Writings

A report of my recent pilgrimage to Vraja Mandala

Dear devotees.

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada! All glories to Guru Maharaja!

Here are some glimpses into Guru Maharaja’s adventures in the transcendental land of Vrndavana-dhama.

Day 1 (Wednesday 24th October)

Arrival

This is the day Guru Maharaja arrived to Vrndavana. I started for New Delhi at 4.15 A.M. and was there a little after seven. Guru Maharaja’s flight arrived at 9.20 and he exited the airport a little before ten. Like always, he was in a jolly mood, but he said the flight had been extremely exhausting.

He had just come from Mauritius, first to Mumbai and then to New Delhi. A couple of days ago he was in South Africa.

I said, “Guru Maharaja, it is amazing how much austerity you go through while traveling and preaching.” He replied, “Sometimes I feel amazed about it myself.” Then he laughed.

I offered him a refreshing apple drink which he happily accepted. Then Guru Maharaja offered me some of the prasadam devotees had sent with him from Mauritius which he had not finished during the flight.

He was chanting almost throughout the whole journey to Vrndavana.

When we arrived to the holy dhama, there was a gathering of about 25 devotees who were chanting kirtana to receive Guru Maharaja. After this ceremony Guru Maharaja had many garlands on him. Although it had certainly been a tiring journey (he started at 5P.M. yesterday) he invited all the assembled devotees inside the house where he sat them down and was asking how they were doing. Then he distributed some mahaprasadam to everyone.

“This is coming from Sri Sri Radha Golokananda from Mauritius, so it is very high level mahaprasadam.”

The rest of the day Guru Maharaja stayed in the house. HH Indradyumna Swami came to visit him. Also they were planning his schedule together with some other devotees.

Day 2

Radha Kunda parikrama and filming

 

This was the first day of filming in the Radha Kunda. This is Guru Maharaja’s newest filming project. Our bus started from the front of Krishna-Balarama temple at 6 A.M. and it was full. The devotees in our group were mainly from Lithuania and Siberia.

We went at first to the banks of the Radha Kunda where Guru Maharaja explained the pastime of how this holiest of all holy places had manifested in this world.

In his speech he instructed us, “Radha- and Syama Kunda are considered the two eyes of Govardhana Hill. Just like in a normal body eyes are a very sensitive part, similarly Radha- and Syama Kunda are very sensitive so we should all be conscious of that.”

We adopted one of the Radha Kunda pandas named Dan-bihari. Guru Maharaja joked, “His name entails he is going around the different holy places and is relishing tax collection pastimes from the devotees.”

Afterwards we visited the many holy places in the area. Just to mention some, we visited the old Radha-Krishna temple (with a Deity of Krishna 5000 years old), Samadhi and bhajan-kutir of Srila Raghunatha das Goswami, the sitting place of Mother Jahnava (the consort of Sri Nityananda Prabhu), Gopal Mandir (ISKCON temple), the tongue of Govardhana and the bhajan-kutir of Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.

In many of the places Guru Maharaja gave a detailed description of the glories of that place or the devotee who had resided there. Everyone felt blessed by having this wonderful opportunity to visit these special places under the guidance of our spiritual master.

The devotees went to the bus for lunch prasadam. Then Guru Maharaja announced the rest of the day would be used for the filming. He told the devotees they could return to the kundas to chant and if they wanted they could also take bath there.

We started for Vrndavana at 4.45 P.M. In the evening Guru Maharaja was going through the footage we had got during the day.

DAY 3

Radhakunda filming

 

This was the second day of filming. This time we drove to Radha Kunda in a Tata-sumo. Today we would concentrate mainly on filming and thus many devotees would not come with us.

We had two cameras, of which the bigger one was operated by Guru Maharaja and Saci-kumara Prabhu. I was using the small camera and Vaisnava Prana Prabhu was helping me. We were working in different places but sometimes Guru Maharaja would call on my cell phone to see how I was progressing.

We spent the whole day in Radha Kunda, as the plan was that we should mainly finish the filming today. We would also film the sunset.

During the drive back to Vrndavana I presented some questions to Guru Maharaja, which he kindly answered.

He explained in ISKCON we follow vaidhi-sadhana-bhakti. The babajis who live at Radha Kunda claim to follow raganuga-sadhana-bhakti. An important sadhana in that process is siddha-pranali or meditating on one’s spiritual form.
However Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura instructed that process is not meant for the present time as people were not qualified for such a high spiritual sadhana. To go to such meditations prematurely would be simply a mental concoction and would be a source of confusion. Also, the people who give such initiations are not on that platform so they are in the same confusion themselves.

DAY 4

Vrndavana temple parikrama

 

Guru Maharaja attended the mangala-arati which was full with people (as today was Saturday). Then he went to Srila Prabhupada’s rooms to chant some of his rounds.

I came to our house just a little over nine. At that time already many devotees had gathered in the front of the house, eagerly waiting for today’s parikrama of the temples of Vrndavana. At 9.35 A.M. Guru Maharaja came out of the house and was greeted by forty-fifty devotees. We started to walk toward the ISKCON goshala, after which we continued on to Kaliya-ghata, the place where Krishna subdued the Kaliya-serpent.

There Guru Maharaja gave a detailed explanation of that pastime and told us the kadamba-tree at the place was the very same tree Krishna used to jump to the Yamuna to subdue the envious snake. He said we should put our heads at the feet (roots) of this ancient tree and make a Krishna-conscious wish.

After Kaliya-ghata we visited the Kaliya-Krishna temple where the Deity is said to be over 5000 years old. Next we went to Sri Advaita-vat, the place where Advaita Acarya discovered the Deity of Madana-mohana. Next we went to the Bankebihari temple, which was full with people. We had to wait for the darsana for some 15 minutes and all the time more and more people were flowing in. Finally they opened the curtains and there was something like a chaos as the people were pushing and pulling each others to have their darsana. We had to fight our ways out of the temple. Eventually we got out and went next to the temple of Sri Radhavallabha. That temple was not so full and it was nice to have darsana in such a peaceful atmosphere.

Guru Maharaja said “So here we can see a very beautiful form of Lord Krishna, but who saw Radharani??” One Lithuanian boy, Haribolananda said he did. Guru Maharaja replied “Then you must have spiritual eyes as Srimati Radharani is not manifest to our material vision here.”

We came back about one o’clock. Guru Maharaja had his lunch.

At four P.M. we started again for the temples. First we visited Radha-Damodara, and then walked to Nityananda vat (Place where Sri Nityananda stayed five and a half years while He was in Vrndavana) Next we went to the Samadhi of Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami and after that to Radharaman temple.

We could see how the pujaris in all the places were treating Guru Maharaja with great respect. Some of them he had known for many years. The leader of the Samadhi-temple of Gopala Bhatta Goswami invited our spiritual master for a lunch on the upcoming days.

When we returned to our house Guru Maharaja still continued to work on his computer.

DAY 5

Govardhana parikrama

We left for Sri Govardhana at 6 A.M. Our bus was more than full. Offering our obeisances we started for the Govardhana parikrama from Kusum-sarovar. Following in the footsteps of Guru Maharaja most were walking barefoot.

“If you meditate on the Govardhana Hill while walking you will receive some special mercy”

On this parikrama Guru Maharaja gave elaborate explanations on the glories of each important lilasthana. He even showed the devotees where the famous Giriraja sweet shop is, the shop where you can buy some world known sweets.

We had lunch at the Nrsinga temple in the Southern end of Govardhana. After lunch we were walking back North toward Radha Kunda. During the way Guru Maharaja stopped quite some times to wait for the devotees who were not walking so fast. He was very concerned about the wellbeing of the devotees and was asking everyone how his feet are doing. Although Guru Maharaja himself is over 50 he was leading the whole parikrama by walking briskly and all the time he was absorbed in chanting Hare Krishna.

In Uddhava Kunda the pujari received our group very warmly. He offered Guru Maharaja two maha-garlands. Guru Maharaja said “Mera puran bandhu he” (He is my old friend), and after that some pictures were taken where Guru Maharaja was standing next to this old brijvasi priest.

Then we walked through Radha Kunda, on toward Kusum-sarovara where we blissfully concluded our parikrama by bathing in the sacred waters of this lake.

When we returned to Vrndavana it was already 6.30 P.M. Guru Maharaja had some Gauranga cauliflowers and apple chutney and did some more work on the computer.

DAY 6

Initiation and Vrndavana temples

After yesterday’s Govardhana parikrama Guru Maharaja decided to spend this day in Vrndavana. During breakfast I asked him how his feet were doing so he said not too well. Still he would not lie back even today but was engaged in various activities.

Around 10 o’clock there was an initiation ceremony where three devotees from Siberia received the first initiation. Guru Maharaja gave them unusual yet very beautiful names. The three new members of our spiritual family are Krishna-kanaya das, Srimati devi dasi and Syama-rati devi dasi. The fire sacrifice was held in the courtyard of Krishna-Balarama Mandir. There were some 70 devotees in the audience and the yajna itself was performed by Mukunda Datta Prabhu, the head-pujari of ISKCON Vrndavana.

After the ceremony the initiates visited Guru Maharaja for instructions.

In the afternoon we all went to visit the old temples in Vrndavana. We started by going to the Gokulananda temple, where the Deity of Lokanath Goswami now resides. Guru Maharaja first sat us down in the samadhi-area, where are situated the samadhis of Lokanath Goswami, Narottama das Thakur, Ganganarayana Cakravarti and Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur. Guru Maharaja gave a lecture in which he was glorifying each of these great personalities.

After that we visited Nityananda-vat, the place where Lord Nityananda used to stay while His stay in Vrndavana. After that we went to Radha-Govinda temple. The pujaris there were kind to us and also let us go and have the darsana of an ancient Deity of Yoga Maya, which was installed by Vajranabha, Lord Krishna’s great-grandson 5000 years ago. Next we went to the temple of Radha-Gopinatha.

In each of these places the pujaris received Guru Maharaja and us very warmly and they never forgot to offer Guru Maharaja a garland from the Deities.

Day 7

Varsana

Today was the first day when our parikrama group of about 50 devotees (from South Africa, Russia and the Baltics) joined with Romapada Maharaja’s group of 200 devotees (who were mainly from South India). Everybody gathered in the morning outside the Krishna-Balarama temple and the buses started for Unchagaon, the village of Srimati Lalita-devi.

Guru Maharaja had said earlier he actually prefers a smaller group, where he can interact with the devotees more personally. That way everything is much sweeter. Usually Guru Maharaja would travel in the bus together with everybody but this time he went in a car with Romapada Swami.

They arrived at the site earlier, so they visited Sakhi-giri-parvata, where the impression of Srimati Radharani’s veil can be seen on a rock. After about 45 minutes the devotees arrived at the site. We had a kirtana and then Guru Maharaja gave a lecture about Srimati Lalita-devi in which he enlightened everybody about the qualities of the left-wing gopis and how
they differ from everybody else.

Next we went to Varsana where we did the actual Varsana parikrama. Guru Maharaja gave nearly all the talks at the different sites. I remember especially well the talk he gave in the main temple of Srimati Radharani. In that speech he narrated the most amazing pastime of Lord Krishna accepting sannyasa.

After Varsana we went to visit Prema-sarovara.

Next we went to Anjanoka, a small village, where Indulekha sakhi once lived. This village is not often visited by the devotees but this time we went. These small villages of Vraja-mandala are very sweet and special, as people are so uncontaminated. In these places no one comes to ask for money, but it is a different kind of an atmosphere.

After Anjanoka we returned to the house. It was quite late, around 6.30 P.M.

Day 8

Radhakunda

As yesterday, also today we went together with Romapada Swami’s group. Romapada Maharaja was quite sick today so he would only walk with us but would not give speeches. In other words Guru Maharaja spoke.

It was interesting to see how although we had been to Radha Kunda many times during the time spent in Vrndavana every time there is something new to learn. Like this time Guru Maharaja told us after Radha and Krishna had built Their kundas Krishna gave a benediction to Radharani that Her kunda would be more famous than His. We can see it even today, as we always speak of going to Radha Kunda, not to Radha and Syama Kunda, although that is the actual case.

As so many devotees were there we would have speeches in some specific locations after which we would visit a number of temples just for darsana and then stop again for speaking.

We returned to Vrndavana around 3 P.M.

Day 9

Nandagram

We walked to the front gate of the Krishna-Balarama temple to meet the devotees coming for the parikrama. We heard HH Romapada Maharaja was very sick and could not come at all to the parikrama. Thus Guru Maharaja had to lead the whole parikrama on his own. Thus all the 250+ devotees started for Yavat in their buses.

Our bus was there first, so we all had the darsana at the temple led by Guru Maharaja. Yavat temple was situated in the same place where Jatila, the notorious mother-in-law of Radharani had her palace. So we offered our obeisances to the main Deities Radha-Radhakanta. We also greeted and bowed down to the great Radha-bhaktas Jatila, Kutila and Abhimanyu, whose informal Deities were there in one rather gloomy room.

While waiting for the rest of the devotees to arrive, Guru Maharaja started a bhajans “jaya jaya Radhe jaya jaya Shyama jaya jaya sri-Vrndavana-dhama”. We started by sitting down, but as the kirtana built up and became more and more ecstatic we stood up and many of the devotees, including Guru Maharaja, were then jumping up and down.

In his speech Guru Maharaja said the whole Vraja-mandala was very special because Lord Krishna had performed His pastimes there. However of those special places Yavat-dhama is most special due to the confidential nature of the pastimes that took place there. Radha-Krishna were not married because mere married life would be devoid of excitement. In the pastimes of Radha-Krishna there is great excitement and the personification of that excitement is Jatila.

The whole speech was very informative, but also very humorous and Guru Maharaja narrated the pastimes of Krishna disguising Himself as Abhimanyu and Krishna as the snake-doctor. After the lecture we had prasadam there and started to walk barefoot towards Ter Kadamba.

Guru Maharaja explained about the sacred nature of this confidential place, where Srila Rupa Goswami wrote his Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu. He also told us some pastimes of Rupa and Sanatana Goswami and Radha-Krishna. The local
pujari Hrsikesa Maharaja featured in his narrations and sometimes disguised him as a gopi and sometimes brought sweet rice and laddu to Guru Maharaja, just at the right time suiting his lecture.

Then we walked to Asesavan, where Guru Maharaja spoke of the pastimes that happened there. Then we walked a very painful stretch to reach Nandagram (the road was a tar road and had very sharp stones in it).

In Nandagram we had the darsana of Krishna-Balarama Nanda-Yasoda. We went to the roof of the temple to see the surrounding Vraja Mandala.

We concluded the parikrama by taking a bath in the holy Pavan-sarovara. After bath Guru maharaja relished some luglu and warm herbal tea with honey.

When we returned back to the house Guru Maharaja said “it is not easy to lead a one-man’s-show”. Still, I felt he had conducted the parikrama wonderfully in his usual sweet manner.

Day10

Vrndavana temples

The devotees from the temple had requested Guru Maharaja to give a class on this day which was Bahulastami, the appearance day of Sri Radha Kunda. Guru Maharaja attended the morning program and at 8 o’clock he sat on the
vyasasana.

He gave a very beautiful lecture, which in the same time was very sobering. He spoke on how many people take this day simply as yet another karma-kanda ritual and bathe in Radha Kunda just to have some material benedictions like a son. Then he spoke on how Srila Prabhupada would instruct his disciples concerning taking a bath. He concluded the lecture by quoting some very nice verses from Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.

The devotees thanked Guru Maharaja for his class by giving him some maha-prasadam biscuits.

During the day Guru Maharaja was working on his computer. Presently he is compiling a new DVD on Radha Kunda Parikrama.

In the evening Guru Maharaja led everyone to a parikrama of Vrndavana temples. First we arrived at the temple of Lala Babu. He was a rich and ruthless businessman who had a change of heart and thus gave up his mean ways, becoming a devotee of Sri Krishna. He built this nice temple with his possessions. Next we went to the temple of Gopesvara Mahadeva where Guru Maharaja narrated the pastime of how Lord Siva became a gopi in the rasa-dance.

After the Gopesvara temple we went to Vamsi-vat which is the place from which the autumn rasa-lila started. Next we went to the Samadhi of Sri Gopal Guru Goswami where some of the babajis received us warmly by embracing many of the devotees in our group. Lastly we went to the Radharaman temple where we observed the evening arati and later honored plenty of maha prasadam.

When we returned to our house I started preparing for a special mission. Since today is the appearance day of Sri Radha Kunda Guru Maharaja asked whether Saci-kumar Prabhu and I could attend the festival at the kunda. The two of us started for this special occasion at 9.20 P.M. It was very crowded there but we did get some footage, and you will probably see some of it in the new DVD by Guru Maharaja.

Day 11

Badrinath

I was recovering from the filming at Radha Kunda last night. I did not take part on the parikrama. Guru Maharaja said it had been very nice in that distant area of Vraja.

Day 12

Govardhana parikrama

This was the second Govardhana parikrama we performed during Guru Maharaja’s stay in Vrndavana. We started 6 o’clock for Govardhana. The bus was full, i.e. 50-60 devotees. Since most of them had completed the parikrama last Sunday we walked slightly faster and did not stop so often for katha as on the previous time.

I remember especially well the time we were honoring prasadam in the temple of Srinathji at the Southern end of Giriraja. We had got a vegeburger from the MVT restaurant for prasadam but suddenly so many preparations appeared for the pleasure of Guru Maharaja. There was fruit salad, and some Indian savories and of course many varieties of sweets. Although so much was there Guru Maharaja was careful to honor everyone’s offerings. At the end he was calling forth all the children by name and personally feeding them sweets: “Jagannatha, come here. Do you like so’n papri? Here, have a sweet”

Such were the sweet reciprocations of Guru Maharaja.

The second half was slightly slower than the first one since many of the devotees were getting tired. Still Guru Maharaja expressed his concern for everybody by constantly asking how they were doing and how their feet were. Finally we concluded our Govardhana parikrama by taking a bath in Kusum-sarovara. After the bath Guru Maharaja relished a cup of warm herbal tea with honey.

When we reached Vrndavana Guru Maharaja had some kitri with curd for dinner.

Day 13

Final rites and Disciple meeting

Today was Ekadasi. Guru Maharaja said he would fast until lunch but he said he would like some herbal tea in the morning. He was meant to go to Yamuna for some final rites. Many disciples and well wishers had gathered in the front of our house by 10 A.M. One Mauritian lady brought some Ekadasi prasadam she herself had made for Guru Maharaja. He wanted to honor this offering so he had some of the prasadam.

Then everybody went to the Yamuna.

After the ceremony Guru Maharaja proceeded to the Samadhi of Srila Sanatana Goswami. “This is one of the places one should visit while in Vrndavana.”

Then Guru Maharaja led a short kirtana and gave a speech in which he described how one can enter more deeply in the transcendental atmosphere of the dhama. He said it is important to pray. When we come to a sacred place we should offer our obeisances. Then we should pray, even to the trees, that we could enter more deeply the transcendental realm.

[singlepic=333,320,240,,left]He said yesterday he had prayed to Giriraja for two things in the beginning of the parikrama. Firstly he had prayed his feet could manage the parikrama without great pains (he said the previous parikrama had been quite painful to his feet). Secondly he had prayed Giriraja would protect us from being harassed by the beggars. He said Giriraja had fulfilled both the prayers.

In his speech Guru Maharaja emphasized the importance of chanting without offences as well as being in the association of advanced devotees.

He said he has visited all the important places in Vrndavana many times in his life, but still he feels every time he visits them they are always new and fresh. Then he spoke about the Yamuna. If one’s ashes are put to Yamuna after death one receives a great spiritual benefit. What to speak if he takes a bath in Yamuna while living.

Then Guru Maharaja visited Loi Bazaar for some errands. Then he returned to the house and had his lunch.

Today was also a Deity installation ceremony. Guru Maharaja installed a set of Gaura-Nitai Deities and gave Them the names Nitai-Gaurasundara. He also named Haribolananda Prabhu’s Deities Sri-Sri Radha-Madanamohana.

Day 14

Kadamba khandi

[singlepic=327,320,240,,left]Today we were to travel to one of the places in Vraja, where only few pilgrims enter during their visit. Our bus left at around 6 A.M. for Kadamba-khandi. The bus was full and there were also two jeeps accompanying us. That makes around 65 devotees, including HH Smita Krishna Swami. The journey was not an easy one as the drivers were not sure about the
whereabouts of Kadamba-khandi and Guru Maharaja had to repeatedly come out to clarify the direction to the drivers. Finally we ended up in Sonera, the village of Sudevi-sakhi, two kilometers away from our destination. The road was such the bus would not be able to traverse it. Thus we ended up walking through the fields, which was nice.

In Kadamba-khandi we sat down under a pilu-tree. Guru Maharaja led a short kirtana after which he read out from Srila Prabodhananda Sarasvati’s Vrndavana Mahimamrta. They were all very beautiful verses describing the real Vrndavana, which is not visible to our material eyes. One of them struck me especially: “I would rather live in Vrndavana as a person completely devoid of love for God than reside in any other place as one immersed in the happiness of desiring to attain love for the youthful son of Nanda.”

In his short speech Guru Maharaja emphasized this is one of the rare places in Vraja which are still uncontaminated, which represent “real Vrndavana”. I felt very fortunate to be there. Then he said we can use this day in exploring the site and chanting and staying here very peacefully. Just when he was about to conclude, Dina-bandhu Prabhu appeared there with HH Amiya-vilasa Maharaja.

Dina-bandhu Prabhu then spoke for 45 minutes or so and he was glorifying Vrndavana and explaining about the spiritual nature of its trees and birds. The devotees then had breakfast after which everybody went their own way.

Kadamba-khandi is situated in a valley, i.e. it is surrounded by mountain ridges. They say this is one of the places which are hidden from outsiders’ view so it is one of the places for rasa-lila. Guru Maharaja proceeded to explore the mountains and he climbed on the top of one of the hills, to a place where is the Samadhi of Nagaji, one of the legendary sadhus of Vraja.
He enjoyed his stay there a lot, no wonder as the view to the surrounding Vraja-mandala was breathtaking.

At 12.30 we started to walk back to our vehicles. We visited the temple in Sonera and some places at Sakhi-giri-parvata which is a hill near Unchagaon. We saw the citra-vicitra-sila, where one can see the markings of Radharani’s veil and we saw the place where Lord Krishna used to have lunch. The rock still bears the markings of Krishna’s eating bowls.

We arrived in Vrndavana a little over 4 P.M. Guru Maharaja was meant to take dinner at 4.30 P.M. but HH Indradyumna Swami came to visit him. Maharaja had brought a little Govardhana Sila for Guru Maharaja to worship. I was there
to witness their loving reciprocations. Indradyumna Maharaja said Gurudeva is one of his Vrndavana Parikrama gurus. Guru Maharaja in response said when he was thinking whether he should have the sila or not he thought he should ask Indradyumna Maharaja.

Guru Maharaja was very happy to receive the Lord in this form from his dear godbrother. The Giriraja-sila is quite a small one, and Srila Gurudeva is carrying Him on his neck always. Every morning he makes a small puja to worship the Sila.

After Indradyumna Swami left Guru Maharaja honored prasadam. In the evening he went to one meeting and then returned to the house to work on his computer and chant the holy name.

Day 15

Gokula, Raval and Brahmanda-ghata

I had to stay back in Vrndavana today to take care of my health, so I did not go to the parikrama.

To conclude with, I apologize that I could not write a very detailed description of Guru Maharaja’s activities. So much could be said about every day in the life of Krishna’s pure devotee. I hope you have relished these notes even in their incompleteness and I thank you all for giving me this opportunity to do some service.

Your servant,
Avadhutacandra das

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