Alandi (Maharashtra), July 1 : Thousands of devotees converged at Alandi near Pune for the annual pilgrimage to the temple of a medieval saint-poet.
During the 21-day long pilgrimage, the devotees carry for about 150 kilometres the palanquin of Saint Dyaneshwar - a 13th century saint-poet in Maharashtra - in a procession from Alandi village to Pandharpur, home of Lord Vitthal, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu.
The annual procession known as 'Wari' is taken out by pilgrims called 'warkaris', and involves the carrying of the 'palkhi' (palanquin) of the saint-poet.
Pilgrims dressed in white, playing cymbals and drums perform a ritualistic dance enroute.
Enroute after a two-day halt in Pune, the procession, which swells to over00,000 devotees, is divided into "Dindis", smaller batches of 400-500 each, before reaching Pandharpur again for the final trek to Lord Vittal's temple.
According to historical records, the temple of Sant Dyaneshwar was built in570 A.D.
Saint Gyaneshwar made the first pilgrimage. As per the legend, Sant Dyaneshwar came to meet Changdev at Alandi in a unique sort of way. He along with his brother and sister sat on a wall and commanded it to fly them to Alandi.
After the saint's death, his disciple "Haibat Baba" (holyman) took his master's 'Padukas' (footwear) on the pilgrimage as more and more faithful joined him.
Enacting the act, the pilgrims carry 'padukas' (wooden slippers) that symbolises the presence of the saints during the procession.
Saint Dyaneshwar and his contemporaries including Sant Namdev instituted Namsankirtan, a unique form of community singing to spread the message of religious harmony.