By Acarya Dasa
Back on the road after attending the Vraja Mandal Parikrama
During the parikrama a few padayatris had stayed back with Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara, the cart and the oxen at the Hebri farm , which depends of ISKCON Mangalore and is located about 35 kms from Udupi. The local congregation devotees donated Rs 40,000 to build a shade for the oxen and they also served them lovingly for one whole month. We had kept a hundi where the animals were staying, and devotees would come to see the oxen and put a donation in the hundi.
After completing the parikrama we all returned to Mangalore and started walking again on November 10th. The first day started with mangal arati followed by a Bhagavatam class given by one of ISKCON’s new sannyasis, Rupa Raghunath Maharaja. Sriram Prabhu, ISKCON Mangalore temple president, came to meet us to discuss the Padayatra’s schedule. He happily said, “I will announce to all nama-hatta leaders that Padayatra India will be in our district and they will all do the needful.”
Then we all went for sankirtana in Vamanjoor, a residential area which is part of the city of Mangalore. We also distributed books and prasadam. One good news is that Adipura Prabhu joined our party. As the oxen were mostly resting for the last full month, they did not walk much the first day, but soon they did gear up.
Visiting temples in Karnataka
On Nov 15th all the padayatris, included Rupa Raghunath Swami who was spending time with us, had darsana of Lord Venkatara Ramana in Mulki, located 29 kms from Mangalore and 29 kms from Udupi. This temple built in the 12th century is dedicated to Sri Venkateswara , another form of Lord Vishnu. Other deities are also worshipped there: Lord Bindu Madhava, Lord Vitthala and Ugra Narasimha. We all chanted and distributed books in the temple premises.
On Nov 18th we were in Kapu and visited the famous Sri Laxmi Janardan temple. Raktagovinda Prabhu, ISKCON Udupi temple president, came to meet us with the nama-hatta devotees from Udupi. They welcomed us and did arrangements for our residence and prasadam. The pujari of Udupi temple had also come, he offered an arati to our Lordships and joined us in harinama.
How Krishna and Balaram came to Udupi and Malpe
Then we walked to Kodavoor Grama, a quaint village 6 kms from Udupi. It has a beautiful sandy beach known as Malpe Beach. The history of the Udupi Krishna temple is closely associated with this beach. Once there was a huge storm in the sea near Malpe beach when the great saint Sri Madhvacarya was present at the shore. He saw a ship caught in the storm and with just the use of his shawl he helped the ship reach the shore safely. This ship was coming from Dvaraka and in appreciation for his help the sailors offered Madhvacarya all the goods that were on the boat, but he asked only for the big lump of gopichandan and carried it back to the matha. The statues of Lord Krishna and Balaram were inside the gopichandan and Madhvacarya installed the beautiful murti of Lord Krishna in Udupi and the deity of Balaram at Malpe beach. This temple of Lord Balaram is known as Odabhaandishvara.
Visiting the famous Udupi Krishna temple established by Madhvacarya
On November 23rd we reached Udupi (alternatively spelled as Udipi, and also known as Odipu). This city located in the state of Karnataka is the administrative headquarters of the Udupi District. Udupi is a famous place of pilgrimage because of the Sri Krishna temple, which was founded by Srila Madhvacarya, one of the greatest saints, philosophers, and religious reformers of India. Udupi is said to have attained the status of Vaikuntha, the kingdom of God, because the Supreme Personality of Godhead came and stayed there in response to the desire of His pure devotee Srila Madhvacarya. It is said that Rukmini Devi, the main wife of Lord Krishna in Dvaraka, had a deity made of child Krishna holding a churning rod and a rope and that She worshiped Him regularly. Udupi Krishna is that very same deity served by Rukmini Devi.
As we reached town we were welcomed by Rakta Govinda Prabhu, president of the ISKCON Udupi temple, and the congregation devotees. They did all the arrangements for our stay and they also had a plan of what preaching activities could be done in Udupi during our 3 day stay. The devotees were all very happy and enthusiastic to receive the padayatra party and they all took darsana of Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundar. Then we all went to have darsana of Lord Krishna along with our Lordships. The chief of Pejawar matha had gotten the news that padayatra was in town, so he welcomed us with his group and did a special puja to Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara. He is generally very busy but he likes ISKCON a lot and has a lot of respect for our movement.
Three wonderful days at the Udupi Religious Convention
We performed sankirtana in the Krishna temple premises and the local devotees joined us. As we were to move to different areas around town for preaching, the president insisted that we stay for three days in Udupi and attend the Religious Convention (Dharma Sabha) from 24th Nov to 26th Nov. We also had an invitation from the chief of the matha to attend the program. There was a big pandal and hundreds of thousands of people had gathered for the convention. As we entered the pandal, we were welcomed by the coordinators of the program, and we were directly called on the stage for kirtana. We sang and everyone joined us in the chanting of the maha-mantra. Everyone greeted us by saying Hare Krishna. We also had arranged a book stall for book distribution. Every day we were called on the stage for kirtana. It was a wonderful experience.
During the next two days we did mangal arati in the pandal. The best part was that whatever was cooked during the convention was first offered to our Lordships before being distributed. We had requested the organizers to distribute prasadam offered to Nitai Gaurasundara and they had agreed, so around 200, 000 people got to honor prasadam everyday. The congregational devotees of Udupi also attended the program and helped us in book distribution. On the last day each one was gifted a bag by the organizers of the Dharma Sabha . The news of Padayatra attending the religious convention and of the chief of the Krishna matha worshipping our Lordships was flashed in all local newspapers, so that later, wherever we went for sankirtana nobody stopped us. Even the policemen helped us while crossing the road and in the traffic.
Our 3 day book score in Udupi was fantastic: 1651 maha-big books; 30 big books and 195 small.