By Dhirnayak dasa, Utkal-Banga Padayatra leader
The Utkal-Banga padayatris celebrated Radhastami 2022 at Surada, a town in southern Odisha’s Ganjam district. Radhastami, the appearance day of Srimati Radharani, is a very special day, especially for us padayatris because it’s the birthday of the All India Padayatra (AIP), our mother padayatra. Radharani appeared to engage us in Lord Krishna’s service and padayatra also appeared to engage us in Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar’s service. All other padayatras are the children of the mother padayatra and all the current padayatris are trained in the AIP. Our Utkal-Banga Padayatra was inaugurated on Radhastami last year, so this year’s festival was our first anniversary.
To make it memorable I thought of inviting senior and former padayatris for the celebration. I sent invitations to all of them including Acarya dasa (All India Padayatra leader), Damodarlila dasa (Maharashtra Padayatra leader), Istadev dasa (our godbrother and former padayatri), Kalanidhi dasa, and Shyamlata devi dasi from Mayapur dham. All guests were welcomed and their accommodation arranged nearby. The presence of senior devotees filled our hearts with love and we had a great get-together, sharing our realizations with each other. We also had the association of our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, online.
Surada’s member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Purna Chandra Swain, was the festival chief guest. Mr Swain was very cooperative and had a big pandal put up for the occasion. We also invited a kirtan party from Konark and devotees who would perform an Oriya dance, and about 1000 people from nearby villages attended.
As we headed to the pandal performing sankirtan Mr Swain carried Their Lordships and joined us dancing. Sankirtan was wonderful, all us padayatris singing and dancing together. At the programme Acarya dasa, our godbrother who trained me as a padayatri, performed arati of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar. This was followed by Istadev dasa’s class in which he shared memories and said how much he is missing padayatra. Next came abhishek of Their Lordships and then the bhoga offering to the beautifully dressed deities. Their Lordships’ chariot also had received a gorgeous floral decoration earlier, organized by Prahlad dasa.
In one year the Utkal-Banga Padayatra walked 2500km. Its book distribution and other achievements: Small books 39,665, Big books 1145, Maha Big books 8525, Caitanya-caritamrta sets 62, Srimad-Bhagavatam sets 42, Towns and villages visited 300, Towns and villages crossed 600, Full-plate prasadam distributed 15,000, Dron prasadam distributed 25,000.
Whatever little services we padayatris did was only by the causeless mercy of our beloved Srila Gurudev who keeps us inspired, continually asking after our whereabouts and guiding us. His recent visit gave us strength and I could see that he was so happy to be with our padayatra. We all took sankalpa to serve harder.
Srila Gurudev, ki jai.
Srila Prabhupada, ki jai.