Friday, November 07, 2014

Backpacking Journal Karnataka #1

Solapur is situated bang in the middle of the flat, featureless Deccan traps. It's hundreds of miles from a mountain range in any direction, and there is very little forest cover. The upshot of it is that it's very hot and very dry. Apart from drying laundry very quickly I couldn't think of any silver lining to that. The most interesting place in the city is the bus station, where rickety buses leave for the Hindu temples of Pandharpur and Tuljapur, and Bijapur.
Pandharpur is the destination of the famous 'Waari' tradition of Maharashtra. Thousands of devotees flock to Pandharpur in the Hindu month of Aashadh to seek the blessings of Vithoba, Maharashtra's interpretation of Lord Vishnu. The waari tradition was established and reinforced by the 17th-century saint-poets Tukaram and Eknath, and the annual march is still going strong 400 years later.
For history buffs, Tuljapur arguably holds an even greater allure. King Shivaji worshipped Tulja devoutly and had the temple rebuilt after it had been desecrated by the Bijapuri commander Afjal Khan.
Unless you are a devout disciple of Vithal or Tulja, give these temples a hearty miss. The Tuljapur temple in particular consists of a ridiculously long wait before you barely see the idol and are immediately rushed out by the temple's rude priests. I have been told there are certain communities in Karnataka that walk all the way across the border to Tuljapur, but I guarantee they don't take as much time doing that as I spent in the long queue at the temple.
The riverside temples of Pandharpur
Gods don't interest me, but I felt like bowing down before their long-suffering devotees, who happily wait in line to catch but a glimpse of their saviour. It is a necessity of the times that the line be kept moving at all costs, but it's despiriting to see the rush for just one glimpse of a god described by saint-poets as the one who greets his devotees with a heartfelt embrace.
Beggars are a much more frequent sight in both temples than the idols themselves. It is another oddity of the human mind that we need more entreatment to feed the living beggars than to offer food to the lifeless idol. We would rather wait in line for an hour to catch one glimpse of an idol than spare a penny for the needy and we would rather pay 10 Rs to have our shoes kept safe in a cloakroom than to buy some much-needed food for a helpless beggar.
The next day I took a bus to Bijapur. Karnataka had a lot to live up to.
दोन मिनिटात । परब्रह्मभेट ।
दिसे का रे नीट । मुख तरी ।।
दोन मिनिटात । मागणे गा-हाणे ।
देवासी सांगणे । कसे तरी ।।
दोन मिनिटात । हललीच रांग ।
कावला श्रीरंग । विटेवरी ।।

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