Last week Pune witnessed Maharashtra’s biggest annual pilgrimage, an 800 years old Palkhi tradition in the honor of ‘God of knowledge’ a Saint Dyaneshwar. The devotees or pilgrims are called as ‘Warkaris’ and they march in groups, each group of Warkaris is called as ‘Dindi’. The Journey from Dehu and Alandi to Pandharpur is called as ‘Wari’. The Warkaris walk nearly 450 kms during their journey to reach Pandharpur and offer their prayers to lord Vitthal (A reincarnation of Lord Vishnu). The Palkhi carries the silver Padukas (footsteps) by approx. 330 Sant Tukaram Dindis and 220 Dindis of Sant Dnyneshwar to the Wari (devotees procession) since it was introduced by the youngest son of Sant Tukaram in the year 1685.
The Palkhi procession is one of the most colorful and lively carnivals of Maharashtra. Lakhs of pilgrims march together for days, only with one aim of paying respect to their Gods. The Warkaris keep the spirit going by singing Bhajans (Devotional Songs) composed by Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram during their entire journey. The atmosphere is driven by the strong and intense desires of the Warkaris to reach their destination and offer prayers. Pune city becomes witness to the vibrations of prayers and chants as it is geographically well positioned on the route between Alandi, Dehu and Pandharpur.
Wari is an exemplary ‘Model of Management’. Immense faith combined with meticulous planning and efficient management results in incredible invigorating energy force. The Wari teaches us to look beyond our reach to a life of lasting peace and contentment. It instills values of gentleness and humility. Regular fasts on days teach discipline and self-restraint. The daily recital of prayers and hymns and reading the Hari Path keeps the tradition and interest in spirituality alive.
The Warkar is mainly comprise the farmer community of Maharashtra but is also backed by academicians, professionals, foreigners and people from urban areas within Maharashtra and nearby states. About 50,000 people from Pune join the Wari journey annually.
Past few years we have seen the traditional Taal, Chipli and Mrudung get some new age companions like smart phone cameras, mobile ambulances, mobile apps to download devotional songs and coordinate civic amenities and CCTV cameras to ensure palkhi’s safety. Whatsapp and Facebook was flooding the pictures and quotes of Saints, making us realise how effectively Smart Phones and social technologies can be deployed to create and spread cordial atmosphere among cyber Punekars.
India has a good potential to be promoted for Spiritual Tourism and Maharashtra’s Palkhi or Kumbh Mela has always attracted the International community to the number of devotees to ‘experience’ these soul searching events.