By Damodharlila dasa, Maharashtra Padayatra leader
The Maharashtra Padayatra arrived at Aravade a few days before Janmastami. We departed Pandharpur on July 16, 2019, preaching and walking through Solapur, Sangli and Satara before reaching Aravade, a worshipful dhama for us as it is the birthplace of our beloved spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja. The devotees there welcomed us with sankirtan and offered garlands. As we were relaxing and planning for our next destination, Aravade’s Radha-Gopal temple president Abhiram Thakur dasa insisted we stay and celebrate Janmastami with them.
What could be more fortunate than this opportunity? Mindful that it’s a desire of our Gurudev that preaching should be powerfully done in the villages around Aravade and that we could be instrumental in that, the padayatris happily agreed with Abhiram Thakur’s request. With his permission we performed nagar sankirtan in the villages, where the people joyfully received us and did arati of Their Lordships Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai and washed the hooves of our oxen.
On this day we performed nagar sankirtan in Aravade, joined by up to 200 congregation devotees from the surrounding area. The villagers were fascinated by our well-coordinated sankirtan in two lines and raised their hands and danced with us as we chanted the mantra. Along the way we stopped at the birthplace of our spiritual master and danced to our hearts’ content. Whatever we are today is due only to Gurudev’s mercy. He gave us this devotional life and filled it with festivals, the best being this padayatra project which made us instrumental in serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission. We are highly obliged to our Guurdev. We then made our way to the temple where everyone danced in the campus for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha-Gopal.
Janmastami began for the padayatris with mangal arati and japa. After darshan arati we sang bhajans and performed sankirtan throughout the day in the temple as our Janmastami service while padayatri Arjuna Krsna dasa did pujari seva. That evening we were invited for performing the abhisheka of Sri Sri Radha-Gopal. Then Brajavilas dasa took us to Vrindavan through his katha and made us dance and sing. Fifty-six bhogas were offered to Radha-Gopal and also to our Gaura-Nitai deities. I am sure Their Lordships were very happy.
Srila Prabhupada vyasa-puja
On this morning we sang bhajans glorifying Srila Prabhupada followed by devotees reading their offerings. We padayatris were honoured to be invited to read our offering. We also happily participated in Prabhupada’s abhisheka and senior padayatri Madan Gopal Hari dasa was called to offer maha-arati to Prabhupada. The Aravade devotees are big hearted and we were overwhelmed by their love and association. We would like to thank Abhiram Thakur and his team for including us in their celebration and allowing us to serve Sri Sri Radha-Gopal.
Village children visit the temple
Children from the villages visited the temple during the festival. As our rath was parked near the temple, first of all they came to the rath and observed Srila Prabhupada, as if they thought he would talk to them and give them prasad. They were also intrigued by the darshan of Gaura-Nitai. One of our padayatris explained that They are Caitanya-Nityananda (the same as Krishna-Balarama), and all the children paid obeisances to Them.