Bring your Palkhi Of Innovations : 2018

Over 1.5 million pilgrims “Warkaris” walk annually in the Palkhi processions “Wari” from about Pune, to Pandharpur about 450 km in neighboring Solapur district in a fortnight. The Wari culminates at the Vithoba temple on Ashadhi Ekadashi.

This annual Pilgrimage is considered one of the oldest and the largest gathering of people at one location. The Wari is generally regarded to exist for more than 1000 years.

The pilgrims are mostly farmers in and around Maharashtra who start the journey each year on foot after sowing the seeds for their next round of crops and with a hope for a good harvest that can lead them for a better year ahead.

The tradition of the Pilgrimage is to carry the Padhuka “footprints” of the Sants in a Palkhi “(palanquin) as an evolution of the modern era so that the thoughts of these greats reach the masses.

There has been constant changes to the way the Palkhi procession is conducted. The Pilgrimage is also one of the safest, as there has been no proof of any loss of life due to stampede or epidemics in its 1000 year tradition dating back even before the birth of Sant Dnyaneshwar in the 13th century who also followed the Wari on the same route as it happens today.

The Fortnight of journey from Pune to Pandarpur

The pilgrims start from Alandi and Dehu around 22kms from the city of Pune.

Pune is emerging as city that has an internationally acclaimed university, a young demographic, a fantastic nightlife and a tech hub that is beginning to challenge the hegemony of Bangalore. The city is only 75 miles from the financial center of Mumbai, and, unusually for India, it has great transportation and nothing like the traffic problems of other Indian cities. It feels new, fresh and almost Californian in its energy and, unlike 99% of Indian roads, the Mumbai Pune Expressway is a joy to drive down.

What are we trying to solve?

Large scale movement of visitors during pilgrimages has a high potential to influence the environment in sacred sites. In traditional pilgrimage, environmental effects have significant changes in scale, frequency and character of such visitation over the past few decades reflect new pressures on the environment of sacred sites.The world is full of problems that are still to be worked upon so this is no surprise that they face many problems. These problems are not limited to the people who make the annual pilgrimage but to the ecosystem and environment as a whole.

Open defecation in villages on the route where these pilgrims stay in huge numbers and particularly for the women who travel in large number every year.
The distribution and wastage of food to the pilgrims which is provided to these pilgrims in kind by sponsors and volunteers.
Disposal of waste created by these pilgrims in every villages they travel by on the route to their destination
Lack of important resources needed for all the people who make the annual pilgrimage and recycling.
Lack of doctors, medical resource and attention to the pilgrims. Management of ambulance services can also be a cause to work on.
Crowd management during the rush hours at the sacred sites.
Shortage of clean drinking water for all the people opting for the pilgrimage.
Lack of electricity during the whole pilgrimage in this changing world can be a difficult situation.
Sustainable infrastructure that can be reused year after year during the pilgrimage.
Transportation of good and services during the whole pilgrimage can be a cause of chaos as there might be huge traffic jams.
Distribution and management of information to all the people without which it could lead to a lot of security problems for the management.
Security of peoples life and money can also be an issue with thefts and cons who make life difficult for the pilgrims.
Lost and found monitoring and verification during the whole process needs an innovative approach.
Theft of valuables also form a major threat to people and Law enforcers.
Some of the challenges that we have listed here but the opportunities are all that we need to make a difference in the life of the billions.

The “Palkhi” is a good opportunity to know the difficulties faced by the farmers in their respective villages and work on innovative solutions for them. This is a time when the rural villagers far and wide come to the people who can innovate with the different knowledge they have gained in their academics, rather than these innovator going places to find and spot a problem to work on.

So, How can the Palkhi be a breeding ground for Innovations of the future ?

Taking inspiration from the Kumbhathon where the innovators are bringing innovative solutions to Kumbh Mela, many of which have been already put in place by the citizens, from the Nashik innovation center and DISQ in a year-round initiative to identify and address the challenges of cities in developing countries. The year long activities are made up of four phases: Spot, Probe, Grow and Launch .

The Pilgrimage of Pandharpur with millions of people is to a similar extent a good place to spot, Probe, build, scale and Launch sustainable and innovative solutions for the next billion aspirational people. But unlike Kumbh Mela this is a pilgrimage that is held annually which can help build annual sprints for any solutions.
Making this happen in Pune would be an opportunity to half a million students studying in Pune which like many indians at this point lacks the inspiration and dedication towards innovating and scaling to grow big to bring about change to the ecosystem.

The city has a huge developer ecosystem thanks to the presence of huge Multinational technology and IT companies in all corners of the city but these techies lack the desire to take the risk to startup. Similarly the city is a huge manufacturing hub for automobile and recently IoT and robotics, the launch of Foxconn which has secured a site in the Pune industrial zone could make it even more attractive.

The city would make a good location for defence startups with the presence of DRDO and many retired army officers with tons of experience using legacy war technology that need lot of innovation. The city is also host to some of the best research institutes like IISER, COEP, TIFR, IUCAA and many more which can help build the revolution for Innovations in the city. Finally its all about bringing about change in the society and build a sustainable future that can make a difference to next billion people aspiring to break the barriers of better standards of living for themselves.

So I request all the students, professors, researchers, innovators, startups, Investors, Angels, accelerators, Makerlabs, opensource groups, MNC’s and their CXO’s to come forward and support the innovators by sowing the seeds of inspiration with a hope to reap a good harvest of the solutions in a fortnight so that one day every one can bring their PALKHI of INNOVATIONS to the billions hoping in 2018 for a better and sustainable standard of living.

Come join the revolution to build a sustainable future for billions of people in the future.