Who is a true Warkari?
The laymen gathered on the roadside to watch the palkhis-procession of Saint Dnyaneshwar and Saint Tukaram, often express awe at the clock-work precision of the wari. The stops are scheduled, the dindis or the groups preceding and following the palkhi are disciplined. Explaining the working of the dindi, Vivekananda or Rana Vaskar Maharaj, says, “The Vaskar dindi is the first, immediate dindi ahead of Dnyanoba raya's palkhi. Ahead of us are 27 authorised dindis, nagarkhana and the horse. Behind the palkhi there are several more dindis and followers, not necessarily warkaris.”
The current Maharaj's ancestor, Mallappan Vaskar, Haibat Baba Arphalkar and Shitole Sardar (sardar in Mahadji Shinde's armed force) resumed the practise of wari to Pandharpur. So the first honour in the long line of procession goes to Vaskar dindi. The head of Vaskar dindi is also the one who settles any difference or grievances amongst the warkaris.
“The format of dindi has remained same over the years. Wari means singing and chanting bhajans, abhangs and kirtan. We remember Lord Vithoba and the saints teachings. Over the years, social cause and projects have been taken up in association with private social organisations. We also follow social and public interest schemes announced by the State Government. This year we will be focusing on cleanliness,” explains Rana Vaskar Maharaj.
The warkaris cover about 20 kms each day, their stops scheduled and chalked to detail.
“We do not send out letters or messages, Whats App...nothing of that sort. The pilgrims arrive on their own on the specific tithi (according to Hindu Almanac),” informs Vaibhav Joshi, a member of the Vaskar dindi. He adds, “Every dindi has its own pennant. Ours is white flag amidst a bunch of orange flags. It's called kainchi. So incase our pilgrim loses his way, he knows how to locate the tents. Most of our followers are illiterate, but they all have been assigned tasks, which they do over the years – like making arrangement of water, food etc.”
When asked about the role of warkari, Rana Maharaj replies, “A true warkari will be walking in the dindi, amidst the pataka or paper flags. He will not accept water or food from the passers-by. He is dressed in a certain way – Nehru Shirt and Dhotar. A turban sits on his head. He wears a maal (beads) around his neck and abstains from drinking alcohol and eating non-veg food. He also takes a periodic pilgrimage during Ashadi, Karthiki, Chaitra and Magh. This is the external appearance of a warkari. As far as the internal appearance or the mind of a warkari is concerned, he goes by the teachings of Saint Dnyaneshwar and Saint Tukaram. Throughout the 21 day pilgrimage, he chants the name of the Lord, sings Hari Paath, abhangs and kirtans. You will not find any wrong-doing or inappropriate behaviour by the warkaris.”