by Ayodhyanath Dasa
In 2017 Panchatattva Dasa and I successfully organised three padayatras in our native Mauritius, a country often referred to as an ancestral melting pot. The first was held between 21-23 April. The second event coincided with World Holy Name Week between 15-17 September, and the third padayatra was organized on the occasion of the month of Kartik from 6 October – 4 November.
A three-day walk in April
The first padayatra started at Cluni Kovil with about 50 devotees joining us for a 3km walk on 21 April. At the end of the padayatra we were welcomed at a new devotee’s home for kirtana, pravacan and prasadam. A huge crowd assembled for the harinama. New participants were introduced to padayatra through joyful dancing and chanting. On the second day the two hour walk ended in Banane, a village surrounded by trees, rich vegetation and spectacular views. About 200 people had assembled at the Shivala Hall there, where a regular programme took place, with ekadasi prasadam at the end.
On the third day, 23rd April, the padayatra started from Midlands. This is a small village situated approximately halfway between Nouvelle France and Curepipe on the M2 motorway. We walked for about four kilometers on the highlands. For the first time our padayatra with Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara included a stop at the Shree Shree Radhe Gopal Godham Gosala at Dubreuil. We were warmly received by Vaikuntha Pati Dasa, and Suryanarayan Prabhu who is in charge of goshala seva. The idea of stopping there was to showcase this recent initiative and to create awareness of the cow as a core component of agriculture, health and environment. This particular Sunday feast programme with its melodic kirtana was special because we had the merciful glances of Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara as well as the sacred presence of the cows and bulls.
Later, while chanting ecstatically during World Holy Name Week, it occurred to me that we could host a Kirtan Mela at this idyllic goshala, which was held with padayatra on September 10th.This double event left many new devotees very inspired to preach and to assist the seva at the goshala. (Part of this Kirtana Mela can be viewed on Youtube “Padayatra 2017 at Belle Rive Goshala, Mauritius 10.09.17”).
Kartika Padayatra: more than 4,000 people offered a lamp to Lord Damodar
The entire month of Kartika saw Padayatra Mauritius once again take to the streets of several villages. The team, which consisted of a small group of dedicated devotees, walked daily from 6.30pm – 9.30 pm, thus giving residents the opportunity to offer lamps to Lord Damodar. The daily sessions were intense and had the devotees rushing around to people’s homes, knocking at doors, requesting them to offer lamps. Other devotees walked and distributed sweets while chanting. Almost four thousand people on the island were thus given the chance to offer lamps, and got the benediction of the Lord. This service was introduced four years ago and devotees have maintained this tradition every year since.
This padayatra concluded at the village of Quartier Militaire. Although it rained heavily, about 200 people joined the harinama which was followed by a big feast sponsored by bhakta Yovin and others. We are grateful to the local devotees of Quartier Militaire for the successful event.
These padayatras would not have been possible without the assistance of a small but dedicated team: Nandanandan Prabhu, for his preaching service, Sanatan Dasa for his singing and preaching, Sukhmukha Dasa for managing the sound system, Bhakta Ravi for chanting, , Gaurasundari Mataji and Reshma Mataji for their pujari services, Bhakta Satyam for driving, Bhaktin Prishnee for being the photographer in training, Pari and Khushi, Gurukula students, for distributing sweets, Bhakta Vinay and Bhakta Bhavish for helping with mechanical problems, and other devotees.
May the mercy of Srila Prabhupada be upon them to continue this marvelous engagement and inspire many more people to join this remarkable service!