In times when technology has gained god-like presence and ‘virtualility’ is defining areas of human connectivity for millions of Indians today, I am amazed to witness a level of spiritual and human connection coming in the form of age-old trad ition of Palkis followed in Maharashtra every year. The Warkaris (worshippers) have been following the tradition of carrying Palkis for more than six hundred years!
A palki (palanquin) is a covered chair on four poles commonly used in India to carry idols or the sandals of saints (known as padukas) on pilgrimages. Over two hundred thousand people from around Maharashtra are known to march through the city of Pune in small waris (processions). The popular saints (known as sants) of the Warkaris’ include Sant Dnyneshwar, Eknath, Tukaram and Shekuji Sanap who were popular among the commoners (varkaris) for their practice and teachings of devotion, conviction and equality in front of Lord Vitthal (God). Most of these saints are believed to have attained ‘Samadhi’ (a meditative state of body and mind ) in their life-time and their devoted followers like to participate in these Palkis as a mark of respect and devotion every year around the Hindu month of Aashad falling in June-July and in the month of Kartik in November-December.
Each Wari carries a unique Palkhi (palaquin) and covers hundreds of kilometers stalling at different local spots in Pune, before finally merging at Pandharpur. The warkari congregations usually include farmers and their families, though they are often joined by city folks during their passage through the city.
The collective singing, dancing, chanting, in what is known as Dindis, make an awesome sight to watch! In stark difference to city lives, the simplicity of the Warkaris bring humility to an otherwise progressive urban drive giving its people a chance to touch base and find roots in age-old traditions carried on since centuries—a living witness to historical Palkis enroute to Pandharpur!
For virtual Vaaris , technology can be a boon, especially for Indians (Marathis) living abroad. I believe they can connect to Palkis via a Facebook page dedicated to the palki processions updated with latest video footings and pictures every few hours. The page is a virtual dindi (procession) called Facebookaranchi Dindi.
Lasting for over 22-days, these palkis act as a great community builder in a world where most friends are being appreciated by likes on Facebook!
Your thoughts are welcome.
Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee) and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.