Every year, in the Ashadh month, a multitude of devotees across Maharashtra take a 21-day pilgrimage on foot to the Vithoba temple, to worship Vitthala, “the one who stands on a brick”. The God’s name comes from a legend that sees the God paying a visit to a common man, Pundalik, and instead of being worshiped or acknowledged is left waiting outside the man’s door on a brick, while the latter is taking care of his parents. Vitthala instead of getting irritated, highly praised the intense devotion and sense of duty of Pundalik towards his parents, the God’s act is a demonstration of his compassion and infinite love towards his bhaktas, devotees.
It is exactly following the steps and teachings of Vitthala that the pilgrims, still today, embark on this long journey. This holy pilgrimage, in fact, was entirely an initiative of the people, moved by great devotion and love. As a matter of fact, Wari helps people acquire peace and introspection, pay a tribute to the Marathi culture, and obtain a greater purpose in life. Other than this, the celebration is open to anybody from anywhere and from any caste, launching a message of unity and non-discrimination. During these days, since a lot of the devotees come from rural agrarian backgrounds, people help each other as much as possible by giving each other food, clothes, medicines and support of any kind.
Wari can be considered an annual festival of joy, during the pilgrimage countless saffron flags flutters in the air, men wear their colourful turbans and white Gandhi caps, veena, mridangam and other instruments are played, women walk with pots of water or tulsi plants balanced on their heads, multiple stops along the way are elaborately adorned with flowers and ornaments, and loud melodious chanting of the pilgrims fill the path.
As witnessed by one of the pilgrims, “This pilgrimage is everything for us. Every year we only wait for these days to meet our beloved Vithu Mauli. The idea of taking students to the temple is to ensure that the legacy continues”. Therefore, even though collective singing, dancing and chanting are the essence of the Wari, a spirit of togetherness, compassion and unconditional love is what characterize this tradition.
To get an idea of the Pandharpur Wari and its indescribable atmosphere I suggest watching this short video.