By Damodarlila dasa, Maharashtra Padayatra leader
On September 5 the padayatris arrived at Bardoli to a rousing welcome from residents. The village leaders had earlier kindly arranged for our accommodation in a nearby Hari temple. That evening we had a grand nagar sankirtan and although it was raining people joined in and danced with us.
The next day was Pola, a thanksgiving festival celebrated on a large scale by farmers in Maharashtra to acknowledge the importance of bulls and oxen – a crucial part of agricultural activities and the farming community – where the washing of bulls and colouring of their horns takes place.
The villagers asked that our oxen be part of the celebration and I readily agreed as I thought perhaps the villagers would develop a connection with the oxen. These oxen are not just any animal. Our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, says: “They are very fortunate as they are serving Their Lordships in animal life also.” The oxen carry Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar’s chariot on their shoulders and because they have such a service attitude, they’re always ready to contribute. In fact, when we couldn’t walk due to the pandemic, they were sad because their routine was disturbed.
We decorated the oxen and their horns with colours and tied bells around their necks. The Pola festival was situated on a large paddock where the village oxen had been gathered to be worshipped by the farmers, who are grateful for their assistance in maintaining their livelihood. All the oxen’s hooves were washed, kumkum tilak was put on them and Marathi puran poli, a kind of sweet dish, was offered to them.
We have two oxen, Nandi and Garuda, who we love very much. They are special souls. Normally oxen are worshipped only on Pola, but our oxen are worshipped every day as a gift to them for the service rendered by them to Their Lordships. We take care of them and serve them and our padayatra is dependent on them.
All glories to our four-legged padayatris.