Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Monday, December 5, 2022

Pandharpur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pandharpur is a well known pilgrimage town on the banks of Bhimā River in Solāpur district, Maharashtra. It is considered to be the religious and spiritual capital of the state due to the hallowed presence of the Vithoba Temple. This magnificent temple is the abode of Lord Pandurang, Vitthal or Pandhari, who is revered as the Supreme God of the Universe. The deity is an Avatar of Lord Krishna. The Vithoba temple attracts about a million Hindu pilgrims during the major yātrā (pilgrimage) in the month of Ashadh (June–July). 

 

 

The legends associated with Lord Vitthala in Pandharpur Temple have been mentioned in the Skanda Puranam, Sthala Puranam, Padma Puranam and the Panduranga Mahatmya. All these legends are centered on one individual named as Pundalik. There are several versions of legends associated with Pundalik and Lord Vitthala. 

 

 

Pundalik - a great devotee of Vishnu lived here with his parents. One day Lord Vishnu came to visit him, but Pundalik who was serving his parents, couldn’t attend to Lord Vishnu and instead asked him to stand on a brick outside the house, so that his feet would not get muddy, as it was beginning of the monsoons. 

 

 

Seeing this act, Vishnu was extremely impressed and the ever-loving God waited for his devotee. When Pundalik came out, he begged for pardon but far from being displeased, Vishnu was taken over by Pundalik's love for his parents and granted a boon. Pundalik requested Vishnu to stay back on Earth and bless all his true devotees. He agreed to take the form of Vithoba, or God who stood upon a brick, and a temple came up there. 

 

 

Two major sects of the Bhakti movement have always been associated with the worship of Vitthala. These are the Varkari sect of Maharashtra and the Haridasa sampradaya of Karnataka. Saints like Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram, Eknath, Namdev, Purandara Dasa, Vijaya Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa all have been known devotees of Vitthala and have popularised the worship of Vitthala in Maharashtra and Karnataka. All the songs created by the Haridasas usually end with the suffix Vitthala and the Purandara Vitthala title in Purandara dasa is widely believed to refer to the Vitthala idol in Pandharpur. 

 

 

The temple was built in the Hemadpanthi style of architecture by the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana. Hemadpanthi style of architecture is known for its construction using limestone and soil. This architecture is named after a prime minister, Hemadpant, from the court of Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri. This style of architecture became prominent in the 13th century and there are a lot of temples in Maharashtra built in this style. 

 

 

The Pandharpur Temple is huge with six entrances. The eastern entrance is called the Namdev gate or the Mahadwaara. The Samadhi of Saint Namdev and Saint Chokoba is situated here. The famed “Namdev Chi Payari” step is the first step out of 12 steps that one must climb to reach the Samadhi. 

 

 

The first step of the temple is named after the greatest devotee called Namdev and the step is called Namdev Chi Payari, meaning step of Namdev. It is said that as a kid, Namdev came to the temple to offer oblation to the Lord. When the Lord did not appear in front of him, he banged his head non-stop on the first step until he bled profusely. The Lord appeared and ate the oblation and coined the step as Namdev Chi Payari. 

 

 

The Pandharpur Temple has a Mandap in the beginning consisting of a Nagarkhana where various musical instruments are placed. Two Deepmalas can be seen in the west that is lit during festive occasions. The Chowk is lined on both sides with rooms for resident devotees. The Mandap also has shrines dedicated to Garuda and Hanuman. The chowk leads to the Solakhambi Mandap meaning a Mandap with sixteen pillars. The beautiful chamber is engraved with Krishna Lilas and the Avatars of Lord Vishnu. The entrance to the shrine is through a silver door named as the Rupyacha Darwaja. 

 

 

A few steps will lead to the shrine of Lord Vithoba where his face is clearly visible to all his devotees. The devotees are allowed to touch the feet of the Lord and a queue is maintained for this. There are also small shrines dedicated to Lord Hanuman and Lord Garuda right in front of the main Vithoba temple. 

 

 

The idol of the deity Vitthala or Vithoba is made of black stone three and a half feet tall. The idol has a Shivalinga on his head and the Kaustubha Mani around the neck. The idol is placed in front of a Prabhaval, a silver plate in the sanctum. 

 

 

Several smaller shrines dedicated to Lord Ganapathi, Garuda, Lord Krishna’s consorts Rukmini, Sathyabama and Radha, Kashi Vishwanath, Lord Rama and Lakshman, Kalabhairav, Dattatreya, and Narsoba are present inside the Pandharpur Temple Complex. 

 

 

 

 

Festivals celebrated at Pandharpur Temple 

 

 

 

  • Ashadi Ekadasi or the Shayani Ekadasi – The grand religious procession is celebrated in the month of Ashadha (June – July). The festivities begin on the eleventh day of the month. It is believed that Lord Vishnu falls asleep on the day in the Ksheersagar while lying on the back of the Shesha Naga on this day. The Ksheersagar is the Ocean of Milk that denotes the Milky way that surrounds the directional space. It is also the place where Lord Vishnu reclines over the Shesha Naga and plans to churn the ocean to reveal its Amrit and other miracles. Hundreds of devotees from Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh walk from their homes to the Pandharpur Temple carrying a Palkhi with the “Padukas” or the “Feet” of the Lord. They do so amidst singing bhajans and songs in the praise of Lord. This journey is called the Dindi Yatra. During the Yatra, the devotees perform charity work for the poor and the needy like Annadanam, repair work, medical help, and building work

 

  • Prabodhini Ekadasi – The Varkaris offer Poojas at the Pandharpur Vitthal Temple on the 11th day of the Kartik month (November – December), exactly four months after the Shayani Ekadasi. It is believed that Lord Vishnu wakes up from his slumber on this day in the Ksheersagar during the Samudra Manthan episode in mythology

 

  • The Magha Ekadasi and the Chaithra Ekadasi are also celebrated by the Varkaris especially. They arrive at the Pandharpur Temple in large numbers during these days and receive the blessings of their beloved Lord

 

  • Besides the Ekadasis, Holi, Deepavali, and Dussehra are also celebrated with great pomp and fare. The Pandharpur Temple is decorated and special Poojas are performed for the Lord on these days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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