By Ritudvipa dasa, UP Padayatra leader
The coronavirus lockdown kept the Uttar Pradesh Padayatra confined to the village of Bhilwal 30km from Lucknow for five months, about forty per cent of the time since padayatra’s inauguration in September 2019. However, by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and our spiritual master, Lokanath Maharaja, the padayatris were able to take up their service again on October 22, 2020, continuing with our programmes and festivals while strictly observing social distancing.
Lockdown gifted us with devotees
During our stay at Bhilwal we were able to maintain a preaching programme, with the villagers assisting us in various ways throughout the crisis. Thus, by the mercy of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar there are now fifty local devotees from more than twenty-five families who have joined ISKCON, ten of whom are consistently chanting sixteen rounds and following the four regulative principles. The villagers were sad to hear that we would be leaving, but the padayatris were committed to resuming their state-wide journey. I explained to them that we needed to add people who are attracted to our preaching mission, thus making them fortunate just like the devotees of Bhilwal, and they were pacified by this statement.
Back on the road
Returning to the road we discovered that people are just as welcoming as before the lockdown. In that regard there is no lasting effect of the virus, and it’s an almost-normal routine now that the restrictions have been lifted: we have sankirtan, book distribution and an evening programme. Many people attend the programme and at times we also show them the movie about Srila Prabhupada. Every day we walk up to 8km until we come to the next village where we then present our programme and spend the night. After stopping at one place for so long our oxen are also happy to be walking again in the service of Their Lordships.
Book score of Kartik month
Small books – 400, Big books – 198, Maha-big books – 1348, Total – 1946 books distributed. During Kartik we distributed 500 chanting beads, three Srimad-Bhagavatam sets and three Prabhupada-lilamrta sets, and wherever we went we did deep dan and distributed prasadam. The UP Padayatra covers every village that comes our way, thus going to nagaradi gram for preaching and fulfilling the desire of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.