The attraction (or should I say affection?) that Maharashtrians have for Lord Vitthal and the "vaari", the annual ritual that happens at Pandharpur during the "Ashadhi Ekadashi" is unparalleled. I think it goes long way in the work that many famous saints did in Maharashtra spreading the message of equality, brotherhood, humanity and devotion towards Vitthal in many innovative ways. They are one of the reasons to put us on progressive thinking and sowing seeds for the freedom struggle as well. The way some of them made learning fun through their presentation, like in Bharud surely teaches us a few things we can apply while teaching kids or presenting in front of an audience.
I am in the awe of how lakhs of "vaarkari" plan their work and personal life to achieve that spiritual life balance. They go back home rejuvenated for the rest of the year.
My Vitthal affinity is not so spiritual but mainly musical and related to the literature. The wealth of poetry, songs, bhajans and keertans that the Vitthal devotee saints is enormous. It's not just about the quantity of the art work. Its quality is intoxicating. The depth of the thoughts expressed though in very simple words is astonishing. The work is done by scholars who simply studied life, and put their interpretations through these flowing juicy poetic forms. Today's scholars have spent years in studying and interpreting the work done by likes Sant Dnyaneshwar or Sant Tukaram and other saints. So much for thoughts expressed by 16 year old boy or a grocery shopkeeper who believed in Lord Vitthal.
We have been blessed in Marathi music industry to have stalwarts who could bring to life the poetic work of these saints. The music composition as well as the way the singers have rendered it makes it simply divine. I can still remember from my childhood many of these songs being played on the radio in the mornings when we would get ready for the school. Probably those got etched on my mind and paved way for this affection. My favorites among those are the ones sung by Pandit Bheemsen Joshi. I also thoroughly enjoy the songs by Lata Mangeshkar like "Sundar te Dhyaan", or the "Pasaaydaan". Of course there are so many more songs and legendary singers who make sure that this love simply grows. Those simply can turn any moment magical taking you down the memory lane to the era of Vitthal devotion.
These and many more Vitthal devotional songs are my any time mood lifters. Those are constantly on my mind as the "Ashadhi Ekadashi" approaches. I am not sure whether I will go for the "vaari" ever in my life, not planned for it yet, but I am pretty sure I will cherish my Vitthal music forever in my heart.