By Amala Purana Dasa
The ‘ISKCON Karad Youth Centre’ in Maharashtra organized a 10-day padayatra last year. We were inspired by Acarya Dasa, the leader of the ‘All India Padayatra’ and by Lokanatha Swami Maharaja who wrote to us and encouraged us to do this padayatra.
Our party of six young devotees, Shambhunath Dasa, Simheshwar Gaur Dasa, Sanmitra Dasa, Swarup Dasa, Bhakta Sachin and I started the walk on July 5th at the ‘Karad Youth Centre’ and ended the walk in Pandharpur on July 14th, thus walking a total distance of 150 kilometres. We took with us a small deity of Srila Prabhupada, photos of Sri Sri Radha Gopal, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai and Tulasi Maharani. We carried Srila Prabhupada in the same way that the devotees do on Vrajmandal Parikrama and then we would set up an altar when we reached our destination.
On the first day of the walk, we were joined by the Karad temple congregation devotees headed by Sri Ananta Dasa. We travelled through approximately twenty villages walking from Karad to Wagheri, then to Raigoan, Mhasurne, Mayani, Taraswadi, Dighanchi, Chick Mahud, Sonke and lastly to Pandhapur.
On padayatra, we kept a routine morning program which started at 4:30 am daily. We did mangal arati, nrishma arati, tulsi arati and japa after which we all had breakfast before setting off. We would have lunch when we reached our destination for that day. We often spent the night at the local schools or temples. Since this was our first padayatra we weren’t able to distribute lots of prasadam and only managed to distribute some bhel prasadam. Our team also did book distribution along the way. We sold 30 maha big books and one box of small books. On this padayatra we were not able to carry more books because of our limited transport capacity –we hope to improve on this in the future.
The piety of the village people
During the walk, we experienced the kindness and piety of the village people we met. They are such spiritual people and are always ready to serve. Every village we went to people called us to their homes, offered us a place to rest and gave us prasadam. Whenever our advance party team arrived at a new village where we had to spend the night, they were always welcomed. As soon as the devotees entered the village the first person they would ask about making arrangements to stay and take prasadam for the padayatris, would often immediately reply,
“It is our good fortune to serve all of you.”
That person would then organize everything for us even though they were sometimes very poor. Somehow, by collecting 10 to 20 rupees from each house, they made arrangements to serve us padayatris. We really felt encouraged to see their service attitude and how willing they were to serve any saintly persons travelling to holy places. We thought to ourselves “Krishna has already made all the arrangements. We just need to go ahead.”
After staying at one village our host approached us and said that by serving the padayatris his long period of misfortune had ended. So many auspicious things occurred to him, he said, including his cow giving birth to a baby bull after 20 years! They asked us to please return every year so they could have an opportunity to serve.
The glories of padayatra
Padayatra was a really wonderful and unimaginable experience. It was
completely spiritual and we performed so many spiritual activities. All the nine
processes of devotional service were executed automatically during the walk. When there was a little rain during the padayatra it felt like sugar in milk. We just continued to do sankirtana, chanting loudly. It was a big boost for our individual devotion to Lord Vitthal.
The future of the ‘Karad to Pandharpur padayatra’
We all desire to do this padayatra again in the year 2017. We also want to participate in the ‘All India Padayatra’ which is continuously travelling and spreading the holy names of Lord Gauranga.