Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lord Vithal at Pandarpur - Introduction, Location, History, Importance, Story of Lord & Pandarpur


Pandharpur is known as the southern Kashi of India. This is a very famous and very holy place. It is visited by lakhs of devotees from all over the country. People from all religions and caste visit this shrine and the best part is all are allowed to enter the sanctum and touch the holy feet of the deity. Pandharpur is the only place in the country, where the devotee can touch the idol directly.
It is said that the devotee Pundalik founded Pandharpur. His father Janudeva and mother Satyavati lived in a thick forest called Dandirvan.
Pundalik was a devoted son but soon after his marriage he began to ill-treat his parents. To escape from their misery, the parents decided to go on a pilgrimage to Kashi.

Vithoba is the focus of the monotheistic, non-Brahmanical Varkari sect of Maharashtra and the Haridasa sect of Karnataka. Vithoba's main temple stands at Pandharpur in Maharashtra, close to the Karnataka border. Vithoba legends revolve around his devotee Pundalik, who is credited with bringing the deity to Pandharpur, and around Vithoba's role as a saviour to the poet-saints of the Varkari faith. The Varkari poet-saints are known for their unique genre of devotional lyric, the abhanga, dedicated to Vithoba and composed in Marathi. Other devotional literature dedicated to Vithoba includes the Kannada hymns of the Haridasa, and Marathi versions of the generic Hindu arati songs, associated with rituals of offering light to the deity.The most important festivals of Vithoba are held on the eleventh (ekadashi) day of Hindu lunar months: Shayani Ekadashi in the month of Ashadha, and Prabodhini Ekadashi in the month of Kartik.

Central Image

The physical characteristics of the central murti (image) of Vithoba at Pandharpur, and various textual references to it, have inspired theories relating to Vithoba worship. Sand concludes, from a version of Pundalik's legend in the Skanda Purana (see Legend below), that two distinct murtis must have existed at Pandharpur—one each of tirtha and kshetra type. The earlier one was a tirtha murti, an image purposely sited near a holy body of water (tirtha), in this case facing west, on the Bhima riverbed, near the Pundalik shrine. The later murti, according to Sand, was a kshetra murti, located at a place of holy power (kshetra), in this case facing east, on the hill where the current temple has stood since about 1189. Thus, Sand proposes that the worship of Vithoba may predate the temple itself.

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