pandharpur is the hidden gem of maharashtra. preserved safely in the hearts of millions of maharashtrain people. for many maharashrian people, it is must to visit this place once in a life time. i have heard that you get the benefit of all the tirth yatras you had done in your life, when you visit this place.
personally, i had never heard about pandharpur till few months ago when i saw the saint dnyaneshwar and saint tukaram movie. both these movies left such a deep impact in my heart that i went further to see many spiritual movies and also visited many temples of maharashtra. in fact, the idea of this blog came during these spiritual trips only. needless, to say that all this had an very deep impact on my consciousness and it brought a lot of transformation in my life. financially it was very draining but spiritually very rewarding.
after watching many movies of maharashtrian saints who are devotee of lord vitthal or panduranga, i always wanted to visit this mystical town of pandharpur which is blessed with the feet of so many saints and devotees. when i visited the temple, i thought that once upon a time saint dnyaneshwar or tukaram or namdev must have also visited this temple and seen what i am seeing today.
this is a special post for me as i will always be cherishing my visit to rukmani vitthal temple in pandharpur and the peace which i experienced inside the temple. now also when i recollect, i feel i am sitting inside the temple courtyard.
pandharpur is the most important and one of the oldest pilgrimage center of maharashra. the whole bhakti movement of maharashtra is centered around lord vitthal. vitthal is a mischievous form of krishna (vishnu) in child form. he blesses his devotees in his own mischievous ways. he is mischievous but compassionate and always protects his devotees. there are stories of so many saints who have been blessed with his presence. who have played with him, seen him, worshipped him and are blessed by him.
vitthal has inspired devotion in the heart of many pious souls and saints. many songs have been written and sung in his glory. the foremost saints connected with lord vitthal are saint dnyaneshwar, tukaram, namdev, gora kumbhar, chokhamela, narahari, kanhopatra, muktai and so on. when you talk about lord vitthal then it is must to write about varkari sect and dindi yatra which takes place during ashadh (june–july) month.
saint gyaneshwar is one of the foremest saint of maharashtra who translated geeta in to marathi language at the age of 16 and took samadhi at the early age of 21. he started the varkari sect. varkari sect people are pure vegetarian (they don’t even eat onions and garlic) and are devotee of lord vitthal. simple, honest and god loving people, thats how i will describe the people of varkari sect. if you have heard about mumbai dabbawalas, they are mostly from varkari sect.
the varkari sect takes a dindi yatra to pandharpur during ashadh (june–july) month. thats the best time to visit pandharpur. because it is said that lord vitthal had promised tukaram that whoever will come to pandharpur during ashadh month will be blessed by lord vitthal and rukmani ma. so lakhs of devotees make it a point to visit the temple during that time. there is a big queue for darshan during ekadashi days.
the idea of this dindi yatra came from lord dhaneshwar and saint tuka ram who had set out on a pilgrimage to lord vittala from their respective places and reached the pandharpur in fifteen days time on the auspicious day of ashadi ekadasi. thus the tradition of dindi yatra began. the yatra has remained unbroken since it began despite wars, famines and floods. since the most saints advocated the bhakti/devotion marg. so there is lot of bhajan and kirtan during this yatra. ‘jai jai ram krishna hari’ is the main chant. every year, the palkhi of around 68 saints comes to pandharpur from all over maharashtra. the palkhi contains the paduka of holy saints and the procession of singing and dancing people of varkari sect.
there are two type of darshan in rukmani vitthal temple:
1. mukh darshan – its from a distance like 30-40 feets. on special days like ekadashi or dasara, when there is a big crowd then people go for mukh darshan. during ashadh ekadasi, it might take 1 to 2 hour in queue for mukh darshan. but you are only allowed to see only small part of temple and you will miss other small temples like satyabhama temple, tirupati temple, lakshmi devi etc.
2. sparsh darshan – you can actually touch the feet of lord vitthal and take his blessings. on normal days, there will be a small queue of 5 to 20 minutes. but on special days, there could be a big queue for sparsh darshan. e.g. when i visited during dusshera (2014) there was a queue for 3-4 hours. whereas for mukh darshan the line was for 2 minutes. i have heard that during asadha ekadashi, you might have to stand/sit in queue for 2 days.
in sparsh darshan, you can see the whole temple. rukmani devi is the consort of lord vitthal in the temple. satyabhama is also married to lord krishna.
how to visit pandharpur:
1. distance from pune – 208 km (via pune solapur highway. very good highway condition as of oct 2014). pune is the nearest airport.
2. distance from solapur – 69 km (in car, it actually it takes one hour as the roads are very good). nearest city with good hotels.
3. distance from kolhapur – 181 km via NH 204. (route via sangli was not good during oct 2014. take the sangli route only if you want to visit narsobadi wadi and ganesha temple on the way).
4. distance from mumbai – 354 km.
5. distance from ratnagiri – 310 km
6. distance from nashik – 344 km
trains come from mumbai, lathur, osmanabad.
this mystical place is still untouched with modern way of living. its a small town situated at the bank of chandrabhaga/bhima river. the town is not maintained well. so don’t expect any good restaurant or hotel there. its a little sleepy town. don’t expect much cleanliness also. although i love facilities provided by city life. but in pandharpur i always thought that the people who stay here are blessed. they are living in the lap of lord vitthal and can visit the temple any time. but it often happens that something which is very near to us is taken for granted and usually ignored. there might be a popular temple in your city and you may not have bothered to visit it even once in a year. such are the strange ways of life !!!
virtual tour of rukmani vitthal temple, pandharpur:
this is the lane which goes to west gate (exit) of temple. there are many shops selling pooja materials, idols, books in this lane. i think four wheelers are not allowed within certain area around the temple. so you have to walk it off from here or take auto rikshaw from here.
we usually park the vehicle near this area. there is a small siddhi vinayak temple as a landmark for you to remember. as you park your vehicle, you might be approached by touts. they promise direct darshan for Rs 200. don’t fell prey to their claims. its not possible. you have to go via line. they might also say that in the line it will take 2 hours. don’t trust them.
boondi laddo is given as prasad. to visit the temple, move further down and then take left turn.
you can leave your mobile phone at tukaram bhavan or any of the reliable shop close to western gate (exit). mobile phones, camera and leather bags are not allowed inside the temple. if you had made online ticket for darshan then verify it at this bhawan.
do take the prasad in the form of free food. tables and chairs are placed in a big hall for eating food. they offer masala bhath, shrikhand, dal and pooris. as i told you before, i didn’t find good option for restaurant in the town. so this is my first choice to have food. i always make it a point to donate some money in the temple which offer free food to devotees or at least match the amount which you would have paid as a restaurant bill.
as you look further, you see the vitthal rukmani temple. but actually this is a complex of 7-8 floors for arranging the queue of large number of devotees.
its a very elaborate and nice arrangement to handle large number of devotees. the big line starts from ground floor to 8th floor and then come back to first floor and connects with the main temple.
on each floor there are toilets but not kept clean. every few feets, there are seats where you cans sit. just like the arrangement, we have in shirdi temple or tulja bhavani ma temple in solapur.
on special days when there is a lot of crowd, then people who wants to have direct/sparsh darshan has to go through this line. e.g. dusshera 2014, it took 3-4 hours for my elder brother to take darshan. i opted for mukh darshan which is darshan from a distance like 40-50 feet and there was a small queue for it.
i had visited the temple 10 days back. that time there was hardly 10-15 minutes line for sparsh/direct darshan. at that time, there was no need to go through this elaborate arrangement and you can enter the temple directly. so if you are planning to visit the temple during special days and are short of time then make online pass/ticket in advance from temple website. i saw many simple innocent villagers coming with online pass.
namdeva chi payari – when you enter inside the temple. then don’t put your foot in the first step. saint namdev was a great devotee of lord vitthal. he wanted to be present at the first step of lord vitthal temple so that devotees touch him before visiting vittal. this is because when you go inside the temple with devotion then your heart and soul is connected with the lord. so indirectly namdev is getting connected to his beloved god in so many different ways and forms.
you can easily recognize this step as its of golden color.
chandrabhaga river and pundalik temple:
close by is the chandrabhaga river flowing and pundalik temple is situated at the bank of river. if you don’t know about it then you will miss it. so ask for direction and its nearby.
as i said before, pandharpur is not maintained well. so don’t expect much cleaniness or order in the river bank also.
there are many small temples and samadhi temples at the bank of river. it will take one full day to visit all these temples. to know the significance of these temple, either you have to hire a guide or ask someone from varkari sect. on the other side of river, there is hare krishna hare rama temple. i have read that this temple is very serene and maintained well. another temple which you can consider visiting nearby is janabhai (sakhubhai) temple in gopalpur. its approx 3 km from pundalik temple.
i had a very nice experience inside the rukmani vitthal temple. it was peaceful, serene and i felt that lord vitthal has blessed me. opposite was the case in the pundalik temple. may be it was time for some of my negative karmas to manifest. when i entered inside this small temple. i saw the priest was wearing pants and trousers. they asked me and my wife to hold hands. started asking our name, caste, gotra and started chanting some mantra and asked us to repeat behind them. in the end, they added one coconut and flowers in our hand and said we offer 251 rs to lord pundalik.
now we were in a fix. what to do. so we decided to be cheated as we have the uttered the words following the priest innocently and trustingly. it was still not over. as we had hardly walked 4 steps. one more ponga pandit caught us and wanted us to repeat the ritual but this time with satya narayan statue. this time we were alert but not matured fully, so we negotiated for 51 rs instead of walking out.
when i visited the pandharpur again after 2 weeks. i stayed miles away from the pundalik temple and prayed to pundalik from the bottom of my heart. i am sure god listens to sincere prayer always.
as per legend, one should also visit pundalik temple in pandharpur. because lord vitthal came to pandarpur to give darshan to pundalik.
in his early days of life, pundalik was very careless for parents well being. his parents has to suffer lot of problems because of his bad attitude towards them. but later on pundalik was transformed and he started serving his parents with lot of devotion. he started giving more importance to his parents than to god.
pundalik had asked the chandrabhaga river to flow gently so that flowing river noise does not disturb his parents sleep. so it said that river starting flowing very gently in this area. now also river is not very deep. many people take bath here. in scriptures, much is said about the benefits of taking bath in the holy river of chandrabhaga river.
i visited the pandharpur first on 20th oct, 2014. at that time, i was not keen on putting my hands or feet in the river water. because i found the river bank so dirty. but somehow, destiny took me to the river. the flowing river water not only refreshed me physically but emotionally also, as the experience in the pundalik temple was washed by the serene river who is a like mother to the devotees.
i found pandharpur climate very dry and you need to take enough water and food with you. because don’t expect any good three star hotel here (actually there is only one).
when i went again after two weeks then i was looking forward to go to river again. but this time, there was not much water in the river. it was stagnant and water was not flowing. they had blocked the water flow in the dam.
masoba temple on other side of chandrabhaga river:
there are many boats available in the river for a ride. the normal price is 20 rs per person.
we hired this person to take us for a boat ride. i asked him few questions about the pandharpur. he said that there are many temples along the river bank and he took us to the masoba temple.
the ferry person told this story to us. when lord vitthal saw the selfless service of pundalik towards his parents. he became very pleased and came to blessed pundalik.
when vitthal came to pandharpur, then he first gave darshan to masoba dev. afterwards he went to pundalik to bless him. when lord vitthal reached the pundalik house, that time pundalik was putting his parents to sleep. so he told lord vitthal to wait. for that purpose, he threw a brick little distance away and asked lord vitthal to stand on it and wait for him. it is said that vitthal is still waiting for him, standing on the brick. the above photo is of wall painting in masoba temple and explains the story.
in marathi language the brick is called as ‘veet’… thats how the name vitthal or vithoba came. saint tukaram used to call pandurang. when you do sparsh darshan of lord vitthal then you can see the brick on which he is standing.
to reach masoba temple, you have to cross the river. its almost situated opposite to pundalik temple but on little right hand side. this small temple is situated right on the river bank. above photo shows steps leading to masoba temple.
the ferry mean told us further that people pray to masoba dev for getting child, getting married or for job. often sheep is scarified to please masoba dev.
wall painting of maa/goddess in masoba temple walls.
inner shrine of masoba temple.
view of chandrabhaga river and temples from other side of bank ( from masoba dev temple).
while coming back, i saw few people searching something from river bank. i was told, they are collecting coins which people threw in river. hindus usually throw copper coins in river so that water gets charged with copper properties. which is good for health.
one last photo of the spiritual tour of pandharpur.
nearby spiritual places from pandharpur:
1. tulja bhavani temple in solapur
2. swami samarth ashram in solapur
3. shikhar shingnapur temple
4. mangalwedha – this city is called as “the land of saints” and is situated 25 km southeast of pandharpur. connected with shri swami samarth, sant damaji, sant chokhamela, saint kanhopatra, sant gadgebaba, sant gopabai, shri sitaram maharaj and shri jayatirtha.