Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray today performed the “maha puja” (prayer ceremony) of Lord Vitthal and Goddess Rukmini at a temple in Maharashtra’s Pandharpur, a town in Solapur district, on the occasion of ‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’, and prayed to God for an end to the COVID-19 crisis and good health of everyone in the state.
As per the long-standing tradition, the Chief Minister performed the puja (prayer) with his wife Rashmi Thackeray at 2:30 am.
‘Ashadhi Ekadashi’, an important Hindu festival, marks the culmination of a pilgrimage called “wari” that devotees (known as “warkaris”) undertake from across the state on foot to reach the Pandharpur temple town.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state government has not allowed the pilgrimage on foot since last year.
The palkhis (palanquins) carrying “padukas” (footwears) of saint-poets Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram left for Pandharpur in flower-decked buses with a limited number of warkaris from Pune district on Monday.
After performing the puja, Mr Thackeray said, “Let there be a sea of devotion in Pandharpur and warkaris be allowed to perform ‘wari‘ on foot again, and for that, I prayed to Lord Vitthal to eradicate COVID-19 and bless people in the state with good health.”
His son and Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray was also present on the occasion.
Warkari couple Keshav Kolte and Indubai Kolte got the opportunity to perform the rituals alongside the Thackerays.
Every year, a warkari couple is chosen to perform the official puja with the Chief Minister.
Mr Thackeray said, “I have seen lakhs of warkaris here (in normal times before COVID-19 outbreak), I have seen the sea of devotion flowing every year in Pandharpur. I want to see that picture again and I pray to Lord Vitthal to restore the same by ending the COVID-19 crisis.”
He said devotion and self-confidence are needed to come to Pandharpur on foot after covering a long distance, “and that self-confidence helps one wade through challenges”.
He noted that every year lakhs of warkaris used to come here on this day, but many of them could not even go inside the temple’s sanctum sanctorum for ‘darshan‘ and had to return home by just visiting of the temple from outside.
“It is the devotion that makes them come here on foot and this provides a strong foundation on which the state and the nation are standing,” he said.
Mr Thackeray said he is fortunate that he got the opportunity to come to Pandharpur and perform the “maha puja”.
Appreciating the structure of the temple’s sanctum sanctorum, he said, “Every pillar, every stone and every idol here expresses something.”
He asked Solapur district Guardian Minister Dattatray Bharne to showcase this heritage to the world and suggested undertaking a project for it.
The Chief Minister gave a cheque of Rs 5 crore on behalf of the state government to the Pandharpur Municipal Council.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)