All aboard the faith-train: Food and shelter for warkaris, in true Puneri style
Residents and mandals have left no stone unturned and are offering ‘seva’ (help) in any form possibleUpdated: Jun 28, 2019 14:45 IST
Locals and devotees gathered in large numbers on Thursday to offer obeisance to the Sant Tukaram and Sant Dnyaneshwar palkhis which arrived in the city on Wednesday. With the warkaris settling down for a day of rest and recuperation in the city, residents opened their hearts and homes for the warkaris.
While the arterial roads were barricaded and closed to traffic, the lanes resembled a town fun fair with makeshift shops for the warkaris to restock supplies for their long journey to Pandharpur, which they will resume on June 28.
Residents and mandals have left no stone unturned and are offering ‘seva’ (help) in any form possible. Vinayak Salunkhe, a barber who has a shop in Deccan along with friends of the Maharashtra Nabhik Maha Mandal, have set up a free ‘shave and cut’ for warkaris in Rasta peth. “We have been offering this seva for the past 14 years, which started by my father on the side of the road, but now the residents of Rasta peth chip in and build a pandal which can seat four barbers. We want to spread the message of cleanliness and also help them look after their health and hygiene,” said Salunkhe.
A Ayappa Temple in the same area is also hosting two dindis. “The trustees have arranged for meals for the warkaris and space for them to rest. The person who cooks for the temple feast has been asked to cook Maharashtrian food,” said Raghu Nair, one of the trustees of the temple.
Savita Adal travelled from Solapur to the city along with her neighbour. “This is like an annual pilgrimage for us to come to Pune and pray at the palkhis. We are labourers and don’t get the time to go to Pandharpur, so we come to Pune,” said Savita.
Even the Pune Real Estate Agents Association is doing their bit for the Warkaris by giving free rubber soled chappals for women and shoes for men. “Last year, we had donated mobile recharge vouchers worth ₹20,000. This year, we are offering footwear,” said Amit Bhat, a real estate agent in Somwar peth.
There is a discipline that can be seen near the Nivdunga Vithoba Mandir, where Sant Tukaram’s Palkhi is kept. A long line leads to the palkhi, but no one complains. K Giri Iyer and his mother, a resident of Rasta peth, said, “We have been coming to this temple during the palkhi to seek its blessings. It feels very nice to be part of this. We also sing his abhangas which have been written in Tamil at the Madrasi Ganpati temple close by,” said Iyer.
The temple trustee, Ravindra Padhaye and his 5th generation family members, are busy overseeing the work of keeping the temple clean, and devotees following protocol. “This has been a tradition that the Palkhi will rest at this temple which has a swayambhu idol of Lord Vithala. We have taken special care of security this year with 16 CCTV cameras set up, Maha Prasad and drinking water for devotees, food for the police personnel and the volunteers as well as medical services for the warkaris,” said Padhaye.
At the inter junction, Nandi Sahakari Gruha Rachana Sanstha , a society of 38 flats are busy serving warkaris mid-day meals. “Our seniors began this tradition several years ago. Everyone donates Rs 500 to provide for the lunch. Some of the families also make tea and snacks to serve the warkaris their breakfast,” said Nandu Joshi, chairman of the society.
At Sakalipeer Talim, Nana peth, members have kept volunteer services of a cobbler who repairs the footwear of the warkaris for free. What attracts most of the warkaris to this Talim is the free massage from Hyderabad-based masseuse Abdul Razak who specially comes every year to offer his services to as many warkaris throughout the day, helping them get rid of their pain in their legs, neck and back. “As a Muslim, I am not supposed to touch their feet, but this is my seva for the many warkaris who walk long distances and my job is to relieve them of their pain,” said Razak.
While in Ganj peth, Rizwani Masjid and its imam and other members are busy serving warkaris vegetable biryani. “We have cooked around 80kg of biryani. This is our way of showing our love and affection to the devotees,” said Matin Mujawar, who has been serving the warkaris for the past six years.
First Published: Jun 28, 2019 14:44 IST