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Philosophy – Beliefs And Teaching Of Varkari Sect

The term ‘Varkari’ means a person who performs wari, an annual pilgrimage to Pandharpur in Maharashtra, where the temple of Sri Vitthal. It is the most important shrine of the Varkari sect; members visit it every year. Here is a look at the philosophy and teachings of the Varkari Sect.

Varkaris worship Shri Vitthal of Pandharpur. The God is a form of Bhagavan Sri Krishna but is supposed to be an image of Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva). They follow the Advaita (monism) philosophy and their bhakti is based on jnana. The sect is very broad-based, and among its followers there are many who worship other gods. Thus the great saint Sant Eknath, who was a devout worshipper of Dattatreya, also worshiped Rama and Krishna, as is clear from his works Bhavartha Ramayana and Eknathi Bhagavatam.

It is a firm belief of Varkaris that Bhagavan Panduranga (Vitthala) has Shiva on his head. Sant Tukaram advised them not to differentiate between Hari and Hara. Hence many Varkaris observe a fast not only on the Ekadashi day but also on Monday (Somvara – associated with Shiva).

The ancient texts which are held sacred by Varkaris include Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and Brahma Sutra as also Jnaneshwari, Anubhav Amrita, Ekanathi Bhagavat, Bhavartha Ramayana and abhangas of Sant Tukaram, Namadeva and other saints of Bhagavata dharma. In many of the Vitthala temples, the recitation of abhangas goes on day and night.

The most important aspect of Varkari is that all are treated equally and no caste or class hierarchy is followed. Their sole objective is that everybody must and is entitled to understand God. To achieve this goal no austerities or abstruse philosophies are required. What is desired is self purification and the pilgrimage (wari). One must also chant the name of God, listen to religious discourses and follow the teachings of the saints. Sant Tukaram says in his abhangs that by merely uttering the name of God at all times is the very essence of devotion, and the easiest path to realization is nama-smarana, meditation on God’s name.