By Acarya dasa, All-India Padayatra leader
During the six months following Radhastami 2019 the AIP padayatris happily walked the roads of northwest Maharashtra and southern Gujarat distributing books and spreading the Lord’s holy name, never thinking of 2020 taking the drastic turn that has confined us to a school property in the Gujarati village of Mahuva for six months.
Genesis of the All-India Padayatra
In accordance with the instructions given by Srila Prabhupada, Lokanath Maharaja launched Padayatra India on Radhastami, September 2, 1984, from Dwaraka Dhama, India’s westernmost point. The 7000km walk that followed ended at Mayapur on Ganra-purnima 1986 in celebration of the 500th anniversary of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance. Lokanath Maharaja said, “It was the mercy of Srimati Radharani that Prabhupada called me to Delhi and made me instrumental in padayatras.”
Since then the AIP has been travelling throughout the country, covering about 2,25,000km distributing books and pamphlets in ten languages and introducing or reviving the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra in thousands of towns and villages. Padayatra has made true Mahaprabhu’s prediction:
prithvite ache yata nagaradi grama sarvatra prachara haibe mora nama
“In every town and village, the chanting of My name will be heard.”
As padayatra reaches any area the sankirtan also reaches that area.
AIP – the mother of all padayatras
Padayatra India has also encouraged many devotees to organize or participate in walks in their own countries, making padayatra a worldwide phenomenon. Now in India we have Maharashtra Padayatra and Uttar Pradesh Padayatra walking and preaching on the roads of those states. We pray that Padayatra India will continue to give birth to many offspring in all the Indian states and beyond.
To this day Padayatra India has circled the sub-continent five times and is currently on its sixth tour. We also attended many Kumbha Melas and every year take part in the Vraja-mandala and Navadvipa-mandala parikramas.
Padayatra has inspired many people to take up Krishna consciousness. People just have a glimpse of our merciful Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar deities and automatically take up Krishna consciousness. Many get attracted by our majestic oxen, start serving them and fall in love with them. People admire their fortune saying, “What a human being cannot do, these oxen are doing and thus making their life perfect.” Our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, always says, “This is their last birth and they will go to Vaikuntha as they are carrying Their Lordships on their shoulders.” I always think they are almost like Garudji who carries Lord Vishnu.
Radhastami signals double celebration
Radhastami always brings a double celebration for us padayatris: it is the birthday of our padayatra and also Radharani’s appearance day, thus depicting the direct mercy of Srimati Radharani on us. Last year we celebrated Radhastami in Lonavala near Mumbai and recently the devotees from Lonavala kindly called me to remind me of that occasion. This year school proprietor Manish bhai sponsored the whole festival. The programme began with sankirtan followed by online katha on Srimati Radharani by Lokanath Maharaja. The congregation, including many local devotees, then performed abhishek of Nitai-Gaurasundar and offered Them seventy bhogas. As a birthday celebration of our padayatra we also did a cake cutting ceremony, shared our realizations with each other and glorified padayatra.
Sharing Dhanya Chaitanya dasa’s realizations:
I joined padayatra in 2018 by the mercy of my spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja. I had heard that padayatra is the heart of Gurudev. This hit my heart and I feel in padayatra that I am serving Gurudev’s heart. I feel if I was not in padayatra then my life would have been a waste, but now my life has a meaning: serving the devotees and my spiritual master. I have four sisters and no brother so I used to worry about them, but now Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar are my brothers and would definitely take care of my family. I have dedicated my life to padayatra and pledge that I will serve without any motive throughout my life. Acarya dasa has always guided me as an elder brother. He equally serves with us and takes care of everyone. I feel very fortunate serving in padayatra. Every day is a wonderful experience and adventure. I can feel the presence of Their Lordships on the cart. They take care of us and are always with us.
All-India Padayatra book score Radhastami 2019-20
Small soft-cover books 9855
Medium soft-cover books 9
Big soft-cover books 270
Maha big hard-cover books 4015
Total books – 14,149
Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar, ki jai.
Srila Prabhupada, ki jai.