Rachel in India

Rachel, a 2006 SMU graduate in History and Indian Studies, is working on her PhD in South Asian History at Boston College. This summer she’s returning to Pune, India, through the American Institute for Indian Studies for the second summer of a language intensive in Marathi.

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Palkhi: Lakhs of People and a Palanquin

Palkhi literally means palanquin, and in this case it is a palanquin that carries the murti (image) of the Saint Dnyaneshwar. Dnyaneshwar starved himself to death in Alandi, and the pilgrimage begins in Alandi, and continues through Maharashtra to Pandharpur, a pilgrimage of nearly 300 kilometers. There are lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of pilgrims that make this journey by foot each year, and today they came through Pune.

While many schools and offices are closed early for the Palkhi, my school ended at 2:00, the usual time. We all knew that that there would be a lot of traffic because of the Palkhi, but I think few of us expected that we would be stuck in traffic for over two hours to go all of about 4-5 kilometers. So by about 4:30 I reached the road I live on, but was unable to cross because the Palkhi was in full swing there. There were hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who were dancing and singing to the beat of drums and cymbals. Many of the women were carrying their belongings on their head, and those that weren’t were carrying the tulshivrandavan (the structure with the plant of tulsi in it) on their heads.

After about an hour and a half the actual palanquin passed by and I was able to get a good look. I was also able to get some video footage. It was an amazing sight, especially considering I had never seen a pilgrimage of such sorts before. As people passed by they handed out blessed sweets and peanuts. Many of the residents of Pune provided chai and other food to the pilgrims as they passed through Pune. The Palkhi was an incredible sight filled with rich colors vibrant sounds and joyful people. It was truly incredible to be able to witness the Palkhi.

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