By Sarang Thakur dasa
Under the guidance of centre leader Komal Govind dasa, the Mendhoda, Maharashtra, devotees held their first one-day padayatra and boat festival on December 29, 2019. The inspiration for the event began when the devotees attended the padayatra in Jalgaon and guest speaker Rama Govind Maharaja encouraged us to hold our own festival, and inspiration was rekindled when Komal Govind met our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, in Pandharpur during the Ashadi festival and Maharaja reiterated his desire that all temples should hold a one-day padayatra.
It was a bright shiny day for a padayatra as devotees from Jalgaon and nearby villages joined us that morning at the Gaura-Nitai temple on the outskirts of Mendhoda, a gathering of more than 500 devotees hearing Srimad-Bhagavatam katha provided by Jagannath Yatra dasa. The Gaura-Nitai deities were brought from the Faizpur Bhaktivedanta Academy of Cultural Education (BACE) and Navayogendra Maharaja disciple Kanhaiya dasa took charge of all services regarding them. At 10.30am the walk began when their Lordships’ sarathi, Suryavanshi dasa and Komal Govind, placed them in the cart that had been decorated with flowers by Rukmini Vitthal dasa and his team. As Rukmini Vitthal signalled for the oxen to be yoked to the cart, the assembled devotees declared the oxen should rest and that they would pull the cart, and taking turns they did indeed perform that service.
The procession then began with a roaring nonstop sankirtan led by Uttam dasa as we danced and sang our way to the Tapi river. The Vaisnavis played a vital role as at every square they encircled and danced on the holy name, thus enticing the public to get involved. When we reached the river, everyone was eager to get into the boats but as they were few in number devotees took turns to give Their Lordships a ride. The scene reminded all of us of the boat festival at Pandharpur during Ashadi, and all credit must go to Pundarikaksha dasa whose idea it was to include the event that became the attraction of the padayatra. Watching Their Lordships taking a boat ride enriched the devotees with transcendental pleasure that they said alleviated any tiredness.
By 2.30pm the padayatris had returned to the temple to be welcomed by several temple devotees and sumptuous prasadam. Many village residents who joined us on padayatra expressed the realization that it was a “modern, systematic event with kirtan that impelled one to dance and sing,” and one village lady said that “the matajis danced in wonderful formation making big circles and we also felt we could join in.” The consensus among devotees was that padayatra had given them added spiritual strength.
With the successful completion of our one-day walk I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Jalgaon devotees and centre leader Caitanya Jivan dasa who came in two buses and took on multiple services. Caitanya Jivan was able to guide us at every step as he has had past experience of padayatra. We would also like to thank Radhanath Maharaja disciples Jagannath Yatra from Pachora and Dinesh Chandra dasa from Pune for their guest appearance and wonderful katha, and the Pundarikaksha-led group for the boat festival. Thanks also to those devotees who attended the padayatra, without whom it could not have taken place.
All glories to Lokanath Maharaja who keeps inspiring us.