Updated: June 11, 2021 10:44:26 pm
For the second consecutive year, the annual Palakhi procession of Maharashtra’s warkari sect will be a subdued affair with the state government deciding that palakhis will be carried to Pandharpur from Pune in a fleet of 20 buses, instead of the 215 km foot march by lakhs of devotees.
The procession is scheduled to commence next month.
The tradition, in which processions start from Dehu and Alandi on the outskirts of Pune and end at the Vitthala temple in Pandhrpur, is centuries old. Devotees carry the paduka — the footwear — of Saint Dnyaneshar and Saint Tukaram by walking the distance over three weeks, making predetermined halts.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said some relaxations have been granted this year in terms of number of palakhis as well as the numberof devotees who are allowed to participate in the ceremonies at Dehu, Alandi and Pandharpur.
But after discussing with representatives of prominent palakhis and temples in Dehu, Alandi and Pandharpur, the government has decided continue with last year’s policy to avoid aspects of the Ashadhi Wari, which may cause crowding in these towns as well as those en route, he added.
“We will provide permission to 10 prominent palakhis. Each will have two buses and they will be taken to Pakri near Pandhapur. The last leg of the wari, of 1.5 km, will be undertaken on foot as per tradition,” said Pawar.
For the departure ceremony – Prasthan Sohla – 100 people each from Dehu and Alandi and 50 each from the eight remaining Palakhis will be given permission to participate, Pawar said, adding that those who will travel in the buses to Pandhapur will have to undergo RT-PCR tests.
Although he was confident that members of the warkari community will follow all norms, the foot march was not allowed because the palakhis cause crowds to gather in the villages and towns en route to Pandharpur, Pawar added.
“Since religious sentiments are involved, it’s very difficult to control people and ensure they take precautions in villages and towns across the 215 km stretch,” said Pawar.
Last year, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) had provided 10 buses for the procession.
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