Written by Anoushka Gahilot & Indu Bhagat
From packets of food handed out by students, bananas and rajgira ladoos by local residents and cups of tea and bottles of cold drinks provided by organisations, Pune reached out to nourish warkaris on the long walk. The palkhis travel 22 days, from Dehu and Alandi to Pandharpur, and a carefully-organised system takes care of their nutrition.
The pilgrims say that food is not carried but utensils and equipment required for cooking purposes are. “There are huge trucks to transport the cooking containers, cutlery and gas cylinders to the different locations,” says B R Kakade, one of the yatris.
Tankers are assigned to each dindi (group of yatris) carrying clean, drinking water, which are refilled at specific locations. “The vehicles carrying cooking equipment and cooks leave earlier, with the water tankers, to make arrangements for the next halt. The yatris walk behind, during the entire procession,” says Pratik, the son of the head of that dindi.
Warkaris said that their meals comprised simple dishes, such as roti and sabji, daal and rice, upma, poha, and gulab jamun, boondi laddu, balushahi or other sweets. The food is either brought to them or cooked at the halting spots.
Most often, it is the kindness of the people that feeds the warkaris. The thousands of pilgrims who stopped at Congress Bhavan were served hot meals, prepared by cooks who were assigned the duty of making three meals a day.
The ingredients, from flour and rice to vegetable, came courtesy of businessmen, organisations or institutes. “Many times, even the farmer yatris donate certain food items from their fields to serve all. The date-wise list of donors is fixed at the beginning of the yatra and the quantities required are conveyed to them beforehand. If any uncooked material remains, it is carried by the warkari in trucks to the next stop,” adds Kakade.
One yatri said, “God ensures that our stomachs stay full during this journey and we receive food from many well-wishers. We don’t find the need to buy food materials.”