IF you take the Vishrantwadi road toward Alandi, about 22 kilometers from Pune, first come the various defense establishments along the way which eventually lead to small towns and then to garishly painted lodges and hotels. All this certainly does not prepare you for any spiritual encounter. But the first sight of the river and the many pilgrims taking a dip in it certainly brings about a quick change in perspective and feeling. This then is Alandi, located on the banks of the river Indrayani, whose history and claim to religious fame goes back to about 725 years ago. It is here after all that one of Maharashtra’s most important saints, Shri Dnyaneshwar Maharaj, took his ‘samadhi’.
“It gives you the same sense of faith like Haridwar,” comments Gagan Prasad, a traveller from uttar Pradesh, who follows me around while I click pictures. It is true. This is especially so during the monsoon when the river flows in spate, covering the steps that lead down from its banks. All along on both sides can be seen men, women and children either preparing to take a dip or already in the water, seeking blessings of the saint. A line of shops on the primary bank sell artefacts and items for conducting ‘pooja’ in the Dnyaneshwar Mandir and a small lane behind the river bank too has a row of such vendors.
A very small town with population of just about 2,000 people who mainly survive on trade provided by the pilgrims, Alandi will soon have a new temple dedicated to the saint which looks majestic enough. Essentially, what fills you with wonder is the absolute devotion with which the faithful congregate here, including the wandering sadhus who sit beside the bank and sing paeans in appreciation of the good work done by Sant Dynaneshwar. The temple is particularly a favourite of those of the Varkari sect.
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