Pushkar and Kumbh Mela are some festivals that need no introduction. The Vittal Birdev Annual Yatra, something that is not heard of, is celebrated at Pattan Kodoli village in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra attended by thousands of devotees coming from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra between 17th and 24th of October. The festival is celebrated to offer prayers to the community diety of the shepherds, Shri Vittal Birdev, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. They consider that the festival and rituals would bring good fortune.
As the festival started from 17th October, I reached Kolhapur on the 19th and headed to the village enquiring the locals about the festival but unfortunately, most of them did not know about the festival and to my surprise, some even failed to acknowledge the location. With the buses being infrequent and subsequently over-crowded, after an hour of waiting I was lucky enough to bump into a group of devotees headed to the village and I decided to join them for a jam packed bus journey that lasted for the next thirty minutes.
The festive mood was completely in groove with people throwing Haldi, i.e., turmeric powder over a 'Baba' sitting under a Banyan tree and seeking his blessings. Hailing from Anjungau Village, 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.
The next day being the main festival day, I joined the crowd of devotees en route to the temple. I witness Baba being surrounded by furiously religious crowd throwing a mixture of Haldi and dry coconut on him. Huge umbrellas brought in to welcome the Baba to the temple, accompanied with a procession with drums and traditional music. As soon as he entered the temple, Baba attained a trance mode that made him jump and dance that lasted for nearly 10 minutes. The Baba then went ahead to foretell his predictions about farming, rain and future conditions in Kannada, his trance language, which was translated by the priest. He starts his journey back on 24th after the rituals are over.
With such intense traditions and unbelievable rituals, India and its vibrant culture has always been a wonder land for a traveler like me and Vittal Birdev festival, another first time in my journey, is an enthralling cultural experience. It is advisable to make day trips to the temple by staying in Kolhapur because of low bus frequencies and a not so familiar place. Stay hydrated and avoid carbonated drinks as it would affect the journey