By Acarya Dasa
Lord Vitthala in Kerala
On May 28th our pāda-yātrā party travelled to Mattancherry, located in the city of Kochi, in Kerala. It is nine kilometers away from the town of Ernakulam and was previously known for trading spices and tea. While there we happened upon a temple of Lord Vittobha. The temple is famous for its unique worship offered in the form of bhajans to the deity. Lord Vittobha is none other than Lord Krishna, He is also known as Vitthal. The Lord is called ‘Vitthal’ or ‘Vittobha’ because he stands on a brick which is referred to as ‘veet’ in the vernacular language. We were very surprised to find a Vitthal Temple in Kerala. The deity in Kochi is similar to the one in Pandarpur; He is standing with His hands on His hips waiting for His bhakta (devotee).
Sri Ambu Baliga
It is said that a devotee of Lord Vitthal called Sri Ambu Baliga had lived here. She was always absorbed in the chanting of the names of Lord Vitthal. After hearing about the glories of the Lord she travelled to Pandharpur to take His darśana. That night in Pandharpur after taking darśana she thought, “I want to spend my whole life here in Pandharpur.” When she fell asleep Lord Vitthal came to her in a dream and said, “I will come with you to your village, Mattancherry. You will find a deity of Me under a tree.” When Ambu Baliga awoke she was very happy, rose early in the morning, took bath in the Chandrabhaga river and went to the tree the Lord had showed her in the dream. Digging around the tree she found the beautiful deity of Lord Vitthal which looked exactly like the deity in Pandharpur. Ambu Baliga carried the deity on her head, walking for 15 days to reach her home town of Mattancherry. When she arrived she installed the deity in a temple, serving Him in the same manner as in Pandarpur. The deity is 1000 years old. The temple performs maṅgala-ārati everyday and holds big festivals every Ekadasi as well as doing regular bhajana and kirtana.
We stayed in Mattancherry for only a day but while there we felt like we were in Pandarpur since we had the darśana of Lord Vithoba. We sang abhangas (devotional poetry glorifying Lord Vitthala) from Saint Tukaram for the pleasure of their Lordships. We all felt very connected to the deity because every year on Ashadi Ekadasi, which is also the Vyasa Puja of Lokanath Swami, we take darśana of Lord Vitthal in Pandharpur. During this time Pandharpur is filled with ‘Vitthal nama’ the names of Vitthal stemming from a 1000-year old tradition in Maharashtrian culture where people go out together singing, dancing and chanting in the month of Ashadh (June to July).
Jai Vitthal Vitthal Vitthal!