Vitthal temple, Pandharpur is the main centre of worship for the Hindu deity Vitthal.
Vitthal Temple is the most visited temple in Maharastra. The Warkaris start marching from their homes to the Vitthal 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.
In May 2014, the temple became first in India to invite women and people from backward classes as priests
Namdev Chi Payari
An interesting tale is that of the Vitthal 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).
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”.
Ashadi Ekadasi is a religious procession and is celebrated during the months of June- July. It consists of a beautifully decorated Palkhi having the “padukas” of the lord Vitthal. And the Palkhi procession consists of people collectively walking, singing and dancing the glory of the Lord in what are called as ‘Dindis’.
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 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.
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.
Main entrance of Vitthal Temple is facing towards the Chandrabhaga or Bhima river. Samadhi of Namadev and Chockamela is at the entrance. Pilgrims will first pray to the Devotees and then enter the temple. Small Ganesh Shrine is present inside the temple as first Shrine. Then, a small hall where bhajans are performed. Small Shrine for Garuda and Hanuman facing Lord is in the same hall. Then, after climbing few steps, we can see the beautiful face of Lord Vittala. We can have this Mukha Darshan any time without standing in Queue. For, Padha Darshan (To touch the Lotus Feet of Lord), there is an entrance which leads to Queue Complex outside the temple.
How to get there
The driving distance between Mumbai and Pandharpur is 357 km, while the aerial distance from Mumbai to Pandharpur is 299 km. By Train it is 367 Km.
There are no flights between Mumbai to Pandharpur but there is 1 direct train from Mumbai to Pandharpur.
The driving distance between Pune to Pandharpur is 209 km viaNH 9. By Train it is 238 Km.
The driving distance between Kolhapur and Pandharpur is 180 km via NH 204, while the aerial distance from Kolhapur to Pandharpur is 157 km.
Best time to visit Pandharpur is from July to February.
October to February is ideal for sight seeing, temple visits and city activities.