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BALGOPAL AND GOPIS’ PADAYATRA IGNITES AKOLA DEVOTEES
By Jayabhadra devi dasi (IGF preacher ISKCON Amravati)
Taking the mood of our spiritual master, Lokanath Swami Maharaja, our ISKCON Girls’ Forum team recently organized padayatras for young Vaishnavas at Amravati and Dhamangaon. Our next target was Akola, a large city in the Vidarbha region almost 100km southwest of Amravati, and I contacted ISKCON Akola’s centre leader, Vaidarbhicaran dasa, seeking permission to hold padayatra there. He was very receptive to the idea, saying “mataji is most welcome, please come with your team and inspire devotees here.”
The Akola devotees began planning two weeks before the walk. Rani mataji (IGF Akola) was very enthusiastic to be involved as she had been following our children’s padayatras. To coordinate preparations, I went to Akola on May 21 for a meeting at senior Lokanath Maharaja disciple Jiva Goswami dasa’s house. The Akola preaching programme started at Jiva Goswami’s and since then many Vaishnavas have graced his home, including Lokanath Maharaja and Nityananda paduka from Mayapur. We all considered the house an auspicious place to meet, and following discussions June 2 was selected for the walk and that on this occasion it would be for little Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis. One mataji was worried about the rising temperature but another said, “If we wait then the rainy season will start and the question will arise of how to walk in the rains. Don’t worry. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu will help His own mission, just don’t lose the enthusiasm. Let’s do it taking full shelter of the Lord and with a strong desire in the heart to serve Him.” Hearing this filled us with spiritual energy.
When we arrived at Akola early on padayatra morning the centre hall was full of children dressed as gopas and gopis, with Vaidarbhicaran keeping them nicely engaged in sankirtan. I had been getting calls on my mobile from the Akola devotees asking if we would be on time, and I could sense their excitement and was elated at how they had engaged with the mood of our spiritual master. Everything was ready, including kartals and banners, and we brought the posters and flags with us from Amravati.
Taking into consideration the temperature we served prasadam to the children before padayatra began. Prasadam was prepared by Rani’s mother, Jaya Tayade mataji, who likes to cook traditional Vidarbhiyan dishes such as zunka, bhakri, and matka roti (also known as mande) for the devotees. After we had honoured prasadam the children assembled in two lines holding the banners and Jiva Goswami’s Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai deities, beautifully decorated by Rani. As it was all new to them the kids were excited, and also anxious, about what would happen on the walk.
Vaidarbhicaran and Bhakta Dushyanta then showed the flags and inaugurated padayatra. As we left the centre the children were playing kartals and carrying posters and Vaishnavi dasi led the kirtan with Bhakta Pratik playing mridanga. Bhakta Suyog, a very enthusiastic devotee, was photographer for the event. The children were happy and enthused and as we marched ahead people were looking at them and raising their hands as we chanted the holy names loudly in each square. Vaidarbhicaran was our escort and we were also joined by his mother, Rajvidhya mataji, and family members Ahaituki mataji, Jaya mataji, Vaidehi mataji, and Kalyani mataji who took turns leading kirtan as well as caring for the little ones.
We stopped at several places along the way to make announcements and give the children time to distribute pamphlets, and at one point we visited a Ganesh temple. Under a tree in the courtyard of Mr Shekhar’s house we saw a deity of Svayambhu (self-manifested) Ganesh, where Mr Shekhar had built a small temple and has been serving as pujari. The padayatris had darshan of Ganeshji and asked for his blessings so that we could all read and understand sastra and obtain devotion of Lord Krishna in our hearts. Our Gaura-Nitai deities were kept in the altar, which was a closed chamber so it looked as if Ganeshji had taken Their Lordships into his house and was discussing something serious. We prayed that it would be about the preaching in Akola. Mr Dushyant Chavan then sponsored ice-cream for us and as soon as the kids saw it, they said hari bol and honoured the unexpected treat. We had a small sankirtan there for the pleasure of Ganeshji. Vaidarbhicaran told the pujari that the Lord had come to meet Ganeshji and that Gaura-Nitai are Krishna-Balarama. When he said “They also have come to bless you,” the pujari was very happy. We left some pamphlets with him so that he can give them to people coming to his temple and be instrumental in preaching.
We then marched singing with joy towards a Jain temple, where the pujaris were glad to see children taking part in preaching activities. One of them said, “It’s very good that you are involving these children in such preaching activities. This will leave a big impression on their hearts.” After that we headed back to the centre to be welcomed by Jiva Goswami. The IGF girls then served juice to the padayatris along with prasadam once again, and Mr Changani distributed sweets and Vaidehi mataji distributed biscuits to the children. Everyone was blissful after the holy walk and shared their realizations.
Vaidarbhicaran dasa: It was a wonderful event, all the children walked happily. This will have a great impact on their brains. The All-India Padayatra which moves all over India has made thousands of devotees just by darshan. I am sure our small padayatra will soon give results. I promise that in the coming days we will have a big padayatra in Akola. I thank Jayabhadra mataji for coming and helping us in this event.
Jiva Goswami dasa: I am glad we had such a wonderful event in our centre. I am fortunate being part of it. Padayatra is very helpful in preaching, so we will regularly have such events. These balgopals and gopis have sown seeds of bhakti in the hearts of many today; soon the results will be seen. Those who had darshan of Guara-Nitai have been blessed. I thank Vaidarbhicaran prabhu.
Bhakta Dushyanta: I am fortunate I could serve these balgopals and gopis as they walked for the pleasure of the Lord. All glories to them.
Rani mataji: I am fortunate I could serve in padayatra. It has filled me with enthusiasm and I hope this small attempt of ours pleases Srila Gurudev.
Jaya mataji: It was an honour we had such an event and I got the opportunity to serve devotees.
Ahaituki mataji: Such occasions keep inspiring the congregation and bring them together.
Kalyani mataji: It was a short and sweet event; soon we will have a big one with loud music systems and kirtans.
Bhakta Pratik: I played mridanga and it was a wonderful experience.
Bhakta Suyog: I remembered the days when I was in Mumbai BACE (the Bhaktivedanta Academy for Culture and Education), with all the devotees coming together distributing books and serving together. Thank you for such a padayatra.
I thank the Akola devotees for allowing us to arrange padayatra. It’s due to their hard work that it was a success. This will surely please Srila Prabhupada and Gurudev. I also thank our IGF team, especially Vaishnavi dasi for arranging the posters and leading kirtan and assisting me in our IGF padayatras.
I shared in conversation with Jiva Goswami: “In whichever form Gaura-Nitai are They always want to go for sankirtan, and that’s why today’s padayatra was organized. It’s all Their mercy.” Nitai-Gaurasundar, ki jai. Srila Prabhupada, ki jai.