Amidst the rising scare of Chinese pandemic coronavirus, the Maharashtra government has decided to cancel the much-revered annual “palkhis” (palanquins) of the pre-eminent saints of Maharashtra – Sant Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram Maharaj.
According to the reports, Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, in the wake of coronavirus pandemic in Maharashtra, announced that the annual pilgrimage of silver ‘paduka’ of two saints has been called-off, instead, it may be carried by the air from Pune to Pandharpur. The decision was announced after a meeting between Ajit Pawar and the trustees of the temple trusts at Pandharpur, Dehu and Alandi.
Deputy CM Ajit Pawar said that since coronavirus cases are rising in Pune, Satara and Solapur districts, the ‘palkhi’ procession has been called off.
“Even if we allow a handful of warkaris to proceed from Pune, there is a possibility of thousands joining it on the way. In such a situation, it will be difficult to control the crowd and there is a risk of spread of the infection,” Pawar said.
He also added that the precise mode of transport will be decided after taking the weather situation into consideration as the pilgrimage takes place during the monsoons in the month of June.
“If air travel is not suitable then the palkhis would be carried by bus,” he said.
Lakhs of pilgrimage converge at Pandarapur every year
Every year in June, lakhs of ‘warkaris’ (pilgrims) from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, participate in the revered “palkhi” procession. The warkaris walk from Pune to Pandharpur, covering a distance of over 200 km, accompanying a rath carrying the ‘padukas’ of the two saints. More than 15 lakh devotees gather at Pandharpur every year after a journey of 19-20 days.
At the meeting, trustees of Alandi and Dehu Devasthans had urged the government to allow 25 ‘warkaris’ to accompany the ‘padukas’. However, the proposal was rejected.
“Though we are not happy, we will abide by the government decision as we do not want to do anything that will lead to the spread of the infection,” said Manikrao More, president of Dehu Palkhi Solha Samiti.
The trustees said that it was decided that ‘padukas’ of the two saints will proceed to Pandhapur a day before Ashadhi Ekadashi, which falls on July 1.