How RSS gave a new dimension to Maharashtra’s Warkari Tradition!

Maharashtra was experiencing bad sanitary conditions as a result of the spiritual journey of many Warkaris, which has been managed and organized by linking to government campaigns and with the help of the RSS, and other volenteers, who changed the whole scenario. Read full story here.

Bharat (India) is based on religious and spiritual values. The followed practices are intended to promote peace, uplift one another, share and care, love, and happy life. Maharashtra has a number of religious and spiritual organizations; one such organization is Warkari Sampraday. Though it is well-known throughout Maharashtra, Warkari Sampraday received international attention when PM Modi attended a function in Dehu on June 14, 2022

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Author: Pankaj Jagannath Jayswal

In Maharashtra, the Warkari tradition has been a part of Hindu culture since the thirteenth century CE, when it was formed as a Panth (a community of people sharing spiritual beliefs and practices). Approximately fifty poet-saints of the Warkari tradition were documented in a hagiography by Mahipati in the eighteenth century. These saints are regarded as descendants of the same spiritual line in the Warkari tradition.

The Warkari movement includes the worship of Bhagwan Vithoba and a duty-based approach to life that emphasizes moral behavior and the strict avoidance of alcohol and tobacco, the adoption of a sattvic diet and fasting on Ekadashi day (twice a month), self-restraint (celibacy) during student life, equality and humanity for all rejecting discrimination based on caste.

The Warkari men are distinguished by three upright brow lines, a black between two white “Gopichandan” or white clay and sandal-paste lines that are also popular among other Vaishnavaite devotees. The Warkaris wear Tulasi-mala, a rosary made of the sacred Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum L.) plant’s wood.

Varkaris regard God as the Ultimate Truth and have established social values, but they accept ultimate equality among men. Varkaris bow to each other because “everyone is Brahma,” and they emphasize individual sacrifice, forgiveness, simplicity, peaceful coexistence, compassion, nonviolence, love, and humility in social life. The Warkari poet-saints are famous for their devotional lyrics, known as “Abhang”, which are dedicated to Bhagwan Vithoba and written in Prakrut Marathi. Haridasa’s Kannada hymns and Marathi versions of generic aarti songs associated with rituals of offering light to the deity are examples of devotional literature. Famous Warkari saints and gurus include Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Chokhamela, Eknath, and Tukaram, all of whom are given the title of Sant.

Warkari people make an annual pilgrimage to Pandharpur on Ekadashi (the 11th day) of the Hindu lunar calendar month of Ashadha, which corresponds to the date between late June and July in the Gregorian calendar. Pilgrims transport saints’ Palkhi from their places of Samadhi (Enlightenment or “spiritual birth”). In 1685, Tukaram’s youngest son, Narayan Maharaj, began the tradition of carrying the saint’s paduka (sandals) in a Palkhi. In the 1820s, descendants of Tukaram and Haibatravbaba, a Scindia courtier and Dnyaneshwar devotee made further changes to the pilgrimage.

Prior to the 14th century, Vitthal devotees held pilgrimages. Approximately 40 palkis and their devotees from Maharashtra do so today. Another pilgrimage is held on the Ekadashi of Kartika, which falls in November according to the Gregorian calendar.

During the pilgrimage, events such as Ringan and Dhava are held. During the Ringan, an unmounted sacred horse called Maulincha Ashva (God’s horse), who is thought to be the saint’s soul runs through the rows of pilgrims, who try to catch the dust particles kicked off and smear it on their heads. Dhava is another type of race in which everyone wins, and it is held to commemorate the way Tukaram Maharaj first saw the temple at Pandharpur and began running in exhilaration.

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Nirmal Wari

The real challenge, however, is maintaining sanitary conditions. The thousands of people walking towards Pandharpur, where Bhagwan Vithoba lives, and gathering in an unbelievable number on Ashadhi Ekadashi used to create unsanitary conditions, causing disease spread and bad odor for many days in the villages en route to Pandharpur and finally Pandharpur. Few people raised this issue and demanded that “Wari” be stopped.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, this is the mantra of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteers, with their associated organization “Seva Sahyog,” a pilot project with the name “Nirmal Wari” was initiated in the year 2015 in three villages using portable toilets, it was quite successful, then Pandharpur CEO Tukaram Mundhe and CM Devendra Fadanvis helped this initiative, which is also a goal of our PM Narendra Modi under “Swakshh Bharat Abhiyan”. The Nirmal Wari Abhiyan is gaining traction, with over 28000 toilets and over 12000 Swayamsevaks (volunteers) working on it in a systematic manner. Wari’s planning begins six months before the event.

Over the last four years, more than four crore liters of human waste have been converted and used as organic fertilizer in farming. The RSS and other volunteers’ initiative and commitment changed the entire scenario of Wari. Diseases and unsanitary conditions have decreased dramatically, schools and colleges do not need to be closed, and the environment is being protected.

The joy of “Warkaris” multiplied, and most importantly, the cultural and religious activity that has been going on for over 700 years continued.

Vitthal Vitthal Jai Hari Vitthal!!

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Palkhi

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