By Radhakunda dasa
ISKCON Noida devotees got the news that the All India Padayatra would be at Noida’s Sri Sri Radha-Govind Dev temple for Janmastami. The devotees eagerly anticipated the party’s arrival, until finally on August 16 the padayatris were at our temple.
Former padayatri Bajrangi dasa along with Chakrapani Chaitanya dasa received padayatra at the outskirts of Noida city and escorted the padayatris to the temple, arriving at the front gate at 12:30pm. Brahmacharis, congregation devotees and visitors lined the road into the temple where Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar, Srila Prabhupada and the padayatris were welcomed by Noida temple president Vamsidhar dasa and Rasamandal dasa. Sankirtan was continuous, garlands were offered to Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar, then several devotees offered garlands to the padayatris while others greeted them with roses.
Next came an arati of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar by Vamsidhar, after which we offered juice to all the devotees. Everyone recalled how our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, started padayatra on Radhastami 1984. We then brought padayatra’s utsava deities of Gaura-Nitai to the temple hall – Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar and Sri Sri Radha-Govind Dev face to face – and as we circumambulated Them kirtan was going on and on.
Their Lordships’ chariot was parked in front of the temple so that everyone could have darshan, while the six oxen and tractor were kept in the Krishna Jayanti Park. Air-conditioned rooms had been arranged on the third floor of the temple for the padayatris. A report of padayatra’s arrival was published in the next day’s local newspaper and as the news spread across Noida many people came to have darshan of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar.
Each day bhoga was offered to Their Lordships. We told AIP leader Acarya dasa that “ISKCON Noida is your home, so stay here thinking that you have come to your house.” In this way the padayatris got the company of the temple devotees and the temple devotees got the company of the padayatris. Acarya gave the Srimad-Bhagavatam class and the devotees sang arati every day, enthusiastically participating in all the programmes.
On August 18 Lokanath Maharaja arrived at Noida from Vrindavan to be welcomed by the padayatris and Noida devotees. Maharaja was very pleased to see all the devotees. Janmastami was on August 19, a grand occasion at ISKCON Noida where four to five lakh devotees visit throughout the day. The festival programmes began from early morning. As soon as we’d had darshan at 4:30am Maharaja performed arati of Sri Sri Radha-Govind Dev. The entire temple room was full and after arati we requested Acarya to worship Tulsi maharani. Now it was abhisheka time. Acarya started the proceedings and others followed. The padayatris also took part in the twelve-hour kirtan.
Everyone who came to the temple had darshan of the chariot standing below and Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar while caranamrta was being distributed on the chariot. We had made the entire temple forecourt market-like by putting a bookstall, a prasadam stall, a gift stall and a japa stall along the road. A special attraction was the majestic padayatra oxen, the public being amazed to see such huge and powerful creatures. These oxen are not ordinary because they serve Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar directly, taking Them on their shoulders. Whoever sees these oxen also get benefits.
The next day was Srila Prabhupada’s appearance day. Our programme started at 11am and Lokanath Maharaji himself was present. All the devotees and congregation members participated enthusiastically and we gave Acarya as speaker the opportunity to glorify Srila Prabhupada. We were blessed by the padayatris’ association. They shared their realizations and that was very inspiring. Their dedication to Guru and Gauranga is admired and their presence made our Janmastami wonderful.
At 10am the following day the padayatris congregated in front of the temple with their bullocks, trucks and other items preparing to leave. We thanked them and garlanded each one. The great donor of our padayatra, Harivilas Burma prabhuji of Noida, was also in attendance. Harivilas Burma has given a truck, a bike and a sound system to padayatra and Acarya garlanded him in appreciation. When padayatra departed the temple devotees walked with the padayatris for 1km while performing kirtan, and because they were going to Vrindavan we also accompanied them singing Jai Radhe, Jai Krishna, Jai Vrindavan. Having farewelled the padayatris we then returned to the temple.
That night the AIP stayed at Sector 50 in Noida where our congregational devotee, Jagannath Swami prabhuji, lives. Harinama sankirtan was held again that evening with great pomp, so ISKCON Noida got another opportunity to serve the padayatris. It was a great experience. We had the opportunity to serve such great devotees who are engaged only in the propagation of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who spread harinama for the pleasure of the Lord and Guru.
Seeing all the devotees was so inspiring, because there is such a comfort zone in the temple: if it is cold, you can get a heater; if it is hot, you can get air-conditioning, but the padayatris hardly even get a roof! One has to keep walking in the sun, in the rain, in the cold. One prabhuji was telling in his realization that even in cold times one has to take bath with cold water and then do service. Arati is sometimes in an open field and sometimes in a room. Seeing such devotees who have sacrificed their whole life for the happiness of God, we were filled with inspiration. As Noida temple co-president Vedanta Chaitanya dasa said in the approval session: “An All India padayatri’s life means real sanyasi life. If we want to live a real sanyasi life then we can learn from padayatra.”
Out of that, the All India Padayatra is one real sanyasi life. There are many experiences like this, but it would take a long time to tell. The special thing is that seeing the AIP devotees, the Noida devotees became inspired. In Noida, whether we live in a temple or at home, we live in a comfort zone. Wherever we have to go we have a car, facilities are everywhere. We lead a comfortable life, but how hard are the pedestrian devotees working? Padayatra is a very good thing and that is why Guru Maharaja also met the padayatris personally. At 5pm on Srila Prabhupada’s appearance day he called the padayatris to a meeting, thanking each one and giving guidance to them. He also declared that “you should reach Govardhan in the coming Kartik. We will meet at Govardhan on October 16.”
The Noida Padayatra to Vrindavan and the All India Padayatra reached Govardhan at Kartik and following that would attend the Golden Jubilee of Maharaja’s initiation. In this way we have an opportunity to serve the All India Padayatra devotees.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
All India Padayatra Bhaktavrinda, ki jai.
Nitai-Gaura Premanande, Hari Hari bol.