Shri Vittal Birdev Annual Yatra is observed in at Pattan Kodoli village in Hatkangale Taluka near Kolhapur. It is the birth anniversary or Janmotsav festival of Vitthal Birdev Maharaj, who is a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. The annual fair and festival attracts thousands of devotees to Pattan Kodoli village. Birdev is the family deity of the Shepherd community from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa and Andhra Pradesh. Pattan Kodoli is 17km from Kolhapur. It is situated between foot fills of Panhala fort (Ranges) and Warana River. This is a unique town where you can get a glimpse of both modernity and heritage.
A very important ceremony of this fare is the predictions by Shree Kheloba Rajabhau Waghmode, from Ahjangoau, a village in Solhapur District. He is considered as the messenger of god. Many start their journey days or weeks in advance by foot to reach the temple from their village in time for the Yatra. This year, Baba started his journey on the 7th October and reached the temple on the 17th October. And throughout the festival he sits under a big banyan tree in a small mandap for the devotees to get his blessings.
This year festival is celebrated from 17th to 24th October, 20th being the most important day. On this day Baba predicts the future of climate, crops, business and health for the coming year which will benefit the farmers immensely. Lakhs of people throng to the village on this day. The streets of the village are filled with food, entertainment and local handicrafts stalls. The festival is celebrated with bhandara. It is yellow powder, looks very similar to turmeric, but it is different. It has no smell and it is believed to have medicinal properties. The Shepherd community offer bhandara mixed with dry coconut pieces to god. It is consecrated by showering the God’s idol. The devotees collect the bhandara from the God’s feet and take it to their home. They use it on auspicious occasions and to cure any illness. Along with bhandara they also offer goat’s hair to the god. This place is famous for the blankets made of goat hair which are used by the Sheppard’s.
On the day of the prediction, thousands of devotees gather in an open area in front of the banyan tree to watch the rituals. Throughout the day you can see many people gather in small groups and sing bhajans and folk songs. The devotees also shower bhandara on everything they like or worship. During the peak of the procession your will be mesmerized and lost in the moment. In the blink of an eye everything turns to yellow.
The main ceremony takes places between 1pm to 5pm. During this time you hardly have any space to move around. Like on Holi, bhandara is applied on everyone and from far the whole place looks like a golden blanket. Devotees bring huge umbrellas (different model to our usual one) which are traditionally decorated and go to the temple with a band of drummers. After the darshan in the temple, they march to the open area where the celebration takes place. They play the drums, spin the huge umbrellas, sing folk songs, dance and do acrobatics. At around 3, Baba emerges from the mandap. After a few rituals, the holy sword is handed to him. It is believed after this, God descends into him. He performs with the sword which mesmerizes his devotees. Then the entire gathering proceeds into the temple. Here, he gives his prediction and people believe that it’s God speaking to them. He speaks in a distinct dialect of kannada, which is understood by a very few people. His message is translated and the priest shares it.
This tradition is being followed by hundreds of years, much older than our weather satellites. As per local people 90% of his predictions come true every time