Vasudev - The original wanderers of Maharashtra

'Vasudev' is a community of Krishna worshippers found mainly in Maharashtra. They wander through villages and towns to do uddhar (help families regain favors of the dead), singing bhakti songs, and surviving on alms given by the people. Some of the people from the community also do farming or rearing of animals as alms are often not sufficient to survive on, especially now.

A Vasudev in singing in Pune
Another Vasudev I met on Diwali
I met two Vasudevs during Diwali and was immediately intrigued by them and their songs. I interviewed one of them at length and loved how he candidly told me about himself. I felt a little embarrassed about how little I knew about them and decided to find more about them.

Deeksha of a Vasudev

The initiation of a Vasudev takes place through a Deeksha ceremony, very smiler to the initiation ceremony of a Brahmin boy. There is an event which is conducted for this and the priest tells a secret mantra in the ears of the boy and he then becomes a part of the community, becomes a Vasudev. Often the vasudevs wander across villages alone, but at times they are together as group also and they also have special dances they perform together.

Vasudevs spend their mornings walking around and singing bhakti songs

Story of Vasudev origins

There are several stories on their origin and many of these are mythical in nature. The earliest recorded evidence of their existence comes from the religious texts from the ninth century. Tukaram, one of the most famous Saint from Maharashtra, also composed songs about the community.


A busy Vausdev
Singing Krishna songs

Attire of a Vasudev

I met and spoke to a couple of Vasudev for the article and they were both dressed in very similar ways. They both wore similar heavily adorned clothes - white dhoti-kutra, colorful bags, peacock-feather adorned cap and in general there was a lot of shimmer. They also sang almost constantly and walked around, never asking for money themselves. When someone offered them money they just opened their bags and ask you to drop the money directly in it without taking a break from their singing.

The complete attire of a Vasudev - they make it themselves

The headgear is the most interesting part
They make music with these in hands

There are some unique practices that the community practices, for instance burying of the dead, unlike burning. It's also a very patriarchal community where only the men work on the streets and the women work at home, and often do prayers and fasts for the Devi.

If you are intrigued by them, do read this excellent article by Ashok Ohol. There is so much I learnt from his research work. Also read another short write up about the community on my friend Anuradha's blog here.

Finally, read more about Bajrang Vasudev and his dream below.

Bajrang Vasudev

What is your dream Bajrang Vasudev?

"My dream is to wander across and spread the message of Krishna to people. I want to give pleasure to people with my songs."

Bajrang Vasudev lives in a town called Alandi and comes to Pune only once in a month. On other days he travels to other towns like Balewadi, Hadapaar etc, to sing Krishna songs and make his living. 'Vasudev' is a community of Krishna worshippers found mainly in Maharashtra.

This has been the profession in the community for generations, but Bajrang is convinced that his son won't do this. He studied only till grade five in the village, but he gave good education to his son and currently he is working in the service industry.

Comments

  1. Wow! Glad to know about this community. Thanks, Sid.

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  2. I have read your story with interest, and the photos are beautiful!

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  3. Growing up in the Peths I've seen them often. But got to know so much about this community thanks to your post.

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    1. I had also seen them a few times, but had never spoken to them before. It was really nice to talk to them...and learn about them in their own words :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing this information

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    1. You are welcome Manoj :) I am glad you enjoyed reading the story...

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  5. need more detailed information

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    1. I agree. Unfortunately I had just one short meeting with him...

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  6. There's one that comes in our lane once a week. We were intrigued at first, happy that such an old social character was still alive in Pune. The conversation however unfolded a sad reality. He told us of his face reading skills and predicted a grim future. "There's a puja you can do so make it better. It'll cost you a 1000, but I'll get the cost down for you if you pay right away." We just told him that "mauli" was watching all this and knew what he was doing, and walked away.

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    1. Nice to know that. There is no sanctity left these days. People want to make easy money by hook or crook.

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    2. I had a very similar experience today morning. I folded my hands and offered him money, he took it politely, looked straight in my eyes and said 5-6 things that were absolutely true. For a few minutes I was mesmerized, almost hypnotized. Then he offered to give me a "Rudraksha" which would solve my problems and promised me to tell me names of those who would harm me, if I could donate him some more. Thankfully I sensed the commercial nature just in time and politely walked away. But I do confess, for a few minutes I was absolutely hooked.

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  7. But these days the so called Vasudevs use some magical powers or hypnotize gullible people who touch their Khartal or Chipdi and grab cash. Women get carried away by their face reading and then the moment the instrument is handed over to the woman, she offers all the cash to them willingly.

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    1. It's a bit sad that a noble profession has become like this...

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    2. देवाच्या नावाखाली यांनी पण चोरी sorry दरोडे चालू केलेत .. भिकच मागत राहतील .. असे पैसे पचतील काय ? खूप मेहनत आणि सचोटीचे पैसे आहेत .

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  8. The pics are beautiful in the article. I was very curious to know about these people after an incident in our building took place a couple of days ago.

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  9. Yes. It was happened with me also. The Vasudev Name Vishal Chavan staying at Dehu Near Sant Tukaram Maharaj Mandir, he hypnotised us. I take home to give tea and some sidha but he hypnotised us & filled us under Bhakti. I have his picture with me. Please do not believe these Vasudev. Please.

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  10. wonderful information. Thank you for putting this together.

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  11. Please don't trust these "so called" followers of "Lord Krishna" or "Mauli".They use black magic and put spells on people and try to extract money.My friend met such person and was taking help of this "vasudev" who told her he'd help her get a job and she was told later by another person that she was under a black magic spell as her head kept staying heavy and she forgot things,fear of going out alone in the evening as the sun started to set etc (and other such symptoms of black magic) after she took his help. She had to suffer a lot because of this person and was finally relieved from his spells effect.

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  12. Please stay away from these people as they are into black magic practice and extract money from innocent people and make lives miserable and tell tales and even make sure to bind you under a black magic spell.

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  13. Same experience with me today ..he said my family is going to fall in some danger ..and the same can be sorted if I give him money forv5 kgs pedha...he was asking 2000 bugs ... he was not allowing me to move ahead .. I somehow managed ... full of blunders stay away

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