By Acarya dasa, All-India Padayatra leader
The Indian government extension of the country’s second Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown has determined that the All-India Padayatra will currently remain in Bharkawada where the padayatris recently celebrated Ramanavmi. Fortunately, we are still staying at the Panchmukhi mahadev temple on the outskirts of the village and are still doing our programmes.
When we were performing sankirtan not long after the Ramanavmi festival the police came and all the villagers dispersed, but the officers were kind. They joined us, took darshan and said, “Carry on, but don’t attract a crowd.” As we continued with our regular morning programme and nagar sankirtan in the village about ten boys began attending and started chanting. They were also very helpful.
The second wave of the virus has affected village people of all age groups and as cases increased the Bharkawada village leaders asked us to leave. We remained silent, but the boys heard the conversation and that evening called the villagers together and took the initiative that would allow us to stay. One of them said: “Do you want these prabhus, who are preaching the holy name of the Lord, to leave our village? Since they have been here, the atmosphere has become so spiritual. And it is at the temple outside the village where they are staying. We did not object when the alcohol shop opened, but now we are compelling these saints to leave. They are serving so hard, walking in the sun and performing sankirtan only for the welfare of others. They do not have any selfish motive. Do you want them to leave?” Everyone replied simultaneously, “No, they should not.”
We do sankirtan in Bharkawada daily and distribute prasadam, while strictly maintaining social distancing. The prasadam is having an effect as the people are becoming more favourable. We tell them to wear masks and come for darshan but we have stopped the evening programmes, so there is no question of a crowd gathering. Occasionally we go for house programmes, taking all the appropriate precautions, where we perform sankirtan and gift books to the householders.
Reluctantly we have again had to abandon our travel plans and stay in one place. Also, at this time of year it’s very hot and the area we are staying is near a graveyard, so it is difficult in the afternoon to sit and chant. Still, we are all living here in union.