Pune Village Communities open their Household Toilets to Wari Pilgrims People from homes along the route of the famous Wari pilgrimage route in Pune of Maharashtra, are opening up their toilets for the use of pilgrims during their 15-day travel, their destination being Pandharpur.

The Palkhi or procession which is a 333 year old glorious tradition of Maharashtra, observed across the state began this year on July 6, 2018 and ended on 22nd July, 2018. Over 10 lakh pilgrims or Warkaris normally join this procession from within the state and outside.

The annual pilgrimage culminates in Pandharpur, the seat of the Hindu god Vithoba. In honour of the deity, the palanquin processions carry footprints of the saints Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram. While the Dnyaneshwar procession leaves from Alandi, Tukaram’s procession begins at Dehu. Upon reaching Pandharpur on Ashadhi Ekadashi, these devotees take a holy dip in the sacred Chandrabhaga River before proceeding to visit the Vitthal temple.

During the 250 km walk, the travelers normally make 15 halts on each of the routes in certain villages. It is common for residents of those villages to offer food and refreshment. During the last two years, as a part of the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G) campaign more than two lakh toilets were built across the district.

Even though community toilets numbering 500 were set up on one route and 700 on the second route, they were never adequate to meet the requirement of the masses on their long walk. The challenge each year was enormous.

However, this year was different. The CEO, Zilla Parishad (ZP) Pune, Mr.Suraj Mandhare had made an innovative appeal to the village communities. He requested all private households on the pilgrimage routes to offer their private toilets, most of which were constructed under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan during the last 2 years for the use of these Warkaris (pilgrims). A white flag has been set up on every toilet to indicate that it is freely available for the use of the weary travelers. The procession is certainly colourful with people carrying red and yellow flags. Hence the flags pointing to toilets are white so they stand apart ”To my greatest surprise, people have started responding to this appeal overwhelmingly. Even the economically disadvantaged are opening their homes for the pilgrims,” the CEO said. The appeal was made through block officials, gram sevaks and schools teachers, the message also carried in newspapers and through posters. He was happy that the sanctity of the whole ceremony was preserved during and after the pilgrimage.

In addition, most of the arrangements on the Palkhi route such as water supply and health facilities have been completed by the Zilla Parishad, Pune administration. Further, the 2P office has introduced the provision of medical aid through motorcycles for quicker access and a control room has been set up to operate day and night.

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Courtesy: Kurukshetra