Pune, Jun 30 (PTI) Two flower-decked buses carrying the 'padukas' (holy footprints) of saint-poets Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram left with a limited number of warkaris from here on Tuesday for Pandhapur temple town in neighbouring Solapur district on the eve of the 'Ashadhi Ekadashi'.
Lakhs of 'warkaris', or devotees of Lord Vitthal, from various parts of Maharashtra and some neighbouring states throng the temple in Pandharpur every year on the occasion of 'Ashadhi Ekadashi'.
However, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maharashtra government has cancelled the annual wari pilgrimage, which is characterised by people walking to Pandharpur with palanquins from various parts of the state.
The government has allowed 'padukas' of saints Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram to be taken to Pandharpur in bus with only 20 'warkaris' and a curfew has been imposed in the town.
Amid chants of 'Jai Hari Vitthal' and 'Dnyanoba Mauli Tukaram', 20 warkaris set off in a state transport bus, decked with flowers and garlands, carrying the 'padukas' of Saint Dnyaneshwar from Alandi in Pune around 1 pm, Alandi temple trust's chief trustee Vikas Dhage said.
The bus will take the traditional route through Pune, Satara and Solapur districts and will not stop anywhere on the way, he said.
Besides, another decorated bus carrying the 'padukas' of Saint Tukaram left from Dehu village in Pune with a limited number of warkaris.
The warkaris, wearing masks, played 'taal and mridanga' before the buses left. The roads in Alandi and Dehu from where the buses set off were lined with colourful 'rangolis'.
The district administration said nearly 90 warkaris were allowed to accompany the procession after COVID-19 tests.
'Fortunately, all the warkaris who are part of the procession tested negative,' Pune Collector Naval Kishore Ram said, adding that social distancing norms and hygiene guidelines were being followed.
The Solapur district administration has imposed a curfew in Pandharpur to prevent the gathering of people in the pilgrimage town. PTI SPK GK GK