By Acarya dasa, All-India Padayatra leader
After one month on the Vraja Mandal Parikrama,the AIP padayatris returned to ISKCON’s Nilachal Dham farm at Talasari in Maharashtra on November 16. The ratha, our oxen and the large Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar deities stayed at Talasari while we all got charged up spiritually in Vraja. Normally when we are on padayatra we don’t get to hear lectures from senior devotees or sannyasis, but parikrama was a feast of hearing for us, along with chanting, serving in different departments and dhama vasa. We are grateful to Talasari community leaders Krishna dasa and Raghupati dasa and all the devotees who took such great care of the padayatra oxen and deities. It’s because of them we could attend the bliss of Vraja dhama.
Upon our return we embarked once again on our holy walk, this time heading towards Vapi, a large city renowned for its chemical factories in Valsada, the southern-most district in Gujarat about 25km from the farm. We had a grand sankirtan as we departed Nilachal Dham and many local devotees also walked with us. As we arrived at Vapi’s Radha-Govind temple, in a peaceful setting far from the urban centre, devotees welcomed us with garlands and sankirtan. We stayed in Vapi for one day only then made for the city of Valsada on the Gujarat coast about 30km away. At Valsada a disciple of Radhanath Maharaja was curious to know about padayatra. I also told her about Vraja Mandal Parikrama in Kartik and she was so impressed she said, “I will surely join Vraja Mandala Parikrama next year.” She and another devotee, Shyam Gaura dasa, who was also enthusiastic about padayatra, walked with us for a while and also attended mangal arati. We stayed at Valsada for two days and as we crossed the villages in the area, we had a good response from people who would come near and take darshan of Their Lordships.
Our next stop was at Pardi, and I went to the same place we had been during our last visit. The trustee was not there, but the person incharge was happy to see us. When I said we are padayatris and began explaining, he said, “Ha vo bailgadi aura sundar bhagavan apaka svagat hai.” As the padayatra procession was arriving the trustee, Mr Dhirubhai, appeared and followed the ratha when he saw us marching towards his ashram. He took darshan of Their Lordships, welcomed us, and made arrangements for our accommodation and prasadam. As we were leaving, he said, “Whenever you come to the area, please feel free to come to my place. It will be my pleasure serving you all.”