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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.

) is known by many names, including: Vitthala, Panduranga, Pandharinath, Hari and Narayan.

There are several theories about the origins and meanings of these names.

Vithoba is associated more with "compassion, an infinite love and tenderness for his bhaktas (devotees) that can be compared to the love of the mother for her children ..

pining for the presence of his devotees the way a cow pines for her far-away calf." G. Deleury, author of The cult of Vithoba, proposes that the image of Vithoba is a viragal (hero stone), which was later identified with Vishnu in his form as Krishna, and that Pundalik transformed the Puranic, ritualistic puja worship into more idealised bhakti worship—"interiorized adoration prescinding caste distinction and institutional priesthood .." Indologist Dr.

This is backed by the facts that the temple at Pandharpur is surrounded by Shaiva temples (most notably of the devotee Pundalik himself), and that Vithoba is crowned with the Linga, symbol of Shiva.

However, since the 13th century, the poet-saints like Namdev, Eknath and Tukaram identified Vithoba with Vishnu.

The rise of the Yadava dynasty, which had cowherd ancestry, could have led to the glorification of Vithoba as Krishna, who is often depicted as a cowherd.Vithoba is often depicted as a dark young boy, standing arms akimbo on a brick, sometimes accompanied by his main consort Rakhumai.Vithoba is the focus of the monotheistic, non-Brahamanical Varkari faith of Maharashtra and the Haridasa faith of Karnataka. Vithoba legends revolve around his devotee Pundalik, who is credited with bringing the deity to Pandharpur, and around Vithoba's role as a saviour to the poet-saints of the Varkari faith.While Vishnu and Shiva were bound in rigid ritualistic worship and Brahmin (priestly) control, Vithoba, "the God of the subaltern, became increasingly human." Vithoba is often praised as the protector of the poor and needy.The oldest part of the temple dates to the Yadava period of the 12th and 13th centuries.

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