Most ISKCON temples go on harinam sankirtan during the week-end, on Saturday or Sunday, so that working devotees and their children can attend. We are inviting all temples to turn one of these harinams into a One Day Padayatra, at best once a month, or to organize such event. It is my own experience in Gujarat, India, that many more families enthusiastically participate in an occasional regular event than a weekly one.
What are the differences between an ordinary harinam and a One Day Padayatra ?
The duration of the walk :
Harinam Sankirtan devotees usually go out for no more than two hours, after morning prasadam, in the afternoon or in the evening, depending on the availibilty of devotees and the times where they will encounter the maximum number of people. There are of course various options. One Day Padayatra could leave around 8 am, either after breakfast prasadam or with their prasadam packet that they will take on the way while kirtan and book distribution are going on. They can reach their destination by 1 pm, at which time they can take their lunch. They will thus have walked around 5 hours, and 5 to 7 kilometers, which is the strict minimum required for a harinam to be called a padayatra.
Obviously it is much better if devotees can organise a full day padayatra and walk around 10 kilometers. After all Padayatra is a walking festival, not just a walk around the block.
The activities taking place during this event :
-Harinam sankirtana mainly concentrates on chanting the holy names, dancing to the tunes, distributing pamphlets, invitations and books, and some prasadam such as ladhus, pop corn or fruits. On the One Day Padayatra devotees can distribute more books, more substantial prasadam in small packets or even full plates (usually khicadi ).
-The One Day Padayatra is more casual, like a family get-together, a monthly picnic, a day for spiritual outing to share Krishna conciousness with others, especially if it’s possible to walk inside or towards a dhama. Also, children are more targeted that day; in Gujarat we conduct 20 minutes small seminars or skits for them , to their great delight.
– On the One Day Padayatra we can organise seminars to inspire devotees to distribute the holy names and books. We regularly do this in Gujarat with great results.
-On the One Day Padayatra, we can make regular stops to address the crowd and get them to participate in the harinams by chanting loudly or raising their hands.
-During the One Day Padayatra we can arrange to show a video of ISKCON’s programs (Cow protection, Food for life, etc.) and of Srila Prabhupada, especially Yadubara Dasa’s movie, Hare Krishna ! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami who started it all.
-On the One Day Padayatra we can bring small deities of Gaur Nitai on a palanquin.
Our experience in Gujarat
On the All-India Padayatra only brahmacharis, vanaprasthas and sannyasis can walk continuously all year around or for many months in a row, but this is not possible for householder devotees who have jobs and families to take care of. That’s why I thought of organising One Day Padayatras, which my Guru Maharaja, Lokanath Swami, strongly encouraged me to do. He’s the one who inspired me to start these and he continues to inspire me to expand this style of padayatra in India and around the world. With the leaders of the Ahmedabad temple I arranged to engage the grihasthas in a smaller padayatra -a walk longer than our usual harinams- at least one day per month. This One Day Padayatra is not designed for austere life but as a fun-filled event where anybody can participate, men, women, teen-agers, children and even babies in their crib.
We started this program in 2016 at the time of the “ISKCON50” celebrations. This One Day Padayatra was launched especially for householder devotees. Since that year we have continuously celebrated this walking festival in Ahmedabad and surrounding rural areas, like Limbdi, Surendranagar, Himmatnagar, Kathwada, and so on. We conducted our 40th One Day Padayatra on November 13th 2018, on a Sunday, and in 2020 we will be celebrating our Golden Jubilee.
Besides Ahmedabad I inspired the ISKCON Bangalore devotees to also organise their One Day Padayatras, and they have been conducting one every month since one and a half years. Devotees in of Jamshedpu in Jharkhand District have also organised this event since more than one year.
My only concern is to engage grihasthas in Krishna conscious activities, get them to walk and distribute the holy names, books and prasadam in rural areas and cities. I know that by doing these on padayatra one’s life is successful. After all, Lord Rama walked for 14 years, the Pandavas walked for 14 years and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu walked for 6 years. Srila Prabhupada loved walking daily and he organised a short padayatra near Jhansi. He instructed Lokanath Maharaja to distribute the holy name with padayatra. I desire that my only mission in life, after being empowered by my Guru Maharaja, will be to accomplish Lord Caitanya’s vision and mission : to spread the Lord’s names and knowledge of Him to every town and village, not only in India, but in many other countries.