The Vitthal of Pandharpur is undoubtedly the premier deity of Maharashtra. It is, perhaps, the greatest centre of attraction for the masses as far as the spiritual field goes. The enormity of the influence Vitthal and the Varkari Sampradava have exercised over the life of the Marathi people becomes obvious even from cursory glimpses of some of the very broad aspects of our cultural life.The huge crowds that accompany the palanquins of the various saints to Pandharpur provide a visible symbol of this popularity. A great mass of Marathi literature of the pre British period is devoted to the praise and prayer of Vithoba and the propagation of the Varkaricult.
Perhaps more important and significant is the fact that some of the most enlightened minds of Maharashtra have merged themselves completely in the devotion-Bhakti-of Vitthal. Lastly, the sect has attracted for the last thousand years people belonging to various castes and communities, from various professions and callings, from the learned and from the uninitiated. In fact it is one of the fewforces that have held the Hindu society of this region together, especially during the strains and stresses of Islamic rule. Vithoba and the Bhakti-cult are thus a unique phenomenon as far as Maharashtra goes.
Author - Madhukar Shripad Mate