Palanquin procession of Saint Dnyaneshwar
and Saint Tukaram Maharaj : The Haripath on wheels
We had gone to pay reverence to the palanquins of Saint Dnyaneshwar Maharaj and Jagadguru Saint Tukaram Maharaj when they were brought to Pune. Jotted down here are the experiences with respect to Varkaris.
Experiencing spiritual emotion and
devotion from the palanquin procession
The procession to Pandharpur is the spiritual event making one forget the personal problems as well as one’s body consciousness while chanting the Name of The God. The palanquins processions of great Saint Dnyaneshwar and Jagadguru Saint Tukaram Maharaj starting from Alandi and Dehu are the cultural and spiritual glories of Maharashtra. Not paying heed to whether it is sunny or rainy, holding saffron flags on their shoulders, amidst sound of cymbals and the drum (mrudang) varkaris walking in the procession are a symbol of spiritual emotion and devotion. There is no trace of worry or expectations about amenities available during the pilgrimage, in the devotees. Covering 10 to 20 kilometres every day they start off early in the morning. They eat breakfast and meals on the way. In the evening when they reach their determined place of halt, after performing bhajan and kirtan they retire for the day.
A depiction of discipline
The depiction of discipline is another speciality of the palanquin processions. The pattern of every procession (dindi) is planned. Varkaris carrying flags lead the procession followed by women carrying Holy basil (tulsi)plant, then those playing cymbals, and then the veena (stringed musical instrument) players Even though the varkaris playing cymbals are hundreds in numbers, the music of cymbals played is harmonious. Now-a-days the police department is also actively involved in the management of the procession. But,Even when the police force in this procession of hundreds of devotees was less initially, the discipline was still there. However, the participants of the procession still need to receive health education especially, to get rid of old bad habits and to observe hygiene.
Open conversation with varkaris
When the palanquins had halted at Pune we were able to converse with some varkaris. We heard spiritual experiences of how varkaris are taken care off by God from the time the palanquin leaves till it reaches Pandharpur for darshan of Shri Vitthal. They expressed the spiritual emotion that ‘This pilgrimage is like nectar and that taking birth in the Hindu Dharma and Maharashtra, the land of Saints, is a great blessing. A look at the varkari women walking with Holy basil (tulsi) plants on their heads reciting ‘Mauli Mauli’ even in the rain, make us aware of how conscious we are of our bodies ! Conversing freely and speaking wholeheartedly is yet another virtue of the varkaris. Most varkari devotees speak openly and narrate their experiences. Without any external show off varkaris walking simply for the love of Deity Vithal are all brethren of Dharma. Instead of only reading Holy texts, Saints have advised that at least one ovi (verse) from them must be experienced. This palanquin procession is a spiritual experience of ovis of Saints, a mobile Haripath endowing spiritual experiences with His grace.
Such is the planning of the procession (dindi)
Formerly very few varkaris would participate in the procession but today they are in hundreds. Formerly wherever we halted for the night we did not have amenities but now they are available. Each dindi is now accompanied by two trucks carrying groceries, cloth tents, tarpaulin and other provisions, one water tanker two tempos and two cars. Groceries and other materials worth around rupees 2 lakhs is required, which is sponsored by donors and devotees, The donations are collected a month in advance of the procession. The women in the procession cook our meals. In the morning before the procession resumes some devotees proceed to the next destination along with the vehicles of the dindi. This is the daily schedule for 22 days. All difficulties and distress are alleviated with continuous chanting of the Name of Hari. He ensures that there is no shortage of anything. (The above points were narrated by the chief of section 18 from the procession of Saint Dnyaneshwar Maharaj. All processions are planned more or less in the same way.)
Experiencing the selfless attitude of varkaris
‘This year the Pune Municipal Corporation gifted a drum (pakhwaj) to every platoon in the procession. There were rumours that the State Government would provide us with raincoats. Though we did not receive them we do not have expectations for the same, because we Vaishnavs (devotees of Deity Vishnu) do not take anything from anyone’. This is a depiction of the selfless attitude of the varkaris.
Dr. Jyoti Kale, Mrs. Sayli Dhamdhere and Miss Shalaka Sahastrabuddhe, Pune
Avoid things decreasing the spiritual fabric of the palanquin procession
Though devotion is the foundation of the procession, nowadays all and sundry participate in it. The swelling crowds (as in a temple festival) wherever the procession halts, decrease its spiritual fabric. At one venue in Pune where the procession had halted Hindi film songs were being played loudly. If some of these shortcomings of the procession are rectified then the spiritual experience of bliss to every participant in the procession will be assured.