The ‘UK Padayatra’ took place on May 30th and ended on June 3rd 2016. Padayatris made their way from Hastings to Brighton via Eastbourne travelling a sum total of just under 40 miles. The padayatris walked over a period of 5 days and averaged about 8 miles a day. We will feature a series of articles from one of the padayatris, Radha Raman Dasa, based on a day to day account of this padayatra.
By Radha Raman Dasa
“A Pilgrimage for Peace” padayatra started in Hastings, UK on May 30th and was led by Dayal Mora Dasa and Parasuarama Dasa. This padayatra was the first in mainland UK after more than 20 years and ended on June 3rd, lasting four days. The padayatra travelled from Hastings to Brighton (South). The arrangements were kept as simple as possible to make sure that we actually made it out there to glorify Srila Prabhupada as one of the ‘50 Padayatras’ being offered to His Divine Grace, in honour of ISKCONs 50th anniversary celebrations.
There were at least 20 devotees who walked daily. We were also graced by the presence of HH Mahavishnu Swami during padayatra. He had travelled from Africa especially to join us for the week and to help lead the padayatra. Their Lordships Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundar, having presided over so many festivals, rathayatras and padayatras accompanied us, as well as our heroic Bhativedanta Manor Bulls, Padma and Balaram, along with Taruna Dasa, who took care of them. There were also a few veteran padayatris who joined us, namely, Parasaurama Dasa who came despite his ill health and his wife Moksha-Laxmi Dasi also joined us. The entire London Temple brahmacari asarama came to support their leader Dayal Mora Dasa -who also had another team that he had assembled which included padayatra veteran Raghunatha Bhatta Dasa and his two children Radhe Syama Dasa and Hema Mukhi Dasi. Also walking with us every day was sankirtana veteran Sandipani Dasa and Gopinatha Dasa, a superb musician from Scandinavia. In addition to this we had other devotees who joined us whenever they could.
On May 30th, at 10 am the deities were ready, the cart assembled and the vaisnavas and bulls gathered at the starting point on the outskirts of Hastings where the padaytra began. I was unable to make the first day because Dayal Mora Prabhu kindly advised me that the 10 mile walk, the longest of the padayatra , might be too much for my weak health. However, not wanting to miss out on the padayatra fun, I arrived early the next day. It was a blustery morning at the camp. I took darsana of the cart and deities in front of Whom I had been mercifully initiated by Lokanath Swami some 18 years earlier. So, taking darsana of Their most merciful Lordships again after all this time was very special.
I was very happy to see the devotees who were taking morning prasadam consisting of simple but delicious kichari and vegetables, which was a standard fare for both morning and evening during padayatra . It was actually the windiest day I had ever experienced on the South coast in over 12 years of visiting there or living there – yet the padayatris were blissful after having a wonderful day of harinama sankirtana the day before in Hastings and Bexhill. As we set of that morning, I interviewed some of the brahmacaris from London who were amongst the many devotees experiencing their first padayatra. They were animated as they told me about the miracle they experienced on the first day of padayatra as they made their way through Hastings and Bexhill. They said that the hearts of the conditioned souls melted without exception, upon taking darsana of the ‘Padayatra Cart’. The devotees chanted and many came to pay obeisances or offer respect in different ways.
Vayu Dasa recollects, “Yes, it was amazing to see everybody one after another respectfully taking darsana. Everybody took prasadam and a padayatra leaflet – they even naturally offered their obeisances to the deities even though they had known nothing about Krishna Consciousness thus far in this lifetime”
Bhakta Kleber Dasa from London, also on his first padayatra, made the same comment. He added that despite having taken darsana of the Deities before, distributing books before and doing harinama before, the fact is that he had never experienced these transcendental activities in such a powerful way. Now it seemed like everybody was so happy to receive the deities, devotees, harinama and prasadam. We had budgeted on distributing about 500 leaflets a day but close to 1000 were distributed on that amazing first day.
Rama Charan Dasa explains what he experienced, “When we got to Bexhill (the town after Hastings) just before the outskirts of that town where we had camped for the first night, I noticed that the same drivers in the same cars were driving around the town again and again so that they could take darsana of the cart, the bulls and the deities, as well as meet the devotees. I noticed that everywhere we stopped that people who visited us and who were initially sceptical changed both their hearts and attitudes when they saw how happy the devotees were, and how loving the exchanges between the devotees and the bulls and the cart of Sri Sri Nitai Guarasundara was. Then you would see them step forward, especially the children who were followed by their parents. They all became so completely attracted to the padayatra that they didn’t want us to leave and in some cases they cried and followed the padayatra until it was well out of sight”
On the second day we walked the least number of miles and the route was mainly uninhabited which was completely different from the first day. We were joined on that day by Adi Guru Dasa and Gopal Dasa, veteran sankirtana devotees from Bhaktivedanta Manor and Soho Street. Adi Guru Dasa led a wonderful and sweet kirtana for most of the way and then HH Mahavishnu Maharaja sang as we approached the outskirts of Eastbourne and entered the campsite. We were mainly travelling through uninhabited terrain but at one point we arrived at a side street or mini village just as we were turning onto Eastbourne Road. We experienced a similar occurrence to the day before; people came out of their homes to see this wondrous display and received the padayatra warmly, offering respect and gratefully taking whatever transcendental gifts were offered to them by the devotees. There were also people who wanted to help in whatever small way they could, for example, a police car happily escorted our little padayatra cart through a difficult part of the road – even though their presence was actually causing more traffic. I don’t believe that they were fully conscious of what was happening but they were unable to resist the opportunity to render service to Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundar, the Lord of their hearts, as well as helping the Lord’s devotees.
Another wonderful thing that I noticed was that two new devotees, Bhakta Rakesh and Bhakta Ashisha, whom I had recently met at the temple in London, were glowing. Bhakta Rakesh was enthusiastically distributing leaflets and prasadam to anyone he could. He seemed to have unlimited energy to go the extra mile with every conditioned soul that he met. Bhakta Ashisha was enthusiastically participating in every kirtana all day, every day. In many ways, the padayatra was a massive boost and inspiration to all of our Krishna Consciousness.
Online articles on UK Padayatra: