Vitthal is known for being the savior of the poet-saints of the Varkari faith, who were known for the abhang, a unique type of devotional lyric, which they dedicated to Vitthal and composed in Marathi. Vitthal also has other devotional literature written for him, including the Kannada hymns of the Jaridasa and some Marathi versions of aarti songs, which are used in rituals of offering light to the god.
There are several possible explanations for the origins of Vitthal’s name. One is that it comes from the Sanskrit root words, vit, meaning “brick,” and thal, which may come from sthala, meaning “standing.” This would explain the depiction of Vitthal in iconography as a figure standing on a brick.
An alternative explanation from the poet-saint, Tukuram, is that Vitthal, or Vitthala, comes from vittha, meaning “ignorance,” and la, meaning “one who accepts”; thus, his name suggests that he is “one who accepts those who are ignorant of all knowledge.” Finally, the name Vitthal, or Vitthu, as it is sometimes written is a corruption of the name Vishnu.