Today we met at 10am (not 4pm like I hoped) and we took rickshas to the Radha Vallabha temple. At least we had the morning to rest. This temple is 1 of the old temples of Vrindavana. This temple was built at the time of the 6 Goswamis when the Radha Govinda and Madan Mohan temples were built. The original temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb and the deities were moved to Kamyavan where they resided for 115 years. Then they moved to this temple. Guru Maharaj said He is a very beautiful deity. The deity of Srimati Radharani is not manifest. Her clothes, crown and jewellery are all there but like Radha Raman you cannot see Srimati Radharani. Guru Maharaj asked “who saw Srimati Radharani?” There were a few that had seen Her. Guru Maharaj said one needs spiritual eyes to see her and he said “congratulations, some day I hope also to see Srimati Radharani there.” The humble nature of our Gurudev.
The head priest was extremely nice and gave us tons of maha. He told Guru Maharaj that he knows Radhanatha Swami Maharaj very well, being very close friends with him. He told Guru Maharaj a story about Radhanatha Maharaj before he joined Iskcon. Radhanatha Maharaj was travelling around India. He wanted to go to Vrindavana but his visa had expired and the police were looking for him. Maharaj was in seva kunja 1 day during the monsoon season and it was raining and raining. The water was up to his knees everywhere. He came out of seva kunj and fell into a ditch which was covered by water and he had cut his leg badly. He had to be taken to hospital where the staff had contacted the police to say they had the person they were looking for. They arrested him, he had to appear in Court and he was about to be kicked out of the country. He had to appear before the American embassy where they examined the wound on his leg. They concluded that this was an infectious disease and he could not go to America until it was cured. He had to stay in India for another 6 months. Jai! Shortly thereafter he met Srila Prabhupada in Vrindavana. What a wonderful story.
We went to the Nrshingadev temple which was close by. Guru Maharaj said that the Lord is protecting Vrindavan and all of us on parikrama.
Then we went to the temple of Ragunatha Batta Goswami. There you will see a box which is covered. Inside it there is a Srimad Bhagavatam of Ragunatha Bhatta Goswami which was given to him by Lord Caitanya. We were trying to ask someone to uncover it so that we could have darshan and guess what??… we did not get to see it… The only time that 1 can have darshan is on the disappearance day of Ragunatha Bhatta Goswami – for 1 hour only – and then it is covered again until the next year. Guru Maharaj said that he hoped that no-one was in the temple so that we could just lift the cloth and have darshan ourselves – like He had done the last time. This book is not under lock and key so the next time you are there and no-one is around, you know what to do. Sadly we moved on to Imli-tala.
Lord Caitanya came here to spend some weeks in the Vrindavana area. While he was here, he moved around the whole of vraja mandala going on Govardhan parikrama, seeing Haridev at the temple, Kaliya Ghat, Vanksi Vat and many other places. Previously the Yamuna ran very close to this place – now it has moved further away. Once, a servant of Lord Caitanya asked him a question. Some of the local people are telling me that at night on the Yamuna you can see Lord Krishna dancing on the heads of Kaliya – is it okay if I if down there tonight and see Krishna dancing on Kaliya? Lord Caitanya was not so appreciative of that and said “the thing is, at night there is a fisherman on a boat in the Yamuna and as he moves on the boat and does his fishing thing, and the local people sees the light moving and thinks that Krishna is dancing on the Kaliya serpent. Don’t be so stupid like that!” Krishna consciousness is not to be taken cheaply. Guru Maharaj quoted the verse that He had read in the Srimad Bhagavatam class “Bhakti yogena tivrena” – when we perform very serious devotional service, then the mind and senses can be controlled and after some time you can control Krishna. If you cannot control the mind and senses, you cannot control Krishna. Some people think like that – if we go to Vrindavana and move here and there, then we will see Krishna hiding behind a tree. Guru Maharaj said “that is really taking things cheaply”. But if we render devotional service very nicely, if we chant our rounds without offences, then maybe we may see Krishna someday.
Lord Caitanya came and had an amazing experience here. Once he wanted to cross the Yamuna. Lord Caitanya and his assistant got onto the boat with the boatman and they were moving across the Yamuna. Suddenly Lord Caitanya became ecstatic – Is this the Yamuna? He jumped up in the boat and started crying out. He looked like He would fall into the water and who knows what would’ve happened! His assistant thought he was too ecstatic and thought “I have to get him out of Vrindavan! If He stays longer, He will expire, pass away. He has to leave.” So His assistant took Him out of Vrindavan. This is the place Lord Caitanya spent time at when He was here. Outside there is a deity of Lord Caitanya on the shrine, looking out at Yamuna. He enjoyed doing that when He was here. There was a tamarind tree here – imli tal. He used to sit under it and chant. He would chant Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. He used to go deeper and deeper into the chanting and as he was going deeper and deeper in the chanting, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, His body would turn blackish.
When Krishna was here 5000 years ago and when He felt separation from Radharani, he would sit here, look out at the Yamuna and chant Radhe, Radhe and his body used to turn golden. The old tree had died but a little branch from that original tree was planted here and that is tree that we see there now. The remnants of the old tree can still be seen.
Then we went over to Seva Kunj, that grove where very special service was done. It is a garden. During the rasa dance, Lord Krishna came here to serve Srimati Radharani’s lotus feet. Here there are many, many monkeys who are always looking for an opportunity to steal something. One monkey yanked Guru Maharaj’s garland and snapped one. Guru Maharaj said those monkeys will be after Him so he thinks He should distribute His garlands – then the monkeys can come after us. Guru Maharaj called the monkey a “rascal!” Guru Maharaj explained that the entire parikrama in Vrindavan is seva kunja, but this is the centre. We walked around quietly and we were warned that these monkeys liked bead bags. There is a little temple here. On the alter there is a picture of Krishna serving the Lotus feet of Srimati Radharani. There is no photography allowed here, but Guru Maharaj said that if someone did manage to get a picture, then they must give Him a copy. A few devotees took some shots at the risk of being detected by these very serious locals. Guru Maharaj showed us the pilloo trees which grow upwards and then comes down to touch the ground and where they touch the ground, the inside of it is called a kunj.
We saw Lalita kund and then went to the Shyamasunder temple which was started by Shyamananda Pandit. Once he was cleaning the forest in this area and he found 1 bangle. Guru Maharaj said it was a real gold bangle, not a plastic one from Shanghai. He wondered who this could belong to. There were no multi-story buildings in those days like we have today. There was only forest so he thought this must belong to Srimati Radharani. A young girl approached him. It was Lalita Devi. She said: “My sister lost her bracelet in the forest. If you got it, give it to me and I will take it to her”. Shyamananda Pandit understood what was happening and said “You take me to her and I will give it to her personally”. Lalita Devi took him to Lalita kund and dipped him in the waters there and he came out as a Gopi. She named him Kanaka Manjari. Guru Maharaj requested that we do not run down there and jump into the kund and expect to come out as Gopis! Lalita took Shyamananda Pandit in his gopi form to Srimati Radharani. Kanaka Manjari put the bangle onto the ankle of Srimati Radharani. Srimati Radharani took the bangle and pressed it onto Kanaka Manjari’s forehead and it left an impression. Srimati Radharani gave Kanaka Manjari a deity of Krishna. Later when Shyamananda Pandit came out of his trance, the impression was still on his forehead – he adopted it as a tilak. The Krishna deity is still on the alter in the temple.
Around 1pm we returned to the temple for lunch. At 4pm we met again to continue our tour of Vrindavan Town. It is not easy to negotiate with the rickshaw-wallas during the busy periods like Kartik. They know when they can make money, and to avoid being left behind, we just had to surrender!
After much ado, we arrived at the Radha Govinda temple. This temple was built by Rupa Goswami. It is the largest temple in Vrindavana, being 7 stories high. Aurangzeb had destroyed this temple. While he was in the process of destroying this temple, hanuman came and scared them away. Here you will also see the original 5000 year of deity of Yoga Maya. Guru Maharaj narrated the pastime when Krishna was born and how he came to Gokul. We did not spend too much time at this temple.
Next stop – Brahma kund – stealing of the cows and cowherd boys. This place is being renovated and looks really beautiful compared to the “disastrous” look it had previously. Here you will see Lord Brahma, Lord Caitanya and the 6 Goswamis.
Then we saw Radha Krishna Candra who was worshipped by Lal Babu. In Nectar of Devotion the different characteristics of the emotions of bhava are described. 1 of it is extreme detachment and Lal Baboo is given as the example of that. Guru Maharaj narrated how he was a very wealthy landlord who was very nasty and cheated people a lot. Later on he became and devotee and gave up everything and he used to beg from those very people that he used to cheat. So he went to one house and asked the person there if he could remember that he once cheated him. The person could not believe it. He then asked for charity. The person returned with a bucket of ash which he got as a result of using a wooden stove. He poured the ash all over Lal Baboo who replied “at least you have started to give something”.
Next was darshan at the Gopeshwar temple. This is the temple of Lord Shiva and it is not a very big temple. I particularly enjoyed the narration of this pastime and I hope that you do too. Lord Shiva was watching the rasa dance when he was here 5000 years ago. It was so beautiful he wanted to take part also but Krishna is the only male in the rasa dance. So he approached Purnamasi. She is Yoga Maya in Vrindavana. She took Lord Shiva to Maan Sarovara and dipped Him in the waters there and Lord Shiva came out as a gopi known as Gopeshwara Shiva. He went to the arena of the rasa dance and tried to walk into the dance. The problem was that He still had a problem – He was big and strongly built and even as a gopi He was a big girl. The gopis wondered – who is this? They surrounded Gopeshwar and asked who are you? What is your name? Purnamasi had not given him a particular name and he became bewildered. He asked “what do you mean? Oh! You mean what people call me? You know, I have a name. I just forgot at the moment.” The gopis said “right…good…that’s nice. Okay, no problem. But what are the names of your parents?” He became bewildered again. “You mean my mother and father?” The gopis said: “yes, that’s what we mean”. Now Lord Shiva was born directly from Lord Brahma but he couldn’t say that. Lord Shiva said “mamma and pappa!! Off course!.. I just call them mamma and pappa. I don’t know their names.” The gopis asked “which village are you from?” Lord Shiva was bewildered again. “You mean where I live?” The gopis said “yes, that place”. Lord Shiva: “oh you know, it’s that village the one around the corner, you know that one. I just forgot the name.” The gopis said: “okay, we understand. But what is that snake doing around your neck and the scorpions?” Lord Shiva: “they are my pets and they are very friendly – don’t worry”. The gopis said: “Right, look! You have the ash of cremated bodies all over your body.” Lord Shiva: “this is the latest cosmetics!” Guru Maharaj said “heard of Pierre Cardin, Christiaan Dior?” Gopis said: okay, that’s fine. Now Lord Shiva has the Ganges coming out from his head. The Gopis asked Him what that was and whether he was okay. Lord Shiva: Oh that! It is to keep me cool in the summer. Gopis: we understand and you are just too strange. We will not let you into the rasa dance but we will beat you up. The gopis were tough girls and they surrounded Gopeshwar. He didn’t know what to do and he called for Purnamasi. Purnamasi came and said: I know her. She is a little accentric but she is very nice so please don’t beat her and let her in. The gopis said they were not letting her in as she was too bizarre. So Purnamasi said: look at how big and strong she is. She can stay by the rasa dance and be the bouncer. Then the gopis agreed. So whenever the rasa dance happens, Gopeshwar Shiva is on one side to see that unqualified people do not enter. Srila Bhaktisiddantha said that at the rasa dance, Vrinda devi is the ticket collector and if your ticket is not in order, she calls Gopeshwar. At this temple there is a Shiva Linga and in the evenings they dress him as a Gopi. We were in time to see Gopeshwar Shiva dressed very beautifully – wearing a sarie and has a beautiful face on. This is the original 5000 year old Gopeshwar which Lord Caitanya had darshan of. In the Caitanya Caritamrita it is stated that when Lord Caitanya saw Him, he became overwhelmed with ecstacy. It is also stated that there are 5 very merciful personalities in Vrindavana: Govardhan, Yamuna, Vrinda Devi, the dust of Vrindavana and Gopeshwar. Guru Maharaj asked us to pray to these personalities to please be merciful and give us entrance into Vrindavan.
Then we went over to Vanksi Vat. Here, on the full moon night in the month of Kartik, Krishna stood under the banyan tree and played his flute. He was calling all the gopis to join him for the rasa dance. This is the same banyan tree that we see here (the original tree washed away in a flood but a branch of that same tree had been planted here – same tree in one sense). Lord Caitanya had seen the original tree. The gopis came to join him. Some of them were cooking – they left everything to burn. Guru Maharaj joked about burnt potatoes and burnt beans – Russian and South African jokes! Those that were dressing quickly put on their clothes and ran – some put the top part of the cloth on the bottom part of the body (I am still trying to figure how that is possible) and vice versa. Those that were doing make-up put anjan on just one eye and ran off. Those that were trying to put colour on just smeared it across their faces and ran. Guru Maharaj said that if we think of what that must’ve looked – quite extreme. This is a special, sacred place. There is a nice picture of the maha rasa dance and you can see Gopeshwar as well.
As you walked around you will see Srila Sukadev Goswami offering dandavats to Srila Vyasadev who is sitting and watching the rasa dance from the corner. The deities here are Sri Sri Radha Rasbihari. Asuri Muni and Garga Acarya are also having darshan of the rasa dance. At the centre we see the cowherd boys – this is where they were kidnapped from. Vanksi is flute – Vat is banyan: Vanksi Vat: the banyan tree under which Lord Krishna played the flute.
Guru Maharaj thought of where else we could visit so He took us to a very small place which is the Samadhi of Gopal Guru Goswami. Guru Maharaj asked, ever heard of him? He is an associate of Lord Caitanya. Gopal Guru was just a little boy when Lord Caitanya was in Jagganatha Puri. He saw Lord Caitanya who was on his way to the bathroom and Lord Caitanya was holding his tongue with his fingers. Gopal Guru asked: why are you holding your tongue? Lord Caitanya replied: because I cannot stop chanting Hare Krishna and the bathroom is so dirty, I don’t want Krishna in the form of the holy name to be exposed to all that therefore I am holding my tongue. Gopal Guru said: No, we are instructed to chant at the time of death and that is the most contaminated of all times therefore there is no problem if we were to chant in the bathroom. Lord Caitanya: Gopal, that is really good. I appreciate the explanation. Gopal from today, you are my Guru. This is how Gopal came to be known as Gopal “Guru”. So he lived in Jagganatha Puri and his followers began an ashram here. 1 day Gopal Guru left the world in Jagganatha Puri and the devotees at this ashram did not know – no communication, telephone, email, etc. But on that very day, he suddenly appeared in this temple, sat under the tree and gave class. At the end of class he flew off into the air. A few weeks later the devotees got the message that Gopal Guru left this world and they figured it was the very same day that he appeared here to give class. The Samadhi, tree and sitting place of the last class is still there.
Then we stopped to see Jula Thakur – The Lord in the bead bag. This was the deity of Srinivas Acarya. He used carry this deity of Krishna in his bead bag (in hindi/bengali it is called Jula). The altar was closed when we got there but the very nice pujari opened it for us to have darshan of Jula Thakur. This is the reason why there are no other parikrama’s like that of Guru Maharaj’s – he shows us things that we would normally not see at all. This was probably our last visit to Vrindavan Town. It was really wonderful and personally, most of the places that we visited, I saw for the first time. Every single person should visit Vrindavan Town at least once in this life. Tomorrow we tour the sacred Radha Kund and Shyama Kund. Who knows what other surprises Guru Maharaj will spring on us!
Syamarani devi dasi