Ashadhi Ekadashi is also known as Shayani Ekadashi or Maha-ekadashi or Prathama ekadashi or Padma Ekadashi is the eleventh lunar day (Ekadashi) of the bright fortnight (Shukla paksha) of the Hindu month of Ashadha (June – July). Thus it is also known as Ashadhi. This holy day is of special significance to Vaishnavas, followers of Hindu preserver god Vishnu. On this day idols of Vishnu and Lakshmi are worshipped, the entire night is spent singing prayers, and devotees keep fast and take vows on this day, to be observed during the entire chaturmas, the holy four month period of rainy season. These may include, giving up a food item or fasting on every Ekadashi day.
It is believed that Vishnu falls asleep (called – Yoga-Nidra) in Ksheersagar – cosmic ocean of milk – on Shesha nāga, the cosmic serpent. Thus the day is also called Dev-Shayani Ekadashi or Hari-shayani Ekadashi or Shayana Ekadashi. Vishnu finally awakens from his slumber four months later on Prabodhini Ekadashi – eleventh day of bright fortnight in the Hindu month Kartik (October-November). This period is known as Chaturmas (“four months”) and coincides with the rainy season. Thus, Shayani Ekadashi is the beginning of Chaturmas. Devotees start observing the Chaturmas vrata (vow) to please Vishnu on this day.
A fast is observed on Shayani Ekadashi. The fast demands abstainance from all grains, beans, cereals, certain vegetables like onions and certain spices and all kinds of eggs and non-veg.
Why Ekadashi is so important?
The proportion of satva,raja,tama components in every organism varies according to time/season (samay/kal).On the eleventh day of each Hindu lunar fortnights, the satva component is maximum in all living beings. So it benefits the most if spiritual practice is done on an ekadashi day.
VARI means regular visiting of particular (religious) place. Vari of Pandharpur means to walk from one’s own house to Pandharpur for Lord and return back to house. The person who goes on this type of vari pilgrimage of pilgrim Pandharpur is called a Varkari (the follower of the pilgrimage).
The Varkari goes on this vari for several times in a year Varkari follows particular spiritual and moral code of conduct which is way of a life for him. He remains satisfied in whatever life condition he is in believing that the Lord has chosen that for him. He keeps his low level of consumption believing that Lord is taking care of him. He rather looks after others who are really needy in terms of food, shelter, thirst and cloths believing that he is serving Lord’s purpose. Any woman around is treated as a mother of his own, no hatred of any living being is carried because he believes that all are the different forms of the one Lord only.
Varkari always follows the erudite and spiritual companion of saints so that he can get guidance of peaceful life; he also follows the regular recitation of Shrimadbhagavdagita for spiritual progression. He always remembers the Lord during all his activities and follows a disciplined family life so that he can achieve spiritual emancipation. In addition to this he remains a lifetime devotee of Lord Vitthal. This is how the life of any Varkari is defined.
The conglomeration of many Varkari is conventionally called Dindi. They make group to go on Vari in which they enjoy music and dance to express the feeling of devotion to Lord Vitthal.
In the Marathi month of Ashadh shukla ekadashi many such Dindis come from almost every village, town and city of the Maharashtra to Pandharpur to visit the Lord Pandurang and express their devotion to him. Dindis strictly follow the pattern of walking only to come to meet the Lord in Pandharpur that is why they take fifteen to twenty days to reach in Pandharpur. It becomes a kind of spiritual celebration all over Maharashtra.
Significance of Pandarpur Yatra
Pandharpur yatra is belived to be done from more than 700 years.It is believed that in 13th century,the parents of Saint Dnyaneshwar started this pilgrimage which was later on popularised by Saint Dnyaneshwar. Later on in the year 1685,Saint Narayan Maharaj,the son of Saint Tukaram started this pilgrimage as ‘waari’ of current trend.
In ancient time public transport system was not available, so groups of people used to go to Pandharpur by walking. However, a proper disciplining of Vari pilgrimage was brought about by Haibatbaba Araphalkar, a knight of Shinde dynasty of Gwalior. He started the tradition of taking the paduka (sleepers) of Saint Dnyaneshvar to Pandharpur along with Dindi. Saint Tukaram was also a Varkari. His son is known to have started the tradition of taking paduka of Saint Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram to Pandharpur in Dindi around AD 1685. These are two major traditions of Vari and Dindi.
Pandharpur Yatra takes place twice in a year one during Ashadhi Ekadasi (June – July) and another during Kartik Ekadasi (October -November). Pandharpur Yatra is a classic example of unparalleled devotion to a personal deity, a great aspect of Bhakti sect.The Yatra is attracting more and more pilgrims every year. Pilgrims of all ages,young and old walk for kilometers barefooted singing the holy songs.Since thispilgrimage is done on foot, it is considered as physical penance,which purifies the physical body.
Pandharpur is located in Solapur District of Maharashtra. The main Pandharpur Yatra starts from Dehu in Pune District. From there it travels to Pune city, Alandi and finally the 21 day trek ends on the previous day of Ashadhi Ekadasi at Pandharpur.
The main Pandharpur Yatra starts from the Sant Tukaram Temple at Dehu. The waarkaris or pilgrims follow the Tukaram Maharaj Palkhi procession.This main procession is joined by other palkhis from other towns and villages.Some of them carry ‘Palkis'(palanquins) with the image of a saint.Saint Dnaneshwar’s image is carried from Alandi, Tukaram’s image is carried from Dehu, Eknath’s from Paithan, Nivruttinath’s from Trimbakeshwar, Muktabai’s from Edlabad and Sopan’s from Sasvad.
Thousands of pilgrims called ‘warkaris’, walk all the way from Alandi to Pandharpur while singing the devotional songs,’Bhajans, of Pandurang (Vithoba).This is called as ‘waari’ which is a 21 days trek and culminates on the Ashadhi Ekadashi day at Pandharpur.The Pandharpur Yatra to the Vithoba temple at Pandarpur is an unparalleled pilgrimage that breaks the barriers of caste, creed, rich and poor.
Jay Jay Ram Krushna Hari