INDIA. Mumbai: The “Ashadhi Ekadashi”, the eleventh lunar day of the Hindu calendar month “Ashadh” was celebrated in Maharashtra and neighbouring Goa, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh, amid COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday.
“Chaturmas, a holy period of four months in Hindu calendar, starts from the “Ashadi Ekadashi when it is believed that Lord Vishnu goes to sleep and wakes up after four months on “Prabodhini Ekadashi”. The “Ashadi Ekadashi, is also known as “Devshayani Ekadashi, “ Padma Ekadashi” and “Hari Shayani Ekadashi”.
The Shukla Paksha, the bright fortnight, one of the two lunar phases, occurs in “Ashadha” (June-July). This holy day is of special significance to Vaishnavas, followers of Lord Vishnu. On this day images of Vishnu and Lakshmi are worshipped and devotees observe fast. The fast demands abstinence from all grains, beans, cereals, certain vegetables like onions, and certain spices.
Lord Vithoba is the reigning deity of Maharashtra, considered as a manifestation of Lord Vishnu or his Avatar, Krishna. The Vithoba temple is located at Pandharpur, on the banks of the Chandrabhaga river, in the Solapur district in South Maharashtra. It is the most sought-after place for the people of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Vithoba is the focus of an essentially monotheistic, non-ritualistic Bhakti-driven “Varkari” faith of Maharashtra and the Haridasa faith of Karnataka.
Every year an official puja of Vithoba is performed by Maharashtra Chief Minister. This year Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, accompanied by his wife Rashmi Thackeray, performed puja at 3.40 am on Tuesday. His son Aditya Thackeray, a Maharashtra Minister, Solapur Guardian Minister Dattatraya Bharne, his wife Sarika Bharne, and Shiv Sena secretary Milind Narvekar were present. The Varkari couple from Wardha -Keshav and Indumati Kolte, was felicitated by Thackeray. Keshav has been serving as a weaver in the Vithoba temple for the last 20 years. While Thackeray prayed for the all-around prosperity of people, Keshav prayed for well being of all and prayed to the lord to ward off COVID-19. Thackeray also unveiled 31 water images of Vithoba on the occasion.
Every year lakhs of devotees from their villages, used to trudge to Pandharpur. Most of them carrying “Varis” (palanquins with the images of the saints of Maharashtra). Saint Dnyaneshwar’s image is carried from Alandi, Sopan’s from Saswad, Tukaram from Dehu(all three in Pune district). Namdev’s image from Narsi Namdev Sansthan (Hingoli), Eknath from Paithan( Aurangabad), Nivruttinath’s from Trimbkeshwar (Nashik), Muktabai’s from Muktainagar(Jalgaon), and Saint Gajanan Maharaj from Shegaon (Buldhana). These pilgrims are referred to as Varkaris. They sing Abhangas (chanting hymns) of Saint Tukaram and Saint Dnyaneshwar, dedicated to Vithoba.
However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 10 “Varis” were allowed this year. Besides they were made to travel by special “Shivshahi” buses arranged by the state government. A curfew has already been imposed in Solapur till July 24, 2021.
In Mumbai, the Ashadhi Ekadashi was celebrated in the 400-year-old Vitthal Mandir, located at Wadala in Central Mumbai. Similarly, the Ashadhi Ekadashi was celebrated at Madhav Baug Laxminarayan Temple in South Mumbai. The temple is closed due to lockdown and a vaccination center is being run in the temple complex. To mark the Ashadhi Ekadashi, BJP Corporator Atul Shah distributed “Tusli’ (Basil) saplings to the people and urged them to grow more plants to maintain ecological balance in the city. The saplings were distributed at the hands of former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya. He also garlanded the bust of Sheth Varujivandas Madhavdas, the founder of Madhav Baug Temple On the occasion.