If one had to see faith to believe it, he would have to attend the Waari for at least a day.(I shared a few steps with them between Pune city and Saswad town, over a winding uphill stretch called Diveghat). Waari is the name of the pilgrimage undertaken by hundreds of thousands of people across the state of Maharashtra, India in the month of June-July. It is the celebration of faith in the teachings of Sant Dyaneshwar, Sant Tukaram, Namdeo, Muktabai who were notable warkaris. They strongly advocated jnana yukta bhakti (devotion guided by knowledge). Waari begins at Alandi, near Pune and ends at Pandharpur. Detailed information can be found here: www.warisantanchi.com.
Worship, academics and spirituality of all kinds till a few hundred years ago was restricted to the so called “upper” cast or elite citizens of a community. The ‘lower’ casts were deprived even of the basic human rights. It was only after lifelong uphill struggle of these saints that the deprived were finally accepted as equals into the society.
‘Mauli’ in literal terms means mother (maulicha equals mother’s) and ‘Gajar’ means clash of musical instruments or call of devotees. The pilgrims charge through the 240km long journey with superb show of enthusiasm and belief in the almighty. Inspite of millions of people taking part in the three week long journey, there is no sign of misconduct or commotion of any sort. The journey is full of devotees from each ‘dindi’ (group of pilgrims) dancing and chanting “ mauli mauli” or “Dnyanoba-Tukaram” with cymbals and trumpets, flutes and dholak (percussion instrument) all the way.
The pilgrimage is completed on foot and without any assistance from commercial funds or services of any sort. The devotees are provided with food and shelter by the donations from the village or from charities by individuals and organizations.
It is impossible not to get carried away by this river of faith. The energy and beaming smiles of these hardened faces is as contagious as it is inspiring. It makes me think about the definition of happiness. They make me realize the one can also be happy without dreaming of a perfect society. We as ‘civilzed’ beings create an urban web around us. We try to make it perfect bit by painful bit everyday, only to realize at the end of the day, are we fighting a lost battle? Our idea of beauty, fame, success, achievement, religion, power, inequality is as man-made, imperfect and fragile as man itself. A bad day of weather can wipe away our entire cities, families, monuments. Lest we still bask in the glory of being superior.
The arrival of Palki is marked by a sudden flurry of activity among the devotees. You can see them smiling, joining hands in prayer. The Palki is surrounded by a sea of human beings from all sides. Yet there is a calm which can be found only when waters run deep. No ruckus, no pushing, no shouting. Peace.
I guess what makes us superior form our predecessor is the ability to think beyond the basics. Take celebrations for example. Man is the only species that can conjure up elaborate celebrations. I cant imagine dolphins enjoying Christmas, chimps celebrating Diwali or dogs having a blast at Tomatina. But I think we took a wrong turn somewhere and landed up with greed, hostility, violence and poverty instead.
As for the photography, I would say it was a good day. Though the weather could have been far far better, on personal note, I wasted less pictures and tried push the envelope a little bit further. The best is when you stop squinting through the view finder once on a while and become a Warkari yourself .