About Waari Tradition
Waari: It is a holy pilgrimage in Maharashtra (India) and the participants in the Waari are called ‘Waarakaris’

It’s a vision that would melt the heart of the staunchest atheist. And it must be one of its kinds in the world; at one time, millions of people walk in Waari- a holy pilgrimage by Hindus. It’s perhaps, the world’s longest pilgrimage. Remarkable, in over 700 years of waari tradition, no stampede or chaos has ever taken place.

Waari is undertaken in the Hindu month of Aashaadh (around June-July). Every year, millions of devotees walk along the 250 km route from Aalandi (near Pune, India) to PandharPur (near Solapur, Southern Maharashtra ). There are other groups also walking from southern states of India like Karnataka, Andhara Pradesh etc. They walk with one focus and that is to reach PandharPur and offer their respects to Lord Vitthal (reincarnation of Hindu God Vishnu).

The waarkaris (pilgrims) are mainly agriculturists and the majority of them are poor. After traveling for almost 15-20 days, devotees reach PandharPur to meet their favorite God, Vitthal. A chain of millions of men, women and children walking for miles with non-stop chants of Gyaanbaa-Tukaaraam on their lips, is an incredible spectacle.

References of waari can be found as far back as one thousand years. Nobody knows anything about the original waarkaris. According to an account, parents of Saint Dnyaneshwar (13th century) undertook this pilgrimage and he followed the steps later. When Sant Dnyaneshwar undertook this tradition, Waarakaris (worshippers) rendered traditional songs called Abhanga all along the route. He used to walk barefoot with a flag in his hands, keeping his fast throughout the journey.

A small group of waarakaris is called a Dindi. All dindis combined is called Waari. Seven centuries have passed, but worshippers from all the corners of Maharashtra still go for this holy journey. Most waarkaris observe fast. Some of them even walk barefoot; a spiritual belief propagating that the path to reach God is chock-a-block with obstacles and hardships. Devotees of all age groups form the Dindi and celebrate abandoning all tensions and problems. All the worshippers reach their destination; in spiritual terms “God”, “Happiness” and “Freedom”.

In 1685, Naaraayan Baabaa, the youngest son of Saint Tukaram and a man of innovative spirit decided to bring about a change in the Waari tradition by introducing the Paalkhi (palanquin), which is a sign of social respect. He put the silver paadukaas (footwear) of Saint Tukaram in the Palkhi and proceeded with his dindi to Aalandi where he put the paadukaas of Saint Dnyaaneshwar in the same Paalkhi. This tradition of twin Palkhis continued, but further, they formed two separate Palkhis - Tukaram Palkhi from Dehu and the Dnyaneshwar Palkhi from Aalandi.

Still, both the Paalkhis meet in Pune for a brief halt and then walk together to PandharPur.
Along with times, the popularity of this ancient tradition soared. And a total of over 40 Palkhis, including Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram, visit Pandharpur every year. Every year nearly 300 registered Dindis (it’s more if one counts the unregistered Dindis) and nearly Three lakh devotees march along the route to Pandharpur.

Moreover, there are Dindees from other states like Karnaatak, Andhra, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Gujrath etc.

Many join from western countries like UK, France, Germany and USA. They all surely get amazed looking at huge mass of people immersed in devotion towards Lord Vittal and walking hundreds of kilometers in utter discipline. They have shared their experiences of enjoining this universal spirit of this tradition.