Preaching and Bhoga Collection Programmes
Malini Devi Dasi from Malta gains some insight to what goes on behind the scenes leading up to the celebration of Gaura Purnima festival, and shares the experience of travelling through Bengali villages on such preaching and collection programmes.
It feels like the bus is about to get stuck in the mud a few times, as it has been raining steadily for a few days although the sun is shining now. Finally we have to stop, not because anything happens to our bus but because a large truck is blocking the narrow dirt-road while it is unloading. Tarak Pakira, a man who came with us from Jaymulla, guides us ten minutes on foot to a 'second breakfast'.
Here in Beraberi, Sripad Acharyya Maharaj is guided house to house by this Tarak Pakira Prabhu, a disciple of Srila Gurudev who has such preaching power in this area that he draws 500 people annually to the Nabadwip Parikrama during Gaura Purnima. Many of the people we visit are meeting Maharaj for the first time, while others he has met in Nabadwip through Tarak Pakira Prabhu.
Even on the road, people are curious and some are bold enough to approach Sripad Acharyya Maharaj and ask questions. Maharaj takes the time to talk with them a little, and departs after presenting the interested persons with a yellow invitation and a white pamphlet. On odd occasions, somebody will present a small plastic bag with rice and a couple of small potatoes, whatever they can afford. These small offerings go into one of the larger sacks we brought.
Off a cobbled street we turn in at a cow-shed and turn an L-shape before we reach our next stop. This house is very simple, made up of two rooms side-by-side on a low, open veranda, and an outdoor, open kitchen on the other side of the path. Past the kitchen is a small yard which leads to a green, moss-covered pond surrounded by a forest of palm trees. Colour between the trees indicates other habitations, given away by the bright clothes worn by the women.
We stop at this place for a few hours. Sripad Acharyya Maharaj sits on the veranda while the owners of the house prepare the bhoga for offering to the deities of the house: small Sri Sri Radha-Govinda. The room hosting the deities is small, all the space apart from the entrance is taken up by the bed, so we stand outside for noon arati and about fifteen people are attracted from nearby houses by the sound of the mrdanga and the karatals. Again, prasadam is “too much good” – varied and very tasty!
Our hosts are particularly sweet. Once I heard that happiness is inversely proportionate to the size of one's house, and find myself remembering that. I am touched by their simple-hearted kindness and, despite not being able to exchange any words with them due to the language barrier, I feel very affectionate towards them by the time we have to leave!
Tarak Pakira Prabhu continues to guide us around the area. We walk through a school compound to the first one, then to various other houses in a circular direction. In every place we are welcomed profusely, even during the short stops we make which are too numerous to mention. In one place we stop for longer, singing some bhajans to an audience of about thirty people.
We accept milk-sweets and a beverage in almost every house. I have lost count of the number of rasa-gulas I have consumed today – perhaps about twenty! And we come away with a donation for the Math from every house.
Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip
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