By Damodharlila dasa, Maharashtra Padayatra leader
On August 14 padayatra reached Arali where the villagers held a grand welcome for us. The streets were decorated with rangoli and sprinkled with water. The sarpanch greeted us and matajis performed arati of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar and washed our oxen’s hooves.
A devotee from Arali, Shankararanya dasa, is currently serving at Pandharpur. He is a dedicated devotee who oversees ISKCON Pandharpur’s property matters and serves day and night. He has studied engineering in India and overseas and later joined ISKCON Pandharpur. When he heard that padayatra was nearby he called me and requested if we could visit his village. I happily agreed, for it would be a wonderful opportunity to visit our godbrother’s hometown, the place that gave us a great devotee like Shankararanya. He then coordinated our accommodation and prasadam over the phone.
Shankararanya’s brother escorted us to the entrance of the village where the welcome ceremony took place. Devotees from Pandharpur dhama, including temple vice-president Dhanurdhar Arjuna dasa, Sri Krishna Dev dasa, Vitthal Bhakta dasa and many others, also joined us in Arali. We then had a grand sankirtan in the village. All the residents were very happy, saying that great saints had come to their village, and many of them joined in the sankirtan. That afternoon several boys came and took beads and chanted one round with us in the nearby temple and Sri Krishna Dev, an excellent youth preacher, explained to them the importance of chanting the holy name. Katha was also organized for the assembled villagers. In the evening the villagers joined Gaura arati, many books were distributed and prasadam was honoured by all.
We stayed at Shankararanya’s house on the family’s farm and felt very much at home with devotees all around us. We took our Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar utsava deities with us so the Lord was in the house blessing everyone. Prabhu’s parents and family members were pleased to have padayatra at their home, where we had sankirtan and honoured wonderful prasadam. Although Shankararanya could not come to his place due to his services at Pandharpur, we had gone there and his parents said they felt as if their son had come home. His father was not chanting, but by the presence of Their Lordships at his house he took sankalpa to chant and also chanted with us. As we reported to our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, he said maybe in future we could have a Nama Hatta centre there.
Our visit to Arali was a very inspiring experience. The youth from the village still call and report their chanting score.