By Paramatma Dasa and Saranga Thakur Dasa
The devotees of Jalgaon, under the guidance of Caitanya Jivan Dasa, organized a first ever one day padayatra on December 16th, 2017. Jalgaon is a major city in western India, located in the northern part of the state of Maharashtra within the region of Khandesh. We have a small ISKCON center there, of which, I, Paramatma Dasa is the president.
We saw that many padayatras were being organized all over the world, and also, when we were in Pandharpur for a meeting, our Gurudev, Lokanath Swami, instructed all the leaders to organize padayatra in their respective temples, centers, nama-hatta groups and villages. He said that padayatra is the best means of preaching. He also said it can last many days, or just one day. The impact padayatra has on the general people is indeed miraculous. Getting inspiration from Gurudev and understanding how padayatra is close to his heart, Caitanya Jivan Dasa and I decided to organize a padayatra. By the Lord’s arrangement Ram Govinda Maharaja was also about to come to Jalgaon, as he was on a one week preaching tour in the Jalgaon area. Taking that opportunity we settled the date for December 16th 2017.
The goal of padayatra
This was the first padayatra ever organized in Jalgaon. The objective behind it was to make Jalgaon’ s public aware of ISKCON, so that gradually they would come to our center and the new upcoming temple at Maniyarkheda. That’s the reason we named this padayatra “Vishva Shanti Harinama Sankirtana Padayatra” (Harinama Padayatra for World Peace). We wanted to instill the holy name within every heart. Our aim was to call each and every person of Jalgaon to ISKCON, so our we gave ourselves an internal motto “Chalo ISKCON”.
Preparations started one month in advance. We spread the news in all the villages around Jalgaon. We brought the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai from the Nasik BACE and installed them on the cart which has been beautifully decorated by the devotees. The BACE is the Bhaktivedanta Academy for Culture and Education, a residential facility for college students and young unmarried professionals where they integrate spiritual discipline with their academic and professional career. These systematic programs for the youth are based on philosophy, character development and leadership skills. Ram Govinda Maharaja guided us for the organization of our padayatra. Before it started we had a small meeting with him, and he gave us special tips for padayatra.
On December 16th the devotees assembled early morning at the Gujaral petrol pump. To our amazement we saw about 150 devotees gathered there for the padayatra. Even matajis joined the holy walk with full enthusiasm. They followed the example of the varkaris, the pilgrims walking on the Dindi padayatras in Maharashtra who carry tulasi on their heads for Lord Vitthala. These Vaisnavis did the same on our padayatra. Parthasarthi Dasa, ISKCON Solapur president, and Sravanbhakta Dasa graced the padayatra with their presence.
We walked the 14 kms from the Gujaral petrol pump in Jalgaon to the new upcoming ISKCON temple at Maniyarkheda. The padayatra started with an arati by Ram Govinda Maharaja and a grand sankirtana. Many people on the way joined the procession and offered their obeisances to Sri Sri Gaura Nitai. In Maharashtra people hardly know about Sri Sri Gaura Nitai but we made announcements explaining that They are the same as Sri Sri Krishna Balarama of Vrindavana. We distributed books and prasadam, and performed sankirtana in the city’s main areas. When we arrived at Maniyarkheda Ram Govinda Maharaja talked about the glories of padayatra and how many people became devotees after having the darsana of Gaura Nitai. During the walk we distributed a total of about 2000 books, which included Bhagavad-gitas, Krishna books, Bhuvaikuntha ( a book on the holy city of Pandharpur) and small books.
Our one day padayatra was a success, blessed with auspicious presence of Ram Govinda Maharaja. Lokanath Maharaja was very happy to hear about our padayatra. Our idea is to next have padayatra last two days, three days, then four, and so on.
Afterwards the padayatris shared their realizations. It was a wonderful experience, they all said. From now on we will have padayatra every year and not just for one day, but for for many days A few devotees said that padayatra increased their enthusiasm and that now they can perform their devotional services more effectively.
Our padayatra was a success only because the devotees from Erandol, Pachora, Muktai, Bodavad and Pimprala joined hands -and feet- with us. The BACE boys need special mention because they were the ones who were running all over making different arrangements. The police department also helped us by controlling traffic during the entire day.
Our small padayatra with Sri Sri Gaura Nitai in the well decorated cart became talk of the town. The effect could be seen in the newspapers also. Being in Maharashtra the bullock cart is always honored and respected, then what to say when the Lord is riding on it. People were amazed to see Their Lordships in the cart and so many devotees walking and dancing around Them.