What do you get when you mix one of the worlds most densely populated countries, with probably the most number of festivals in the world, plus a tradition nurtured for more than a thousand years.Guess. A sight more than two eyes-full and a scale of events astounding in complexity !!
India (quiet obviously) is home to some of the most enormous gatherings in the world. The one I had witnessed called ‘Sant Dnyaneshwar palki’ was a rather small one with twelve lakh pilgrims from all over the state. The biggest is by far the ‘Maha-kumbh’ held every twelve years, which attracts crores of pilgrims from all over the country. Here, in India even a wedding can easily attract a few hundred guests, and we sure love our thirty three crore gods and goddesses and equally varied festivals.
This is where the spectacle of the ‘Sant Dnyaneshwar palki’ unfolds in full splendor. The history in brief is : The palki is a vehicle in which the idol of saint Dnyaneshwar is carried from a place called Alandi to Pandharpur , about 250km away. In all, four such palkis begin their journey from different places and end in Pandharpur at the auspicious time of full moon called ‘Ashad Ekadashi’. Scores of pilgrims ( The Warkaris) join the procession carrying their local deities with them and traverse the whole journey on feet.
The pilgrims are faced with challenging weather, hunger, and physical ailments. They are generally villagers, old only by age not by spirit. The complete procession is full of songs and chants, dances and performances and an ever increasing faith in the almighty.
It was surprising to see pilgrims from across age groups and lifestyles. In times when we urbanites can’t breathe at peace without our air conditioners and sedans, the kids in the pilgrimage was a sight to be inspired by.
This picture actually had to wait a year to become a part of the this story. The last time I had missed the event and could only manage a portrait (which eventually got published in a magazine !)
a closer look shows us the penance behind the frolics. The pilgrims have shunned alcohol, non vegetarian food, wealth and other luxuries of life and accepted the path of devotion.
and the Palki arrives..!!!
This is the moment we all had been waiting for. The holy vehicle carrying the idol of sant dnyaneshwar finally arrives. it is followed by a sea of pilgrims. The complete moment is a blur. The palki comes and goes really fast with people running after it to catch a glimpse and touch it if possible.
With this the spectacle comes to an end..what a day .!! I had only witnessed a small part of the big story. A story full of devotion, faith, hope and enjoyment. The palki will now rest for a day in the town below. Here the whole town will be lit up like a festival the whole night. there will be lots of celebrations, also, public work and charity. This whole event is co-ordinated by the local folks without the use of todays hi tech gadgetry. Less money and lots of volunteer work and charity is involved in making the event come to life.
From photography point of view, it was a steep learning curve for me. This time I decided to step out of the cozy shelter of Av and Tv settings and switch to manual. Though I learnt a lot, but at the cost of some really good photographs. Besides, the light also was not all that welcoming to photographers. Strong shadows, dry backdrops and hazy low contrast landscape and hot weather was all I had to choose from. But in the end, it was a really fulfilling exercise. I had missed it last time real close, so I made it a point to cover it this time, and only came back asking for more.
I am glad that I got the opportunity to share a few steps with the Warkaris, I hope their blessings rub a little on me too 🙂
As always..comments and critique invited.
Thanks a lot for dropping by..