Karve Road remained either completely blocked or saw the traffic move at snails pace till 9.30-10 pm.