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Glossary Part V of V (Says Tuka)
is one who makes a "vari", which in Marathi means, "round trip" or "pilgrimage" or "regular visit to a place and return from it"; a Varkari is vowed and committed to undertake, twice every year, a pilgrimage to Pandharpur to attend the Ashadhi and the Kartiki festivals of Vitthal; this is scrupulously observed by every Varkari, Varkaris also avoid eating meat, refrain from intoxicants and stimulants, and follow certain other regulations and codes of
conduct; see also,Ashadhi, Kartiki, Vitthal, Dehu, Alandi, Pandharpur, etc.
the four earliest Hindu scriptures; Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda,and Atharvaveda; the fourth Veda is a later addition and the first three are still known as "the sacred triad"; they are believed to have been the self-revelation of the Absolute/Supreme/Whole Being or Brahman Itself, and therefore not man-made; for this reason they are also known as shrntis or "revealed and heard sound" as distinct from the man-made compositions of sages that
are known as smritis or "recollections"; "revelations" and "recollections" could be a short way of naming them; Tukaram often alludes to the Vedas and he seems to have had a sophisticated acquaintance with them though he points, often with mock humility, to his non-caste status and "ignorance"; Tukaram's Brahmin detractors, according to his own account as well as Bahinabai's autobiography, considered him an ignorant upstart because as a Shudra, access to the Vedas was forbidden to him; when he sheds his feigned self-derogation, Tukaram talks equally confidently of knowing the secret teachings of the Vedas; Tukaram perceives his own poetry as "revealed by God"; he says, "God -speaks through me"; he goes to the extent of denying all credit for authorship, owning only ignorance and lack of eloquence as his personal flaws but asserting that the truth he is expressing is "not man-made" but
"divine"; this is exactly the claim that is made on behalf of the "revelations" of the shrntis; to Tukaram, all genuine poetry is revelatory as much as the shrntis are; this gives us two fundamental categories of poetry, like the two applied to the scriptures themselves: "revealed poetry" and "recollected poetry"; if the Vedas are poetry, Tukaram's poetry is often Veda-like; if religion itself is poetry like the Vedas, Tukaram's poetry is religion; Tukaram's
non-dualism is so radical that he makes no difference between poetry and religion, perceiving both as revelations of Absolute Being; his mysticism itself is a radical, revolutionary stance; this is the poetics of Tukaram's spirituality; when Tukaram says, "We alone know the meaning of the Vedas", he is saying that both poetry and the Vedas are revealed language or recollected language pointing to a vast non-discursiVe truth: their validity lies in what they are
pointing to: like painted arrows, they only signify and direct attention.
"the pervader"; originally a solar god, then the supreme god, for which position he vies with Shiva; see Vitthal, Ananta, Narayana, Govinda, Gopala, Hrishikesha, Keshava, Rama, Krishna, Hari, etc.-all these are synonymous in Tukaram's poetry with God,Lord, Master, Maker, Creator, Brahman, Absolute Being, Whole Being. Primordial Being, Being, Bliss, Beatitude, etc. each specific name, however, signifies a specific aspect or perception of "the One" or the "all-inclusive Being"; Tukaram is a Vaishnava monotheist but as an enlightened mystic, his monotheism transcends names.
also, in Tukaram, Vithoba (Father Vitthal), Vithu (Vitthal addressed with the familiarity of a close friend), Vithabai ("Lady Vitthal" a feminized form of the masculine noun; Tukaram some
times drops the formality and uses the word in the sense of Mother). The origin of the name Vitthal is obscure, uncertain, and contested; one is not sure when this name was used first but, like Pandurang, it seems to have emerged into literary usage some time in the thirteenth century. The native "region" of the name Vitthal radiates from Pandharpur throughout Maharashtra, parts of Karnataka, and parts of Andhra Pradesh which were often one large political unit in the history of the Deccan; the name Vitthal does not seem to have any roots in Sanskrit and it could be of Dravidian origin; in Jnanadev's time, when the name Vitthal started gaining wide currency, Marathi vocabulary already had a significant content of Kannada
and Telugu and some distinct traces of Tamil, so this may not be as far-fetched as it seems.
The iconography of Vitthal is unique and intriguing; the best way to begin to approach it is by trying to describe the image and its stance, treating the Pandharpur image as central.In brief, Vitthal's image at Pandharpur is a male figure, stoneblack in colour, and standing erect on a raised slab known as "the Brick"; arms akimbo and hands on hips, the figure is perfectly
symmetrical; in terms of proportions, it is a stocky figure of medium build; the feet are placed e.venly together, as though standing to attention, and the eyes seem to be looking straight ahead; the crown is cylindrical though in some images it is also conical; there are fish-shaped rings in both the ears; the image is adorned with sweet basil beads turned into a necklace; the left hand holds a sea-conch and the right hand holds the stalk of a lotus though in some images it makes the gesture of blessing as traditionally understood; the cloth that covers the loins is skin-tight and the shape of the genitals shows through the garment; sometimes,
Vitthal's image is accompanied by the image of his wife, Rakhuma. The image and the stance of Vitthal have been read in many different ways that amplify or go beyond the actual visual appearance. Scholars contest both the image and the name of Vitthal, offering diverse hypotheses about their origin; briefly, Vitthal has been connected variously with Vishnu, or a cattle-god, or a hero-stone,and even with the Buddha; the worshippers of Vitthal have seen
him, for the last seven hundred years, only as a form of Vishnu. The poetic "iconography" of Vitthal, or Vitthal as described by poets in their own words since Jnanadev and Namdeo, follows a core of conventions and joint-stock phraseology, though each poet has added his own unique flourishes to the description. Tukaram's poem describing the image and the stance ofVitthal, apparently simple and elegant, contains an enigmatic element that
may crucially influence one's reading; he begins the poem literally with the following three words: "sundar te dhyana" or in the same literal order and word-for-word "beautiful that..." the third word is the enigmatic one; while "beautiful" can be rendered with a choice of synonyms with some family-resemblance among them, "dhyana"-the third word-can mean "(that) character" in a colloquial sense, or "(that) meditating (figure)" which are very diverse
in their meaning; the word is a forked sign; Tukaram refers to the mythology of Vishnu by pointing to the "Kaustubha", a fabulous gem-stone obtained when the gods and the demons churned the ocean to receive its legendary secret gifts; this gem-stone was placed on the
breast of Vishnu; the fish-shaped or crocodile-shaped earrings also belong to the mythological description of Vishnu; the conch-shell and the tulsi-bead necklace are of course obvious and not imagined or finely perceived; Tukaram is not merely a worshipper of Vishnu; he has a mythopoetic imagination, the need to create a legend to satisfy in the process of worship; he also has an emotional need to find the exact words; and finally, he has the urge to explore the many sub-texts in which a literary or poetic image of Vishnu is rooted; he has to be faithful to the physical precision of the sculptured image that is so well-known and seen by almost his entire audience; yet he also has to grace it with poetic creativity.