|Ashadhi Ekadashi, Pandharpur, MH resultshub.net|
|Pandharpur Padyatra, MH .padayatra.com|
On the other hand Pada Yatras or 'Foot pilgrimages' are mostly Hindu religious pilgrimages undertaken to certain sacred/ sanctified temples during certain holy periods of the year. The pilgrims walk barefoot to far off places, some times covering more than 100 kms from their home. This religious undertaking is done by them with intense devotion and bhakti to have their wish fulfilled by the almighty and before that they have to strictly follow certain austerity measures.
|padayatra to Vitthal temple punebuzz.com|
The well known padayatras by the Hindu pilgrims are: In the western Maharashtra state of India Varkaris / pilgrims practice a regular walk to religious places like Dehu, Alandi and Pandharpur. Ashadhi Ekadashi, Kartiki Ekadashi, Maghi Ekadashi and Chaitra Ekadashi are some of the popular days when pilgrims reach Pandharpur to worship Vithoba. Mantralaya Paadayatra - to worship saint shri Raghavendra Swamy, Shri Datta Paadayatra to worship lord Dattatreya, Murgod Paadayatra to shri Shiva Chidambar swamy from Dharwad city of Karnataka state.
In Tamil Nadui the padayatra to the Palani Muruga (Dandayudhapani; Subramanya and Karthkaya) temple during Thaipusam (Jan-February) is a famous one as the idol in the temple on the holy Palani hill was consecrated by a great Siddhar Bhogar (one of the Eighteen ''Siddha Purushas' who had mystic powers').
As for Padayatras to Pandharpur Lord Vitthal temple, over a million pilgrims a year walk barefoot for several days and it is said to be one of the world’s biggest pilgrimages or varies, This 800- year-old tradition has been around since the time of saint Dnyaneshwar, founder of the Bhagvat sect. Subsequently many great saints of Maharastras like Saint Tukaram and Saint Eknath, et al popularized this vari/pilgrimage tradition to inculcate bhakti and religious commitments for good causes. The unique feature is the pilgrims reverentially carry the padukas - replica of wooden sandals of holy saints representing the four famous saints who promoted Bhakti tradition to the abode of Lord Vitthal in Pandharpur and to attain salvation (free from the cycles of birth and death) - the ultimate religious goal of the Hindus.
Normally such padayatras are a tough religious undertaking and senior citizens above 65 avoid them as they have to walk long distances. Mostly, they walk between 5 am till 10 am and then from 3 or 4 pm till 8 pm. On the way, they get free accommodation at choultries (free lodging) if they are available.
There are many groups or dindis (groups of varkaris) in major cities in Maharastra and they take care of food and accommodation of the yatrikas upon registration. In this state to become a a varkari - pilgrim, there are neither pre-conditios nor rituals. No caste, gender or class barriers. They follow the simple message of saint Tukaram : “All you need is a heart full of love....” There are women and children in every dindi. Most dindis charge nominal fees. Towns Alandi and Dehu are about 25 km from Pune. If you want to join a Dindi to undertake the pilgrimage contact the Saint Dnyaneshwar Samadhi Mandir at Alandi for additional information.
The pilgrims form groups and undertake the long arduous journey from distant places like Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Karnataka, Gujarat, etc waking more than 40 days. Duration of walks depends on the age of the pilgrims. A sea of humanity will converge at the
Vitthal temple on Ashadhi Ekadashi (in July), a holy day according to the Hindu calendar. Senior citizens normally undertake this journey in part by walk and in part by motor vehicles. Chanting relevant mantras, pilgrims, as a tradition, follow the routes undertaken by the great saints Dnyaneshwar (from Alandi) and Tukaram Vari (from Dehu). They will have rendezvous at the Varkari village near Pandharpur, and from there walk together to the temple, being their final destination.
Wari has gone through many changes over the past 700 or 800 years since its inception and, today, media reports mention that it is a fine model example of crowd Management every year.
In the 1820s, the pilgrimage underwent many changes initiated by the descendants of Tukaram and Haibatrav Baba Arphalkar, a devotee of Dnyaneshwar and a courtier of the Princely state of Gwalior kingdom. It is said that saint Dnyaneshwar’s father, Vitthalpant used to visit Pandharpur in the month of Ashadha and Kartik prior to the 14th century. However, another record says that Saint Dnyaneshwar in the 13th century and Saint Tukaram in the 17th century started long journey to Pandharpur on foot to pray at the Vitthal temple. It was Narayan Maharaj, son of Saint Tukaram who promoted the the tradition of carrying the padukas of the Saints in 1685. Tukaram Maharaj (17th century ) was born in Dehu village near Pune and his devotional hymns known as Abhangs were devoted to Lord Vithoba. His ''Bhakti Movement'' played a vital role in Maharajah Shivaji’s rise and gave him inspiration to courageously fight against the treacherous foreign invaders.