Importance of Vitthal

The parabrahma or the God of Pandharpur is worshipped and lovingly called by his devotees with many names in different course of the time, like Pandharinath, Pandurang, Pandhariraya, Vithai, Vithoba, Vithumauli, Vitthal gururao, Pandurang, Hari etc. However, today this God is well-known as Pandurang and Shri Vitthal. Many historians and researchers tried to find out the etymological origin of the word “Vitthal”. Some scholars believe that it is a distorted form of the original word Vishnu. The words like Vittharas, Vitta found in various Kannad epigraphs are basically the elaboration of the word Vishnu. The Great Saint poet Tukaram defines the word Vithoba in one of his abhangas that stands for ‘Knowledge’ + Thoba Stands for ‘form’ Thus Vithoba stands for the ‘form of ultimate Knowledge’ or ‘idol of ultimate Knowledge’. It is also believed that Vi stands for bird Eagle + Thoba Stands for sitting place, thus Vithoba stands for the ‘God who sits on Eagle’. Vithoba is God Vishnu, standing on a brick and resting his arms on his west. It is believed that Shri Krishna, Shri Vishnu and Shri Vithoba are all different names and forms of the one and the same God. Shri Krishna is known as incarnation of Shri Vishnu which took place on Wednesday (Shravan Vadya Ashtami) at the end of Dwaparyuga. Vithoba is Shri Krishna only. Wednesday is known as the day of Vithoba. So devotees (varkari) of Vithoba never leave Pandharpur on Wednesday even now.

There is a verse in Purana, the holy scripture of the Vedic religion

Vi karo vidhatay, tha karo nilakanthay |
La karo lakshmikant, vitthalabhidhineeyame ||

Means

vi-Vidhata Brahmadev,
ttha-nilakantha God Shankar,
la-lakshmikant-Vishnu
thus it leads to say that all three deities Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh are signified by one name Vitthal or are included in one God Vitthal.

|| About the sculpture (idol) of Shri Vitthal (Shri Vitthal Murtivarnan)||

Vitthal is benevolent for the downtrodden and is bhaktakamkalpadrum and yogiyadurlabh. The sculpture is self made up of sand stone. He has cap just like crown on his head. It is known as shivlinga as it looks like the shivlinga. Face of Shri Vitthal is long, cheeks are bulky, his eyes are looking horizontally straight. He wear’s Makar kundale in his ear. A Kaustubhmni is there around his neck like necklace. Shinke are on his back and on his shrivatsalanchhan. Angads are there on his both arms and on his both wrists he has Manibandhs. dya Shankaracharya wrote a Pandurangashtak, in which he describes Vitthal as “Nitamba Karabhyam Druto Yena Tasmat”. Shri Vitthal put his both hands on his waist. In his right hand he has a Kambal and in left hand he has Shankha. On his chest, there is a spot where Bhrugurishi had put his feet. There is Vastra around his waist. Soga of Vastra is up to his feet. On his left leg, there is sign of touch of a daasi. Thus this sculpture is standing on a brick.

vitthal

This is the only fortunate place where one can touch Lord's feet or keep one's forhead upon Lord's feet.

In Dwapar era, there was a king named Muchkunda. In the battle between Gods and demons, Gods appealed him for help. King Muchkund fought bravely and made Gods Victorious. Gods were very happy and asked him to seek blessings for him. He replied that he was quiet and he needed long sleep. So he requested to protect his sleep and to give him a strange power to burn, whosoever disturbs his sleep, to ashes just by looking at the culprit. The king was resting in one of the nearby caves. After some years during the time of Shri Krishna incarnation a big giant demon named kalyauvan launched a massive attack on Shri Krishna. The demon Kalyauvan was sent by another demon king Jarasandh. No one could kill kalyauvan by any weapon because he possessed special power. Shri Krishna knew this. He took him wisely to the cave where the King Muchkund was sleeping. Shri Krishna threw his mantle on the body of King Muchkund and hid in the dark, so that kalyauvan would believe that sleeping person is Shri Krishna only. Kalyauvan kicked the sleeping person believing that he is Shri Krishna. Thus king Muchkund’s sleep was disturbed. He woke up and got extremely angry on Kalyauvan. He threw his sight on Kalyauvan which burned Kalyauvan to ashes. This is exactly what Shri Krishna was expecting. After the dramatic end of demon Kalyauvan, Shri Krishna came in front of king Muchkund and explained him all that had happened. And as per king Muchkund request, Shri Krishna granted his gifted power of sight to be continued with him. This King Muchkund only took rebirth in the form of Bhakt Pundalik. He then rested in the place named Dindir Van near Pandharpur.

Shri Krishna married eight women. Rukmini, one of the eight wives, after observing Shri Krishna sitting close to another wife Radhika, so Rukmini got disappointed, went to Dindir van, and started meditating (tapahshcharya) there. Shri Krishna also came in Dindir van searching for Rukmini and ultimately found her. There was another reason also for which Shri Krishna arrived in Dindir van and that is Shri Krishna’s great devotee Bhakt-Pundalik was also living there, who was king Muchkund in his previous life. Shri Krishna wanted to meet him because Shri Krishna is great lover of his true devotee. Pundalik was taking care of his aged and ill parents.

After his marriage he has become a maiden of his wife. Once he began his Kashi Pilgrimage following his wife’s wish. On their journey to Kashi they stayed in one ashram of great seer Kukkut. Pundalik was highly impressed by the various characteristics of the seer Kukkut. Kukkut was having supernatural powers. River Ganges, Yamuna, Sarswati regularly used to visit and serve ashram. This is how the rivers used to get purified their impurities which they received from sinners bathing in them. This was enough to signify the religio-spiritual power of seer kukkut Pundalik came to know that, the secret of seer kukkut’s success was his devotion and dedication to his parents. The Goddesses Rivers also preached Pundalik the right way of life. Pundalik was enlightened by that preaching. Then he avowed to serve his parents throughout his life at any cost. He returned to Pandharpur and started taking care and serving his parents.

By noticing pundalika’s devotion to his parents, Shri Krishna was highly impressed and couldn’t resist Himself from meeting Pundalik. Lord Shri Krishna appeared in Pundalik’s house but Pundalik’s didn’t pay heed to Shri Krishna because he was busy in serving his parents who were ill due to their old age. Pundalik just threw a brick lying nearby towards Shri Krishna for sitting or standing as a formality and asked him to wait there till he got free. (That brick was Indra, horrified by curse by demon Vritasur. The bank of river Bhima where this incident took place seemed to be Dwarka. Lord Shri Krishna is believed standing there for as many as twenty eight Yuga (eras) just for the sake of all those who are His true devotees. The great Maharashtrian saint Namdeo says in one arati

|| “ ….to meet Pundalik real Parbrahma arrived in Pandharpur.” ||