Vitthal Navratri is one of the famous ritualistic festivals celebrated in Vitthal Rukmai Devi Temples all across Maharashtra and other parts of India. In 2019, Vitthal Navratri begins on 11 July and ends on July 16.
Vitthal Navratri is celebrated from Shukla Paksha Dashami in Ashada Month to Ashada Purnima according to all Chandramana Panchangams (Amavasyant & Purnimant calendars).
Vithoba is a popular deity in Maharashtra ; devotees also exist in Goa and Gujarat, but not in the same numbers. Vithoba is worshipped and revered by most Marathis, but he is not popular as a kuldevta (family deity). The main temple of Vithoba, which includes a distinct, additional shrine for his consort Rakhumai, is located at Pandharpur.
In this context, Pandharpur is affectionately called “Bhu-Vaikuntha” (the place of residence of Vishnu on earth) by devotees. Devotees have visited Vithoba’s central temple at Pandharpur, since the times of Dnyaneshwar (13th century).
Two distinct traditions revolve around the worship of Vithoba in Maharashtra: ritual worship inside the temple by the Brahmin priests of the Badva family; and spiritual worship by the Varkaris. The ritual worship includes five daily rites.
First, at about 3 am, is an arati to awaken the god, called kākaḍāratī. Next comes the pañcāmṛtapūjā, a puja that includes a bath with five (pancha) sweet substances called panchamrita. The image is then dressed to receive morning devotions.
The third rite is another puja involving re-dressing and lunch at noon. This is known as madhyāhṇapūjā. Afternoon devotions are followed by a fourth rite for dinner at sunset—the aparāhṇapūjā.
The final rite is śerāratī, an arati for putting the god to sleep. In addition to the rites at the main temple in Pandharpur, Haridasa traditions dedicated to Vitthala flourish in Karnataka.