INDIA. Mumbai: With a large festival on Sunday at the Lord Vitthal shrine in Pandharpur, in the Solapur district of western Maharashtra, “Ashadi Ekadashi” was observed with tremendous religious fervour in Maharashtra and Goa.
Ekadashi is the eleventh lunar day of the fortnight which occurs twice every month and this day occurring in the month of “Ashadh” is believed to be the day when Lord Vishnu goes to sleep and wakes up after four months on “Prabodhini Ekadashi”.
These four months (Chaturmas) are considered to be a holy period in the Hindu calendar and fasting on “Ashadhi Ekadashi” or “Devshayani Ekadashi” is considered to be auspicious to seek blessings from Lord Vishnu and attain peace and serenity.
Over 12 lakh pilgrims carrying images of Sant Tukaram and Sant Dnyaneshwar in palanquins reached Pandharpur after a 21-day grueling tour covering a 250 km long route by marching on foot to Pandharpur.
Sant Tukaram’s Palanquin began its journey on June 20 from Dehu (Pune) while the palanquin of Sant Dnyaneshwar proceeded towards Pandharpur on June 21 from Alandi (Pune).
The annual “puja” of Lord Vitthal in Pandharpur town commences every year in late June, with lakhs of devotees reaching Pandharpur from different parts of the state, and also from neighbouring Goa, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. The devotees are warmly welcomed by villagers all along the routes.
The devotees, sporting holy basil beads, sing the glory of Lord Vithoba and other saints, and the march finally culminates at Pandharpur on the auspicious Ashadhi Ekadashi.
Considered over seven centuries old, the Pandharpur Ashadi Ekadashi pilgrimage (Wari in Marathi) has been honoured by the UK’s World Book of Records for being one of the most visited places on a single day.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde performed the annual official Maha Puja of Lord Vitthal along with his wife Lata at 3.10 am on Sunday. Shinde’s father Sambhaji, son Shiv Sena MP Shrikant Shinde, and Eknath Shinde’s grand son Rudransh participated in the puja.
Shri Vitthal Rukmini Mandir Samiti Chairman Gahninath Maharaj, Solapur District Collector Milind Shambharkar, Superintendent of Police Tejasvi Satpute, Zilla Parishad CEO Dilip Swami, and others were present.
As per the custom, the honour of performing puja along with the CM, was given to the couple- Murli Bhagwan Navale (52) and Jijabai Murli Navale (47) the residents of Gevrai (Beed district).
There was a heavy crowd to take a holy bath in the Chandrabhaga river and the devotees waited for 7 to 8 hours to have a darshan of the Lord Vitthal. Those wanting to seek blessings by touching the feet of the Vitthal idol had to wait for over 12 hours.
After the puja, Shinde also performed the bhumi puja of the proposed International ISKCON temple being set on a sprawling 15-acre land up at Pandharpur. The temple will be equipped with a host of facilities including “Gurukul”, “Bhakta Niwas”, dormitories, and other facilities.
In Mumbai, the devotees in large numbers thronged the 400-year-old Vitthal temple located at Wadala in Central Mumbai on the occasion of Ashadhi Ekadashi. The crowds of devotees were also seen in other temples in the city.