A unique feature of the wonderful Maharashtrian culture, Palkhi is a 1000-year-old tradition followed by the Warkaris, people who follow the custom called Wari. People celebrate this festival by getting together, singing, dancing, and chanting Dnyanba-Tukaram in Dindis (a group of Warkaris). The pilgrimage takes place in the Hindu months of Ashadh and Karthik to the divine town of Pandharpur.
Every year, the Palkhi festival starts during the month of June (Jyeshth), and the entire festival process lasts for around 22 days. The Palkhi reaches Pandharpur every year during the first half of Ashadh month, on the eleventh day. Every Saint has been following this wari tradition for centuries. For Palkhi 2021, Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj Palkhi starts on July 2nd, and the Sant Tukaram Palkhi starts on July 1st.
During the year 1685, the youngest son of Tukaram, Narayan Baba, with an innovative mind, was the man who decided to bring a change in the tradition of Dindi-Wari by introducing the Palkhi. This was a sign of social respect and peace. He put the silver padukas that belonged to Tukaram in the Palkhi. He proceeded with the dindi to a place called Alandi, where he put the Dnyaneshwar’s padukas in the same Palkhi.
This tradition was followed every year since then until 1830, where disputes occurred in the Tukaram family because of privileges and rights. Due to this reason, people decided to break this tradition of the twin Palkhis and organize separate ones, namely Dnyaneshwar Palkhi from Alandi and Tukaram Palkhi from Dehu.
For years, separate Palkhis meet in Pune for a brief time and then separate again at Hadapsar. The Palkhis meet again at Wakhri, a village near Pandharpur. The popularity of the tradition only increases every year, with thousands of devotees following the procession every year. At present, around 43 Palkhi visit Pandharpur each year.
There are two major routes where the Waris take place, namely the Alandi-Pandarpur route and the Dehu- Pandharpur route.
Route of Tukaram Palkhi
The pilgrims begin their main pilgrimage on foot from the town of Dehu. They carry Saint Tukaram’s Palkhi, who was a devotee of Lord Vitthala, another form of Lord Vishnu. This procession is known as the procession of Sant Tukaram’s Palkhi. Starting from Dehu, the pilgrims reach the town of Pandharpur via the towns of Loni Kalbhor, Yavat, Akurdi, Varvand, Indapur, Baramati, Wakhri, and Akluj respectively.
Route of Dnyaneshwar Palkhi
The pilgrims start this pilgrimage from the Alandi, a town in the Pune district, on foot, and they carry the Palkhi of Saint Dnyaneshwar. They reach the Pandharpur town via the cities of Pune, Jejuri, Saswad, Taradgaon, Lonand, Natepute, Phaltan, Malshiras, Shegaon, Velapur, and Wakhri.
The main Palkhis meet at Pune initially, then at Wakhri, and then meet only before reaching the town of Pandharpur. Besides these, during the months of Maghi and Chaitra, two more Waris are also considered important.
The descendants of Haibatraobua Arphalkar manage the Dnyaneshwar Palkhi along with the Alandi Devasthan trust and Chopdars. The entire procession is divided into various groups called Dindis. There would be more than 200 Dindis in each route, and each Dindi has between 200 and 500 members.
The Palkhi would always be at the center of the Wari procession. A tutari (a wind instrument) is blown thrice at the beginning of the Palkhi pilgrimage. This indicates the Warkaris to get ready. The second blow is for them to get to their positions while the third is for the Palkhi pilgrimage to start moving. The timetable of the route is strictly followed and is published well in advance. Everything will be included in the schedule, including breaks and stay arrangements. Most of the Dindis make the stay at the temples in the nearby villages or tents.
Many people gather at Pune to celebrate Palkhi with their family and friends. Using redBus, there are ways to reach Pune safely and comfortably. Various bus operators would take you to do the city! You could choose your most convenient dropping points.
You could take a bus following this Palkhi route. Due to COVID-19, camping wouldn't be an option during the Pandharpur yatra. Every year, people do halt in various places with the Warkaris to enjoy a campfire and sleep in tents with friends and family. This is an amazing way to witness the popular heritage sights and culture!
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