#4 | Exploring Pandharpur
Following the Master | Maharashtra Adventure 2020
14 January 2020
The fourth day of our Maharashtra Adventure was filled with mystical stories of the saints as we visited these famous sites and samadhi locations.
The first place that Guruji visited today was a temple where the self-manifested padukas of Lord Vitthala have been kept and worshipped for 12 generations. The story goes like this: Haridas Marhara, a devotee of the Lord, had ventured one day to reach the temple of Lord Panduranga barefoot as his tapasya, because he and his wife could not have children. But it became extremely difficult due to the heat of the sun, and the hot stones on the road were burning his feet. Then, at one point, he stopped feeling the burning sensation and looked down. To his great surprise, he saw the padukas of Lord Panduranga under his feet! The Lord had come to help His devotee in this special way. Even today, these same padukas are kept safe and worshipped by the descendants of Haridas Marhara.
After a blissful time that we spent there with Guruji, filled with the stories of the saint and the miraculous padukas of Lord Vitthala, the group went to see the samadhi of another great and famous saint of Lord Panduranga, Namdev, who composed many poems about Lord Vitthala and spent his entire life travelling and preaching about the Lord.
Next, we went to visit the samadhi of saint Narahari Sona. Narahari was a jeweller by profession and a great devotee of Lord Shiva. But he became so fanatic and focused on Lord Shiva alone, that he would not even enter any other temple or look at any other temple. Despite living in Pandharpur, he never visited the temple of Lord Vitthala, and whenever he was passing close to it, he would even close his eyes or just turn his head in another direction. Yet, one day, the merciful Lord wanted to see him. So it happened that priests of Lord Panduranga’s temple approached Narahari Sona and asked him to make a golden belt for Lord Vitthala. They measured the deity and gave him the measurements, but the belt that he made according to those measurements turned out to be too big. They tried to measure the Lord again, but this time, the belt he prepared was too short. So they requested him to come to the temple of Lord Panduranga and measure the Lord himself.
At first, he refused, but finally he agreed to come and measure the deity. Still, he was so stubborn that he decided to do it blindfolded. Yet, when he came blindfolded in front of Lord Vitthala and started to touch Him in order to measure Him, he was shocked! It felt like he was touching the deity of Lord Shiva in meditating position. He took his blindfold away to look at the deity, but he saw just Lord Panduranga in His normal standing pose in front of him. He put on the blindfold again, and again started to touch the deity to try to measure the Lord, but again it felt as if it was Lord Shiva. Then he understood his mistake and understood that Lord Vitthala and Lord Shiva are one.
While telling this story, Guruji also explained that Lord Vitthala also has a Shiva lingam on His head, hidden behind His turban or crown. The story is that when Lord Shiva came to have a darshan of Lord Panduranga, he and all the members of his family (Parvati, Ganesha, Nandi…) felt very tired. All of them went to find a place to rest. Only Lord Shiva asked Lord Vitthala where he should rest, and that's when Lord Vitthala pointed to His own head.
Next, we went to visit the samadhi of another great saint: Prahlad Maharaj. He used to recite the Srimad Bhagavatam for Lord Panduranga Himself. Whenever Prahlad Maharaj would start, the Lord would come to sit down and listen. The place where Lord Vitthala used to sit and listen to the saint is located close to the samadhi. Guruji explained that, in the same way a devotee yearns to hear the stories of the Lord, so the Lord Himself yearns to hear the stories of His devotees.
Afterwards, Guruji went to pay a visit to Chaitanya Maharaj, who shared a story of the deity of Sri Krishna made of sandalwood that started to become darker and darker. Guruji explained once again that the dark complexion of Lord Krishna represents his unchanging state, since no matter what colour you add to black, it will never change it. On the contrary, any colour added to black will always be absorbed into the black. Such is also the nature of the Lord: He absorbs all our impurities.
After a lunch break, Guruji took the group to the sacred places connected to Saint Janabai, a female devotee of Panduranga, who was a disciple and servant of Sant Namdev, and who wrote many devotional poems to Lord Vitthala. It is said that Lord Vitthala Himself used to help her with many mundane tasks, such as bringing the water from the well, grinding the grains or churning buttermilk. She was so absorbed in thinking about the Lord that it is believed that she could churn butter even out of water. Because her pots were touched by the Lord Himself, some of them have turned into the form of Shaligrams, which we could see in the temple of her samadhi. Her grinding mortar and churner were present there as well and could be touched by all the devotees.
As Lord Panduranga used to help Janabai in her everyday tasks, one day she asked Him to stay with her overnight as well. She just didn’t want to let Him go. The Lord agreed, but said that He would need to be back in Pandharpur early in the morning when the priests would come to wake Him up. So the Lord rushed back to the temple early in the morning, but, as He was in hurry, He forgot to put on His jewellery and left it at Janabai’s house. At the same time, He took her blanket with Him by “accident”. When the priests opened the temple and saw the Lord wrapped in Janabai’s blanket and without His jewellery, they immediately accused her of stealing the jewellery. Even Namdev doubted her. But she refused to explain how it happened, and accepted it to be the lila of the Lord. So the priests decided to hang her. They put the noose around her neck and hanged her. But to their great surprise, she would not die; she was just suspended in the air. They couldn’t see that, under her feet, Lord Vitthala Himself was standing, and she was standing on His arms. The place where Lord Vitthala stood to protect Janabai still has His right footprint clearly seen pressed into the ground, while her blanket can be still seen in the temple.
Not far from there, there is another spot where Lord Krishna’s footprints, as well as the footprints of His cows and friends, are present, embedded deep in the stone.
At the end of the day, so rich in experiences, Guruji took us to visit a very special temple of Lord Hanuman. The deity was worshipped by Sitaram Maharaj and it is a very special and rare murti of Lord Hanuman with a human face. It is believed that anybody who is possessed by any spirit should stay there for several days, and they will be cured and purified completely.
Stay tuned for more posts as we ‘Follow the Master’ on an adventure to the Divine!