Palkhi festival has made headlines as delegates attending the G20 Digital Economy Working Group Conference in the city had the opportunity to witness this 800-year-old tradition of the Warkari community.
- The Palkhi festival is a millennium-old tradition initiated by saints from Maharashtra, India, and is still followed by their devotees known as varkaris, who adhere to a fundamental ritual known as vari.
- The festival involves an annual pilgrimage (yatra) to Pandharpur, the sacred abode of the Hindu god Vithoba, in Maharashtra, as an act of reverence to the deity.
- Devotees participate in the Palkhi festival by walking alongside chariots (palkhis) carrying the paduka (sandals) of revered saints, particularly Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram.
- The Palkhi from Alandi carries Dnyaneshwar’s paduka, while Tukaram’s Palkhi commences its journey from Dehu, both located in Pune district, Maharashtra.
- The Palkhi procession begins in the month of Jyeshth (June) and continues for 22 days in total.
- On the eleventh day of the first half of the month of Ashadh, the Palkhi reaches Pandharpur, where devotees take a sacred dip in the Chandrabhaga River/Bhima River before visiting the Vitthal temple.
- The Vari tradition was followed by every saint, from Sant Dnyaneshwar to Sant Tukaram.
- In 1685, Narayan Baba, Tukaram’s youngest son, introduced a change in the dindi-wari tradition by creating the Palkhi as a symbol of social respect.
- He placed Tukaram’s silver padukas in the Palkhi and carried his dindi (procession) to Alandi, where he added Dnyaneshwar’s padukas to the same Palkhi.
- This tradition of twin Palkhis continued annually, but disputes arose within Tukaram’s family in 1830 regarding rights and privileges.
- Subsequently, some thoughtful individuals decided to discontinue the twin Palkhi tradition and organized separate Palkhis: Tukaram Palkhi from Dehu (Pune) and Dnyaneshwar Palkhi from Alandi (Pune).
- Since then, both Palkhis meet briefly in Pune before diverging at Hadapsar and reuniting at Wakhri, a village near Pandharpur.
Who are Varkaris?
- Varkaris are a Hindu religious sect devoted to the worship of Vithoba, considered an incarnation of Krishna.