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The historical padayatra traveling san-kirtan party, which travels around India on only a simple bullock cart return to Mayapur last week. Once they neared the campus HH Lokanath Swami sat at the helm of the cart and ushered it into the campus. The party was surrounded by hundreds of loving devotees!
Below is an article written by HH Lokanath Swami on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Padayatra.
The 20th Anniversary of Padayatra – 1976 to 1996
by Lokanath Swami
I recently visited the Golden Temple in Punjab. The pilgrimage to the holy town of Amritsar was both exciting and eventful. It brought back memories of my visit twenty years ago. And this year, as part of the Centennial celebrations, the city hosted its own Rathayatra and Hare Krsna festival.
In the early days, 1976, I was with the Nitai-Gaura World Sankirtana Traveling party in two German buses. We were very successful in our preaching, but after several months had to return to Delhi. It was our good fortune that Srila Prabhupada was in Delhi at the time. Unfortunately, because of problems with the Vehicle Controls Department, these buses had to leave India.
It was in Delhi around Radhastami that Srila Prabhupada asked me to begin traveling and preaching with bullocks. This was an unexpected request and also a change from the luxury of German buses. Af some time I realized that Srila Prabhupada was showing us the correct mode of transport, one I was most familiar with. Why me? Srila Prabhupada knew my background and life before I joined ISKCON. This was where I belonged.
My early life (before joining ISKCON) may surprise some of you. I was born in a village which had no proper roads. Thus our only means of transport was naturally a bullock cart. The bullock cart was common among the villagers, and a outings were undertaken by carts. We visited relatives and friends in other villages by cart, and that’s how we went to the wedding outings. I remember my first trip to a small town about 10 kms from my village when I was 12 years old. As I grew older and went through high school and college, I slowly became accustomed to bus and tram rides. It was only at the age of 20, when I got to Bombay, that I had my first experience with cars-a taxi ride. Two years later, at the age of 22, I joined ISKCON. Knowing all this, no wonder Srila Prabhupada wanted me to resume my original position.
When we started Padayatra 20 years ago, we did not plan on doing any walks-bullock-cartsankirtana was mostly done sitting on the cart rather than walking. After a journey of several months, there was a break in the program, and its serious rebirth took place in 1984 near the 500th anniversary of Lord Chaitanya’s appearance. It has been thriving ever since.
While writing this editonal. I am in the middle of Padayatra Week, which is also part of Srila Prabhupada’s Centennial celebrations. In London today devotees are doing Padayatra with bullocks and Deities. Dozens of temples in countries worldwide are having Padayatra and Ccntennial celebrations simultaneously. This is most encouraging-that during this most auspicious occasion of the 100th anniversary of our Founder-Acarya and spiritual master, what started in India has now taken the world by storm. This is a through the causeless mercy of Guru and Gauranga.
The 20th anniversary of Padayatra has very special meaning to the padayatris. “Padayatra,” said one, “has become my home.” Another padayatri compared his being away from Padayatra to a fish being out of water. This has given me confidence that Padayatra has a bright future. Padayatra Species- that’s who ve are.
Our only desire is that Padayatra become something natural, continuing week after week for years into the future. Only time is separating us from this beautiful vision. Padayatra is here to stay. Happy 20th anniversary and many more!