VADODARA: When annual rath yatra of Lord Jagannath passes through the by-lanes of the city on Wednesday, devotees will witness a couple from US joining them with chants of Hare Rama, Hare Krishna, like many other foreign disciples of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) movement over the years. But what makes Haripada Das, 59 and Phalini Dasi, 58, different from the rest is that the couple plans to settle in any remote village of India leaving behind their jewellery business in North Carolina.
It was at the age of 23 that as a young businessman John McLeod got attracted to ISKCON movement that was being promoted by Hare Krishna devotees on streets, parks and all kinds of public places in US. The spiritual bond that followed, has now inspired both John (as Haripada Das was formerly known) and Frances McLeod (Phalini Dasi) to eventually settle in the land of Lord Krishna.
"Vedas preach vanaprastha where a person retires from his material life and joins the spiritual path. I am presently a grihastha but we are looking forward to settle in any Indian village and live a simple life," says Das. His wife is a musician and also assists him in business.
Although it is now that the duo are planning to settle in India, Das has been practising the sanatan dharma' so strictly that just like him, his 22-year-old son and 24-year-old daughter have given up non-vegetarian food. "Till 1981, when I got married I was practising brahmacharya. Even after getting married, we set up a small temple in California where we organised congregations with many Indians. Now, after settling in India, we will grow vegetables and keep cows," says Das.
"My husband and I joined the ISKCON movement in 1973 and in 1974 we attended the first rath yatra in San Francisco, California. Since then we have visited India at least 15 times," adds Dasi, adding that they arrived in India on May 12 and plan to stay here till July 17 to plan out details so that they can eventually settle here by early next year.
Interestingly, the duo was not allowed to enter a temple premises recently as they were foreigners. "But that is not an issue for us. We are practising the sanatan dharma for last 37 years. For us, Lord Jagannath means Lord of Jagath (world) and not just India," says Das, who is all set to chant and dance in the festival of chariots.