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||Pandhari’s significance and relevance ||  

* Pandharpur Mahatmya (importance) *

 The pauranik (mythological) relevance and importance of Pandharpur Pandharinath or Vitthal is not God of only Varkari culture in Maharashtra but is God of many Vaishnava its from places like Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Utter Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh etc, Vitthal is not confined only to the Marathi culture. Many saints around the country have mentioned the importance of devotion of this God Vitthal. The ancient tradition of Shri Vitthala’s worship could be traced back to the Hindu philosophical scripture like Upanishad. There is story of King Janshruti in 4th chapter of Chandogya Upanishad. Once he listened whisperings of swans while resting under a starry sky. These flying swans were some seers. One swan praised the beauty of moonlight while the other said the fame of king Janshruti is more comforting than the moonlight. Other swan said that there was a person greater than King Janshruti whose name was Raikava. He was an owner and driver of a bullock cart but was an enlightened person. King Janshruti after listening this fact started a search for Raikava. In the last he found Raikava in Kashmir. King Janshruti had mentioned about his visit to Pandharpur when he was on the way to search for Raikva.

' Tatto nivritta ayatah pashyanbhimarathitate|
Dvibhujan vitthalam vishnum bhuktimuktipradayakam|
Yatra bhimarthitire bindumadhava sandnitah| 
Harih sa vartate$dyapi bhuktimuktiprado nrunam ||’

                                   Padyapu.uttarkhand geeta 6th chapter-mahatmya-                                             माहात्म्य | Shlok 56,57,58,                                                                   

   Meaning -    फhe started search of the Raikava and arrived on the bank of river Bhima. On the bank of river Bhima he arrived the place where the God  'Vitthal' who is Vishnu’s reincarnation only. This pilgrimage is known as Bindutirth and God of this place is known Bindumadhav. There the God who gives the blessings of material and spiritual prosperity still lives.
There are other three type’s ancient scriptures which elaborate in the importance of Lord Vitthal. 

3) Vishnupuran 

Varahsanhita in Paddyapuran explains the significance of God Pandurang or Vitthal. This is comprised of 32 chapters (adhyayas).This is a kind of dialogue between Sootarishi and his followers. There is a reference that it was first narrated by Lord Shankar to Devi Parvati. Then Rishi Narad told that to Shesh. Pandurang mahatmya throws light on how Pandurang/Vitthal came in Pandharpur. It tells about the history and significance of Lord Vitthal’s standing on brick in Pandharpur. How river Bhima originated? It also informs about the various God and deities in Pandharpur. Pandharpur is a sort of design in which Lord Vitthal is situated at the center. Other centers are at the point of the triangle. Pandharpur is as holy as Kashi, Neera Narasingpur is as Prayag and Korti or Vishnupad is like Gaya. So the blessings of the pilgrimage of these three places could be gained by visiting Pandharpur. The rituals of Kashiyatra and Gayashraddha could be performed here. All this types of secrets are mentioned in this Varahsanhita of Paddyapuran. 

The second 'Pandurang mahatmya'  appears in Skandapuran’s Uttarsanhita which is comprised of 12 chapters. It’s verses are around 813. Here Skanda after having failed to answer the questions asked by some Rishis went to holy mountain Kailash where Lord Shankara dwells. Shankara was also asked the same question by Parvati. Lord Shankara was just about to answer Parvati’s question, Skanda along with Rishis reached there and asked the same to Lord Shankara.

'Then Lord Shankara explained the significance of Pandurang in Pandurang Mahatmya to all of them The question was which is the best holy place? 

‘Pushkara trigunam punyam kedarat shadgunam bhavet |
 Varanashyad dashagunam anantam shrigireravi ||
(’Skandpuran Pandurang mahatmya 2/5.
   Meaning- This place is spiritually fruitful three times more than Pushkar, six times more than Kedarnath, ten times more than Varanashi and many more times than Shrishaila. Here yatra, vari and alams giving have got importance. There are four external and four internal gates of this place. One should enter in city through these gates only and bow the head to the deity of these respected gates. At the internal gate there is Goddess Sarasvati to the east, Siddheshvar of Machanoor to the south, Bhuvaneshvary to the west and Mahishasoormardini to the north. At the external gates there are Trivikarms of Ter to the east, Koteshvar of Krishnatir Shorpalaya Kshetra to the south, Mahalakshmi of Kolhapur to the west, and Narsinha of Neeranarasinhapur.
Kshetre hyasmin mahavishnuh sarvadeottamah:|
Aaste yogishvarodyapi shktibhirnavabhih saha |
Vimalotkarshini dnyana kriya yoga tathaivacha |
Pravi satya tatheshananugraha cheti shktaya:|’                                                (Skanda Purana. Panduranga Mahatmya) 7/6,7,8


  Meaning-  In this place the greatest of all Lord Yogishvara, Mahavishnu resides here with His nine divine powers. Those nine powers are named Vimala, Uttkarshani, Dyan, Kriya, Yoga, Pavi, Satya, Eshana, Anugraha..  

  • In Front of Pandurang idol there is Garud (eagle), Brhama with Sanakadika are on the right of it, eleven Rudras with Lord Shankara are on the left of it. indra and all other deities are behind the idol and all these are praising Lord Pandurang.
  • This ancient scripture elaborates on the significance and benefits of various services performed in the temple such as taking shelter in the shadow of the temple, Pandurang darshan saying praise of the name of Pandurang in front of him, dance in the rangshala, visiting temple for darshan at the time of dhuparti, cleaning the area of the temple etc.
  • The scripture throws light on the significance Kundal Tirtha and Padma Tirtha in Pandharpur.. 
  • Dhaumya Rishi and Udhishtir with all his brothers visited this holy place, Balram also came and served the Lord. Rukmini served the Lord in Pandharpur and gave birth to her son Pradyumna.. 
  • Effect of river Bhima its arrival in Pandhari, Pandhari’s guardian Shri Bhairava, the meditation of devotee named Muktakeshi and her acceptance by God all these details are mentioned in this scripture.          

 The third ‘Pandurang Mahatmya’ appears in Vishnudharmakathan Chapter of Vishnu Puran. It contains six chapters of 186 Verses. This is dialogue between Vasishta Rishi and Trit Rishi. Vasishta is narrating it. This scripture narrates the story of Pundalik in details. This makes it clear that Lord Arrived here to meet Pundalik and Brahma gifted Pundalik with Shrivigraha.

Kshetreshu teertheshvath daivateshu bhakteshu sarveshvuha vai varishtam| 
Shrioaundarinka kil chandrabhaga shri vitthaloyam munupundarikah||


Meaning- Shri Pandhari pilgrim is the most sacred among all, in all rivers the holiest river is the Chandrabhaga, in all Lords Shri Vitthal is the best and in all devotees Bhakt Pundalik is the best. Saint Tukaram interprets this verse properly in his spiritual poems. - 

Avaghachi teerthe ghaali eka vela/ chandrabhaga dola dekhiyeliya ||
Avaghachi pape geli digantari/ vaikuntha pandhari dekhiyiliya||
Avaghiya santa eka vela bheti/ pundalika drishti dekhaliya ||
Tuka mhane janma alyache sar thak/ vitthalachi eka dekhaliya || 

In this abhang Saint Tukaram praised the significance of Pandharpur.