Keeping the centuries-old tradition intact, the holy “padukas” of Sant Dnyanewshwar and Sant Tukaram will leave from the temple towns of Alandi and Dehu for Pandharpur, Lord Vitthal’s abode, on Tuesday and reach there in five hours for the Ashadhi Ekadhashi celebrations the next day.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will perform the customary puja on the Ekadashi day at the Vitthoba temple. It will be his first as CM. “I will go to Pandharpur on the auspicious day and pray for freedom from coronavirus. I recall, in 2010 I had gone there during the celebrations to click aerial photos and I was overwhelmed at seeing the devotion of the warkaris. May Lord Vitthal remove all hurdles and problems in the state,” he said.
Accompanied by 20 warkaris, the “padukas” will be taken by special buses of the state transport. The district administration has decided not to reveal the route to be taken by the buses and timing when the “padukas” will be carried from the temple premises.
In 335 years since the official version of “palkhi procession” — better known as ‘wari’ or foot march — started this will be the first time, the holy ‘padukas’ of the two saints will be carried by buses. Every year, lakhs of “warkaris” accompany the two palkhis from Alandi and Dehu to Pandharpur, a distance of around 240 km. Every year, it took 22 days for the palkhi or palanquin procession to reach Pandharpur. Both palkhis took different routes and meet close to Pandharpur located in Solapur district. While the palkhi of Sant Dynaneshwar Maharaj took 15 overnight halts, the palkhi of Sant Tukaram took 18 halts. This time though there will be no halts. The buses will stop at four spots where no one is present and that too only for one minute for ‘abhang aartis.’
According to descendants of Sant Tukaram, like this year, in 1945 too the palkhi procession was not held. “As per government records available with us, the then British government had not allowed the procession due to plague fear prevailing then. The palkhis were then reportedly carried by train… There are not much details available about this in government records. One thing is certain, whether plague or coronavirus, nothing has stopped the padukas of the saints from reaching Lord Vitthal’s abode of Pandharpur,” said Manik More, 10th descendant of Sant Tukaram.
The official palkhi processions of the two saints started in 1685. “It was Sant Tukaram’s youngest of three sons, Narayan Maharaj, who took the initiative for carrying the silver padukas of the two saints together in 1685. From 1675 till 1685, groups of warkaris in a ‘dindi’ used to separately carry the padukas. Narayan Maharaj put the silver padukas of Sant Tukaram in a palkhi. He proceeded with the ‘dindi’ to Alandi, where he put Sant Dnyaneshwar’s padukas in the same palkhi and thus started the official palkhi tradition,” More said.
In 1832, there were changes introduced in the palkhi tradition. “The two palkhis got separated. Haibatravbaba Arphalkar, a devotee of Sant Dnyaneshwar, started the Dnyaneshwar Mauli’s palkhi tradition from the temple town of Alandi,” More said.
Anita Landge, a warkari from Pimpri-Chinchwad, said, “The two palkhis first meet in Nana Peth in Pune on their second day. On 19th day, they meet at a village known as Tondla Bondla and then at Wakhari near Pandharpur…For years, I and my husband have been walking with the two palkhis to Pandharpur. This year, we will have to take darshan on TV.”
Meanwhile, District Collector Naval Kishore Ram said all arrangements have been made for the paduka processions of the two saints. “But we will not reveal anything about routes or timing to keep the crowd away,” he said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines