Heal and hearty

Heal and hearty

Every year, at this time of the year, devotees numbering in hundreds of thousands, participate in a procession called Ashadi Ekadashi yatra, which is one of the oldest and also among the single largest processions in the world. Also called the Wari procession, it starts at Alandi and culminates with the darshan of Lord Vithal and Rukmini in Pandharpur on the Ashadhi Ekadashi day, which fell on June 29 this year. The procession lasts for 21 days and covers a distance of about 250 km with devotees walking barefoot through the hilly path.

With a procession of such large magnitude, eventualities of various kinds can be expected, medical contingencies being on the top of the list. To deal with these medical problems, Thane-based NGO Sahayadri Manav Seva Manch (SMSM) has been organising medical camps for the benefit of the devotees. 20 km after traversing the Ghats, when the procession reaches a place called Saswad on June 14, about two dozen selfless volunteers from SMSM greet them. This year too, a team of seven city doctors and 15 para-medicos conducted a free medical camp, from 9 am to 6 pm, which included free medical check up and free medicine. The procession spent around 24 to 36 hours at Saswad and during this time, SMSM volunteers examined and treated close to 3,000 patients. "As usual, most of the complaints were due to over-exertion, exhaustion, dehydration, malnutrition and so on. Some cases required minor surgeries too, which were performed by qualified surgeons," says Avinash Korde from SMSM.

Once again on June 22, the volunteers left Thane for Pandharpur, to hold camps at various sites along the path of the procession. For four days, the team of doctors and para-medicos from SMSM treated patients and distributed free medicine to those who required them, making the devotional expedition of thousands of people free of discomfort. In lieu of fees, the volunteers happily accepted the blessings of the devotees.

Work is worship
While lakhs of people were marching towards Pandharpur, little devotees from Saraswati Mandir Trust’s Pre-Primary School at Naupada took out their own little procession outside the school. Two children, a girl and a boy, were dressed up as Vithal and Rakhumabai, and the remaining students (numbering approximately 400) formed a procession similar to the one in Pandhardpur, and danced and sang praises of Lord Vithal as they marched towards the school.

The school dedicated the day to Lord Vithoba as teachers explained to the tots from junior and senior KG, the significance and historical perspective of Ashadi Ekadashi and why it is celebrated. The children learnt how Vithal, fondly called Vithoba, accompanied by his wife Rakhumabai, has been worshipped for centuries throughout Maharashtra, and why great saints like Tukaram, Mirabai and Janabai worshipped Lord Vithal. The children learnt important lessons from the stories narrated to them. For instance, from the story of Saint-Poet Tukaram, who was Lord Vithal’s devotee, and believed that work is worship, the children learnt that worshiping God does not mean leaving all worldly duties and heading off to the Himalayas – it means doing whatever you do, with love and complete concentration.

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