Friday, November 27, 2015

Kartiki Ekadashi celebration at my ancestral town

This year, on 22nd November, it was Kartiki Ekadashi / Prabodhini ekadashi. This is the 11th lunar day (ekadashi) in the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of the Hindu month of Kartik. It is believed that Vishnu sleeps on Shayani Ekadashi and wakes on Prabodhini Ekadashi, which marks the end of the four-month period of Chaturmas.
This Ekadashi is linked with different things for different regions in India. In Maharashtra, Prabodhini Ekadashi is linked with the god Vithoba - a form of Vishnu. Varkari pilgrims throng the Pandharpur temple of Vithoba on this day. The celebrations in Pandharpur continue for five days, till the full moon day (Kartik Poornima).

Now, I am not really a huge believer nor I am a person who does lot of poojas, but I am from a family who does believe in god and have been serving as poojari (priest) at different temples of Balaji at Valkeshwar, Mumbai as well as Vithoba at Phopheri, near Alibaug, both forms of Lord Vishnu. My great great great grand parents had come to Pedhambe during early 19th century, the grand mother became an entrepreneur in that time as well as they did development like constructing a well for local villagers, constructing a temple for the villagers around the area. They gave a piece of their own land for building a temple of Vithoba Rakhumai, and since then the villagers have been celebrating one of the most important Ekadashis here. Since my ancestors have been taking care of the temple, being a priest and making preparations of the utsav (celebrations) for the day, it is very much special for my family. Since I was a child, I have heard about these celebrations as my grand mother has been going there for past 61 years and has a very strong bond with the place, people and the temple. I had been there with my grand parents when I was 5-6 years old. After that I never went for the utsav, mostly because I always had some or the other exams around that time. Later, perhaps it wasnt a priority as priorities were set on schooling, collage, work and all. This year, since it was a weekend, I decided to go for the utsav, probably after 25 years or so.  

The temple building is very old and has a tulshi vrundavan and deep stambha in front yard. There is small idol of another deity near deep stambha.  

When we reached at the temple, few of my extended family members were already there, preparing for Palkhi decorations. The temple was already well decorated. The murtis (idols) of Vitthal Rakhumai were looking beautiful and I instantly felt at peace. That is something I have never understood, but every time I see very ancient stone carved idols, I feel very peaceful and happy. And it was not any different this time :) For the whole day, people kept visiting the temple for offering prayers and get blessings for their family and new born children. 

Decorated temple
Deep stambha
New Palkhi

While there was a rush inside the temple, the small shops around the temple and many of the small merchants around the area were gathering on the temple street and preparing to sell snacks, sweets, toys, jewelry etc to the visitors. These merchants gather and setup their stalls from the morning and by evening no space near temple can be seen without stalls. As people start coming in the rush increases and after a while walking around becomes difficult due the crowd. It is quite a big day for people who come here and the atmosphere is not less exciting than any other big festivals in India. As the day progressed the rush of merchants increased on the street, making it more colorful and lively than ever. This jatra may not be very interesting for people who get all this stuff anywhere anytime in the city, but roaming around on the street, watching the enthusiasm in people, the rangolis and forts build by then during Diwali is definitely is a treat.

Ekadashi Special rangoli
Diwali killa

From around 3-4 pm a group of bhajan singers came to the temple and suddenly the atmosphere changed. It felt more peaceful inspite of the high pitched notes they sang sometimes. They sang bhajans for around 2 hours and then some of us sang some more till another villager joined and filled the air with his soothing voice singing more bhajans. 
Bhajan singers from village
Singers in my family
Palkhi ready for miravnuk
At night, around 8:30, it was the time for Palkhi miravnuk. An idol of Vithoba Rakhumai was kept in a decorated Palkhi. The villagers with tasha and musical instruments were ready by that time. One / two people with a lamps were ready, to make sure while walking around they show light to the god and the people walking with it. This miravnuk started from the temple, lead by the band, on a set path. 

The people with lights walk with or near by the Palkhi. The people who carry the Palkhi, take it in all directions in the village where villagers are ready at their home entrances to perform a small pooja of the deity in Palkhi. They offer fruits, lights to the god, they perform some rituals and offer respect to the people, who carry the Palkhi and the lamps or even are walking with it to make sure there is enough space in palkhi and people can place their offerings in it. The people who carry the Palkhi around, keep rotating as the Palkhi miravnuk takes around 2 to 2.5 hours till it reaches back at the temple. One important reason for rotating these people is that they love their god and carrying Palkhi is a form of offering a service to the god and it gives them satisfaction of being near to the god. So generally when the miravnuk starts it starts with 15-20 people and by the time it gets back to the temple lot more people gather at the temple to get blessings in the form of prasad of Naral & Tulsi mala. At this time the entire space inside and in front of the temple gets filled with the villagers. Inspite of it being almost midnight, children to grand parents everybody comes there. Aarti is done in presence of so many people before distributing prasad and then people leave for the day with a hope to come back next year and be part of these celebrations once again. 

Offerings to the deity in Palkhi
A villager doing pooja
For me, it was very interesting and overwhelming experience as I experienced this kind of celebrations after very long time which I had been hearing from aji ajoba for past so many years. I recently got to know about the history of our ancestors and in what conditions people used to live and what my ancestors have done in everyone's interest, including building this temple. And it was overwhelming when people were talking about my grand parents and great grand parents while talking about their memories of the old times. 
I also met many of my relatives, and had a good time with them.  In all, it was a quite happening and busy day, and it was fun helping as much as I could in all the celebrations. More importantly I felt proud of being a part of the family who has been there for many years to make sure that the devotees coming to the temple feel the warmth and feel the belongingness and become a part of these celebrations for many years to come.

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