By Damodarlila dasa, Maharashtra Padayatra leader
Enroute to Pandharpur the Maharashtra Padayatra stopped at Ankoli village on July 21, 2021. We had received news that our dear senior godbrother, All-India Padayatra leader Acarya dasa, would visit padayatra at Ankoli and when he arrived that afternoon, we all offered obeisances to him. Acarya then went to Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar’s chariot and took darshan of Their Lordships. The Lord definitely was happy to see His staunch follower and strong padayatri. We then welcomed Acarya with a maha garland of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar.
While I was serving in the AIP, I was trained by Acarya and it’s by his mercy that today I am the so-called leader of the Maharashtra Padayatra. I am not at all qualified but it was the desire of our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja.
We were all invited to Ankoli devotee Jayashrisita devi dasi’s house for prasadam and after some rest we went for nagar sankirtan in the evening. We brought a big garland and again welcomed Acarya who danced with us and addressed the public, narrating some pastimes of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar. We introduced him to everyone as the leader of the All-India Padayatra which moves all the time in all seasons and covers the whole of India, especially the Char dhama.
Acarya is a great personality who has been serving as AIP leader and nicely performing his duty for twelve years. He is very austere, getting up at 2am to chant many rounds before mangala arati. He looks after all the management but is always smiling. Recently I called him when he was in Rajasthan which is very hot at this time of year, but he just said, “Yes, it’s hot but we will manage by Gurudev’s mercy.” He is fully surrendered to the spiritual master and his instructions.
Acarya guided us and encouraged us to keep going uninterrupted. He gave us specific instructions for improvement regarding the tractor and oxen and asked if our finances were adequate. He also promised to sponsor two oxen for our padayatra by Diwali. We requested him to stay for Balarama Jayanti celebrations but he had other commitments.
The padayatris were glad to hear from him personally – the AIP is the mother and Maharashtra Padayatra is her child. It was an honour to host him as he is a source of inspiration for all of us. This was the first time he had visited us since the inception of our padayatra and we were all ecstatic. We were blessed by Acarya dasa’s presence and touched by his visit, which was like a big brother coming home. Now we are again filled with enthusiasm to move ahead.