Over sixty devotees from sixteen different countries participated in the 10th Jubilee Slovenian Padayatra festival, also known as Eco Caravan, from June 28th to July 15th this summer.
Literally meaning ‘pilgrimage on feet,’ Padayatra is a walking tour celebrating Krishna consciousness, often accompanied by a decorative horse- or bullock-cart carrying Deity forms of God.
As well as local Slovenian participants, devotees travelled from all over Croatia, France, Bosnia, Italy, Belgium, USA, India, Mauritius, Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech, Latvia, Romania, Belarusia and Macedonia to attend the twenty-one day walk.
All were excited to be part of the 10th Jubilee celebration of this Eastern European staple. While Padayatra was first held in Slovenia in 1994 as an offering to Srila Prabhupada for his Centennial, it was reborn in the current format in 2001.
“We built a new cart and saved a bull, Bhima, from the slaughter house to pull it,” says volunteer Mukunda Dasa. “We walked along the Slovenian seaside, and it was a nice opportunity for devotees to get together in a natural setting. Our theme was Eco Caravan—from pure consciousness to pure environment.”
While Bhima retired three years ago and has been replaced by an affable thirteen-year-old horse named Haridasa, the tour has gone from strength to strength. Over the years, one thousand devotees have attended from more than twenty countries, and an average of 100 of Srila Prabhupada’s books are distributed every day of the Padayatra.
This year, the tour traveled from Slovenian capital Ljubljana to the foot of the Alps near the Austrian border, visiting both big cities and small villages along the way. Devotees especially relished passing through the beautiful Gorenjska region in Northwest Slovenia, which is famous for its picturesque mountains, forests and rivers including Sava, Soca and Bistrica.
“We would go to sleep between 8pm and 10pm every evening and rise at 5am,” Mukunda says. “We would have a traditional morning program of worship from 6:30am, chanting before our Deities of Sri-Sri Nitai-Gaura-Nataraja and Srila Prabhupada, who traveled with us on the cart. Then right after breakfast, we would prepare our horse and cart, and start walking by 11am.”
As they walked, the devotees sang the Holy Names of the Lord to the accompaniment of the accordion, mridanga drum, and kartala cymbals, headed by the melodious-voiced and aptly named Hare Krishna Dasa from Italy. Smiling at people and sending out positive energy, they distributed Srila Prabhupada’s books and handed out sanctified prasadam cookies.
“The loud singing of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra would invoke interest in people, who would think, ‘What is going on? Who are they?’” recalls book distributor Vasudeva Datta Dasa. “In response, we would give them prasadam and explain that we were from the ‘Hare Krishna Eco Caravan, and that our motto was ‘From pure consciousness to pure environment.’ People would usually respond that that was very nice—then we would hand them the first canto of the ancient spiritual text Srimad Bhagavatam, and they would say, “Oh, I have to give you something,” and hand us twenty Euros. Sometimes people would get so excited that they would throw us coins from their windows!”
A break at one o’clock in the day after two hours of walking left time for a new addition to the tour: Padayatra Illuminations. As the devotees rested, special guests—including Prahladananda Swami, Chandramauli Swami, Bir Krishna Goswami, Bhakti Vishrambha Madhava Swami, Lilasuka Dasa, and others—would tell inspiring stories about the walks of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who would participate in similar ‘Padayatras’ in Bengal, Orissa and other parts of India.
After the break, the devotees would continue walking until 5pm, when they would set up camp at their next stop and eat prasadam prepared by the hard-working cooks. This was always delicious—one day, local congregational devotees prepared 100 pizza in celebration of the 10th Jubilee Padayatra.
After dinner, the festive mood would continue with a cultural program featuring a spiritual talk, a puppet show, a projected movie, and other entertainment.
Devotees also relaxed with sports activities in the natural environment, such as swimming.
“As our Padayatra is also called Eco Caravan, there is a spiritual eco-friendly message behind it,” Mukunda says. “We’re sounding out the alert – ‘Planet Earth is in trouble!’ It’s no secret that the living environment of humans and other beings has been severely polluted, and we say that a polluted environment grows out of polluted consciousness. As Gandhi stated: ‘There’s enough on earth for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.’ Therefore our goal is to encourage people to purify their consciousness by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, and to accept a simpler, more natural and more God conscious way of life.”
As Eco Caravan 2011 came to a triumphant conclusion in Trzic, at the feet of the Karavanke mountains near Austria, devotees celebrated by watching a movie about the past decade of Padayatras in Slovenia.
“With the blessings of the Vaishnavas we will continue our caravan of singing and dancing for ten more years, spreading our message of world peace and ecology of the heart,” Mukunda concludes.
View more photos of the Padayatra at
Eco Caravan filmed each day of their 2011 Padayatra. To watch the videos, please click here:
http://www.youtube.com/user/NewYogapitha#p/u/16/sIQRMWou2VU. (Only certain parts are in English)