By Acarya dasa (All India Padayatra leader)
The All India padayatris started the char dhama yatra from Haridwar on May 10, 2022. We had darshan of Hari ki paudi at Haridwar and Sapta rishi ghat and, of course, a holy dip in mother Ganges. The next day we moved ahead from Rishikesh and after a journey of twenty days we reached Badrikashram dhama on May 30. Some congregation devotees and padayatris from the Maharashtra, Utkala-Banga and Uttar Pradesh padayatras also joined this adventurous spiritual char dhama yatra.
Caitanya Caran dasa
This is my fourth round to char dhama. We read in the Nectar of Instruction, verse 3:
utsāhān niścayād dhairyāt
saṅga-tyāgāt sato vṛtteḥ
ṣaḍbhir bhaktiḥ prasidhyati
There are six principles favourable to the execution of pure devotional service: (1) being enthusiastic, (2) endeavouring with confidence, (3) being patient, (4) acting according to regulative principles [such as sravaṇam kirtanam viṣṇoḥ smaraṇam [SB 7.5.23] hearing, chanting and remembering Kṛiṣhṇa], (5) abandoning the association of non-devotees, and (6) following in the footsteps of the previous acaryas. These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service.
All the devotees come here with great determination. The speciality of this place is that here our enthusiasm to do devotional service increases. We have to wake up early in the morning then we take bath in cold water. After that we chant and do our sadhana. We can do all this very easily here. The Lord has made this tapobhumi such that we can perform our austerity easily. Anyone who wants to progress in devotional service must do this yatra of char dhama yatra – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
Rupa Goswami dasa (Former leader of All India Padayatra)
I haven’t been in padayatra for a long time, but I came for this yatra. I have been here earlier, in 2004 and in 2012. This is the third time I am coming to padayatra. It was very hot in Delhi and Chandigarh but from Haridwar it is very cold, still devotees are not complaining about cold water. Slowly we are moving upwards. This is a very nice experience. Yesterday we went to Vyasadeva’s cave. As mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, we experienced this personally. As we move forward in the cave we have to bend forward. Devotees carry more luggage initially but as we move upwards, they reduce their luggage. In the same way, as we progress in Bhakti gradually our anarthas like lust, greed and anger vanish. In the Himalayas, we experience that as we bend continuously, we become humbler also.
Yesterday we went for darshan of Badrinarayana. Many devotees were standing there in the queue. They looked very tired but as we started doing kirtan they all participated in it and were energetic. Many elderly people are also coming here in such cold weather. They have a strong belief in the Lord and they want to have the Lord’s darshan at least once, so they come here from a very long distance. Even if they are karmis, they are very enthusiastic and stand in the queue from 3am. This increases our enthusiasm also. We also give them pleasure by doing kirtan. We can experience progress in devotional service by doing austerity here. This is a land of austerity. Everyone should come here. Our padayatris are very special; other people come here by bus and still they are tired, but our padayatris came here walking while visiting different holy places and they are not tired. I came here a third time but still I feel I should come here again. Hare Krishna.
Ritudvipa Gaurachandra dasa (Uttar Pradesh Padayatra leader)
I am from Uttar Pradesh. I got this chance to come in this padayatra by your mercy and compassion, especially in Badrinath dhama. It is the special mercy of Acarya prabhu. He called me and asked whether I can come, so I came here for padayatra. Yesterday in the 3km-queue for darshan of Badrinath, Acarya began the kirtan. Immediately all the devotees present took part in kirtan and all were taking darshan of kirtan. I practically experienced this by Maharaja’s special mercy. We could take darshan of the Alaknanda and Saraswati rivers due to your causeless mercy. Thank you, Maharaja, and please bless me so that I can continue my service in padayatra. Hare Krishna.
Damodarlila dasa (Maharashtra Padayatra leader)
I am staying here in Badrinath for the past two days. Yesterday we visited Vyasa gupha where Vyasadev has compiled all scriptures, Vedas and Puranas. We also saw the cave of Ganapati. We have heard that you have presented the Bhagavad-gita at that place Maharaja, so we also showed the Bhagavad-gita there. By the mercy of Acarya prabhu, we took the books there and showed them. We took darshan of the place of origin of the Saraswati River. I came here earlier and at that time I was sick. This time I am fine and could take all the darshans properly. Roop Goswami prabhu is with us. He is aware of the places here. He explains to us the importance of the places we visit. We have seen six prayags from Haridwar: Dev Prayag, Rudra prayag, Karna prayag Nanda prayag, Vishnu prayag, and finally Keshava prayag that is the origin of the Saraswati. At the bottom of Badrinath is Tapta-kunda in which hot water is present. At 3:30am all the devotees took bath in that hot water and they felt very good and more enthusiastic. This all happened due to your mercy Maharaja. Hare Krishna.
A devotee from Ahmedabad
Maharajaji, you have visited Ahmedabad on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Sri Radha-Govind. At that time, you blessed me. After that when I came to Pandharpur and informed you that I am sick, you blessed me at that time also. After that, I went to Aravade and stayed there for more than fifteen years. With your mercy, I can do kirtan now. Acarya prabhu gives us the inspiration to do kirtan. Kindly bless me. Hare Krishna.
Asim Gaur dasa
I am doing pujari seva with the padayatra. In the Himalayas, it is very cold. We have to wake up at 2am. The water is colder than the ice, I can’t explain how cold it is. Then we do abhishek of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar. We arrange hot water for Their Lordships from the kitchen. We complete the abhishek by 3:30am. By 5:30am we have to start walking. Their Lordships are also doing austerities with us. By the mercy of my spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, I got this opportunity to be a part of the padayatra team. I am from Assam and I would have been sitting there only, but the causeless mercy of Srila Gurudev has brought me here.
While walking suddenly it rains. You cannot predict the rain here. Suddenly when it rains, we are not prepared for it and we all get wet including Their Lordships. Still, we continue our sankirtan. Acarya dasa is an expert in sankirtan. In all odd situations also, he performs kirtan.
Partha Sakha dasa (Utkala-Banga Padayatra)
Acarya dasa invited all senior padayatris for the char dhama yatra. He sent us tickets so we could come here and do service. I do service in the kitchen. We are very happy to be with all the other devotees. We do book distribution here. The special thing is no-one comes here in the Himalayas in a tractor trolley. Everyone comes by bus or car. We are the only ones who are doing padayatra. Every day we walk for 24km.
I am a grihastha. I am very old. These brahmacharis are helping me a lot. I get a lot of energy from them. I also remain in the kirtan and I am very happy. I think no-one would manage to come here walking at this age. This is all possible due to the mercy of our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, and Acarya dasa.
In 2020 I went to Dwarka and in 2021 I did one month of Vraja-mandala Parikrama. This year I decided to come from Haridwar to Badrinath and return to Haridwar. I contacted Acarya for this and he kindly helped me. I am so fortunate that I got a chance to serve Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar.
Sri Dhama dasa
We are getting all the darshans by the mercy of Acarya dasa. We are getting practical experience here. We visited Vyasa gupha. Book distribution is going on. Kindly bless us so that we can serve more in Srila Prabhupada’s mission.
Acarya dasa (All India Padayatra)
Maharaja has started this padayatra. And Guru Maharaja used to say that he has also done the Himalaya yatra. He has said that we get the Lord’s darshan each moment here. It is the Lord’s form. We have to walk along the bank of the Ganga River. Every day we take bath in the Ganga River. We drink water from the Ganga River. Many people bring Bisleri water from Haridwar or Rishikesh but we are drinking the Ganga River water. I recall that if someone dies, sometimes we do not get Gangajal to put in his mouth, but here we are drinking Gangajal every day and taking a holy dip in it. And it is said in the Bhagavad-gita:
raso ’ham apsu kaunteya
śabdaḥ khe pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu
O son of Kunti, I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man. (BG 7.8)
We were getting darshan of the Himalayas, Ganga and the sun here. We saw a mountain over a mountain. I am doing this yatra for the second time. Last time I walked from Haridwar to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. We do not have anyone to drive the tractor, so I drive the tractor. The tractor has only one brake on the engine and the trolley does not have a brake and we were carrying the luggage of forty devotees, our kitchen and books. It was heavily loaded and very risky to drive but we remembered our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, and Srila Prabhupada and prayed to Nitai-Gaurasundar for our safe journey.
If the brakes fail then the tractor and trolley will fall in Gangaji and we will never get it back. We prayed sincerely to Narsimha Bhagavan and Gurudev for our safe journey. And we reached Badrinath smoothly. We have heard from Radha Raman Maharaja that Badrinathji has appeared here in the form of Vishnu. Shivaji and Parvati were wandering here and Lord Vishnu took the form of a small child. This place still exists. Sarvabhauma prabhuji’s son, Mahavir dasa, showed that place to us. We also had darshan of Kapalmochan, and Shivaji with Brahmaji’s kapal, and many other darshans we had. We have heard these pastimes in the Srimad-Bhagavatam but when we see these places in reality then we experience a different kind of joy.
We had darshan of Pandukeshwar. The Pandavas were born at that place. I was sitting on the bank of the Ganga and in front of me was a huge Himalaya. At that time, I remembered my spiritual master and his glorious service to Srila Prabhupada. I realized that my Gurudev has strong determination like the Himalayas. We are fallen souls and we are not aware of the Himalayas, Badrinath, Krishna and Radharani. Now we know everything by the mercy of Nitai-Gaurasundar, Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev. It’s his causeless mercy and compassion that we had darshans of Vrindavan, Radha-kunda, and much more.
We had darshan of Nara-Narayana rishi, Vyasa gupha, and Ganeshji and his cave. The Saraswati River originates from here and it disappears after some distance. We asked the reason behind this. People told us that Vyasadev was narrating the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Ganeshji was writing it. At that time the Saraswati was flowing and the noise was disturbing Vyasadev so Ganeshji requested her to reduce her sound, but Saraswati mata did not reduce her sound so Ganeshji cursed her that she will vanish after some distance from here.
We have many such experiences that prove that the Lord exists. We had darshan of Tapta-kunda. The weather is very cold in Badrinath but the water of Tapta-kunda is naturally hot. No-one knows where this hot water originates in such cold conditions. It takes half an hour to heat a bucket of water and here in the kunda we have many litres of hot water. This water is available throughout the year, so we come to know that this is because of the miraculous power of the Lord.
It’s all the causeless mercy of our spiritual master that we were selected for padayatra. Actually, we are not qualified for this. Still Gurudev gave us Nitai-Gaurasundar to service. We have distributed many books till now. Last time we distributed 400,000 books. This time we also distributed eight boxes of the Bhagavad-gita, the Ramayan and Krishna books. All books were gone before reaching Badrinath. We gave books to each person we met.
When we were at Pandukeshwar it rained at the time of sankirtan so devotees suggested taking some rest, but we remembered the pastime of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. When Mahaprabhu played the kartals all the clouds disappeared and in the same way when we started kirtan not a single drop of rain came. We went to Yogadhyan Badri in Pandukeshwar where the Lord did penance for the devotees. We did kirtan there and distributed prasad. We also did kirtan in the village of Chamoli. People were very impressed and attracted by kirtan.
Nowadays for accommodation people demand 4000 to 5000 rupees and we try to reduce the amount by telling them that we are padayatris. They are convinced that we are genuine sadhus and they help us. Here many sadhus come and a few of them smoke and do not take bath daily but we always do kirtan and distribute prasadam, so people are impressed.
The last time we came to Badrinath was in 2012 but people still remember us. They recall that we have done kirtan and distributed the Bhagavad-gita. This is the mercy of Srila Gurudev and all Vaishnavas.
It is said that if anyone stays in Badrinath for one night then he gets the benefit of doing austerity for 1000 years, so we also got the benefits of doing austerity for 1000 years.
Soon we will start for Kedarnath. Please pray for us. We will go to take Mahadev’s darshan. Mahadev is a close associate of the Lord and he protects the land, he is Dameswar and Digpal. After that we will go to Gangotri and Jamunotri and then return to Haridwar.
Now it is raining here, still all the devotees are walking in the cold. In spite of performing such difficult austerity, they are all fine and no-one fell sick. Please pray for us. Our only desire is to try to please Mahaprabhu, Srila Prabhupada and our spiritual master. Hare Krishna.
We have heard that yadi gaur na hoite. In the same way, if Maharaja had not come into my life, then what would have happened to me. We have seen that it is very difficult to stay in bhakti but here in padayatra all devotees are staying together. Spiritual followers have a special attraction to the Himalayas. I am also very attracted to the Himalayas. The determination of any person is compared with the Himalayas. Acarya prabhu is my ideal. I am progressing in bhakti with his and Gurudev’s blessings. Thank you. Hare Krishna.