A black-and-white image of an idol of an arms-akimbo bare-chested man, wearing a conical head-gear, a venkatesh stotra in sanskrit pdf and ornaments. Panduranga, is a Hindu god predominantly worshipped in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
He is generally considered a manifestation of the god Vishnu or his avatar, Krishna. Vithoba is the focus of an essentially monotheistic, non-ritualistic bhakti-driven Varkari faith of Maharashtra . The historiography of Vithoba and his cult is an area of continuing debate, even regarding his name. A 1922 photograph of the Vithoba icon in Pandharpur adorned with jewellery and clothes. Vitthala, Panduranga, Pandharinath, Hari and Narayan. There are several theories about the origins and meanings of these names. Thus, Vitthala would mean ‘one standing on a brick’.
Mate of the Deccan College, Pundalik—who is assumed to be a historical figure—was instrumental in persuading the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana alias Bittidev to build the Pandharpur temple dedicated to Vishnu. Pandurang and Pandaranga, is another popular epithet for Vithoba, which means ‘the white god’ in Sanskrit. Even though Vithoba is depicted with dark complexion, he is called a “white god”. Finally, Vithoba is also addressed by the names of Lord Vishnu like Hari and Narayana, in the Vaishnav religions. Reconstruction of the historical development of Vithoba worship has been much debated. In particular, several alternative theories have been proposed regarding the earliest stages, as well as the point at which he came to be recognised as a distinct deity.
The Pandurangashtakam stotra, a hymn attributed to Adi Shankaracharya of the 8th century, indicates that Vithoba worship might have already existed at an early date. According to Richard Maxwell Eaton, author of A Social History of the Deccan, Vithoba was first worshipped as a pastoral god as early as the 6th century. Krishna-worshipping Mahanubhava sect, the town was transformed into a Vaishnava center of pilgrimage. Dhere, winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award for his book Sri Vitthal: Ek Mahasamanvaya, opines that Vithoba worship may be even older—”Vedic or pre-Vedic”, hence pre-dating the worship of Krishna.
Scholastic investigation of Vithoba’s history often begins with consideration of the dating of the chief temple at Pandharpur, which is believed to be the earliest Vithoba temple. The oldest part of the temple dates to the Yadava period of the 12th and 13th centuries. Most of the temple is believed to have been built in the 17th century, though addition to the temple has never ceased. Ranade believes that an inscription, found in Alandi and referring to Vitthala and Rakhumai, is the oldest related to Vithoba, and dates it to 1209. However, the name Pandaranga is found on a Rashtrakuta copper plate inscription, dated 516. An arms-akimbo Vishnu from Udaygiri Caves. Vithoba at Pandharpur, and various textual references to it, have inspired theories relating to Vithoba worship.