Around 9 am on Wednesday,when 75-year-old Malti Kale and other “aajis” from her neighbourhood reached Nashik Phata chowk on the Pune-Mumbai highway for a darshan of the Sant Tukaram palkhi,they were in for a rude shock when other devotees told them the palkhi had left on its onward journey,deviating from the usual routine.
Malti and other elderly women sat for two hours on the highway stunned at having missed a darshan of their Lord. “For four decades,I don’t remember ever having missed the palkhi darshan. This is the first time I missed my God,” she said.
Like Malti,hundreds of faithful from Sant Tukaram Nagar,Vallabhnagar,Shankarwadi,Nashik Phata,Kasarwadi,Kundannagar,Phugewadi,Dapodi,Gurav Pimple,Landewadi,Indrayani Nagar and CIRT area who converged on the Pune-Mumbai highway around 8 in the morning wore a dismayed look,with some breaking into tears for missing a darshan.
“There was no intimation. No information was provided to citizens. How can they take away the palkhi just like that? It does not happen every day,it is a once-an-year opportunity for devotees to get closer to God,” said Usha Landge in a group of women standing on the highway.
The Sant Tukaram palkhi had arrived at HA grounds in Pimpri around 5 pm on Tuesday. The palkhi apparently left Sant Tukaram Nagar around 6.15 am on Wednesday and by 8.30 am,had crossed PCMC limits. Former mayor Yogesh Behl,who lives in Sant Tukaram Nagar said,”I was surprised this morning as to how the palkhi left early. I think the police and the palkhi pramukh took the decision. We had no idea.”
Volunteers of several organisations and residential societies who had made arrangements for breakfast and drinking water for warkaris were equally dazed. “We had prepared food early in the morning for 400 warkaris. When we went to the highway around 8.30,most warkaris had disappeared,” said Sanjay Shah,chairman of Goyal Residency,Kasarwadi.
Sanjay Shendge who runs a school in Shastrinagar area had come with several students who had prepared food for warkaris. “The spirits of our students were dampened. Around 9 am,the highway is jammed with warkaris during the fest. This year,warkaris were hard to come by.”
A former trustee of Dehu Sansthan said he found it difficult to understand why the palkhi was moved early. “All along the way,there were few devotees compared to the previous years. This is because people know the time the palkhi arrives and leaves. It was very disappointing,” he said.
When contacted,palkhi pramukh Nitin More said,”On our part,we had disseminated proper information regarding the time the palkhi will pass through a particular area.” He said they had started early from Pimpri to “protect the warkaris from the blazing sun.” He said they could save time,which helped warkaris take breakfast and lunch at the proper time. When told that several citizens on the way had wept after missing the palkhi,he said,”We sympathise with the devotees…but we have to think of our warkaris who have to walk for kilometres together.”
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