Pandharpur yatra is belived to be done from more than 700 years.It is believed that in 13th century,the parents of Saint Dnyaneshwar started this pilgrimage which was later on popularised by Saint Dnyaneshwar.Later on in the year 1685,Saint Narayan Maharaj,the son of Saint Tukaram started this pilgrimage as 'waari' of current trend.
The main Pandharpur Yatra starts from the Sant Tukaram Temple at Dehu.The waarkaris or pilgrims follow the Tukaram Maharaj Palkhi procession.This main procession is joined by other palkhis from other towns and villages.Some of them carry 'Palkis'(palanquins) with the image of a saint.Saint Dnaneshwar's image is carried from Alandi, Tukaram's image is carried from Dehu, Eknath's from Paithan, Nivruttinath's from Trimbakeshwar, Muktabai's from Edlabad and Sopan's from Sasvad.
Pandharpur Yatra takes place twice in a year one during Ashadhi Ekadasi (June - July) and another during Kartik Ekadasi (October -November).Pandharpur Yatra is a classic example of unparalleled devotion to a personal deity, a great aspect of Bhakti sect.The Yatra is attracting more and more pilgrims every year.Pilgrims of all ages,young and old walk for kilometers barefooted singing the holy songs.Since this pilgrimage is done on foot, it is considered as physical penance,which purifies the physical body.
Pandharpur is located in Solapur District of Maharashtra. The main Pandharpur Yatra starts from Dehu in Pune District. From there it travels to Pune city, Alandi and finally the 21 day trek ends on the previous day of Ashadhi Ekadasi at Pandharpur.
Thousands of pilgrims called 'warkaris', walk all the way from Alandi to Pandharpur while singing the devotional songs,'Bhajans, of Pandurang (Vithoba).This is called as 'waari' which is a 21 days trek and culminates on the Ashadhi Ekadashi day at Pandharpur.The Pandharpur Yatra to the Vithoba temple at Pandarpur is an unparalleled pilgrimage that breaks the barriers of caste, creed, rich and poor.
As per the legend,Pundalik,was the devoted son of Janudev and Satyavati.After his marriage he ill treated them.Annoyed with his behaviour,the parents left for the pilgrimage to Kashi ,Varanasi etc.
Pundalik and his wife also joined them and continued with their harassment to them.Pundalik made his old parents walk while he and his young wife rode on a horse.On the way, they reached the hermitage of the sage, Kukkutswami.
All of them being tired of journey,decided to rest for some days there itself.The next morning,just before the dawn,Pundalik saw a group of beautiful, young women dressed in dirty clothes who entered the hermitage.They cleaned the floor,washed the Sage's clothes and did other such jobs.On finishing their jobs, they went to the prayer room and came out with spotlessly clean clothes and they disappeared.
Pundalik was very happy to see all this but thought he was dreaming.The next day when the incident was repeated,he talked to the women and asked curiously,'Who are you ?'They replied,'We are Ganga, Yamuna and all the holy rivers of India.People wipe away their sins by taking a bath in us.But you are a biggest sinner,because of the way you treat your parents.'
Pundalik was shaken with their statement.He realized his mistake and wanted to improve his ways.He soon started serving his parents well and looked after all their needs and comforts.
Lord Vishnu was extremely pleased by seeing Pundalik's sincere devotion towards his parents.He left his abode,Vaikauntha-Lok, to bless Pundalik.Lord Vishnu came to Pundalik's house and knocked his door.Pundalik was engrossed serving his parents and his devotion to his parents was so sincere that he wanted to finish his duties first and then attend to whoever was at the door.
Pundalik flung a brick(Vit) towards the door to offer a platform for the guest,to wait at the door.The Lord Vishnu was very much pleased with Pundalik's devotion to his parents and he waited for him on the brick.When came to know the fact,Pundalik apologised Lord Vishnu,for keeping him waiting,but the Lord instead offered him to get a boon to be fulfilled.
Pundalik soon requested him to remain on earth and bless all his devotees.His wish was granted and the Lord remained behind and is known as Vithoba(Lord who stands on a brick).This form of the Lord Vishnu is Swayambhu(came into existence on its own).He is always seen accompanied by his consort Rakhumai or Rukmini.
*In the scripture Bhavishyottara Purana,God narrated significance of Shayani Ekadashi to king Yudhisthira, as the creator-god Brahma did it to his son Narada.The story of king Mandata has reference to this.The country of king Mandata was struck by drought for three years,but the king could not to find a solution to come out of it and to please the rain god.
Later on,the sage Angiras advised the king Mandata to observe the 'Vrat' of Dev-shayani ekadashi.King Mandata followed his advise and on doing so Lord Vishnu was pleased and blessed king Mandata and there was rain in the kingdom and all were happy.