‘Warkari’ is a religious sect referred to as a ‘Sampraday’ within the ‘Bhakti’ spiritual tradition of Hinduism. The Warkari has been historically and geographically linked with the Indian states of Maharashtra and northern Karnataka.Warkari in Marathi means travellers or more literally periodical travellers. 'Sam' means good and 'Sthan' means place. The term Warkari is made up to two words -- "Wari" means moving or going on pilgrimage, and "Kari" means one who undertakes it.Over 700 years ago, the Warkari movement was started by Sant Dnaneshwar who sowed the seeds of "Bhakthi" in every individual irrespective of caste, creed or status. Thus, Vishwa Warkari Samsthan establishes and spreads "Dharma” (Right Conduct) through "Warkari Sampradaya". The Warkari Sampraday is called that because its followers travel hundreds of kilometres to the holy town of Pandharpur on foot, every year on the Ekadashi (11th day by lunar calendar) in the Hindu calendar month of Aashaadha (which falls in June-July) and Kartik Ekadashi (which falls in November). Warkaris worship Vithoba (also known as Vitthal), the presiding deity of Pandharpur. Vithoba is a form of Krishna, an avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu. Because of this association with Vishnu, Warkari is a branch of Vaishnavism. The Philosophy behind the Warkari is that the Namasankeerthan is the only tool that can guide a person to emerge victorious against all forms of evil in the world and establish bhakthi. Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj who is said to be the incarnation of Lord Sri Vishnu laid the foundation of Warkari Sampradaya 700 years ago. This Sampradaya is “Sanatan” meaning everlasting, not to be confused with “Puratan” because Puratana means old. Even today millions of devotees follow the same way shown by the Sanths in ancient India.
Principles followed by a Warkari:
Importance of Ashadi Ekadashi:
Ashadhi Ekadashi is considered a day of great celebration and jubilation at Pandharpur, as the Warkaris, devotees of Vitthal, gather from all over Maharashtra and walk all the way from their homes to Pandharpur for the holy darshan of their beloved deity. The Skanda and Padma Puranas refer to places known as Panduranga-kshetra and Pundarikakshetra or Paundarika-kshetra. The Padma Purana also mentions Dindiravana, Lohadanda-kshetra, Lakshmi-tirtha, and Mallikarjuna-vana, names that are associated with Pandharpur.
Vithoba and Warkari Movement Mythology:
Vithoba of Pandharpur is a widely loved and revered deity who has been at the centre of longstanding traditions of saints and sage, which have flourished in Maharashtra. The mythology states that Vithoba stood and patiently waited on a brick thrown by his great devotee Pundarika or Pundalika, who was occupied serving his parents, when Lord Vitthal, the incarnation of Lord Krishna, happened to chance upon his house. Vithoba pleased with Pundalika’s devotion asked him what he desired most. Pundalika only requested to stay there permanently for the upliftment of jivas (Humans) from ignorance, Vitthal acceded to the pure, selfless and loving demand of his devotee. He still stands here at Pandharpur with his hands on his waist to shower his blessings on his devotees.