By Acarya dasa, All-India Padayatra leader
Having preached throughout the Jalgaon district of Maharashtra, on May 30 the All-India Padayatra entered Aurangabad, one of the largest cities in India, where the devotees of Trimurti Nagar held a grand welcome. The local devotees organized several programmes for us in various parts of the city and after two days the padayatris again moved ahead.
PAITHAN, BIRTHPLACE OF SAINT EKANATH MAHARAJA
Paithan is a small town situated about 50km south of Aurangabad on the banks of the Godavari River. It is well known as the birthplace of Saint Ekanath Maharaja, a prominent Marathi saint of the Varkari sampradaya. We visited his temple in Paithan and asked for his blessings so that we can serve Lord Vitthala and His devotees during the upcoming Ashadi festival. As befitting the Land of Saints region, we were respected wherever we went in Paithan and there was a high level of public participation. As a few padayatris know the Marathi language, it was easy to mix with the public and get their involvement in all our programmes.
Bidkin is a large village about 20km from Aurangabad on the Aurangabad-Paithan Highway. The villagers are very spiritual and they happily welcomed us and made arrangements for our accommodation and prasadam.
yad yad acarati sresthas tat tad evetaro janah
sa yat pramanam kurute lokas tad anuvartate [Bg 3.21]
Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
Bidkin is a great example of this verse. The sarpanch, an elected village decision-maker, welcomed us and was very happy the AIP had come to his village. He called the news reporters saying, “Let the whole world know that the All-India Padayatra has visited our village and that is our fortune.” The journalists then filmed us explaining the importance of Bhagavad-gita and sankirtan. They also interviewed all the foreign padayatris, including Akhildara prabhu and Parthasarthi prabhu, asking them why they joined padayatra in spite of so much austerity. The sarpanch made announcements in the village and all the villagers attended our programmes, everybody serving us according to their capacity. Such an obscure village, but all served us together and made us feel like we were at home.
LORD SENDS WATER FOR US
As we left Aurangabad, we were passing through mostly Muslim towns, causing concern as to where we would take prasadam and who would provide us with water. I was trying to find a good place for having prasadam with a water source nearby. As I was looking, I saw a tractor with water coming from the other side (as it is summer there were fewer chances that we would get water). But as the tractor came near, the driver smiled at us and folded his palms to Their Lordships. I immediately asked him, “Can you give us some water?” By the Lord’s grace he agreed. This was all the intervention of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar. He keeps sending us help as and when needed.
TAKING DARSHAN OF HANUMANJI
We then moved on to Khuldabad, home of the Bhadra Maruti temple dedicated to Hanuman, the servant of Lord Rama. The temple is located 4km from the Ellora Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is one of the largest rock-cut, monastery-temple cave complexes in the world. The temple is considered a major attraction for pilgrims who gather in lakhs during auspicious occasions like Hanuman Jayanti and Ram Navami. People from Aurangabad and nearby places also walk to the temple to offer puja on Saturdays in the Marathi calendar month of Shravan.
At the Bhadra Maruti temple, the deity of Hanuman is portrayed in a reclining or sleeping posture, one of only three places where Hanuman is represented as such, the others being a temple on the banks of the Yamuna at Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, and a temple at Jam Sawali, Madhya Pradesh. It is believed that in ancient times Khuldabad was known as Bhadravati, the ruler being a noble king named Bhadrasena who was an ardent devotee of Lord Rama and used to sing songs in His praise. One day Hanumanji descended in the place, listening to the devotional songs sung in praise of Rama. He was mesmerized and without King Bhadrasena’s knowledge took a Bhava samadhi yogic reclining posture. When the king had finished his song, he was astonished to find Hanuman in samadhi before him. He requested Hanuman to reside there forever and bless his and Lord Rama’s devotees. We all had darshan of Hanumanji and sang bhajans of Lord Rama for his pleasure. Definitely Hanumanji would be pleased and bless us with devotion and dedication for the service of our spiritual master.