Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Panduranga Vitthala of Pandharpur
(Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, July 2016)
The deity of Venkateswara in Tirupati and Jagannatha in Puri, is the amalgam of ever quarreling and contradicting Saiva, Sakta and Vaishnava traditions and encompasses all philosophies. It even encompasses other religions that came up later. It is more of an inclusive philosophy than exclusive for its focus is on undefinable Supreme Being (Parabrahman).  Panduranga Vitthala or Vithoba deity in Pandharpur also   fits into this Philosophy who is very popular in Karnataka and Maharashtra. These deities are ideally suited for Hindu American Temples where Hindus of all traditions including Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists,  Sanatanists,  inter-faith followers and others  come to  Hindu temple  to worship the Universal Lord of Unifying Spirituality  in One Temple for All Traditions. I wonder why Panduranga sanctums are not found in Hindu American Temples in the bewildering multitude of Sanctum-sanctorum!
Panduranga deity is believed by some to be 5000 Years old.   How Panduranga found his way to Pandharipura is described briefly in Padmapurana and Skanda Purana.  Sankara has composed slokas on Panduranga as he did on Jaganntha. It seems he did visit this place too when he went on All India pilgrimage tour. Strangely I have not come across any sloka on Venkateshwara by Sankara. He would not have missed to compose one on Venkateshwara had the deity been recognized as Vishnu then. But some say Adi Sankaracharya came to Tirumala and placed Sri Chakra at the lotus feet of Lord Venkateswara and sung the famous song "Bhaja Govindam” which I doubt very much.   It is said that, once in Benares, as Sankara was going along with   fourteen of his disciples, he overheard an old pundit repeating himself grammar rules, and at this futile effort put forth for a mere intellectual accomplishment and thus wasting his time in life without realizing the spiritual unfoldment in himself.  Sankara is said to have burst forth into the stanzas, famous as Mohamudgara, now popularly known as Bhaja Govindam by  Venkatswara followers which  I doubt very much. Therefore it is likely that this temple is of later origin belonging to Ramanuja period.  I believe the deity was worshiped either as Devi or Subhramanya before. It is only Ramanuja who settled the dispute and presented it to devotees as Vaishnava deity.  Also you can see how Saivism dominated later and Vaishnavism receded to the background in Maharashtra, a reverse order to what you find in Jagannatha Tradition. At the entrance to this Vaishnava shrine you can see Ganesha idol being popularly worshiped an uncommon feature in Vaishnava temples.  Nobody except the priest is allowed near the deity in Sanctum in Vishnu temples which is often extended to South Indian Saivite temples, a strict South Indian temple discipline! It is the unique tradition in Pandharpur that everyone can go up to the altar and touch the lotus feet of the Deity unlike in Vishnu temples. Some pilgrims even rest their heads upon His feet. But one has to move on quickly.   Devotees   touching the deity or doing Abhishekam is a common feature in North India Saivite temples. At the same time you find the customary Garudasthambha as well as Jaya Vijayas guarding the sanctum sanctorum in his temple as in South Indian Hindu Temples. 
Krishna is often addressed as Leelaa Purushottama, ever playful, most delightful, leading a married life with 16008 wives with no partiality, yet ever faithful to his childhood love Radha and with most humanized form of Divine Lord in his eighth Avatar of Krishna. Radha-Krishna Temples are more popular than Krishna Rukmini Temples. Rukmini is the Incarnation of Lakshmi.  Lakshmi is well known for her wavering mind and frequent family quarrel and leaving her husband alone to live in seclusion.   So money (Lakshmi) also does not stay permanently with anyone. Thus we hear in Puranas Lakshmi leaving Vaikuntha in a fit of anger; Padmavati moving away from Venkateshwara; and Jaganntha driving away Lakshmi from Ratnavedi.  While talking about his beloved Radha, Krishna’s eyes filled with so much joy that it made Rukmini jealous. She ran out of Dwaraka and came to Pandharapura in Maharashtra. Krishna later   followed his queen to this village where lived Pundalik, one of Vishnu’s greatest devotees where he joined   his consort Rukhumai in her penance mood.       
Krishna is often seen with Radha in North Indian iconography. Strangely Radha is never mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam but she has been extolled as the Mula-Prakriti in many other   Purans.  Mostly Krishna is seen alone in temple iconography with his flute and often with his favorite companion cow in South India except in Chennai where he is seen as a tired charioteer returning from Mahabharata War, tired and exhausted as Parthasarathy, where he needed the company of Rukmini. Only in Maharashtra as Vithobha he is seen together with Rukhumai as matured husband and wife in rather unusual serious mood. The famous Temples of Krishna in India are: Kesava of Mathura; Gopala of Vraja; Dwarakadhish of Dwaraka;  Vitthala of Pandharpur; Jagnnath of Puri; Sreenathji of Nathdwara; Krishna of Guruvayoor; Keshava of Udupi (Chinna Keshava) or Udupi Krishna  and Parthasarathy of Chennai.
Vithoba, also known as Vitthala and Panduranga, is a Hindu god predominantly worshipped in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. He is generally considered a manifestation of the god Vishnu or his avatar, Krishna. Vithoba is often depicted as a dark young boy, standing arms akimbo on a brick, sometimes accompanied by his main consort Rukhumai or Rukmini. The “Vi”  the first syllable in Vitobha denotes knowledge and  the latter part “thoba” denotes shape.  “Ba” is supposed to denote father in Marathi.
When Krishna left this mortal world   at the end of Dwapara Yuga, there was deluge and despair among all including Sadhus. But they had the divine assurance he will always be there with them when trouble comes. In Kaliyuga Vishnu is not seen in his physical form but worshiped as naturally occurring Salagrama.  So also Siva in his Linga form.    Millions revere these black stones called salagrama. In many places in India Salagrama stone is used for carving a Murti (icons) for worship.    Badrinath and Pandharpur are well known for their Salagrama Murtis. Hindus believe the essence and spirit of Vishnu is contained in these stones.  Newly installed Jagannatha icon in Puri  is worshiped only when the Brahma padartha  is transferred from the discarded idol during Navkalebar ritual.
The historiography of Vithoba and his cult is an area of continuing debate, even regarding his name. Various Indologists have proposed a prehistory for Vithoba worship where he was previously: a hero stone, a pastoral deity, a manifestation of Shiva, a Jain saint, or even all of these at various times for various devotees. Though the origins of both his cult and his main temple are likewise debated, there is clear evidence that they already crystallized by the 13th century. This history is as diversified as the history of Jagannath worship in Puri or Venkateshwara in Tirupati over a long period. But Maharashtrians and Kannadigas have fixed the history as that of Krishna joining Rukmini to comfort her when she left Mathura and settled in Pandharpur citing Puranas.  Panduranga, is generally regarded   as an Avatar of Vishnu based on Puranas.  Some call him the coming one similar to the Maitreya in Buddhism, the Messiah in Judaism, or Christ coming again in Christianity.  
This temple of Vithobha was the center of Varakari-bhakti movement, led by saints like Namdev, Jnaneswar, Tukaram, Purandara das and Ekanath that mesmerized Maharashtra in middle ages.  The word varkari combines the words vari and kari, the former standing for the regular trip to Pandharpur, the latter meaning the one who does it.  Varakari thus means “one who journeys to Pandharpur at a specific time in the year.” Varkaris vow to visit Pandharpur every month, or at least once a year, during   Ekadasi festivals.
The Varkari poet-saints are known for their unique genre of devotional lyric, the Abhang, dedicated to Vithoba and composed in Marathi. Other devotional literature dedicated to Vithoba includes the Kannada hymns of the Haridasa and Marathi versions of the generic Aarti songs associated with rituals of offering light to the deity. Shayani Ekadashi in the month of Ashadha, and Prabodhini Ekadashi in the month of Kartik are the two Ekadashis held sacred to propitiate   Vitthala by Maharashtrians on which days they fast all day.
The most outstanding display of the Maharashtrians’ devotion to Lord Vitthala is the Dindi Yatra, a pilgrimage on foot that culminates in Pandharpur. It is being performed bi-annually for the last seven hundred years. The huge Ashadha Ekadashi festival—draws a crowd of several thousands who come on foot. The festival falls during the month of Ashadha (July) and marks the beginning of Chaturmasa, the four months of the rainy season. According to the Padma Purana, on that day the Lord goes to sleep for four months. When He wakes up, at the end of the month of Karttika, another festival is held, the second large Dindi Yatra.  Dindi yatra calls for  a  detailed description about which we will talk  later.
Vithoba is the form of Lord Vishnu revealed to a Brahmin Pundarika (Pundalika) by name because of his intense devotion to his parents. Here the Lord came to visit a devotee instead of devotee running to the Lord. With a true devotee even Lord’s heart melts. He stood on a brick with patience to see his devotee   finish his chores who was attending to his aged parents which was his foremost Dharma which Lord not only   understood but appreciated.  The word Vitthal is a corrupted form the word Vishnu. Vit also means brick.
The name of the famous place Pandharpur is derived from the Kannada word “pandarige”.  Pandharpur was also earlier known as: Pandharee, Pandurangapura, Pandurangapalli, Phaganipur and Pundareeka Kshetra. The cult of Vitthala was wide spread in the Southern region earlier than in Maharashtra.  The Hoysala Ruler Vishnuvardhana is credited with having been responsible for the celebrity of the shrine in Pandharpur.  The most popular story     of Panduranga is associated with the name Pundarika (Maharashtrians call the ashram as Pundalika Ashram) given in detail by Sainath. After Krishna’s marriage to goddess Rukmini, Krishna went out one moonlit night to the place of his childhood where he danced with the milkmaids enjoying Rasakreeda as the love stricken milkmaids swayed in ecstasy.   Rukmini as a   devoted wife was   upset with Krishna for this. As a mark of rebuke and punishment, Rukmini went and stood in a forest called Dindira Vana, in austere penance, in the form of a statue. As a chaste wife, she was performing penance to atone for the acts of her husband.   With due  apology, Lord Krishna seeing  the penance of his wife also took the form of a statue and came to that spot in apology to her. The arms akimbo pose symbolizes Justice, which will be the return of Dharma from Adharma at the end of Kali Yuga and is available now to all devotees through the worship of Panduranga and Rukmini.

Your attention is also drawn to Panduranga Mahatmya section of Padma Purana. Indra’s consort Sachi once approached Vishnu with amorous intentions, and for this Sachi incarnated herself as Rukmini during Krishnavatara, became jealous of Radha, and began performing severe penance. To win her love, Krishna also stood in front of Rukmini in penance. This is the posture in which Panduranga Vitthala is seen today. Uttara Khanda of Padmapurana mentions the image of Vitthala-Vishnu, on the banks of the River Bhimarat   having only two arms. This Purana calls him Bindu-Madhava.
The shrine on the banks of the River Bhima or Chandrabhaaga is an ancient one going back to the sixth century but the God Vitthala is not referred in the inscriptions until 1236 A.D.  The Maharashtrian Saint Namadev is intimately associated with this shrine.  This temple has six Mahadwaras or Main Gates out of which the famous Eastern Gate is named after Namadeva(1270-1350 A.D.).  The Very first step is said to have been built over Namadeva’s Samadhi or burial place. There is also a brass bust of that saint there. In the sanctum, Panduranga  Vitthala stands on a square stone pedestal resembling a brick. Bound by the cords of Pundalika’s love, Krishna placed parts of himself in the statue or Murti – an image of himself – for worship during this Kali Yuga.  Later Rukmini followed Krishna and also stood as an image behind her husband. Separate temples were built to them, and today millions of Hindus visit Pandharapura to propitiate the images of Panduranga and Rukmini. Panduranga and Rukmini in two different temples has given scope for many speculations as to who Panduranga is?
The Samadhi of Pundalika can also be seen near the temple. Vakari pilgrims congregate here in large numbers and with intense devotion, and fulfill their vows during the Hindu months of Ashadha and Kartika. The deity with plain crown in the form of rather unusual longish cap looking like linga   is devoid of celebrity of garments   and has a simple cloth covering below the hip like a Sanyasi.  It has on its chest Kaustubha necklace and bangles on the wrist. The deity has Makara-kundala type ear rings. The image is carved out of black stone little less than four feet height. It has only two arms both resting on the hips. The left holds a conch (Sankha) and the right, a discus (Chakra), typical of Vishnu deity.  Krishna deities in general are generally two armed and do not carry Sankha and Chakra but often flute held with both hands in playing mood. The slightly smiling composure Lord seems to tell the devotees, “Do not fear. For those who have surrendered unto Me, I have reduced the depth of the ocean of material suffering. See, it is only this deep”. He indicates the shallowness of the ocean by placing His hands on His hips. Venkateshwara deity shows this as knee deep by his Katihasta.
There is the temple for the great devotee Pundarika in the bed of the Chandrabhaga River which is a tributary of Krishan River about 220 feet away from Vittahla’s temple. In fact Bhimarati river flowing  in Pandharpur is called Chandrabhaga River.    The river bends like crescent moon as it reaches Pandharpur and therefore it is known as Chandrabhaga (Crescent Moon).  This river is as holy as the Ganges to his devotees.  About one Kilometer away is another temple “Vishnupaada” on a rock in the bed of the river on a plinth   7 feet in height. It contains the foot prints of Lord Krishna and of his favorite cow. Pilgrims and locals perform obsequie (sraaddha rites) ceremonies here.
Panduranga image is worshipped as Vijaya Vittala at Vishwa Shanti Ashrama, which is Sadguru Sant Keshavadas and Sadguru Rama Mata's (our gurus) ashram outside Bangalore.  Every six months devotees can witness Mahamastakabhisheka to Lord Vijaya Vittala like what is done to Goamteswara every 12 years,   pouring water, milk , honey , curds etc.,  over the 30 feet statue.

Dindi Yatra
The Annual Pandharpur Yatra (Waari) to the famous Vithoba Temple at Pandharpur in Maharashtra from Dehu and Alandi attracts thousands of people and pilgrims known as Warkaris.  In 2016, Pandharpur Yatra falls on Ashaadha Sukla Ekadasi (Tamil Month Aadi 1) day on July 15, 2016.  July 15 is also Dakshinayana Punyakala Day according to false calculation of astrologers and strongly marketed. Summer Solstice day was 20 or 21 or 22 June in 2016   astronomically depending on the place one lives.
It starts off from the birth-sites and Samadhi places of various saints and converge in Pandharpur. The pilgrims travel 150 to 300 kilometers, depending on where they start. The biggest of all Dindis is that of Jnaneshvara, which forms a gigantic procession. It originates in Alandi, near Pune, and covers about 250 kilometers in eighteen days’ walk.  The convergence of pilgrims, and the symbolic presence of their saints, awakens the sleepy villages with intense religious fervor. In the evening, groups everywhere perform kirtans, and crowds of thousands listen to various speakers, who spice-up their discourses with songs of the saints, to the tune of musical instruments. These speakers are like one-act players (Kathak dancers). They entertain and involve their audience, inspiring them to sing along.   Upon reaching Pandharpur, the pilgrims take a dip in the Chandrabhaga River. Then, carrying the palanquins on their shoulders, they perform Nagara-pradakshina (circum-ambulation of the holy city), walking a circle around the holy town. The circle complete, they queue up all night at the temple to catch a glimpse of the Lord Vitthala who is eagerly waiting for them on the brick on the Ekadashi day. In the heavy rush, each will get to see the Lord for perhaps a few seconds. For them it will be enough: their religious goal is achieved after a long journey with a glimpse of the Lord, and feel satisfied that   it is worth all the trouble.   
Along with the Dindi procession, seva (service) to the poor and needy is done reflecting that Lord is in all forms. This is called ‘Seva Dindi’. During the Seva Dindi, the people on pilgrimage undertake selfless service to the poor and needy like Amrut Kalash (Annadhan), Narayan seva, Medical seva, Building & repairing rural infrastructure etc.
This human valley of devotion brings back to our memory   the verse  in Padma Purana wherein the Lord says to Narada, the divine sage; “tatra tishthaami naarada yatra gaayanti mad bhaktaah”--O Narada, I stay where My devotees glorify Me.”

Symbolism of Panduranga
In Sanskrit, “pandu” means “white” while “ranga” means “color.” Therefore   Panduranga means the white-colored one. This is   not appropriate to  a black Salagram  icon. In Spiritual  sense  white  stands for   Sattva Guna  or Vishnu  (here  Lord Krishna).  Thus, the divine  light that Krishna personifies as the Lord of Sattva Guna, will  grace  all  who worship him irrespective of caste creed or race.   Thus the body of Christ depicted in INRI statues is also white.    Christianity believes that all sincere Christians shall merge with the   body of Christ no matter where they are or what they do. The white light of Panduranga   as the   name implies means the same. How did name Panduranga  became synonym with Krishna? Generally    Krishna is always depicted with blue color (Neelamegha Syaama).  Ranga, therefore, means dark color. With the appearance of the icon carved out of black salagrama, Panduranga came to be synonymous with Krishna in this form of the icon.  As you all know Krishna was friend   Philosopher and guide of the Pandavas. Thus he became Pandava’s Ranga or Panduranga.
Pandurnga is also called Vitthala.   “Vi” stands for “Vidhi” or Brahma, “tha” stands for Nilakanta, which is a name of Shiva as the “blue-necked who saved asuras and devas by drinking poison sprayed by the serpent Vasuki, and “la” stands for Lakshmi Pati or the husband of Lakshmi who is Vishnu. Thus, Vitthala stand for the   Trinity Vyuha (emanatrions) of Saguna Brahman --Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in his creation, sustenance and dissolution aspects.

Pundarika means the lotus of the heart. At the request of his devotee Lord Krishna agreed to stay in the heart of Pundarika forever.  

The object and place for the unbroken meditation of the Supreme Divine is described in the following Mantra of MNU:

Dahram vipaapam varavesmabhoota yat Pundareekam puramdhyasagamstham |
Tatraapi dahre gaganam visokam tasminyadantastadupaasitavyam ||

In the citadel of the body there is the small sinless and pure lotus of the heart which is the residence of the Supreme. Further in the interior of this small area there is the Ether devoid of sorrow. That Ether is to be meditated upon continuously. (The holy inner apartment is called by the name Pundarika. You know now why Supreme Being ran to reside in the heart of Pundarika permanently in Pandharpur leaving Vaikuntha!)

Pandurapura  was known as Panduranga  Kshetra associated with an old Shiva temple earlier to  Krishna showing up there. The white-colored interpretation of the Panduranga as the abode of  Shiva  is a reflection the snowy peaks of the Himalayas where Shiva dwells. The sthala purana (local mythology) says --one day when the Shiva temple priest came early to start  puja, he could not see the usual Sivalinga anywhere. Instead there was a large black icon standing there with hands on the waist. Astonished and bewildered he looked all around  and was  surprised to see  the Sivalinga on the top of the head of the longue deity. In reverence he started chanting aloud “Parabrahma Lingam Bhaje Panduranga,” which means   “The symbol of the Supreme Brahman sits atop the image of Panduranga”. This motivated Sankara to come out with his Panduranga Ashtakam where each stanza ends with the phrase; “Parabrahma Lingam Bhaje Pandurnagam”
Swami  Sivananda of Rishkesh writes while explaining   Bhagavad Gita that the word “brick” is a slang expression for a saint who is as  firm and dependable as a  brick.   The image of Panduranga standing on a brick therefore symbolizes the Consciousness that is Panduranga manifests through saints. That is to say, Panduranga stands on a brick, or, the consciousness and power of Krishna that overshadows a certain group of saints in the Hindu tradition  (Chaitanya, Jayadeva, Prabhupada and others)
Please go through detailed story of Panduranga Vitthala as narrated by Sainath of IndiaDivine.Org:

The story of Panduranga Vitthala
By Sainath | Jun 02, 2016 | IndiaDivine.Org      
Lord Vithal, or Panduranga Vitthala, is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is worshipped in the world famous Pandarpur Rukmini Vitthal Temple at Pandarpur in Maharashtra. There is an interesting story that explains about the incarnation of Lord Vitthal at Pandarpur.
Once a devotee named Pundalik was traveling to Kashi and reached the Ashram of Saint Kukkut. He asked the sage the way to Kashi. Kukkut Rishi said that he did not know the way to Kashi and he had never been there.
Pundalik made fun of Kukkut Rishi for not knowing the way to Kashi and said that a holy man like him should have already visited Kashi. Kukkut Rishi kept quiet and did not bother to answer Pundalik. During the course of the night Pundalik heard the voice of women in the ashram.
He came to out to look what was happening and saw that three women were sprinkling water on the Ashram and cleaning it.
On enquiry, Pundalik found out that the three women were Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi and they had come to clean the Ashram of Kukkut Rishi. Pundalik wondered how a saint like Kukkut who had not visited Kashi was such holy and powerful that the three holy rivers came down to purify his ashram.
The three women told Pundalik that piety, spirituality and devotion does not depend on visiting holy places or doing costly rituals but in performing one’s karma.
The three women told him that Sage Kukkut had served and nursed his parents most faithfully and devoted all his life to that one aim. He had thus accumulated Punya enough to earn Moksha and bring us down to earth to serve him.
Pundalik had left his old parents at home and was visiting Kashi to gain moksha and blessing. He did not bother to entertain the request of his parents to take them also to Kashi.
Pundalik now understood his mistake and rushed back home and took his parents to Kashi and on return started looking after them. From then onwards the care of his old mother and father came before everything else.
Lord Krishna was moved by the sincere devotion of Pundalik towards his parents. He decided to visit Pundalik’s home.
When Lord Krishna visited Pundalik’s home he was serving food to his old parents.
Pundalik saw the Lord at his door but his devotion to his parents was so intense that he wanted to finish his duties first and then attend to his guest. Pundalik had reached such a stage that it didn’t matter to him whether the guest was a mere mortal or God. All that mattered was service to his parents.
Pundalik gave Lord Krishna a brick to stand on and asked Him to wait until his duty was completed. Lord Krishna was moved by the devotion of Pundalik to his parents and waited for him patiently.
Later when Pundalik came out he asked the Lord forgiveness for making Him wait. Lord Krishna blessed him and asked him to ask a boon.
Pundalik said what more can I ask when the Lord himself waits for me.
When Lord Krishna insisted that he ask a boon, Pundalik asked that the Lord should remain on earth and bless and take care of His devotees.
Lord Krishna agreed to stay there and is known as Vithoba or the Lord who stands on a brick. This form of the Lord Vithoba is Swayambhu which means that His idol has not been carved or etched but it came into existence on its own.

|| Panduranga vittala hari narayana, Pandaripura vittala jaya Narayana ||

Shri Pandurangashtakam
On the way out of the darshana (visitors) hall, one sees hanging from the ceiling the famous eight prayers known as Pandurangashtakam, composed by the Acharya Sankara during his visit to Pandharpur in the eighth century. Each verse glorifies the beauty, qualities, and devotees of the Lord and ends with the refrain “para-brahma-lingam bhaje pandurangam”, meaning “I worship the supreme spiritual form of Lord Panduranga.”
This Stotra is a very beautiful creation of Shri   Adi Shankaracharya. This stotra is in Sanskrit. It is a praise of God Panduranga who is standing on a brick for his devotees, to bless them with  peace and happiness and everything they deserve. God Panduranga is Lord Vishnu’s avatar. Adi Shankaracharya also indicates to us why he worships God Panduranga.

श्री पांडुरंगाष्टकम् 

महायोगपीठे तटे भीमरथ्या वरं पुंडरीकाय दातुं मुनीद्रैः  
समागत्य तिष्टंतमानंदकदं परब्रह्मलिंगं भजे पांडुरंगं  

Mahaayogapeethe tate Bheemarathyaa varam pundreekaaya  datum muneendraih |
Samaagatya tishtantam aanndakadam parabrahmaalingam  bhaje pandurangam  || 1 ||

I worship that (Hiranyagarbha) Panduranga, who is the absolute Brahman
Who is the source of immense happiness
Who came in all glory and standing at  the great seat of yoga, on the banks of Bheemaratha,
Along with great seers to fulfill the boon to Pundarika.

तडिद्वाससं नीलमेघावभासं रमामंदिरं सुंदरं चित्प्रकाशम्  
वरं त्विष्टिकायां समन्यस्तपादं परब्रह्मलिंगं भजे पांडुरंगं  

Tadidvaasasam neelameghaavabhaasam ramaa-mandiram  sundaram chitprakaasam  |
Varam tvishtikaayam samanstapaadam parbrahma-lingam bhaje Pandurangam  || 2 ||

I worship that Panduranga who is the absolute Brahaman
Who is the light of all lights
Who has firmly placed his blessed feet on the bricks,
Who is dressed like a streak of lightning,
Who is of the color of the blue clouds,
Who is the very  temple for  Goddess Lakshmi,

 Donning a supreme and desired body, who is standing on his feet of equanimity.

प्रमाणं भवाब्धेरिदं मामकानां नितंबः कराभ्यां धृतो येन तस्मात्  
विधातुर्वसत्यै धृतो नाभिकोशः परब्रह्मलिंगं भजे पांडुरंगं  

Pramaanam bhavaabdher-idam maamakaanaam nitambah karaabhyaam dhrito yena tasmaat  |
Vidhaatur-vasatyai dhrito naabhikosah parbrahma-lingam bhaje Paandurangam  || 3 ||

I worship that Panduranga, who is the absolute Brahman
Who by keeping his two hands on his waist, and
Tells us all that this ocean of transmigration is only waist deep
And  who holds Creator’s abode in the lotus of the  navel
So that the creator himself can live there.

स्फुरत्कौस्तुभालंकृतं कंठदेशे श्रिया जुष्टकेयूरकं श्रीनिवासम्  
शिवं शान्तमीड्यं वरं लोकपालं परब्रह्मलिंगं भजे पांडुरंगं  

Sphurat-kaustubha-alankritam  kanthadese  sriyaa jushta-keyoorakam srinivaasam  |
Sivam-saantameedyam varam lokapaalam parabrahma-lingam  Pandurangam || 4 ||

I worship that Panduranga, who is the absolute Brahman,
Whose  neck  is adorned  with  the Kaushthubha gem,
Who has armlets of rarest charm,
Who is Srinivasa, the abode of Goddess of Wealth,
Who is ever peaceful and calm,
And who is praiseworthy and  protector of the world.

शरचंद्रबिबाननं चारुहासं लसत्कुंडलक्रान्तगंडस्थलांगम्  
जपारागबिंबाधरं कंजनेत्रम् परब्रह्मलिंगं भजे पांडुरंगं  

Sarachandra-bibaananam chaaruhaasam lasat-kundala-kraanta—gandasthaala-angam |
Japaaraaga-bimbaadharam  kanjanetram parabrahma-lingam  bhaje Paandurangam ||

I worship that Panduranga, who is the absolute Brahman,
Who is as bright as the  autumn moon  
Who has a very captivating smile,
Whose shining ear studs dangling over  his  cheeks,
Who has red  colored lips like the China rose flower and the Bimba fruit,
And whose eyes are like lotus flowers.

किरीटोज्ज्वलत्सर्वदिक् प्रान्तभागं सुरैरर्चितं दिव्यरत्नैरमर्घ्यैः  
त्रिभंगाकृतिं बर्हमाल्यावतंसं परब्रह्मलिंगं भजे पांडुरंगं  

Kireetojwalat-sarvadik  Praantabhaagam surair-architam divyaratnairamarghyaih |
Tri bhangaakritim  barhamaalyaavatamsam parabrahmalingam bhaje Pandurangam ||

I worship that Panduranga, who is the absolute Brahman,
With his  glittering    crown that  illumines all  directions around his face
Who is being worshipped using precious  gems by the devas,
Who  poses  with three bends  of (creation sustenance and dissolution) 
Who wears peacock feathers and garland of flowers!  

विभुं वेणुनादं चरन्तं दुरन्तं स्वयं लीलया गोपवेषं दधानम्  
गवां वृंदकानन्दनं चारुहासं परब्रह्मलिंगं भजे पांडुरंगं  

Vibhum venunaadam charantam  durantam svayam leelayaa gopavesham  dadhaanam |
Gavaam vrindkaa-nandanam chaaruhamsam  parabrahma-lingam bhaje Paandu-rangam  || 7 ||

I worship that Panduranga, who is the absolute Brahman,
Who   plays  his flute,
Who is all pervasive  and is infinite
Who  on his own playfully wears the attire of the cowherd,
Who brings great happiness to the herd of cows,
And who has a  charming smile.

अजं रुक्मिणीप्राणसंजीवनं तं परं धाम कैवल्यमेकं तुरीयम्  
प्रसन्नं प्रपन्नार्तिहं देवदेवं परब्रह्मलिंगं भजे पांडुरंगं  

Ajam rukminee-praana-sanjeevanam tam paraam dhaama kaivalyamekam tureeyam  |
Prasannam prapannaartiham devadevam parabrahmalingam bhaje Pandurangam  ||9||

I worship that Panduranga, who is the absolute Brahman,
Who is unborn,    
Who is the elixir of life  for  Rukmini,
Who is Supreme  abode,
Who is the only  goal for Liberation
Who is the fourth state for human existence  (absolute Bliss),
Who is  ever  pleasing
And who removes problems of seekers who take refuge in him.

स्तवं पांडुरंगस्य वै पुण्यदं ये पठन्त्येकचित्तेन भक्त्या नित्यम्  
भवांबोनिधिं तेऽपि तीर्त्वाऽन्तकाले हरेरालयं शाश्र्वतं प्राप्नुवन्ति  

Stavam Paandurangasya vai punyadam ye pathat-eka-chittena bhaktyaa cha nityam |
Bhavaabonidhim te api teertvaa antakaale hareralayam  saasvatam praapnuvanti  || 9 ||

He who reads with devotion and single minded concentration,
This holy prayer addressed to Panduranga daily,
Would cross with ease, this ocean of life,
And at the end  reach the abode  of Vishnu permanently.

इति श्री परम पूज्य शंकराचार्यविरचितं श्रीपांडुरंगाष्टकं संपूर्णं

|| Iti Sree parama poojya sankaraachaarya-virachitam sree Panduranga-
ashtakam sampoornam ||
So ends the Panduranga Ashtakam (Eight Stanzas) composed by his holiness Sankaracharya.

1.      Devdutt Pattnaik, Vishnu, Vakils Feffer And Simons Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India.
2.      Swami Harshananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Ramakrishna Math Chennai, India.
3.      Wikipedia, Internet.
4.      Sainath, The story of Panduranga Vitthala, IndiaDivine.Org
5.       Ramachandra Rao S.K., Kalpatharu Research Academy, Shankarmutt, Bengaluru, India.
6.      Swami Harshananda, Hindu Pilgrim Centers, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
7.      Swami Loknath,
8.      Namadeva Acharya & Thomas Ashle, Panduranga Vitthala and Rukmini, Internet.

Famous Maharashtrian Saint Devotees of Lord Vitthala
(Swami Loknath,
Some illustrious devotees of Lord Vitthala traveled widely throughout Maharashtra. Their preaching and their exemplary devotional mood left a permanent impression on the people. Their unanimous conclusive instruction to their followers was this: “Go on singing, go on dancing, and when you get to the lotus feet of the Lord, beg for love from Him.” So nama-sankirtana, congregational chanting of the Lord’s holy names, is very popular in Maharashtra.
 Saint Tukarama was the most famous of all Maharashtrian saints. He lived during the seventeenth century, and over the last three hundred years his devotional influence has been deeply felt by the local people. His poems, the 4,500 verses known as the Abhangs, have become part of the public memory of Maharashtra. They are sung in every village and every home.
Tukarama preached throughout his life, exhorting his countrymen to take to the path of bhakti, devotional service. His language was so simple and down to earth that even the most simple villagers understood it completely. He is the main force behind the continuous kirtanas and bhajanas performed at the many festivals in Pandharpur.
 Saint Tukarama   was a great devotee of Lord Vitthala. As mentioned before, the Deity is self-manifested. That is, He spontaneously appeared, without being carved and installed. Expressing full faith in this Deity of Lord Vitthala, Tukarama wrote, “If anyone says that this Deity was once installed, his mouth will be filled with worms.”
Saint Tukarama sometimes had to suffer humiliation and opposition from envious people, but he always stayed more humble than a blade of grass, thus changing the hearts of his enemies. The saint left for the spiritual world in his selfsame body while engaged in nama sankirtana, chanting of the holy names of the Lord, with the residents of his home village. The villagers attested they saw a spiritual Vimana (airplane )  descend and saw Tukarama board the Vimana  and leave for the spiritual sky.
Another exalted spiritual leader among Lord Vitthala’s devotees was Jnaneshvara, who lived in the thirteenth century. At the age of sixteen, he translated the complete text of Bhagavad-gita into simple Marathi, the language of Maharashtra. His work is known as Jnaneshvari. He attained samadhi (passed away) at the age of twenty-one.
You might have all heard o Namdev Chi Payari.  Also famous is the life of Saint Namadeva. Once when Namadeva was a young boy, his father, who worshiped a Deity of Lord Vitthala at home, went out, leaving Namadeva in charge of the Deity. When the time came to offer food to the Lord, Namadeva prepared a plate, placed it on the altar, and sat down, begging the Lord to accept the offering. Following his father’s advice to give the Lord some time to eat before taking back the plate, Namadeva left the Deity room and patiently waited, expecting the Lord to literally eat up the food. From time to time the boy would check, but the Lord seemed to be standing still. After quite some time had passed and Namadeva saw no sign that the Lord would ever eat, Namadeva decided to intervene. Entering the Deity room, he appealed to Lord Vitthala, insisting that the Lord eat right away. And if He wouldn’t, the boy threatened, he would smash his own head against the wall. To the boy’s surprise, Lord Vitthala then took His lotus hands off His hips and physically ate the offering.
Purandara Dasa is famous among the Haridasas of Karnataka; foremost among the talented Karnatic composers. He was very rich, but eventually gave away all his wealth because of a strange incident and became a devotee of Sri Hari. He practiced the principle contained in the popular saying "we must swim across suffering win victory over it". After Srinivasa Nayaka became the saint-singer celebrating Sri Hari, he sought a teacher for guidance and was received as a disciple by Sri Vyaasaraja. Sri Vyaasaraja who had been accepted as a great saint had composed verses both in Sanskrit and Kannada. He bestowed the name of 'Purandara Vittala' on the unattached Srinivasa Nayaka and blessed him heartily.  Purandaradasa has expressed his gratitude to Sri Vyaasaraja in one of his verses thus: "My only refuge is the feet of Vyaasaraja. I was able to understand Purandara Vittala by his grace".  He earned the well-deserved title as the devotees of Hari, Purandara Dasa  from his preceptor Sri Vyaasa Tiirtha). His works have earned the name 'Purandaropanishat'.  Srinivasa Nayaka who had earned the name of Navakoti Narayana, became a devotee of Narayana, the protector of the mankind and started a new life along with his wife and children.  Purandara Dasa's wife and children also appeared to have composed verses like him. Some of his famous Bhajans  in Kannada are Mosa Hodenallo Nanu  Ranga Baro Panduranga Baro; Onde Namavu Salade Shri Hariye... ;Hari Kunida Nammma Hari Kunida; Kshirabdhi Kannike  etc.

Mokshavimshaka Stotram – Harivamsha Puranam
Ashadha Ekadashi is round the corner (04-July-2017).  I am happy to forward a very rare and potent hymn on Lord Ananta By King  Bali  sent through courtesy Muralidharan Iyengar from Singapore.  .
Ashadhi Ekadashi is a very important occasion in Pandharpur in Maharashtra. It looks like the crowds keep swelling with people from many different states doing pada yatra for this occasion. Sri. Tukaram Ganapathi Maharaj is building a place to stay for devotees especially from south. Blessed are those who can be at Pandharpur during those Ekadashi . The rest of us can perhaps recite this hymn!
This  rare hymn on Lord Ananta (Vishnu) by King Bali as told by Sage Narada taken from Harivamsha Puranam (Last Canto of Mahabharata), Bhavishya Parva and Chapter 72. This hymn was given by Sage Narada to King Bali when he was sent to nether world by Lord Vamana to get emancipation from bondage. The brief Phalashruti by Sage Vaishampayana declares that one who recites this hymn gets absolved of all sins including the killing of cows and brahmins and begets all wishes fulfilled such as progeny, spouse, emancipation, relief from labor pain during child birth, etc.

śrīnārada uvāca -
om namo'stvanantapataye akṣayāya mahātmane |
jaleśayāya devāya padmanābhāya viṣṇave || 1 ||
sapta-sūrya-vapuḥ kṛtvā trīṁllokān krāntavānasi |
bhagavan kālakālas tvaṁ tena satyena mokṣaya || 2 ||
naṣṭa-candrārka gagane kṣīṇa yajña tapaḥ kriye |
punaścintayase lokāṁs tena satyena mokṣaya || 3 ||
brahma-rudrendra vāyvagni sarid bhujaga parvatāḥ |
tvatsthā dṛṣṭā dvijendreṇa tena satyena mokṣaya || 4 ||
mārkaṇḍena purā kalpe praviśya jaṭharaṁ tava |
carācara-gataṁ dṛṣṭaṁ tena satyena mokṣaya || 5 ||
eko vidyā sahāyas tvaṁ yogī yogamupāgataḥ |
punastrailokyaṁ-utsṛjya tena satyena mokṣaya || 6 ||
jalaśayyāmupāsīno yoganidrāmupāgataḥ |
lokāṁścintayase bhūyas tena satyena mokṣaya || 7 ||
vārāhaṁ rūpamāsthāya veda yajña puraskṛtam |
dharā jaloddhṛtā yena tena satyena mokṣaya || 8 ||
uddhṛtya daṁṣṭryā yajñāṁs trīn piṇḍān kṛtavānasi |
tvaṁ pitṝṇāmapi hare tena satyena mokṣaya || 9 ||
pradudruvuḥ surāḥ sarve hiraṇyākṣa bhayārditāḥ |
paritrātās tvayā deva tena satyena mokṣaya || 10 ||
 dīrgha-vaktreṇa rūpeṇa hiraṇyākṣasya saṁyuge |
śiro jahāra cakreṇa tena satyena mokṣaya || 11 ||
bhagna mūrdhāsthi mastiṣko hiraṇyakaśipuḥ purā |
huṁkāreṇa hato daityas tena satyena mokṣaya || 12 ||
dānavābhyāṁ hṛtā vedā brahmaṇaḥ paśyataḥ purā |
paritrātās tvayā deva tena satyena mokṣaya || 13 ||
kṛtvā hayaśiro rūpaṁ hatvā tu madhu-kaiṭabhau |
brahmaṇe te'rpitā vedās tena satyena mokṣaya || 14 ||
deva dānava gandharvā yakṣa siddha mahoragāḥ |
antaṁ tava na paśyanti tena satyena mokṣaya || 15 ||
apāntaratamā nāma jāto devasya vai sutaḥ |
kṛtāśca tena vedārthās tena satyena mokṣaya || 16 ||
veda yajñā 'gnihotrāṇi pitṛ-yajña havīṁṣi ca |
rahasyaṁ tava devasya tena satyena mokṣaya || 17 ||
ṛṣir dīrghatamā nāma jātyandho guru-śāpataḥ |
tvat-prasādācca cakṣuṣmāṁs tena satyena mokṣaya || 18 ||
grāhagrastaṁ gajendraṁ ca dīnaṁ mṛtyu-vaśaṁ gatam |
bhaktaṁ mokṣitavāṁs tvaṁ hi tena satyena mokṣaya || 19 ||
akṣayas cā'vyayaśca tvaṁ brahmaṇyo bhaktavatsalaḥ |
ucchritānāṁ niyantāsi tena satyena mokṣaya || 20 ||
śaṅkhaṁ cakraṁ gadāṁ padmaṁ śārṅgaṁ garuḍaṁ eva ca |
prasādayāmi śirasā te bandhān mokṣayantu mām || 21 ||
śaṅkhaṁ cakraṁ gadā padmaṁ śārṅgaṁ ca garuḍadayaḥ |
hariṁ prasādayāmāsur baliṁ mokṣaya bandhanāt || 22 ||

|| Phalaśrutiḥ ||
śrīvaiśampāyana uvāca -
imaṁ stavaṁ anantasya sarva-pāpa-pramocanam |
yaḥ paṭheta naro bhaktyā tasya naśyati kilbiṣam || 23 ||
 go-hatyāyāḥ-pramucyeta brahmaghno-brahma-hatyayā |
aputro-labhate-putraṁ kanyā-caivepsitaṁ-patim || 24 ||
sadyo-garbhāt-pramucyeta garbhiṇī-janayet-sutam |
ye ca mokṣaiṣiṇo loke yoginaḥ sāṅkhyakāpilāḥ || 25 ||
stavenānena gacchanti śvetadvīpaṁ akalmaṣāḥ |
sarva-kāma-prado hyeṣa stavo 'nantasya kīrtyate || 26 ||
yaḥ-paṭhet-prātarutthāya śuciḥ prayata-mānasaḥ |
sarvān-kāmān-avapnoti mānavo nātra-saṁśayaḥ || 27 ||

|| iti śrīmahābhārate-khilabhāge-harivaṁśe bhaviṣya-parvaṇi vāmana-prādurbhāve śrīnārada-proktaṁ mokṣaviṁśaka stotraṁ sampūrṇam ||