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Palkhi is a 1000-year old tradition that has its origins in Maharashtra. The Palkhi starts in the month of June and continues for 22 days. Warkaris, people of the Varkari community, carry the palanquins containing the idols of Sant Tukaram and Sant Dnyaneshwar all the way to Pandharpur. The entire journey is by foot called Vari.

The annual Palkhi pilgrimage of Sant Tukaram Maharaj and Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj left from Dehu on June 25th and Alandi on June 26th respectively.

The participants mostly fall in the category of older adults and are mainly from the farming community. The Warkaris walk with rousing chants of “Pundalik Varade Haari Vitthal! Shri Dnyandev Tukaram! Pandharinath Maharaj ki Jai!!” to the accompaniment of cymbals and dholaks. The atmosphere gets charged with their zest and fervor.

But are there some things we can learn from the Warkaris? Here are some that we thought are worth keeping in mind:

1. Keeping surroundings clean: More than 5 lakh Warkaris travel from the Palkhi right from its originating place (Dehu or Alandi) to Pandharpur. However, they make a minimum mess in the city. No place visited by them is littered with plastic bottles and waste. We should take an important lesson about cleanliness and keeping our surroundings clean from these Warkaris.

2. Maintaining their health: The government health centers at each place where Palkhi halts are equipped to treat the Warkaris. And the Warkaris make full use of these facilities. Most of these people are older adults and they have to brave all kinds of weather conditions, including heavy rains, while they walk nearly 450 KM in this pilgrimage.

3. Keeping fit: Walking 450 KM on all sorts of terrains is no joke, albeit with stops. There are mountains to be climbed and descended, and rivers to be crossed. Warkaris do all of it with ease. Some may say that it is due to the fact that the majority of the Warkaris are farmers and are used to hard work. However, there is a part of the Palkhi population that is not farmers. Hence, it is hard to say whether it is their determination or the devotion that drives them to complete the pilgrimage.

4. Eating well: Rains and eating at unknown places may lead to numerous health problems like diarrhea and food poisoning. However, each year the Warkaris make the pilgrimage without any major ailments. This is because the attendees ensure that they eat helathy. Fruits and freshly made ‘sabudana khichdi’ is the diet of most people. They only eat food cooked fresh. No junk food and no stale food – this policy keeps them from falling ill.

5. Fasting: Fasting is a way of flushing unwanted toxins from the body. There is a good reason why people fasted in older ages. In recent times, however, latest fads have taken precedence and people have forgotten the importance of fasting. A lot of Warkaris still follow the tradition of fasting throughout the period of pilgrimage. This is their way of going closer to God, but it is actually beneficial in making them healthy.

People from all ages, caste and creed come together in this holy procession of Palkhi. Their sheer determination despite age is inspiring.

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