The parikrama (circumambulation) of Sri Nabadwip Dham begins today. I have no idea how far we have to walk, but I do know that it is going to be long day. I decide to walk barefoot (because it is more auspicious). Last year, soon after taking sannyas, I went on the Govardhan parikrama without shoes, so this should be no problem, right?
The parikrama begins at 5:15 a.m., after the mangala arati (morning service). Our sankirtan party of several hundred pilgrims marches out the gates singing the Hare Krishna maha mantra all through the town of Nabadwip, to the ghat (jetty) on the Ganges River. We cross the Ganges in several large wooden ferries, just as the sun appears above the horizon. On the other side of the river, all day, we stop at the different temples and places of pilgrimage to sing some kirtan and listen to spiritual discourses from the senior Vaishnavas within our party.
At ISKCON's Mayapur temple, we visit the magnificent samadhi mandir of their founder-acharya, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad. The ceiling of the huge dome is painted with many of the significant events in Srila Prabhupad's life. Because we are spiritual tourists, we see only a shrine: we think that Srila Prabhupad is buried here, in samadhi. But Srila Gurudeva has taught us how to see: Srila Prabhupad is living here, in an intense meditation mood, in samadhi.
By mid afternoon we have visited Sri Yogapith (Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's birthplace), Srivas Angan, Sri Nrisimha Mandir, Sri Advaita Bhavan, Murari Gupta Bhavan, Sri Chaitanya Math, Srila Gaura Kishora das Babaji Maharaj's Samadhi Prabriti, and the Sri Kazi Samadhi. The sun is baking the earth now, and my bare feet are scorched on the hot asphalt. Every step is painful.
After a late ekadasi prasadam lunch at the Sri Jagannath Mandir at three o' clock, many of the Western devotees return to the Math by bus, taxi, and rickshaw. The rest of the party proceeds to Sridhar Angan and three more islands, or dvipas: Sri Simantadvip, Sri Rudradvip, and Sri Antadvip.
The so-called roads are deeply rutted and extremely dusty. In some places our plodding feet are covered up to the ankles in fine, powdery sand, but at least it is soft and cool to our hot, aching feet! By the time we reach the last of the islands for the day, it is dark; we make our way by the light of the waxing moon.
The way back to our Math in Nabadwip is long, but there are no stops. It takes two-and-a-half hours just to reach the Mayapur ghat. We cross the moonlit Ganges in the large wooden ferries, and after another half-an-hour of walking, finally arrive, footsore and weary, at 9:15 p.m., at the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. We have been walking for sixteen hours!
I suppose I should say how blissful I feel, but all I feel is tired. My feet have had it! I hobble to my room and soak them in a bucket of water. I flop back on my bed: I doubt I will be able to continue the parikrama tomorrow...