The Varkari (वारकरी) tradition : started by Sant Jnaneshwar [Mauvli] over 700 yrs ago sowed the seeds of "Bakthi" in every individual irrespective of caste, creed or status. Varkari in Marathi means : travellers or more precisely periodic travellers.
The Varkari sampraday (religious movement) is so called because the followers travel hundreds of miles to the holy town of Pandharpur on foot, every year on the Ekadashi (11th day by lunar calendar) in the Hindu calendar month of Aashaadha (which falls sometime in July) and Kartik Ekadashi (which falls sometime in November). This pilgrimage is called vari (वारी) in the Marathi language and thus one who performs it in the path of devotion (Bhakti Marga) is a varkari.
Santh Gnyaneshwar maharaj who is said to be the incarnation of Lord Sri Vishnu laid the foundation of Varakari sampradaya 700 years ago. This Sampradaya is Sanatan meaning "Evernew" and Not Puratan because purathana means old only but sanathanameans old and evernew. Even today we can see lakhs and lakhs of people following the same way shown by the sanths that day. As we call in South India Alzwars and Nayanmars ,people call the devotees of the presiding deity at Pandharpur Lord Vittal as Sanths who have written abhangs like we say here the Naalayiradivyaprabandham, Thevaram etc.
Aadhar (base) for Namasankeerthanam : of Varakari sampradaya is the 'Prasthaana Trayam' .
- Tukaram gatha (abhangs of Tukaram Maharaj).
- Eknath Bhagavath (Marathi translation of the 11 th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatham)
- Dnyaneshwari (marathi translation of Bhagavat Gita by Sant Dnyaneshwar also known as Mauvli)
Vitthal devotees have been performing "Vari" even before Saint Dnyaneshwar (13th century). However, the current tradition of carrying the "Paduka" (sandals) of the saints in a palkhi from their "hometown" (place of Samadhi) to Pandharpur was started by the youngest son of Sant Tukaram called Narayan Maharaj in 1685.