Hoardings showing Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar in traditional warkari attire welcomed the palkhis at various chowks on the route. The larger-than-life size hoardings carried a message: May the drought get over,may it rain and may the crops grow!
Ironically,drought and the delayed rainspalkhi coincides with farming activity after the onset of monsoonare primary reasons that resulted in a lower turnout of warkaris this year. While there are no official means of counting the participation,Krishna Chopdar,one of the officials of Dnyaneshwar Maharaj Palkhi Trust,Alandi,said the turnout was about 15 per cent lower than usual.
I come to the wari every year with my family. This year,my son and daughter-in-law stayed home. They decided to stay home in case it rains during palkhi, said Tukaram Balwadkar,65,a farmer from Alandi.
While Balwadkar asked his family back home to take care of the farm if it rains,Narayan Mavinkar,66 and Manohar Vaiju Satere,65,both from Malvadi village in north Karnataka had not made any such arrangements.
Satere,who has never missed walking for the Palkhi in the past 30 years,said,It has not rained. But then we cannot miss palkhi. There are no arrangements back home to take care of the farm,but then,what can we do?
While a relative dip in number of warkaris was visible for regular visitors to the Palkhi procession,the fact was reiterated by Krishna Chopdar,an official of Dnyaneshwar Maharaj Palkhi Trust,Alandi. There has been a long drought and to add to that the rains have been delayed. About 75 per cent of warkaris are farmers,for whom agriculture is the main form of sustenance. Usually,by the time of palkhis,they are done with farm work and are relaxed on the farm-front. This year,the case is different and the reduced turnout is visible,this despite the number of dindis going up.
A senior police officer said,There is no system of counting the number of warkaris. But there are approximately 80,000 to one lakh warkaris with the Tukaram Maharaj Palkhi,while the number is three times more for the Dnyaneshwar Maharaj Palkhi. Though the number of dindis look unchanged,the persons accompanying dindis have reduced this year.
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