Images and article by : Arun saha
Shri Vittal Birdev Annual Yatra is observed at Pattan Kodoli village in Hatkangale Taluka near Kolhapur. It is situated between foot fills of Panhala fort (Ranges) and Warana River. It is the birth anniversary or Janmotsav festival of Vitthal Birdev Maharaj, who is a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu.
The annual fair and festival attracts thousands of devotees to Pattan Kodoli village. Birdev is the family deity of the Shepherd community Dhangar from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
The festival is celebrated with bhandara. It is yellow powder, looks very similar to turmeric, but it is different. It has no smell and it is believed to have medicinal properties. The Shepherd community offer bhandara mixed with dry coconut pieces to god.
It is consecrated by showering the God’s idol. The devotees collect the bhandara from the God’s feet and take it to their home.
The most important ceremony of this fare is the forecasts by Shree Kheloba Rajabhau
Waghmode, from Anjungau, a village in Solhapur District. And throughout the festival he sits under a big banyan tree in a small mandap for the devotees to get his blessings. On this day Baba predicts the future of climate, crops, business and health for the coming year which will benefit the farmers immensely. Lakhs of people throng to the village on this day. The streets of the village are filled with food, entertainment and local handicrafts stalls. Sri Keloba Rajabau Waghmode, known as the ‘Baba’ of the devotees, walks 17 days from his village to reach Pattan Kodoli for the festival every year.
He is considered as the messenger of god. Huge umbrellas are brought in to welcome the Baba to the temple, accompanied with a procession with drums and traditional music. After a few rituals, the holy sword is handed to him. It is believed after this, God descends into him. He performs with the sword which mesmerizes his devotees.
Throughout the day you can see many people gather in small groups and sing bhajans and folk songs. The devotees also shower bhandara on everything they like or worship. In the blink of an eye everything turns to yellow.
This is one of the passionate traditional rituals of India and such cultural event has always been a wonder for a traveller or photographer from worldwide. This festival still has the strongest promise to fulfil a travel photographer’s dream for being it a relatively lesser known and less popular around the world.