By Acarya dasa, All-India Padayatra leader
New Year’s Day 2021 marked the grand entry of the All-India Padayatra into Dwarka, thus completing its sixth circumambulation, or char dham yatra, of India, a rare accomplishment. Many devotees perform char dham yatra but mostly by bus or train, not on foot. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and all glories to the All-India padayatris.
Padayatra India began in Dwarka on Radhastami, September 2, 1984, and took nearly four years to circle India and return. The Padayatra Dwarka Gate at the entrance of the city, a project overseen by Chaitanya Chandra dasa, was built to commemorate padayatra’s first return on March 18, 1988, and is renowned as ISKCON’s Gate built by ISKCON devotees. The children who witnessed the unveiling of the monument have now grown up as devotees and still recall the occasion.
Dwarka temple president Vaishnava Seva dasa, along with Mula Mantra dasa, Dwarkesh dasa and several other devotees, organized a grand welcome for Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar and Srila Prabhupada. Each one of us padayatris was also welcomed and honoured with a garland and flowers were showered on Their Lordships’ cart and all the padayatris, which really felt to us that we had arrived at home. Lord Krishna stayed in Dwarka for 100 years and we could feel His presence in the city. A small group of devotees from Mahuva, the village where we stayed during lockdown, were also there to welcome us and said they would follow us until padayatra left Gujarat. Many people cannot go on a padayatra around India but one devotee said, “We are fortunate to have darshan of the Lord and the devotees who performed char dham yatra.”
Rupa Raghunath Maharaja was in Dwarka to greet us and he addressed everyone who had assembled to welcome padayatra: “Srila Prabhupada instructed Lokanath Maharaja to start padayatra and now this padayatra is moving all over India preaching the holy message of the Lord. This is not the only padayatra, there are now three more padayatras on the road in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. The vision is that there should be millions of padayatra carts moving and preaching. You can also start padayatra in your place.”
All the padayatris have served hard to make Padayatra India successful. We all do sankirtan and book distribution together, thus attracting the people. It is all the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev, Lokanath Maharaja, who has inspired us and supported us in all the challenges we have faced on padayatra and is always inquiring about our health and wellbeing. It’s a big tapasya to complete one round of char dham yatra and each day is an adventure in the life of a padayatri who, not knowing what will come his way, is fully dependent on the mercy of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar. As we reached Dwarka all the padayatris were grateful and thanking Nitai-Gaurasundar for making this possible. Their Lordships are the most travelled deities, are always on the road and ready for sankirtan and don’t like to stay in one place. They have travelled to hundreds of thousands of villages in the past thirty-six years yet were merciful to take great care of us when we were confined at Mahuva during the lockdown.
In the evening we were invited to the temple by the ISKCON Dwarka devotees where Rupa Raghunath Maharaja gave the class followed by Lokanath Maharaja addressing the padayatris: “I would say to all the padayatris that Srila Prabhupada is very much pleased with you all. Padayatra devotees live in uncertainty. They cannot have permanent planning for food and shelter. One night in one town or village then the next day they have to leave the place and go to the next village, just how Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to do. They are in open zone doing Guru-puja. It’s a life of austerity and not like you all who are in their comfort zones. They have to travel no matter what. Sita atapa bata barishana – means suffering the pains of the heat and cold, the wind and the rain. They never stop in any circumstances. We are very grateful to the padayatra oxen. They are serving Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar. These are very special beings and are serving the Lord in a special way. These padayatris are always preaching and distributing books. They have distributed thousands of books. Padayatra has also won several prizes in marathons. I would like to thank the padayatra devotees on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada is also present, in fact it is Srila Prabhupada who is taking Nitai-Gaurasundar everywhere. Seems like Prabhupada is taking Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar to every town and village. He had to prove the prediction of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.”
I still feel that the impossible has become possible. I am not at all qualified to receive the respect I am getting as padayatra leader. It is only the mercy of Srila Gurudev.
Guru–mukha–padma–vākya, cittete koriyā aikya
I am just following the orders given by Srila Gurudev.
The All-India Padayatra will start its seventh tour of India on January 6, 2021.
Some achievements of 2020
1. Small books: 12,796; Medium books: 530; Big books: 437; Maha-big books: 9137; Total books distributed: 22,900.
2. Chanting beads distributed: 3000.
3. Prasadam plates distributed: 3000.
4. In one year we walked 1840km and to date the AIP has walked more than 250,000km.
5. In one year of padayatra, Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar gave darshan to 736 villages and stayed and performed sankirtan in 184 villages.
To read more about padayatra please visit our official padayatra site at www.padayatra.com.