By Damodarleela dasa and Arjuna Krishna dasa
Last year when I was with the All-India Padayatra we visited Kanganroli village, where in a garden near a temple I noticed a huge rose plant growing. I approached the home-owner to ask her for roses for worshipping Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar, but the plant didn’t have many. However, the mataji readily gave me flowers saying, “Prabhu, this plant looks big but gives very few roses, I am sorry I could not do much to serve Their Lordships.” I replied, “Don’t worry mataji, the Lord will definitely like your service attitude and by the mercy of Nitai-Gaurasundar there will soon be thousands of roses on this plant.
When the Maharashtra Padayatra arrived at Kanganroli on September 17, that mataji heard about us and happily came for darshan. She was surprised to see that things had changed, that padayatra now had different deities and oxen. I told her, “Mataji, we have started a padayatra that will walk only in Maharashtra, and last year that was the All-India Padayatra. She said, “I know the Lord has come just so I could serve Him with the flowers. By the mercy of Their Lordships that plant now has thousands of roses. Please take as many as you need for offering.”
As our party of twenty padayatris entered Ranjani singing and dancing many villagers came forward for darshan of Their Lordships and to ask how they could help us. As many of us speak Marathi I was able to describe to them the aim of our padayatra and they in turn were pleased to arrange our accommodation. After prasadam we were invited to a school where the children attentively listened to a small class on how chanting the holy name helps us in our studies and in life. The students then sang and danced with us in kirtan. We gave prasadam to the children and teachers and thanked them for hosting us. That evening some of the children came to our accommodation and told us how much they liked our tilak, insisting that we put tilak on them. Everyone then posed for photos with our tilak.
Family always ready to serve padayatra
We reached Karoli village on September 16. When the AIP came here last year, we were invited to the home of the Padulakar family. They welcomed us and when we showed them books Mr Gorakh Padulakar purchased a Srimad-Bhagavatam set. He also asked us what other help we needed and as he saw oxen with us, he also brought fodder for them. This year when our padayatris were performing sankirtan many villagers took darshan of Their Lordships and our oxen. Mr Padulakar was also there and spoke to me recalling the recent AIP visit. He was very happy to have padayatris return to his village and readily arranged accommodation for us. As we were leaving, he again brought fodder for our oxen as well as loading our cart with groceries. He said, “Please keep coming to my village. We are very fortunate that the Lord is giving us the opportunity to serve.”
Facing some hurdles
Our advance party went to Kokale the day before our arrival and met village headman Mr Patil who welcomed us saying, “Please come to our village.” When we arrived the next day the villagers greeted us, the matajis washed the hooves of our oxen, and we found accommodation had been arranged for us in a temple. When the padayatris were resting after that evening’s programme I was still awake when about 11:30pm a man arrived on a motor cycle with no number and began moving around the temple compound where we were billeted. I thought it suspicious and as I kept watch he appeared again with four men and a woman. I went out and asked how I could help them. They said they wanted to stay in the temple. I said, “We are all brahmacaris. Please go somewhere else.” They then started shouting and saying bad words – “Does this temple belong to you?” – and creating a commotion. As the situation was spiralling out of control and disturbing the padayatris, I sent one of our boys to Mr Patil’s house. Although late at night he came running and confronted the group: “Where are you from? Please leave or I will call the police. These are sadhus; why are you disturbing them?” After much back and forth the intruders left. I was very grateful to Mr Patil for kindly helping us.