Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said on Saturday that the decision on the annual 'palkhi' processions from Alandi and Dehu in Pune district to Pandharpur will be taken after May 30. While religious processions are banned as per the third phase of COVID19 induced lockdown guidelines, the Home Ministry is all set to announce new guidelines for lockdown 4.0 on Saturday. Lakhs of devotees undertake 'Wari' (pilgrimage on foot) to the Vitthal temple in Pandharpur in Solapur district from all parts of Maharashtra every year.
Ajit Pawar, who is also guardian minister of Pune district, held a meeting with the trustees of Alandi, Dehu and Pandharpur temples and senior district and police officials on Friday. "The Wari has special and historical importance in the Warkari sect. It is a centuries'' old tradition. We will review the coronavirus situation in the next 15 days and decision will be taken about the palkhi procession after May 30 by taking all the stakeholders in confidence," Pawar said.
In a late evening statement, Pawar also said that no smaller 'dindis' (groups) or 'palkhis' (palanquins) will be allowed to join the procession without the government's permission. "Several dindis and palkhis from various parts of the district head towards Pandharpur but this time, prior permission of the government will be needed to take out such dindis or palanquins," he said.
Meanwhile, Vikas Dhage Patil, one of the chief trustees of Alandi temple, said they will follow the government's guidelines. "Whatever decision the state government takes, we will welcome it," he said.
Pandharpur Wari is an annual pilgrimage to Maharashtra's Pandharpur town, which is the seat of God Vitthal. Every year, warkaris on foot carry palakhis (palanquin processions) in honour of the deity. Saint Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram from the Warkari sect, are taken from their respective shrines to Pandharpur in these huge processions. The tradition is more than 700 to 800 years old, as per reports.
With 1,576 novel coronavirus cases being detected in Maharashtra on Friday, May 15, the state's COVID-19 tally increased to 29,100. The number of recovered increased to 6,564 after 505 COVID-19 patients were discharged in the day. Currently, there are 21,467 active novel coronavirus cases in the state. 49 casualties- 34 from Mumbai, 6 from Pune, two each from Akola, Kalyan-Dombivali, Dhule, and one each from Panvel, Jalgaon, and Aurangabad were reported on Friday, propelling Maharashtra's COVID-19 death toll to 1068. 32 of the deceased individuals had high-risk co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc. As per the Maharashtra Public Health Department, the doubling rate of COVID-19 cases in the state is 11 days.