Holy Pilgrimage – Temples in Maharashtra State
Pandharpur Vithoba, Maharashtra
Pandharpur (Marathi: is an important pilgrimage city on the banks of Bhimā river in Solāpur district, Maharashtra, India. Pandharpur is situated on the 1711 north axis and 7511 the east longitude in Solapur District. Pandharpur is the India's 3rd Largest Tahsil and ninth largest population city. The Vithoba temple attracts about half a million Hindu pilgrims during the major yātrā (pilgrimage) in the month of Ashadh (June–July).
GeographyPandharpur has an average elevation of 458 metres (1502 feet). Pandharpur is 3rd largest Tahsil in India and ninth largest population city in Maharashtra.
Religious importancePandharpur is one of the most prominent pilgrimage sites in Maharashtra. It is located on the banks of the Bhimā river, which is alternatively known as Chandrabhāgā because of its half-moon-like shape. The city is named after a merchant, Pandarika, who achieved self-realization there.
Pandharpur, also known as Pandhari, hosts the renowned Vitthal temple on the banks of Bhimā. "Vithoba", "Pāndurang", and "Pandharināth" are the popular alternate names of the deity, Viththal, who is regarded in Hinduism as a form of Lord Krishna, who, in turn, is considered as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Rakhumāi or Rukmini is Viththal's consort in the temple.
The worship of Vitthal in the Pandharpur temple is based mainly on the contents of the Puranas, and the contributions of the Vaishnav saints of Maharashtra and Karnataka during the 13th through the 17th centuries, namely, Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Gora Kumbhar, Chokhamela, Eknath, Tukaram, Purandara Dasa, Vijaya Dasa, Gopala Dasa, and Jagannatha Dasa, have augmented the worship.
The Pandharpur temple covers a large area, and has six gates. The eastern gate is known as the "Namdev Gate".
Pandharpur hosts four annual pilgrimages ("yātrās") of Hindu devotees. Among them, the pilgrimage in the month of Āshādh (June–July) in the Hindu calendar attracts the largest number of pilgrims—around 0.5 to 0.7 million people. The pilgrimages in the months of Kārtik (October–November), Māgh(January–February) and Shrāvan(July–August) attract the second, third and fourth largest numbers of pilgrims respectively.
This has been a great place to visit for devotees all over India. There are some other important holy places around Pandharpur. The deities include Goddess Tulja Bhavani (Goddess of family - KulDevata of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) at Tuljapur, Saint Shri Swami Samarth (God Form of Dattatreya) at Shri Kshetra Akkalkot, Lord Dattatreya at Ganagapur etc. All these places are located in or near Solapur District. Famous Devi Temples in Pandharpur include Padmavati, Emayi –Tukai, Ambabai, and Lakhubai.
Milk and all other cow products for Pooja in Pandharpur temple are supplied from Shri kesavgoshala of Pandharpur, which belongs to Nagoriya Math.
TransportationPandharpur Pandharpur comes under solapur district, maharashtra. Kurdwadi railway station which is 50 kms from pandharpur connects the whole of India to reach pandharpur. Pandharpur railway station is very ancient.
A total of around 25 to 30 trains from various destinations hault at Kurdwadi which is 50 kms from pandharpur. Kurdwadi is connected to pandharpur by road and rail.There is a direct train from Pandharpur to shirdi weekly 3 times. The railway station enquiry phonme number is 02186 223227. These include passenger, express, mail, trains. Pandharpur is directly connected to mumbai by train weekly 3 days.
The city solapur is the Divisional Head Quarters for the central railway. it is 75 kms from pandharpur. People from kerala andhra tamilnadu and karnataka are well connected in solapur to reach pandharpur. This pilgrim centre has plenty of lodges and mutts for all classes of people and the Gajanan Maharaj mutt consists of plenty of cottages for which prior reservation is required. The telephone number will be available in the website. Eating places are numerous serving all types of maharashtrian and south indian food. The railway station also has retiring rooms on demand showing a valid reservation ticket. You should be very careful with the hawkers and brokers who raise the prices and cheat you.
Pandharpur is connected to all parts of Maharashtra by bus. Pandharpur Bus depot is the largest Bus depot in maharashtra.
- Sangola (32.0 km)
- Kurduvadi (52.0 km)
- Mohol (40.0 km)
- Solapur (72.0 km)
- Miraj (128.0 km
- Ahmednagar (196.0 km)
- By Road
Vithoba Temple, PandharpurVithoba temple, Pandharpur is the main centre of worship for the Hindu deity Vithoba, believed to be a local form of god Krishna or Vishnu and his consort Rakhumai. It is the most visited temple in Maharastra. The Warkaris start marching from their homes to the temple of Pandharpur in groups called Dindi to reach on Aashadhi ekadashi and Kartiki ekadashi. A dip in the holy river Chandrabhaga on whose banks Pandharpur resides, is believed to have power to wash all sins.
All the devotees are allowed to touch the feet of the idol of Vithoba.
Legend of PundalikThe saga of Pundalik is one of the most important Mahima legends about Vithoba. How Vithoba came to Pandharpur is a story in which Pundalik is vital. Pundalik is a devoted son to his parents Janudev and Satyavati, who lived in a forest called Dandirvan. But after his wedding, Pundalik begins ill-treating his parents. Tired with their son’s misbehavior and ill treatment, the elderly couple decide to leave for Kashi. Legend holds that people who die in the city of Kashi attain salvation and emancipation from the cycle of birth and death; so, many pious Hindus in the bygone era would relocate to Kashi as their end drew near.
However, the elderly couple are not destined to escape their suffering so easily. Upon hearing his parents' plans, Pundalik and his wife decide to join them on pilgrimage. The ill treatment continues. While the youthful son and his wife ride on horseback, the frail old couple walk in bad weather. Pundalik even makes his old parents work to make his own journey comfortable. Every evening, when the party camps for the night, the son forces his parents to groom the horses and do other jobs.
On the way to Kashi, the group reaches the ashram (hermitage) of a pious and venerable sage, Kukkutswami. Exhausted, the family decides to spend a few days there. That night, when all were asleep, Pundalik by chance is awake and sees a remarkable vision. Just before dawn, a group of beautiful young women, dressed in soiled clothes, enter the ashram; they clean the floor, fetch water and wash the venerable sage’s clothes. After finishing their chores, they go to the prayer-room. When they reappear after prayer, their clothes are spotlessly clean. Then, they vanish as inexplicably as they had appeared.
Pundalik is not moved to raise an alarm, but feels a deep sense of peace witnessing the scene. It remains on his mind the whole day and he resolves to remain awake the next night, and confirm it was not merely a dream. This time, however, Pundalik is very curious. He approaches the beautiful women and asks details.
They reply, they are the Ganga (Ganges), Yamuna and other holy rivers of India—revered for their holiness. Pilgrims wish to take a dip in their holy waters to wash away their sins, which in fact are soiling their clothes.
Then, the women say: "But O Pundalik, you, with your ill-treatment of your parents, are the greatest sinner of them all!"
Pundalik is utterly shocked and his consciousness transforms. He realizes his misdeeds, becomes entirely devoted to his parents and ensures their comfort, even risking his own.
Devotion in any form reaches God swiftly. Impressed by Pundalik's devotion to his parents, Lord Visnu plans to bless Pundalik immediately. So, He leaves Vaikuntha (His abode) for Pundalik’s ashram.
Visnu knocks at Pundalik’s door, when he is busy serving his parents food. Pundalik does realize God is at his door. But such was his devotion to his parents, he wants to complete his duties and only then attend the visitor. Then, Pundalik does something strange but out of real devotion. He throws a brick outside for God to stand on and wait for him until he finishes attending to his parents.
Seeing this act, Visnu is extremely impressed and the ever-loving God waits for his devotee. When Pundalik comes out, he begs for pardon but far from being displeased, Visnu is taken over by Pundalik's love for his parents and grants a boon. Pundalik requests Visnu to stay back on Earth and bless all his true devotees. He agrees to take the form of Vithoba, or God who stood upon a brick, and a temple comes up there. Along with Vithoba, Rakhumai (Mother Rukmini, the consort of Krishna, one of avatars of Visnu) is also worshipped here.
Namdeva Chi PayariAn interesting tale is that of the temple's first step called “Namdev Chi Payari” (step of Namdev). The child and future saint, Namdev was an ardent devotee of Vithoba. One day his mother asks him to complete the ritual of “naivedya” (any food made in the house is first offered to God, the ritual comprises placing the offering plate before the idol and sprinkling water around the plate and with a prayer to God). Namdev faithfully does “naivedya” and waits for God to appear and take the offering. But he is disheartened. He keeps praying and requests God to come in person and accept the offering. With no answer, the child starts banging his head at the feet of God. Seeing this utmost devotion and innocence of a child, God appears, eats the offering and blesses Namdev. Namdev asks for being present in the "first step" at His temple, so that he could innumerable devotees will touch him before having the “darshan” (view). So, this first step is called “Namdev Chi Payari”.
Movement against UntouchabilityIn the pre-1947 period untouchables were not allowed to enter the temples, against this communal attitude Gandhian freedom fighter Sane Guruji went on to fast-unto-death, supported by others of the Gandhian movement. He succeeded in getting temple doors opened for all worshipping communities.
Dindi YatraAshadi Ekadasi is a religious procession and is celebrated during the months of June- July (Aashaadh Shukla paksha). It consists of a beautifully decorated Palkhi having the “padukas” of the lord and the Palkhi procession consists of people collectively walking, singing and dancing the glory of the Lord in what are called as ‘Dindis’. This custom of taking out a holy procession is said to have started in 1810.
Tradition has it that two of the greatest devotees of Lord from the Maharashtra state, Sant Jnyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram had set out on a pilgrimage to Lord Vittala from their respective places and reached the Divine Abode in fifteen days time on the auspicious day of Ashadi Ekadasi. Following this set tradition by these great souls, even after their merger with the Divine, devotees from the entire length and breadth of the state and even from outside the state set out for Pandharpur, wearing basil beads and singing His glory on a pilgrimage to reach on this auspicious day to have Divine Darshan. This pilgrimage is traditionally called Dindi Yatra. Commemorating this maiden Dindi Yatra undertaken by these great saints even today people from the state traditionally carry Padukas (divine sandals) of these great souls in palanquins on their procession to Pandharpur. Upon reaching Pandharpur on Ashadi, these devotees take a holy dip in the sacred River Chandrabhaga before proceeding for the Darshan of Lord Vittala.
Myth has it that Pundalik, an earnest devotee of Vithoba, placed the service of his parents higher than to that of God. He commanded the violent Bhima River not to disturb his sleeping parents. Pleased by his devotion, Lord Vishnu blessed him with a boon, and the river mellowed and now flows silently as the Chandrabhaga in Pandharpur. On appearing at Pundalik's doorstep, Vithoba found Pundalik with his parents sleeping with their heads on his lap. So as his parents do not get disturbed, Pundalik slipped a brick forward. Till date one finds Vithoba standing on that brick, waiting to be entertained by his 'host', at Pandharpur.
The Palkhi procession has remained unbroken since it began despite wars, famines and floods. More than Fifty Palkhis of saints assemble at Pandharpur every year. In Maharashtra “Varkaris” (predominantly simple farmers) is a big community. They usually undertake 21-day walk after they have completed the sowing process in their fields. In the Ashadi Ekadasi festival, people from every faith and religion participate. Learned sages also come for it. Jnyaneshwar preached the Gita which is considered the highest religious text in Maharashtra.
The 'Bhakti Marg' (the path of devotion) as propounded by Sant Jnyaneshwar, teach us to forget the physical self in pursuit of the Lord. When the Varkaris sing and dance during the pilgrimage, they forget the material world around them.
Along with the Dindi procession, seva to the poor and needy is done reflecting that Lord is in all forms. This is called ‘Seva Dindi’. During the Seva Dindi, the people on pilgrimage undertake selfless service to the poor and needy like Amrut Kalash (Annadhan), Narayan seva, Medical seva, Building & repairing rural infrastructure etc.
Participation in Ashadi Dindi and Seva Dindi helps an individual in many ways by bringing good health, peace & prosperity in his life. Chanting the continuous glory of the God in the Ashadi Dindi procession and Seva Dindi purifies an individual, there is an inner cleansing that takes place in Mind, Body and Spirit and the participants tend to lose their individual identities and experience bliss. It develops all aspects of human personality and helps us understand the true purpose of Life
RukminiIn Hinduism, Rukmini also pronounced as "Rukhmani" is the principal wife and queen of Krishna at his city of Dwaraka. Krishna heroically eloped with her to prevent an un-wanted marriage at her request (described in the Bhagavata Purana). Of Krishna's 16,108 queens, Rukmini is the first and most prominent. Rukmini is also considered to be an Avatar of Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune.
BirthAccording to traditional accounts Princess Rukmini is believed to have been born on Vaishakha 12[ . Although born of an earthly king, her position as an incarnation of goddess Lakshmi is described throughout Puranic literature:
- O hero among the Kurus, the Supreme Lord Himself, Govinda, married King Bhishmaka's daughter, Vaidarbhi, who was a direct expansion of the goddess of fortune [Sriyo maatraam]. (Bhagavata Purana 10.52.16)
- Dwaraka's citizens were overjoyed to see Krishna, the Lord of all opulence, united with Rukmini, the goddess of fortune Ramã. (SB 10.54.60)
- Lakshmi by Her portion took birth in the earth as Rukmini in the family of Bhismaka. (Mahabharata Adi 67.156)
- Rukminidevi, the Queen Consort of Krishna is the Swarupa-shakti (mulaprakriti), the essential potency of Krishna (krsnatmika) and She is the Queen of the Divine World (jagatkatri), Dwaraka/Vaikuntha.
MarriageRukmini was the daughter of Bhishmaka, the king of Vidarbha. Bhismaka was the vassal of King Jarasandha of Magadha. She fell in love with and longed for Krishna, whose virtue, character, charm and greatness she had heard much of. Rukmini's eldest brother Rukmi though was a friend of evil King Kamsa, who was killed by Krishna, and was set against the marriage.
According to the Mahabharat and the Puranas, Draupadi was regarded as the most beautiful and virtuous of all women at the time. It is said that if there was any one woman just as beautiful and virtuous as she was, it was Rukmini.
Rukmini's parents wanted to marry Rukmini to Krishna but Rukmi, her brother strongly opposed Bhishmaka and changed his father's mind. Rukmi was an ambitious prince and he did not want to earn the wrath of Emperor Jarasandha,who was ruthless.Instead, he proposed that she be married to his friend Shishupala, the crown prince of Chedi. Shishupala was also a vassal of Jarasandha and hence an ally of Rukmi.
Bhishmaka gave in but Rukmini, who had overheard the conversation was horrified and immediately sent for a brahmana, Sunanda, whom she trusted and asked him to deliver a letter to Krishna. She asked Krishna to come to Vidarbha and kidnap her to avoid a battle where her relatives may be killed. She suggested that he do this when she was on her way to the temple or back. Rukmini asked that he claim her to marry her. Krishna, having received the message in Dwarka, immediately set out for Vidarbha with Balarama, his elder brother.
Meanwhile, Shishupala was overjoyed at the news from Rukmi that he could simply go to Kundina (present day Koundanyapur) Amravati district and claim Rukmini. Jarasandha, not so trusting, sent all his vassals and allies along because he felt that Krishna would certainly come to snatch Rukmini away.
Bhishmaka and Rukmini received the news that Krishna was coming by their respective spies. Bhishmaka, who secretly approved of Krishna and wished he would take Rukmini away had a furnished mansion set up for him.
He welcomed them joyfully and made them comfortable. Meanwhile, at the palace, Rukmini got ready for her upcoming marriage. She went to the shrine to pray but was severely disappointed when she did not see Krishna there. Inside the shrine, she prayed to goddess Parvati that Krishna would arrive and wed her. As she stepped out, she saw Krishna and he soon swept her into his chariot with him. They both started to ride off when Shishupala noticed them. All of Jarasandha's forces quickly started chasing them. While Balarama occupied most of them and held them back Rukmi had almost caught up with Krishna and Rukmini.
Krishna and Rukmi duelled with the inevitable result of Krishna's victory. When Krishna was about to kill him, Rukmini fell at the feet of Krishna and begged that her brother's life be spared. Krishna, generous as always agreed but as punishment, shaved Rukmi's head and let him go free. There was no greater shame for a warrior than a visible sign of defeat.
According to folklore, Lord Krishna came to the village of Madhavpur Ghed after kidnapping Rukmini and got married to her at this very place. In the memory of that event, there is a temple built for lord Madhavrai. A celebration of this event is held at Madhavpur in memory of this marriage every year in a cultural fair.
A few days later at Dwaraka, Krishna was married to Rukmini with great pomp and ceremony.
Tulabharam (weighing by scale)The Tulabharam is an incident in the life of Rukmini, that reveals the extent to which humble devotion is worth more than material wealth.
Satyabhama, another queen of Krishna, prides herself about the love Krishna has for her and her grasp over his heart. Rukmini, on the other hand is a devoted wife, humble in her service of her Lord. Her devotion is her real inner beauty. On one occasion, the sage Narada arrived in Dwaraka and in the course of conversation hinted to Satyabhama that the love that Krishna exhibits towards her is not all that real and in fact it is Rukmini who has real control over his heart. Unable to bear this, Satyabhama challenges Narada to prove it. Narada, with his way with words, tricked her into accepting a Vrata (ritual) where she has to give Krishna away in charity to Narada and reclaim him by giving the weight of Krishna in wealth. Narada lures her into accepting this vrata by telling her that Krishna’s love to her will increase many folds if she succeeds in performing this Tulabharam. He also instigates her ego by hinting that her wealth may not be sufficient to equal the weight of Krishna. With Satyabhama's ego duly raised, she tells Narada that she can mobilize so much wealth that it is a child’s play for her to outweigh Krishna. Narada warns her that if she is not able to do this, Krishna will become his slave to be done with as he pleases.
The scene is soon set for the vrata. Satyabhama gives Krishna away in charity in spite of the other wives’ pleadings. Krishna, always the mischievous cowherd, meekly submits to this drama. After donating Krishna to Narada, Satyabhama arranges for a big scale to be put up and sends with all assurance for her huge treasure of gold and jewellery. All that she has is soon put on the scale, but it doesn’t budge. Narada starts taunting her and threatening her that if she can’t put enough gold or diamonds, he will be forced to auction Krishna as a slave to someone else. Satyabhama, in frantic panic, swallows her pride and begs all the other wives to give their jewels. They agree out of love for Krishna but alas, it is of no use.
Krishna remains a mute witness to all this drama and rubs salt into the open wounds of Satyabhama’s ego that he has now to become a slave to some cowherd and will have to suffer the separation from his dear wife. Narada suggests to Satyabhama that Rukmini may be able to get her out of the predicament. She finally swallows her pride and appeals to the devoted first wife of Krishna. Rukmini comes and with a prayer to her husband puts a single leaf of the sacred Tulasi on the scale (tula). The scales then become all at once so heavy that even after removing all the jewels, the scales are weighed down on the side of the Tulasi leaf.
While there are different versions in different texts as to why the weighing was arranged, the story of the Tulsi leaf placed by Rukmini being worth more in weight than that of Satyabhama's wealth is a common ending. This story is often repeated to enunciate the significance of Tulsi and how a humble offering to God is greater than any material wealth.
GlorificationRukmini or Rakhumai is worshipped as the consort of Vithoba (a form of Krishna) in Pandharpur, Maharashtra.
In 1480, Rukmini devi's servant messenger is believed to have appeared in this world as Vadiraja Tiirtha (1480–1600), the greatest saint in the Madhva tradition. He composed a famous work Rukminisa Vijaya glorifying Rukmini and Krishna in 1240 verses spread over 19 chapters.
ChildrenThe first son of Queen Rukmini was Pradyumna, and also born of her were Charudeshna, Sudesna and the powerful Charudeha, along with Sucharu, Charugupta, Bhadracharu, Charuchandra, Vicharu and Charu, the tenth (SB 10.61.8-9). Of them, Pradyumna was the crown prince of Dwaraka.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the great devotees , wikisources and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )