By Damodarleela dasa, Maharashtra Padayatra leader
Padayatra reached Bastavade village in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district on January 21. When we went for advance party to the village the previous day the leaders happily received us and quickly arranged our accommodation. As the news spread that some saints would be arriving with a rath carrying the Lord the residents prepared by sprinkling the roads with water and decorating them with rangoli, then welcomed us at the village entrance on the day of ekadasi.
At every square we passed through matajis offered arati to Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar and the padayatris’ feet were washed, as were the hooves of our dear oxen. In Maharashtra people worship the oxen who help them on their farm, the culture of harmonizing with the animals.
We found the people in Bastavade to be simple and devotionally inclined. They follow the legacy of kirtan and bhajans of Tukaram Maharaja, the seventeenth-century proponent of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra, and I was inspired to hear how consistently they follow ekadasi vrata and have been doing kirtan in the local temple on ekadasi day for the past sixty-five years.
In the evening we had sankirtan and it was unbelievable how almost the whole village joined us, a mass of people following the sankirtan procession that started at 7pm and lasted till 10pm. The people were very happy dancing and singing with all their hearts. Thirty Bhagavad-gita and thirty small books were distributed and we offered prasadam for some villagers who followed us to our accommodation.
One villager said, “We had heard about ISKCON and heard people saying Hare Krishna but we never visited the temple. Now we know what ISKCON is. When we went to Pandharpur for darshan of Lord Vitthala we saw a large ghat named after Srila Prabhupada, but we never went there.” I replied, “The next time you go to Pandharpur, please visit the ISKCON temple and have darshan of Sri Sri Radha-Pandharinath.”
I then told the people that this padayatra began in Pandharpur and would be moving all over Maharashtra. Hearing this, another villager said, “As this year we could not go for darshan of Lord Vitthala, the Lord Himself has come to give us darshan. We are very grateful that you selected our village and that it was on the auspicious occasion of ekadasi.
As we were about to leave the next day each one of us was gifted a shawl and a coconut, as is the custom in Maharashtra.