Covid-19: Warkari sect seeks Maharashtra govt's nod for pilgrimage to Pandharpur

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on June 14, 2021

Seeks permission to allow 50 members of them to travel on foot by following Covid protocol.

The Vishwa Warkari Sena (VWS), one of the representatives of the Warkari sect, has given an ultimatum of June 24 to the Maharashtra Government for allowing at least 50 members of the sect to conduct the annual pilgrimage to Pandharpur town on foot.

Warkari sect has deep roots in rural Maharashtra. Every year for the last 700 years, the sect has been conducting a 21-day pilgrimage, which converges on the Vithoba temple in Pandharpur town in Solapur district. About two million pilgrims visit Pandharpur on Ashadi Ekadashi (sacred day), which usually falls in July. This year Ashadi Ekadashi falls on July 20.

However, due to the Covid pandemic, the Maharashtra Government has denied pilgrimage on foot and have only permitted 80 pilgrims to travel in buses to Pandharpur. Last year also similar arrangements were made.

Willing to follow Covid protocol

Founder and President of VWS Ganesh Maharaj Shete told BusinessLine that pilgrimage on foot and visiting the temple on Ashadi Ekadashi is the very soul of the Warkari sect. The 50 pilgrims on foot will represent millions of followers of the sect. They are willing to follow all the rules and restrictions of social distancing,

If such permission is not provided, then numerous followers of the sect could spontaneously start from their villages and come to Pandharpur. It will become the State Government’s responsibility to conduct the pilgrimage and maintain Covid norms, he said.

The Warkari sect is socially well-connected with the agrarian society in Maharashtra. It has a major political influence in rural areas of the State. The pilgrimage also draws lakhs of people from the neighbouring states.

Rambhau Chopdar, who is the hereditary administrator of the pilgrims from Alandi town, near Pune, said that the 50 pilgrims would travel from the route, which has very little human habitation, they will carry their own food, water and rations and will not stay in villages, which fall on the route. The pilgrims are even willing to shorten the pilgrimage from 21 to 10 days, but he said it should be on foot.

Alandi town near Pune has been the traditional starting point of pilgrimage.

Published on June 14, 2021

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