Today is the first day of Lord Vishnu’s holiday – a four month long break where he leaves us to fend for ourselves. Many Hindu women observe some kind of penance during this time and devote extra time for prayer to protect their families from harm.
In Maharashtra this day is celebrated as Ashadhi Ekadashi and thousands of devotees converge on the temple town of Pandharpur to pay respects to Vithoba: The Lord Who Stands On a Brick. ( Vishnu as he is worshipped in Maharashtra) . Most of them are warkaris, traditional devotees who make a fifteen day trek carrying palanquins bearing the sandals ( Paduka) of Sant Dnyaneshwar from Alandi and Sant Tukaram from Dehu . They walk in groups or dindis singing the hymns of Tukaram.
Last night while coming home we saw a group of people clad in white, walking along the road with wooden staves and traditional hand held percussion instruments “chipli” to help them mark the beat while they sang hymns to Pandurang ( abhang) . Obviously they weren’t going all the way to Pandharpur but possibly only to Bandra’s Vithoba Temple on the main road opposite the lake.
For several years I wanted to do this walk and actually met up with Mrs. Dindi Organiser from Pune with the hope of joining her group. This is what she told me:
No pants and no sneakers. Only saris and chappals. And no talking while walking. Only saying prayers.
Then get up in the morning at 4 and have only half bucket of water for bath.
Other half bucket for washing clothes. Then put everything in truck and walk till sun gets up.
Then have cup of tea and breakfast. After rest for twenty minutes again walk.
Then walking till 12 o’clock.
Then stop under a tree, take out bucket from truck ,hang out the clothes for drying. Have lunch and rest.
Then at 3 start walking again till we reach Municipal school in village when sun goes down.
Then quick dinner and sleep till 4 o’clock next morning.
And for sleeping only one thin mat 2’x5′. And no choosing who is sleeping next to you! Hanh!
And remember no hanky panky!
Since I was not particularly spiritually inspired I decided not to join this lady’s group but have not yet abandoned hope that one day I will organise my own trip. A more comfortable one with with like minded people who want to wear sneakers and shorts and enjoy the creature comforts of a soft warm bed.
In the meanwhile, I continue marking this day by feasting on special fast food. Today I am going to have a calorie laden, sinfully tasty “thalipeet“.
To make this you will need:
1/2 katori of pre-soaked sabudana ( preferably overnight)
2 katoris of coarsely grated potato
1/2 katori of roasted peanut powder
1/2 tspn zeera
salt and a pinch of sugar to taste
finely chopped chilli and coriander
1 katori is approximately a 200ml cup measure.
What to do: 1. Mix together all the ingredients until well combined. 2. Heat up a non-stick tava and pat out the potato mix onto a plastic sheet into a thin pancake. 3. Gently transfer the flattened potato thalipeet onto the tava. 4. Drizzle with pure ghee, lower the flame and cover with a lid. 5. Allow to cook for 5 minutes on each side till lightly browned 6. Eat with fresh dahi.
p.s. My mother later told me that Mrs. Dindi Organiser was particularly nasty because she held a grudge against her. My mother, it seems, was the reason why my father turned down her offered in marriage!