Chants of "Jai Hari Vitthala" and "Gyanba Tukaram" filled the temple town of Pandharpur with culmination of the 23-day "wari" pilgrimage undertaken by lakhs of pilgrims from across Maharashtra on July 11th on the occasion of Ashadi Ekadashi.
There is no definite information available on the origins of this "wari" tradition, which is a pilgrimage on foot to Pandharpur. However, there are some references about Vitthalpant, Saint Dnyaneshwar's father joining the Wari to visit Pandharpur in the month of Aashaad & Kartik (October / November). So it can be inferred that the state of Maharashtra has seen this tradition being followed since the last 800 years.
The pilgrims known as "warkaris" started the main pilgrimage on 23rd of June from Dehu in Pune district on foot, carrying the palkhi (palanquin) of Saint Tukaram, a renowned devotee of Lord Vitthala, a form of lord Vishnu. This main procession was joined by other palkhis from other towns and villages like the famous Saint Dnyaneshwar palkhi from Alandi.
These devotees reached Pune on 24th of June, stayed there for three day and left again for Pandhapur on 27th of June. People, young and old travelled barefooted for kilometers chanting the holy names. This pilgrimage presented a perfect amalgamation of people of all castes, creed, class and age. These pilgrims were welcomed and served in all the places they passed. People provided them with food, water, boarding and medical facilities. The local villagers drew rangolis in front of their houses to welcome the palkhis.
On their way, the pilgrims played musical instruments like veenas, mridungas, dholkis and chiplis. The pilgrims also played the traditional folk dance "fugdi" with their infectious enthusiasm and energy. With the saffron coloured triangular 'paatakas' (flags) in hands and tulsi leaves on their heads the pilgrims presented a perfect picture of the Bhakti tradition of Maharshtra.
These devout pilgrims got the reward for their long journey when they witnessed the "maha puja" of Lord Vitthala and his concert Rukhmini in Pandharpur on the Ashadi Ekadashi day. The maha puja was performed by Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and his wife Satyashila, as is the custom. Speaking to reporters after the puja, the chief minister said that that he prayed to lord Vitthala for good rains across the state for farmers' prosperity, and the state's development in all fronts.
Sudha Ramasubramanian,casual reporter, RNU Mumbai