Pandharpur is a town in district Solapur in state of Maharashtra in Western India. It is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites in Maharashtra. It is located 65 km west of Sholapur, on the banks of the river Bhima, which is also known as Chandrabhaga. Known as “Sourthern Kashi of India”, Pandharpur proudly hosts the “Kuladivat” of Maharashtra State- Shree Vithoba and Rukmini, on the banks of the river.Also known by the other names, Pandurang, Vitthal or Pandhari, it is supposed to be The Supreme God of The Universe for all the Maharashtrians and an incarnation of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. The word Vitthala is derived from the word Vishnu in Kannada. Panduranga is a sanskritized form of Pandarga, the old name of Pandharpur. Pundalik, a saint was closely associated with this shrine, and hence this shrine is also known as Pundarika pura. The worship of Vishnu – Vitthala at Pandharpur is derived mainly from the puranas and has been augmented by the contribution of the great Vaishnava saints of Maharashtra and Karnataka from the 13th through the 17th centuries like Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Sant Eknath, Purandara Dasa, Vijaya Dasa, Gopala Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Chokhamela, Janabai and many others.
This temple, covering a vast area, has a total of six gates. The eastern entrance to this temple is known as the Namdev gate. The sanctum enshrines a standing image of Vithoba. Stylistically the image dates back to the 5th century BC. There are inscriptions in this temple dating back to the 13th century. In the temple of Vithoba, `Pad-Sparsha-Darshan`, is a special ceremony. Irrespective of caste any devotee can enter the sanctum sanctorum and can place his/ her head at the feet of Vitthal. Although not religiously very crucial, certain daily rituals do form the routine of Bhaghwat Dharma, at Pandharpur. These signify the devotedness of the followers towards its deity. These rituals include Kakad Arati (Early Morning Prayers), Mahapuja (Mega-Worship), Mahanaivedya (Food offering), Poshakh (putting the robe) Dhoop Arati, Padya Pooja, etc. All this is performed in main Vitthal temple. As one enters from Namdeo-Payri (The Step in memory of Saint Namdeo) and comes out of the Westward Exit (the Paschim Dwar) one crosses various other temples- as many as 25, in the same premises, like the Ganesh Mandir, Garud Mandir, Ekmukh Dattatraya Mandir, Satyabhama Mandir, Kanhopatra Mandir to name a few.
At Pandharpur, every Wednesday is regarded as an auspicious day and Ekadashi- auspicious day of the month. Pandharpur hosts four “Yatras” in a year. Out of which “Aashadhi Yatra”, Kartiki, Magh and Chaitra Ekadashi`s are celebrated yearly and it thus, attracts the most pilgrims to Pandharpur. Out of these, 1st two attract a crowd of about 8 to 10 lakhs. Here, the palanquins (Palkhis) of various saints from different locations come together at Wakhri, 5 kilometers away from Pandharpur. And then, the pilgrims take holy bath in river Bhima and usually stand in queues 3km long in order to take “Darshana” of Lord Vitthala.
Apart from these, the temple premise also celebrates Gudhi Padawa, Ram-Navami, Dasehara and Deepavali festivals. Even saint Namdev, the 13th century saint was closely associated with this temple. Copper plate inscriptions of the Rashtrakootas place this shrine in the 6th century BC. There is also a shrine to Pundalik at Pandharpur. That is why, Pandharpur is known, the greatest centre of attraction for the masses.
Places of Interest
Pundalika Temple – The Pundalika Temple is about a half km from the Vitthala Temple. This temple marks the spot where Pundalika, the Lord’s devotee, spent the last years of his life. It is in the middle of the riverbank.
Vishnupada Temple – The Vishnupada Temple is about a kilometre south of the Pundalika temple. The Vishnupada Temple is in the middle of the river connected by a causeway to the shore. During the rainy season this temple is under water for about three months.In the middle of this temple is a square five feet by five feet. There are three rocks in this square that have the foot-prints of Lord Krishna and of a cow embedded in them. Krishna’s footprints are in two positions. In one position He is standing on both feet, and in the other position He is standing on His left foot with His right foot crossed and resting on His toes. There are footprints of a cow at each corner of the square.
On the first day of the month of Margashirsha the sandals of Vitthala are taken to this temple. On the last day of the same month the chariot of Vitthala is brought to this temple in a grand procession. Sraddha is performed at this temple. Pilgrims perform funeral rites here for their departed ancestors.
Getting There and Around
By Air – Nearest airport is Pune, 204 kms.
By Rail – Nearest railhead is Pandharpur on the Kurduwadi – Miraj line of South Central Railway. But a more convenient railhead is Solapur, 74 kms.
By Road – Mumbai – Pandharpur, 386 kms. Pune Pandharpur, 204 kms.
Lodges and Budget hotels are available for accommodation.
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