By Madhav Shyamsundar dasa, ISKCON Nandurbar centre commander

By the mercy of Guru and Gauranga, on March 8-10 the ISKCON Nandurbar centre devotees successfully completed their first three-day padayatra, walking from Nandurbar, in the northwest corner of Maharashtra, to Vikharan village, a distance of about 60km.

As ISKCON is a preaching movement, the Nandurbar devotees have always wanted to do something special to keep preaching in the forefront of our activities. Padayatra was essential to Srila Prabhupada, and I had read and heard of the padayatras under the guidance of Lokanath Maharaja who was ordered by Prabhupada to take charge of the village-to-village bullock cart preaching programme. Therefore, Maharaja was the inspiration behind this padayatra. We were also inspired by our Guru Maharaja, Bhakti Vikasa Swami, who always encourages preaching in villages through padayatra, sankirtan, and book and prasadam distribution.

Padayatra means we all walk together with deities of Sri Sri Guara-Nitai to please Srila Prabhupada, so we were overjoyed when Baroda temple president Bashu Ghosh dasa offered Baroda’s Guara-Nitai deities for our event. All our centre devotees were invited to participate, creating much excitement as well as a little anxiety as this was our first padayatra. The rath on which the deities were installed was fashioned from an ordinary hand cart and decorated with flowers and a large photograph of Srila Prabhupada. Another cart was dedicated to transporting nicely displayed books for distribution so as villagers came near, they would have the benefit of darshan of Srila Prabhupada and Gaura-Nitai and could peruse Prabhupada’s books as we also offered them prasadam.

Day 1: ISKCON Nandurbar to Nimbhel
After the inaugural morning arati we left Nandurbar heading for Nimbhel village, about 23km away. Our advance party had informed the village head that padayatra would be coming and as we reached Nimbhel the villagers welcomed us enthusiastically. Because people in this area are not aware of Gaura-Nitai, we told them They are Krishna-Balarama specially come to their village to bless all of them. People came forward, took darshan and raised hands in the same pose as Their Lordships. It was surprising to see the ladies surrounding the book cart scrutinizing the books. On asking a gentleman, he explained, “In the village, generally vendors come selling artificial jewelleries which ladies buy. Maybe they thought it’s the same cart.” Indeed, I thought, actually we were carrying the best of all jewels. That evening we did sankirtan in the village and after arati a class emphasizing the glories of the holy names was held in a pandal put up by the villagers. After the katha, we showed videos of Srila Prabhupada preaching the message of Godhead and explaining the purpose of our ISKCON movement. We then distributed masala rice and halva prasadam to about 500 villagers who also enjoyed kirtan and pravachan.

Day 2: Nimbhel to Zirve
The following morning after arati we started for our next destination, and having walked about 15km reached Zirve by mid-day where we were welcomed by the villagers. In the evening we again had kirtan, pravachan and khichadi prasadam for the 200 people attending the programme.

Day 3: Zirve to Vikharan
On the final day of padayatra we bade fare-well to Zirve and walked the remaining 22km of our route to Vikharan. We were now accompanied by about 700 devotees, most of whom then had darshan of Lord Vishnu at Vikharan’s ancient temple. To celebrate the end of our padayatra we then served rice, curry and halva prasadam to everyone.
Book Score: Bhagavad-gita as it is 18; Krishna Book 2; Ramayan 2; Medium books 15; Small books 25; Total 62.

1. Through this padyatra we gained the inspiration and enthusiasm to walk again to nearby villages. As one devotee said, “Now padayatra is over, I am feeling sad. Let us walk again chanting the holy names.”
2. The villagers had darshan of Gaura-Nitai and enjoyed sankirtan and prasadam. One person stated, “I have learnt many things from all of you.”
3. The event was a wonderful example of teamwork that helped us devotees to come together and serve.

Our team is grateful to all those devotees who took part in the padayatra. Without their effort it could not have been successful.
Book cart: Bhakta Vikas and Bhakta Jagadish; Pulling the Lord’s rath: Bhakta Ganesh and Bhakta Naval; Book distributors: Bhakta Charan and Bhakta Ramchetan; Pujari seva and pravachan: Madhav Shyamsundar dasa; Kirtana team: Adipurush dasa, Markat Shyam dasa, Nitaipad dasa, Bhakta Dipak and Madhav Shyamsundar dasa; Evening pandal prasadam: Adipurush dasa and Bhakta Shyam.
Breakfast and lunch prasadam were arranged by congregation devotees Mr Wankhede and his wife Sarala mataji, and Bhakta Santaram and his wife Surekha mataji.
We would like to thank our Guru Maharaja, Bhakti Vikas Swami, and Lokanath Maharaja for their inspiration. Jai Srila Prabhupada.