(Letter to Mahamsa Swami – Vrndavan, 21Sept75) “Your idea for the bullock cart sankirtana is very good. So now do it. And your program for distributing the literature, the charity and the prasadam, this is all very nice. And that you yourself will do it personally, that I thank you very much.”
(Morning Walk – Bombay, 21Nov75)
Mahamsa: Also another party of five devotees, they have started on the bullock cart sankirtana, going village to village. But it’s very austere. They were… I told them, “You go for two months, come back after two months.” But they returned in six days. (laughter)
Mahamsa: Because first of all, they did not know how to ride the bulls, so the bulls gave a lot of trouble.
Prabhupada: Then there is no professional driver?
Mahamsa: Well, now we are going to hire one driver to take care of the bulls. And secondly, even the axle of the cart was a little defective. Otherwise the program was a great success.
Prabhupada: Oh, that is success. People were coming.
Mahamsa: Yes. And one person came to the temple in Hyderabad and met me. He said that “After your devotees had a program in our village, the farmers in the evening they were coming and doing kirtana instead of just…” Previously they were not doing anything, but now they are coming after farming. In the evening they are collecting and they are doing kirtana together.
Prabhupada: Just see how quickly there will be response. Therefore I was insisting, “Go village to village, town to town.” Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s prediction: prthivite ache yata nagaradi.
Mahamsa: Grama, yes.
Prabhupada: So it will never be foiled. Let us now begin village to village.
(TD I – Bombay, 17Dec75) Srila Prabhupada was most happy to hear about a small bullock cart traveling sankirtana party. Mahamsa wrote, “The bullock cart party (only three devotees) was very successful on their second attempt. They collected lots of rice, distributed prasadam and small literatures, evening programs, and sleeping under a different tree everyday. They are thrilled and so enthusiastic. They love this kind of preaching work. Now I am giving them a portable sound system and more equipment and one more devotee and sending them immediately to a massive voyage on bullock cart all the way to the Mayapur festival!”
Prabhupada replied enthusiastically, “Naturally the sankirtana men traveling with the bullock carts are blissful. It is Lord Caitanya’s engagement. Lord Caitanya personally traveled all over India for six years. His program was simply kirtana and prasadam distribution. Lord Caitanya never spoke philosophy in public. When He met big scholars like Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya he spoke philosophy, otherwise for the mass of people, kirtana and prasadam distribution. So continue this program, it is very pleasing to Lord Caitanya.”
(TD I – April 13th, 1976) He (Punjabi Premanand) also mentioned that a number of politicians were going village to village on padayatra, traveling by foot, and in this way getting many donations of land. He suggested that Srila Prabhupada might do the same.
Typing sometimes in capitals for emphasis, he said, “IF YOU STARTED PADAYATRA or at least if YOU WENT TO VILLAGES IN CAR FOR THE TIME (FOR A FEW MONTHS) then naturally many people will give land which can be used for KRISHNA’S SERVICE. AND SO MANY PEOPLE WILL BE BENEFITTED BY HAVING YOUR DARSHAN (VISION). I am not at all commanding you, just an idea that struck my mind regarding the above said content of the PADAYATRA.”
(Letter to Punjabi Premanand, Bombay, 16 April, 76) Concerning your offering of doing padayatra, traveling village to village; what is the use of getting the land in the hands of politicians who cannot properly utilize the land according to the instructions of Krishna. That’s a fact, but if Indian young men join me I am immediately ready for this traveling touring from village to village, town to town. However, my foreign disciples have the language defect, they can’t speak the village language otherwise I would have started this program long ago. If some young men like you would join me then along with some foreign disciples I can immediately take up this program. If you are very eager, please get hold of at least half a dozen young men like you then with another half dozen foreign disciples, I can immediately take up this program and tour village to village and town to town. It will be very, very effective, I know that.
(TD 4- Vrndavan, 12Sept76) Since being instructed by Srila Prabhupada to begin a bullock cart traveling sankirtana party, Lokanatha Maharaja and his men have been busy here in Vrndavana acquiring all the materials they need. Turiya dasa, the Vrndavana temple head pujari, gave them his own twelve-inch, brass Gaura-Nitai Deities. They have obtained a trunk full of Prabhupada’s books in Hindi, as well as various types of food supplies and pots and woks to cook in. Lokanatha Maharaja has had a flyer printed for distribution to the villagers. It introduces the party, explains its purpose and informs the reader that they are headed across the country to reach Mayapur by the next Gaura-purnima.
Today was the appointed day of their departure from Vrndavana, and before setting off they performed a puja to inaugurate the party. They held a kirtana and broke a coconut, and then the whole group of about ten men gathered in Srila Prabhupada’s room at 4:30 p.m.
They are mostly young Indian men, including Lokanatha’s cousin Gaurasundara, Atmatattva, Abhayasraya, Siddhartha and Krsnanama prabhus. The small number of Westerners included Hunkara and Caturmurti prabhus from Columbia and Brazil respectively, as well as Ravi prabhu from England.
Lokanatha Maharaja offered Srila Prabhupada a plate of broken coconut, who graciously popped a small piece in his mouth, and then gave one to each of the men…………………………….Lokanatha promised to write regularly and keep Srila Prabhupada informed of their efforts.
“Yes. Go to village to village,” Prabhupada encouraged them. “It is very noble attempt. And if you sincerely preach Krsna will [give intelligence] … buddhi-yogam dadami tam yena mam upayanti te. There is no doubt.”
Prabhupada gave the party some practical advice, telling Lokanatha that the bullock cart should have rubber tires. He also explained where they should park when they enter the villages, and how to collect food for distribution.
Ironically, the only thing the party lacks is an actual bullock cart and bullocks. Nevertheless, in their enthusiasm to preach they set off, hopeful that they will collect sufficient funds on the way to buy the rest of the equipment. One of Hansaduta Maharaja’s buses dropped them off at a village ten kilometers down the main Delhi-Agra road. From there they will hitch-hike from village to village towards Agra.
(Letter to Nityananda-Mayapur, 16March77) “Here in India our Lokanatha Maharaja has successfully organized such a program and it is a great success. He has traveled all over India and everywhere they distribute books, prasadam and perform kirtana, village to village. Each night they stop at a different village. We can introduce many millions of such carts all over the world.”
(Letter to Lokanatha Swami-Vrindavan, 30July77) “Srila Prabhupada was very very pleased with your report of your preaching activities. When He heard how strongly you were preaching, He commented, ‘Our Lokanath Swami is just like Saint Tukaram. The whole of India and specifically your Maharashtra are enthused with Krishna. Now you have to revive their Krishna consciousness. This is Tukaram’s country, but now they are becoming bad politicians. So revive them by the process of the sankirtana movement. I am very glad that you are preaching village to village and will cover all of Maharashtra. You should train the one farmer from your native village so that he can actually become an ISKCON representative there. I am also very pleased that Gour Govinda Maharaja will be joining the Bullock cart Sankirtan. He is a very good preacher and ideal Vaisnava so his addition to the Party will increase the activities. I am especially pleased to see how you are pushing forward the book distribution. Now we are getting reports that book distribution is doubling all over the world. I am enclosing a copy of the recent Sankirtana Newsletter for you to see how your God-brothers all over the world are pushing forward the book distribution. Now you are also doing this all over India. Organize very solidly and thus increase the number of books distributed, the numbers of devotees made and develop centers of Krishna consciousness everywhere.’
(1985 Vyasa-puja, compiled by Lokanatha Swami) “In 1976 you ordered us to travel with bullock carts, and in the year that followed, just prior to your departure, you expressed your desire to revive and expand by traveling all over India with bullock carts. You personally wanted to travel with such a program. But Krsna had another plan, so the scheme to travel never worked out. After you left us, I made some unsuccessful attempts to organize the kind of traveling program you had so much desired. Ultimately, by Lord Caitanya’s mercy, we were able to organize the Sankirtana Padayatra in commemoration of Lord Caitanya’s five-hundredth appearance anniversary………………As the Padayatra, the largest preaching program ever organized in India, is going on successfully, we have received suggestions from many devotees to continue it past our scheduled date of termination. A strong suggestion came from Tamala Krsna Goswami. In his letter to us he wrote, “Frankly, I was feeling that this Padayatra should not be stopped at the five-hundredth anniversary celebration. Why should it not continue indefinitely into the future years to come?” He reminded us that Prabhupada said we could conquer India by perfecting Padayatra. Yes, Krsna consciousness should conquer India! If Padayatra is the means to that end, it must be adopted at all cost!
Though our immediate destination is Mayapur, your place of worship, we are contemplating continuing to finally reach your home, Vrndavana Dhama. There in Vrndavana we would like to inaugurate a ten-year traveling sankirtana program to celebrate the centenary of your sacred appearance.”
(1988 Vyasa-puja, compiled by Lokanatha Swami) “After you left us, in 1978 I made some attempts to organize a type of program you had in mind; but myself being a small-timer, it never came to pass. Then years came and went by, making it more and more difficult to undertake such a program. However, then Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s centennial celebration was coming up. ISKCON leaders were contemplating some grand scheme to glorify Lord Caitanaya Mahaprabhu. Ultimately, leaders unanimously settled for a padayatra (walking festival) to travel on the same route that Lord Caitanya had taken five hundred years ago. It was a case of “Better late than never.” After seven long years, we were ready to execute your unfulfilled desire of taking you, along with Their Lordship Sri Sri Gaura Nitai and Their followers, chanting the holy names and distributing your books all over India. And I was surprised to find myself as the leader of the program once again. Everything was happening just the way you desired, so we started. Originally the plan was to go only up to Mayapur, but with your blessings we were able to go beyond Mayapur, and after passing through several more states and visiting many, many holy places, including Vraja-mandala, Badarikasrama, Kuruksetra, Puskara, Nathadvara, we were able to return after three and a half years to Dvaraka. Ordinarily, people these days are not even prepared to walk only fourteen kilometers, what to speak of walking fourteen thousand kilometers. Just the other day I read an advertisement in the newspaper. It read “Char (four) Dham air yatra.” Several of your followers have successfully completed Char Dham Padayatra.”
People Working for Change (Divine Nature – 6.4)
Lokanath Swami Maharaja is walking to bring about change. If he’s not walking, he’s probably driving a bullock cart. He began his “Padayatra,” Sanskrit for “walking parade,” in India in 1984. Since then, Padayatra walkers have crossed the length and breadth of India three times, covering more than 18,000 miles. Walkers range in number from twenty people (and five oxen) on remote roads to a hundred or more in large cities and towns along the endless route. An elephant or two occasionally joins the trekkers. Born in 1949 in Maharashtra, India, Maharaja is walking to bring Lord Krsna and a more natural way of life to where the people are.
After five years of walking in India, he decided to take Padayatra abroad. He organized teams of trekkers, usually with oxen (bullocks), and got them started, sometimes walking five-hundred-mile routes. He became Padayatra’s principal organizer, worldwide spokesperson, and chief visionary. He travels the world nonstop.
The walkers, or padayatris, constantly sing the names of Krsna, give out food first offered to Lord Krsna (prasadam), distribute books of spiritual knowledge, and discourse on the philosophy of Krsna consciousness. They also conduct evening programs every night in the cities, towns, and villages they visit. These events engage local people in many aspects of the Krsna culture, including chanting, taking part in philosophical discussions, viewing displays, and eating prasadam. One of the padayatris’ messages is “simple living and high thinking.”
A main feature of Padayatra is the public presentation of the Deities of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. These are two great avataras of Lord Krsna who appeared in Bengal in the sixteenth century. Whether borne on bullock carts, carried on palanquins by trekkers, or shown standing onstage at local events, Lord Caitanya and Nityananda are the center of every Padayatra. It was Lord Caitanya who popularized the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra throughout India: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. He advised His followers that the chant should be spread to every town and village of the world.
Padayatris also teach and demonstrate that cows, bulls, and oxen are friendly to human society. “If people insist on eating the flesh of animals or using their skin for leather or other products, why not at least wait till the animals die?” asks Maharaja. “Why kill them?”
By 1997, as Maharaja had predicted, Padayatra devotees had walked in more than a hundred countries, including Spain, Fiji, Britain, Russia, India, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and the USA.
Maharaja says, “One of our missions is to help people understand that we need a transcendental approach to solving the problems of the world. Millions are becoming disillusioned with city life. Some of our most important values have been lost to the blind pursuit of material comforts. Padayatra reminds us that real happiness can be found in simplicity, living close to nature and the animals, being easily satisfied with basic needs, and understanding that life should be God-centered.”
(SB 6.3.13) Just as the driver of a bullock cart ties ropes through the nostrils of his bulls to control them, the Supreme Personality of Godhead binds all men through the ropes of His words in the Vedas, which set forth the names and activities of the distinct orders of human society [brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra]. In fear, the members of these orders all worship the Supreme Lord by offering Him presentations according to their respective activities.
(SB 10.11.34) Thus hearing about the pastimes of Krsna and Balarama with great pleasure, mother Yasoda and Rohinidevi, so as not to be separated from Krsna and Balarama for even a moment, got up with Them on one bullock cart. In this situation, they all looked very beautiful.
(Morning Walk-Rome 25May74) Prabhupada: Stick to your own place and grow your food. There is no question of transport. Little transport is required, that bullock cart. Krsna was being carried on bullock cart. There is no use of petrol. Use simply the bull. They are already there. Utilize them. No. The bull should be sent to the slaughterhouse.
(Morning Walk-Rome 27May74) Prabhupada: Yes. The oxen will solve the problem of transport. That’s bullock cart. Just like Krsna, when He was transferred from Gokula to Nandagrama, so they took all the bullock carts, and within a few hours they transported them, the whole thing, their luggage, family member, everything.
Bhagavan: How far can a bullock cart travel in one day?
Prabhupada: At least ten miles, very easily, very easily. And maximum he can travel fifteen miles, twenty miles. But when we are localized, we don’t require going beyond ten miles, five miles.
(Morning Walk-Mauritius 3Oct75) Prabhupada: Progress, yes. The progress is that they have got motorcar, and they have progressed how to die quickly. This is the progress. At any moment he can die. As soon as he on the car, 70 miles speed, that means taking the risk of dying at any moment. This is the progress. Formerly people were going in bullock cart or horse carriage from one village to another. “That was primitive. Now we can go hundred miles away from home for earning money and taking risk to die at any moment. That is progress.” Is it not?
(Lecture-Vrindavan SB 5.5.10-13: 1Nov76) Transportation is required, but we see from Krsna books that the inhabitants of Gokula… There was a meeting headed by Nanda Maharaja’s young brother, Upananda, and all the villagers, they assembled together. They discussed that “Our Krsna is being repeatedly attacked by the asuras, and it has become very troublesome. So let us leave this place.” They are villagers. They thought it wise that “Because we are in this village, some of the demons, they are coming and disturbing.” So they are villagers… Immediately Nanda Maharaja agreed, “All right, let us leave this place.” So immediately, they transferred the whole village with their possessions, cloth or something, everything, within one hour. And they transported by the bullock cart to Nandagrama. That means, the idea is the whole village was transferred from one village to another within very short time. So the transport is required, the transport by bullock carts. The bulls are there. They can be used for transport. Or the asses, they can be used for transport. But… And the camels can be used for transport. There are so many animals. So advancement, and big, big kings, royal families, they have got their transport service by keeping elephants and horses. They can get on the back of the horses and get yourself there. So nature’s arrangement, God’s arrangement is there. Transport is required in the human society, but you can utilize so many animals for your purpose. But at the present moment: ugra-karma. The transport is there, but they have manufactured big, big buses for transport, big, big cars, and the animals, they are now killed and eat. That’s all. This is civilization. This is civilization. Not to reduce the labor, but increase the labor. Therefore they are called ugra-karma, jagatau hita, and that will create disastrous condition of the human society. This is discussed in Bhagavad-gita.
(Morning Walk-Los Angeles 1-3Oct72) Prabhupada: That I explained last time, that they are simply misusing their advancement, and they are satisfied when they have got a motorcar instead of bullock cart. That’s all. They think, “Now I am advanced. We had bullock cart, now we have got motorcar with three hundred thousand parts. And every part will give me trouble as soon as it is (indistinct),” (chuckles) and that is advancement. As soon as one part is broken, the bullock cart is called for. They get a bullock cart to carry this motorcar. [break] Everyone is servant. Therefore, we teach our students to address “prabhu.” “I am your servant, you are my master, prabhu.” That is the meaning of prabhu. Prabhu means master. And Prabhupada means supreme master. That is the meaning.
(FESTIVALS, by Lokanath Swami-Padayatra Press, 2001, pp. 205-206)
In September 1976 Prabhupada had asked me to lead a bullock-cart sankirtana party. Prabhupada personally inaugurated the party in Vrindavan, and the first target we set was to walk 1,500 kilometers to Sridhama Mayapur in time for the 1977 Gaura Purnima festival. Our padayatra arrived at Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir with a bullock cart pulled by two Harayana bulls. As we walked through the main gate with kirtana, Atma-tattva Dasa was standing in the cart, holding a big picture of Prabhupada garlanded with gardenias. We parked our cart in front of the Lotus Building, and with kirtana in full swing, the party proceeded into the temple. Just then the curtain opened for the noon arati. We fell at the lotus feet of Radha-Madhava, enjoying Their merciful glances, and I thanked Them for being with us on our journey from Vrindavan to Mayapur.
After arati we hurried up the stairs, with the idea of going to Prabhupada’s quarters. Prabhupada had just come out of the bathroom and was about to enter his room. As he touched the handle of the door, he looked to his right and saw all of us being stopped by Hari Sauri Prabhu.
Coming to our rescue, he said, “Oh, the bullock-cart party? Come come. Let them come.”
He gave us a big smile as we offered our dandavats. Then we stood there with folded hands. Prabhupada signaled us to come into his quarters. Elated to be in his presence, we followed along behind him.
He sat behind his desk and gestured for us to be seated. He asked Tamal Krishna Maharaja to offer us garlands. With this unexpected reception – the garlands, his smiling, and his merciful glances – he was practically smothering us with love. It was too much. Words are inadequate to describe our joyful feelings at that time.
The last time we’d met Prabhupada was in January, at the Maha-kumbha-mela in Allahabad. At that time, Prabhupada had wanted a full report from me. One thing I mentioned is that when we had arrived in Nadia District, we stayed at a Gaudiya Matha overnight.
I said, “They charged us two rupees per head to sleep there.”
Prabhupada smiled. “That’s nothing. There are places in Navadvipa where the pujaris uses the salagrama-sila to crack his betel nuts.”
I said, “All in all, Srila Prabhupada, it was an easy journey to the Mayapur planet.”
Prabhupada laughed and gave us our next destination, setting another goal: “Now I want you to go to Jagannatha Puri.”
Prabhupada had a jar of coconut burfi on his table and he gave each of us a piece. Atma-tattva, who had been standing outside because the room was filled, quickly came inside when the burfi distribution started. He got the last two pieces, and then the jar was empty.