Sun, 15 Sep, 2019

Seeking Vithoba’s blessings from Goa

On the occasion of Ashadhi Ekadashi, Goan Warkaris who have undertaken the pilgrimage to Pandharpur speak about their experiences of the Wari and its significance

12th July 2019, 02:34 Hrs


Today’s day of Ashadhi Ekadashi or Devashayani Ekadashi is a day of special significance in the Hindu calendar, especially for devotees of Lord Vishnu. On this day, Lord Vishnu goes into Yoga-Nidra, a state of Yogic sleep that lasts for four months. Thus, this day also signifies the beginning of ‘Chaturmas’- a time when people abstain from consuming meat, and certain vegetables such as onions and garlic for four months. 

Apart from this spiritual significance, Ashadhi Ekadashi is noted for the popular pilgrimage of Pandharpur, the abode of Lord Vithoba, a form of Lord Vishnu, in Maharashtra. ‘Wari’ as the pilgrimage is known in Marathi, has a long tradition, going back to the 13th century, according to some sources. Those who undertake the annual pilgrimage are called Warkaris and they include people from all walks of life. Over the years, Warkari has evolved into a sect of its own with its members following a specific code of conduct. 

Besides Maharashtra, a significant number of Warkaris from Goa also undertake the pilgrimage. While some do it with motorised transport, many still make the pilgrimage as it was done in the olden days, on foot. TG Life spoke to some of the Goan Warkaris to chronicle their experience of undertaking this spiritual journey.

“Technically, we started the Wari in 1998,” informs Raghunath Gad from Mulgao Warkari Sanstha who was associated with the first ever Wari that went from Goa to Pandharpur. “First we used to go by bus, but in 2009 we started undertaking the pilgrimage by foot.” 

“This year we have completed 11 years of Wari, and next year, we will complete 12, which means one ‘Tapa’ in Hindu system of measurement. This is considered a big achievement,” says Gad.  

“We cover a total distance of 400 kilometers, walking via TIlari Ghat, which is one of the steepest ghats to climb. It takes us 13 days,” informs Suresh Parab, another member of the group. “In childhood, I had heard about the Wari, but I experienced it later, and it is indeed an experience that makes you want to keep coming back,” says Parab, elaborating on what has motivated him to keep coming to the Wari for the past six years. “I have decided that I will keep coming to the pilgrimage as long as my body has the energy to do so,” says Parab, but states that many Goans are reluctant to fully embrace the way of the Warkari by joining in chanting the Haripath or conducting the Kakad Arati and would rather just walk with the group.

The first Wari undertaken by this group had around 52 people, but now that number has gone up to around 250. Similarly, today, there are around 11 Warkari organisations around Goa with the number of people undertaking the pilgrimage is estimated to be about 1800, informed the Goan Warkaris. 

Another Warkari, Devanand Naik, shared more information about the rituals of the Wari in Pandharpur. “After arriving in Pandharpur, we will first head to Chandrabhaga river. Here we conduct arati and perform an abhishek of padukas (footwear) of saint Dnyaneshwar. Then head to the temple, perform a pradakshina of Namdeo Payri (a step of the temple dedicated to Saint Namdeo), and head to the place where we are lodged.” 

Udaybua Fadke, another Goan Warkari from Bicholim, shed more light on the Ekadashi celebrations. “Around 20 to 25 lakh people throng at Pandharpur for the big occasion of Ashadhi Ekadhashi, which includes around 1800 from Goa.” 

“On the day of Ashadhi Ekadashi, the chief mInister of Maharashtra performs the Maha Puja of Lord Vithoba in the wee hours of the morning. Then, the Palanquins of various saints including Dnyaneshvar, Tukaram, etc receive the honour of being presented before Vithoba, after which, all the Warkaris will take blessings from the god. All Warkaris take a dip in the Chandrabhaga river and pray to Vithoba.” 

The Goan Warkaris who spoke to TG Life were scheduled to reach Pandharpur on July 11, take part in Ekadashi celebrations on July 12, and begin the return journey on July 13. 

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