Pune: Thousands of devotees who throng the pilgrim town of Pandharpur in Maharashtra to pay obeisance to Lord Vithoba, can now book a time-slot online to avoid serpentine queues.
`Warkaris` from the state and a large number of pilgrims from neighbouring states converge on the banks of river Chandrabhaga on Ashadhi Ekadashi every year, most of them walking the whole distance, and then stand for long hours to have darshan of the deity, fondly called `Vithoba` by Marathi-speakers.
District officials said the online booking facility, which was put into operation on experimental basis last year, was made available as a regular service from July 19, which was also `Ekadashi` according to the Hindu calendar.
Those from the rural areas, who do not have access to Internet, can approach tehsil offices for online registration, Pune divisional commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh said.
Applicants are required to access the temple website and get their names enrolled along with a photograph, following which they would be allotted a time-slot.
"We are also interacting with the Warkari sect to create more awareness about online booking for darshan to reduce hardships of the devotees," Deshmukh added.
The day witnessed a massive congregation of devotees who carried the `palkhis` (palanquins) of saint Dnyaneshwar and saint Tukaram to Pandharpur, walking about 300 km, keeping the 700-year-old tradition of the Warkari sect alive.
The existing system of queueing up for darshan will also continue; those registering online can arrive at the temple just an hour before.
A large number of devotees from neighbouring Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh also visit the temple town.
Another hi-tech feature of this year`s pilgrimage was the battery-operated chariot carrying the palanquin of saint Dnyaneshwar which was taken in a procession from Alandi in Pune district to Pandharpur.