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Every year, when thousands of warkaris enter the city during the palkhi procession, the city gears up to serve the warkaris in more ways than one. From offering free food, water and tea to the warkaris to sensitising them about various issues to capturing the wari tradition through different art forms, Puneites play the perfect host to warkaris during their annual pilgrimage.
Mobile post office : A mobile post office van by the Pune Postal Department will be travelling with the warkaris throughout the journey till Pandharpur. Ganesh Sawaleshwarkar, the Postmaster General of Pune Region, said, “This is the second year of this van, which aims to keep the warkaris connected with their families.
As compared to phone calls, postal correspondence through instruments like postcards have physical memory for people.” Busy writing a postcard, Vishwanath Kamble, of Deglur village, shares that, “I am not able to contact my son as I have misplaced his number. For some reason, he too hasn’t contacted me. Thus, I am writing a postcard to him because I need to know if everything is fine at home or not, has he sown the seeds, if the motor is working properly or not.” Cleanliness drives Every year, volunteers gather in different parts of the city to carry out cleanliness drives during the palkhi. Pankaj Sharma of Udaan Trust, an NGO working for homosexuals, informed that from this year, under the project ‘Sahi Disha’, members of the organisation are carrying out cleanliness drives in the Nana Peth area.
Last year, when volunteers associated with three groups — Swachh Pune Swachh Bharat, Let’s Rise and PTC — carried out a cleanliness drive on a stretch during the palkhi procession, they ended up collecting six sacks full of paper plates, plastic bottles and plastic cups. “If the waste on just one stretch amounted to so much, one can imagine the waste in the entire city during the procession. We also sensitise the warkaris on cleanliness,” says a member of Swachh Pune Swachh Bharat. This year, around 15 volunteers will join the cause, cleaning the stretch from Magarpatta to Phursungi. Rangoli art Akhil Mandai Mandal and Shiv Shambho Pratishthan have organised rangoli exhibition to celebrate the arrival of palkhi in the city.
The umpteen facets of the annual pilgrimage undertaken by lakhs of devotees from rural Maharashtra — from women carrying holy basil tree on their heads and devotees dancing and singing bhajans to horses and devotees dancing together — have been captured in breathtaking rangolis. The breathtaking view of lakhs of devotees passing through the serpentine Dive Ghat, which has almost become a part of the palkhi tradition, has also been brought alive through rangoli art. Lord Pandurang and Vitthal and his association with the devotees too is depicted in the fine rangoli art drawn by rangoli artist Jagdish Chavan and his students. The exhibition is on display till June 22. Serving food For the past 40 years, Subhash Gawade has been offering food to the warkaris free of cost.
During their stay in the city, Gawade provides tea and snacks to the warkaris, while shelter is provided by Peshwa Ganesh Mandir Trust. When the warkaris leave the city, Gawade joins them till Pandharpur. Likewise, Mona Kirad, a native of Amravati, has been providing the warkaris food, clothes and blankets for the last five years. “I get immense happiness serving them,” she says. Shiv Shakti Tarun Mandal starts working for the warkaris from 4 am, serving them pohe and tea. Nearly 500 warkaris are served during the palkhi. The Mandal also plays Marathi films for the warkaris at 9 pm. Vijaya Tarun Mandal, established 61 years ago, provides food to the warkaris twice a day. The members travel with the warkaris and serve them till the end of the yatra.
Similarly, Nana Peth Tarun Mandal has been offering food and snacks to the devotees twice a day for the last 30 years. Medical facilities Among many groups and organisations that have been providing free medical facilities to the warkaris include Shaheen Friend, Circle Universal Hospital, Sancheti Hospital, Maharashtra Nabhik Mahamandal (MNM) and Dnyaneshwari Poly-Clinic and Foundation. Shaheen Friend Circle, founded by Hijabhai Nadaf, includes girls from Symbiosis College as volunteers, who move along with the warkaris and reach out to people in need of treatment.
Dr Sayali Kulkarni, also a social worker, has been reaching out to warkaris with the support of a few colleagues for the last 10 years. “We also set up medical camps in hilly areas on way to Pandharpur,” she says. Chandrashekhar Jagtap of MNM has been arranging free medical check-ups, medicines and raincoats for the warkaris for the last 15 years.
(Inputs by Shweta Sandilya, Shipra Arya & Gayathri Nandakumar)