By Damodarlila dasa, Maharashtra Padayatra leader
The Maharashtra Padayatra had been at Pandharpur dhama since March 26. We didn’t plan on coming to Pandharpur. Our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, called us there and immediately after that India’s second lockdown was announced. The spiritual master is mercy personified and having pulled us to Pandharpur the next four months were spent safely, gaining spiritual strength in the shelter of Sri Sri Radha-Pandharinath and Gurudev.
When we returned to Pandharpur after Gurudev’s vyasa-puja celebration at Solapur in July he asked us when we would restart padayatra now that the restrictions had been lifted. I replied that with his blessings we would soon move ahead. He was pleased with that and also with my report that padayatra had walked 2282km in the past two years. The next day I went on an advance party and found the situation encouraging, so we decided to resume padayatra on July 27.
We now have fifteen devotees in our party along with four Personality Development Course (PDC) devotees and some temple devotees who would walk with us until we crossed the Pandharpur preaching zone. On the day of our departure, we all assembled in the ISKCON Pandharpur temple courtyard after guru-puja. Gurudev came for darshan of our Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar and performed sankirtan for twenty minutes. He then gave a small talk addressing and guiding the padayatris and showering his unlimited blessings on us. He also advised that we should have pamphlets printed containing information about padayatra, the deities and our mission which should be distributed throughout Maharashtra. Gurudev walked with us for some distance and before farewelling us said: “The blessings of all acharyas are with you. Srila Prabhupada is himself with you. He is carrying Their Lordships to different villages.” He then performed arati of Their Lordships and broke a coconut to invoke auspiciousness.
It was a great experience to have Gurudev walking and singing with padayatra. As the chariot moved ahead, he was turning back having darshan of their Lordships and singing with all his heart. We could all see how happy he was to be walking in padayatra. It’s rightly said that padayatra is the heart of our spiritual master, as it was Srila Prabhupada’s instruction to him to start padayatra.
We felt Gurudev would walk with us always and bless us but he has many other preaching responsibilities, so taking his blessings we padayatris moved ahead to our first destination, Kasegaon village. The villagers welcomed us and happily joined us in sankirtan, after which we had prasadam at Pandharinath dasa’s house. The next day we walked to Khardi village where we distributed one Srimad-Bhagavatam set. All together it was a good start to padayatra by the mercy of Lord Panduranga and our spiritual master, our only shelter and inspiration.
Srila Prabhupada, ki jai.