Pandharpur: Maharashtra's temple town Pandharpur is all set to get the world's biggest toilet facility to serve to the needs of over three lakh pilgrims who throng the shrine to seek the blessings of Lord Vitthal, the state's presiding deity.
Giving a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious 'Clean India Campaign', NGO Sulabh International has constructed a cluster of eight mega toilet complexes—comprising 1,417 toilet units—in the vicinity of the temple in Pandharpur.
"So far, we have completed first two phases and by the end of next year there will be total 2,858 toilet units," Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak said on Tuesday.
"This will be the largest toilet facility as before this China had the largest toilet facility having 1,000 toilet units. But now, we have outnumbered them," he added.
Pandharpur is famous for the temple of Lord Vitthal or Vithoba and his consort Rakhumai—manifestation of Lord Vishnu's incarnation Krishna and Rukmini. Millions of devotees, who are known as Varkaris, congregate here throughout the year for pilgrimage. The largest annual congregation is around the Ashadhi Ekadashi -- the 11th day of the Hindu lunar month of Ashadh.
With the opening of the eight three-storeyed mega toilet buildings, over 1.5 lakh persons will be able to use the toilets daily.
The toilet complexes also comprise bathing facility for several hundred persons simultaneously. The project was financed and supported by the Maharashtra government.
Four buildings were operational for the last one year and now four more such structures will be operational ahead of the pilgrimage.
With the completion of the mega toilet blocks, Sulabh International claims "the project has attained the status of largest toilet facility of the world".
Each of the newly built complex consists of 282 toilet and bath compartments and provides facility of lockers as well as changing rooms for devotees.
Pathak supported the ongoing campaign of the Prime Minister to make India Open Defecation Free.
He said that to make India free of open defection by 2019, funds are needed and nearly 12 crore toilets are required to be built by 2019 to realize the dream of the Prime Minister.
"This is a big task, but together we can do it and non-resident Indians can play a pivotal role in this," Pathak said.
Locals appreciated the cause, saying it would help in reducing the number of people going out for defecation.
A resident of Pandharpur, Rahul Jadhav says that open defecation has always been a problem in the city. During pilgrimage the problem used to aggravate because of lack of toilets. Pilgrims would be forced to opt for open defecation.
"With the construction of toilet complexes, the number of people opting for open defecation will certainly go down," Jadhav said.
The month of July attracts a crowd of over a million people in Pandarpur for "Pandharpur Wari" -- the 22-day long annual pilgrimage that dates back to 800 years.
During the pilgrimage Varkaris' take out 'Palki' or palanquin of Lord Vitthal and revered saints Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram from the place of their 'Samadhi' or the place they received enlightenment at. The spiritual pilgrimage and fest ends on Ashadhi Ekadashi, which falls on 15 July this year.