The worship of Lord Vitthala begins with the mangala-arati ceremony at four o’clock in the morning. After arati the Lord is offered pancabhiseka, a bath with milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, and sugar water. At some point the bathing is interrupted so that the Lord may be fed butter mixed with sugar candy. A big lump of butter is literally put into His mouth. Then a short arati is offered, and the bathing resumes. After the bath, the Lord is meticulously dressed and profusely garlanded. Finally, He is offered a mirror in which to view His appearance.
As a token of His merciful nature, Lord Vitthala allows everyone to watch His bathing ceremony. After this the crowds, till then restrained along the walls of the darsana hall, are let into the sanctum sanctorum.
Daily, thousands of devoted pilgrims take darsana (seeing of the Lord). It is also the unique tradition in Pandharpur that everyone can go up to the altar and touch the lotus feet of the Deity. Some pilgrims even rest their heads upon His feet. But one has to move on quickly.
After taking darsana, pilgrims re-enter the darsana hall. Looking back, they get a last glimpse of the Lord’s attractive form. In the buzzing atmosphere of the darsana hall they fall flat on the floor, offering obeisances. Then, holding each ear with the hand across from it, they turn about, springing up and down on the same spot, begging the Lord to forgive any offenses they may have committed at His lotus feet.
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