Paṇdharpur

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Pandharpur, PaNdharpur, Pandharpur


Though Paṇḍharpur is a pilgrim center which cannot claim great antiquity like some other places like Kāśī or Vārāṇasī, it was quite well-known even by A. D. 1000. The Padmapurāṇa[1] mentions the image of Viṭṭhala-Viṣṇu, on the bank of the river Bhīmarat, which has only two arms. It calls him ‘Bindu-mādhava’.

Location of Paṇḍharpur

Paṇḍharpur or Paṇḍharāpura in the Satara district of the Maharashtra State is one of the well-known places of pilgrimage, especially for the vaiṣṇavas.[2] This town which is famous for its temple of Viṭhobā or Pāṇḍuraṅga Viṭṭhala, is situated 65 kms.[3] to the west of Sholapur, on the right bank of the river Bhīmā. There is a Candrabhāgā river at Paṇḍharpur which is a tributary of the river Kṛṣṇā.

Other Names of Paṇḍharpur

It is, however, the best and the holiest of such places as far as the Maharashtra state is concerned. The other names by which it was known earlier are:

  1. Paṇḍharī
  2. Pāṇḍuraṅgapura
  3. Paṇḍaraṅgapalli
  4. Phaganipur
  5. Puṇḍarīka Kṣetra

Viṭhobā Temple of Paṇḍharpur Town

This town is famous for its temple of Viṭhobā or Pāṇḍuraṅga Viṭṭhala. This temple is situated 65 kms.[4] to the west of Sholapur, on the right bank of the river Bhīmā. At Paṇḍharpur itself, it is called Candrabhāgā river. It is a tributary of the river Kṛṣṇā. Though this pilgrim center cannot claim great antiquity like some other places like Kāśī or Vārāṇasī, it was quite well-known even by A. D. 1000. The Padmapurāṇa[5] mentions the image of Viṭṭhala-Viṣṇu, on the bank of the river Bhīmarat, which has only two arms. It calls him ‘Bindu-mādhava’.

The temple of Viṭṭhala is built on an area of 105 metres[6] by 51 metres,[7] on a high plinth. It has six mahādvāras or main gates out of which the eastern one is considered as the front gate or the chief gate. This is named after Nāmadev,[8] a great saint who was a contemporary of Jñānadev or Sant Jñāneśvar.[9] The very first step is said to have been built over his samādhi or burial place. There is also a brass bust of that saint there.

Legend of Viṭhobā or Viṭṭhala

Although the whole town is clustered with several temples, both big and small, it is the temple of Viṭhobā or Viṭṭhala, an aspect of Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu, that is the center of attraction, drawing huge crowds of pilgrims throughout the year. According to the local legends, Lord Kṛṣṇa once came to the house of his matchless devotee, Puṇḍahka who was busy serving his aged parents. He threw a brick towards the Lord, requesting him to stand on it and wait till he finished his filial service. Later, when he attended to him, he begged that the Lord should stay there permanently. Hence it is seen that the image is stationed on a flat brick-like stone-slab.

Image of Viṭhobā or Viṭṭhala

The image of Viṭṭhala is about 1.12 metres[10] and seems to have been carved out of one block of black stone, along with the squarish brick-like pedestal. It has only two arms both resting on the hips. The left holds a śaṅkha[11] and the right, a cakra.[12] The ornaments consist of a necklace and fairly large ear-rings that touch the shoulders. The crown or the headgear is of an uncommon shape more like a longish cap. The image has a rough or worn-out appearance having a chequered history, being removed and reinstalled several times, maybe due to constant invasions by alien hordes.

Other Temples

Temple of Rakhumāyi

Behind the Viṭṭhala temple is the temple of Rakhumāyi,[13] the image itself being about 1.2 metres[14] in height. The daily worship is an elaborate affair. Ekādaśī[15] days are observed as festive days. There is a large staff of priests and attendants in the temple, the chief ones being called the Badves. The others are known as Sevādhāris and are of various grades.

The visiting devotees are of two types:

  1. The vārkaris who visit the temple regularly every month on ekādaśi days
  2. Others who visit at their convenience

Temple of Puṇḍarīka

There is a temple for the great devotee Puṇḍarīka in the bed of the Candrabhāgā river, about 66 metres[16] away from Viṭṭhala’s temple. To the south of this about one kilometer away, is another temple called ‘Viṣṇupād.’ It is built on a rock in the river-bed on a plinth 2.1 metres[17] in height. It contains the ‘footprints’ of Lord Kṛṣṇa and a cow. Pilgrims perform śrāddha ceremonies[18] here. The town also contains other temples dedicated to Śiva and Devī.[19]


References

  1. Uttarakhanda 176.56-58
  2. Vaiṣṇavas are the followers of the Viṣṇu sects.
  3. It is approximate 40 miles.
  4. It is approximate 40 miles.
  5. Uttarakhanda 176.56-58
  6. It is approximate 350 ft.
  7. It is approximate 170 ft.
  8. He lived in A. D. 1270-1350.
  9. He lived in A. D. 1275-1296.
  10. It is approximate 3 ft. 9 inches.
  11. Śaṅkha means conch.
  12. Cakra means discus.
  13. Rukmiṇī is the divine spouse of Kṛṣṇa.
  14. It is approximate 4 ft.
  15. It is the eleventh day during each of the two fortnights in a lunar month.
  16. It is approximate 220 ft.
  17. It is approximate 7 ft.
  18. It means obsequial rites.
  19. It means Pārvatī or the Divine Mother.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore