By Damodarleela dasa, Maharashtra Padayatra leader
The Maharashtra Padayatra reached the village of Aravade on February 24, 2021, a place worshipful for us padayatris as it’s the birthplace of our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja. In a meeting I had recently with Gurudev he enquired about padayatra’s route. I told him we’d be heading to Sangli then Miraj and on to Pandharpur, and he then asked if padayatra would be going to Aravade. When I said that we had been there twice, Maharaja replied, “Go to Aravade also.”
We were thinking of celebrating Nityananda Trayodasi somewhere in the Sangli district, but the Lord had His own plan. Lord Nityananda wanted to celebrate His birthday at Aravade and it was by Gurudev’s order that we attended the event there. Nityananda is adi guru. Nityananda Ram is Lord Balarama Himself (balarāma hoilo nitāi) and is akhanda guru tattva, the one who shows the devotee the path to spiritual advancement. Without His mercy one cannot even hope to attain Gauranga’s lotus feet.
We arrived at ISKCON Aravade’s beautiful Radha-Gopal temple on the eve of Nityananda Trayodasi to find preparations for the festival were well under way. We parked our chariot in the temple courtyard so that devotees who came to the temple could first take darshan of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar. All the padayatris were then assigned to various appearance day services.
On Nityananda Trayodasi our padayatra deities were beautifully decorated and the temple’s Sri Sri Radha-Gopal were also dressed immaculately for the occasion. Fifty-six bhoga were offered to Radha-Gopal and Nitai-Gaurasundar and I was invited to perform the abhishek and lead the kirtan. About 200 devotees participated in the programme and honoured prasadam at the end.
The next day was market day, so a lot of people from nearby villages were in Aravade. We performed a grand sankirtan in the central square where we were joined by several villagers. Sankirtan is not new for the local people as preaching programmes are organized by the temple in the village and surrounding areas. Because it’s our Gurudev’s birthplace, large festivals are held here and nagar sankirtan is an integral part of such events.