By Acarya dasa, All-India Padayatra leader
On October 4 the All-India Padayatra reached the Govardhan Eco Village (GEV) at Wada, Maharashtra, a seventy-acre sustainable farming community and retreat in the foothills of the Sanhyadhri Mountains, 108km north of Mumbai.
The GEV is a fusion between ancient Vedic wisdom and modern science. Srila Prabhupada frequently encouraged his disciples to adhere to this principle by developing farms for healthful and ecological living. To help fulfil this desire, Radhanath Swami envisioned such a community in India and inspired his followers to create the GEV. He has brought the essence of Vrindavan to Wada especially for the Mumbai public who cannot go to Vrindavan.
As we approached Wada, we informed Venudhari dasa whom we had met when visiting his village of Islampur in Sangli district. He was glad to hear of our imminent arrival and arranged a grand welcome for us. The gurukul children were at the GEV gates to greet us with sankirtan and Hanumanta Prasad Maharaja performed arati of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar. The congregation devotees then took darshan of Their Lordships and the gurukulis served our oxen. Kirtaniya Madhava dasa was also on hand to glorify padayatra.
We stayed at the GEV all day, taking darshan of Sri Sri Radha-Vrindavan Bihari at the Sad Goswami temple and also doing parikrama. In the evening there was Yamuna maiya arati and after that kirtan by Madhava. I told the congregation about padayatra, when it started and its objectives. Being so close to the Vraja Mandal Parikrama that we would soon be joining, it was the Lord’s arrangement that we continually experienced the mood of entering Vrindavan felt throughout the GEV. Radhanath Maharaja disciple Laxminarayan dasa and several other devotees later walked with us for about 8km to Manorgaon, where we honoured parasadam (all arrangements by Venudhari), had shobha yatra, sankirtan and prasad distribution.
Their Lordships remembering Their beloved oxen Vitthala
Walking on from Manorgaon, our ratha stopped at the house of devotee Hemant Borke where we had buried our dear departed oxen Vitthala. It seemed Their Lordships wanted to meet Vitthala once again before continuing ahead. The Lord never forgets service rendered to Him and we all glorified dear Vitthala. The Borke family were happy to have padayatra at their house again. Mr Borke said, “We are fortunate to serve Vitthala as well as Their Lordships. We will make samadhi of Vitthala, so that he is remembered by generations to come.”
From the GEV to the Nilachal Dham farming community
There are more than seventy adorable cows, calves and bulls at the Nilachal Dham farming community at Talasari, Maharashtra, 150km from Mumbai at the Gujarat border. They reside with a team of devotees who oversee their care and maintenance, while the community itself is managed by devotees at ISKCON Juhu. Bhakti Svarupa Damodhara Maharaja disciple Krishna dasa is in charge at Nilachal Dham and he loves padayatra. Upon our arrival he welcomed us with sankirtan and Sri Sri Nitai-Gaursaundar were honoured on the altar of Jagannath, Baladev and Subhadra, thus bringing Mayapur and Jagannath Puri together. When I told Krishna dasa our schedule regarding Vraja Mandal Parikrama he insisted our oxen stay at Nilachal Dham. In the company of two padayatris and Nitai-Gaurasundar, our oxen will be taken care of with the cows at the farm for one month while the remaining padayatris are in Vrindavan.