By Damodarleela dasa, Maharashtra Padayatra leader
The Maharashtra Padayatra reached Pandharpur dhama on January 26, 2021. We were welcomed at the entrance of the dhama by the devotees and our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja. It was a great moment. I jumped from the chariot to offer my obeisances to Gurudev and as I stood up, he put a garland around my neck. I felt so humble and thought the perfection of my life is pleasing him, because padayatra is the heart of our spiritual master.
Maharaja was instructed by Srila Prabhupada to start padayatras and is striving to fulfil Prabhupada’s desire. In a letter to Nityananda (Mayapur, 16 March 1977) Prabhupada stated: “Here in India our Lokanath Maharaja has successfully organized such a programme and it is a great success. He has travelled all over India and everywhere they distribute books, prasadam and perform kirtan, village to village. Each night they stop at a different village. We can introduce many millions of such carts all over the world.” ISKCON devotees now have four padayatras on the road continuously (including the recently inaugurated Nepal Padayatra) and many one-day padayatras all over India.
Sannyasa initiation of Ekalavya dasa
This year’s appearance day of the father of the sankirtan movement, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, was an extra-special occasion, because the Maharashtra Padayatra was to be joined by our utsava vigraha and our senior godbrother, Ekalavya dasa, was getting sannyasa initiation. The auspicious initiation took place on the banks of the Chandrabhaga River, witnessed by the dhama, mother Chandrabhaga, the devotees and Lord Vitthala. In his class Lokanath Maharaja said: “Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar of the Maharashtra Padayatra have Themselves arrived as guest and witness for the sannyasa ceremony of Ekalavya. It seems the Lord wanted to attend the event and so They arrived.” After getting his danda sannyasa and name as Sri Krishna Chaitanya Swami Maharaja he came to our Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar’s chariot and took Their blessings. It’s not by chance that padayatra arrived here, it’s the Lord’s plan as Ekalavya also liked the padayatra programme. He started his life in ISKCON in the European padayatra, so he is also a padayatri at heart who attracted the grace of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar.
This was the day we got our utsava vigraha for the Maharashtra Padayatra. Till now we just had the big Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar but no utsava deities, so at any festival we always missed Their presence. This year’s Gaura-purnima was a blessed event as Their Lordships’ utsava deities joined our padayatra and Lokanath Maharaja was at Pandharpur dhama for the celebration. Our decorated chariot carrying the beautifully dressed Nitai-Gaurasundar was parked at Prabhupada-ghat on the Chandrabhaga River. Maharaja and other ISKCON Pandharpur devotees joined us at sringara darshan and we all listened attentively as Maharaja gave a japa talk. Then in the evening there was an ahishek of our new Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar and ISKCON Pandharpur’s utsava deities which I was invited to perform. Then it was announced that one set of Nitai-Gaurasundar would join the Maharashtra Padayatra visiting villages and towns and blessing the people all over Maharashtra. The abhishek was followed by sankirtan and maha-prasadam.
Gaura-purnima Mahamahotsav, ki jai.