At this stage of the parikrama we had down-sized from 100 or so to approximately 50 devotees. As a result we went out with only 1 bus. Today we had another new driver. He was not as jolly as Ganga our driver of yesterday. We did manage to depart on time today and our first stop was Raam Ghat. The bus could only go up to a certain point (as there was another parikrama party out today and Guru Maharaj said we would run into them a few times) and then we walked to the temple of Dauji. This is the place where Lord Balarama had dragged Yamuna Devi and forced her to come to him. On our way to the temple we walked past many little local kids who had baskets with lids in their hands. They would calmly come up to us and ask for donations and when we would refuse they would suddenly open up the lid of the basket and a cobra would be staring us in the face with wide open hoods. They kept coming at us and we kept on avoiding them. We had to ward them away from Guru Maharaj as they were being very troublesome. They were all along the way to the temple and some devotees were really scared. As we got to the entrance of the temple some devotees were snapping shots of these cobras and it took a while to realise that there was a massive python lying next to the path. That got us running into the temple…This is the place of Lord Balarama so we can always expect to see these snakes around there.
“Jaya rama-ghata, jaya rohini-nandan; jaya jaya vrndavana-basi jata jan” – this verse is about this place. This is an important place in Vraja Mandala and Guru Maharaj said “but devotees do not come here very often. I have not been here since 1991.” This area and other areas are specifically focussed on Lord Balarama. The deity in the temple is Lord Balarama – Dauji – older brother. Lord Krishna left Vrindavana after approximately 11 years. He went with Lord Balarama on the chariot with Akrura. The inhabitants of Vrindavana were thrown into a bottomless ocean of separation. He went to Dwaraka but all the time he was remembering the inhabitants of Vrindavana. In the Brhat Bhagavatamrta it is described that Satyabhama, Devaki and others were discussing “what will we do with Krishna? When I tried to get Him up, He could not. He tried but He fell over. The whole night He was moaning Radhe! Radhe! We tried to speak to Him and he replied “yes Radharani”. He is in a world of His own. He has become incapacitated.” They held a meeting of all the leaders of Dwarka to resolve things but Krishna could not come, he could not stand or talk. He was just lamenting in separation.
They discussed “what about the inhabitants of Vrindavana. They must also be feeling separation from Him. They should be reunited. On one hand the Brijbasis were arguing that He should go back. Rohini and Balarama were the leaders of that group. They were feeling compassion for the inhabitants of Vrindavana. Lord Balarama had lived with them. He went to Vrindavana to see how things were and he said “yes He should go back if not they will all die, He will die.” Then another group was arguing in a different way. Krishna has many duties here. He has 16 108 wives and has 10 children with each of them, and each of those 10 children had 10 children of their own. Guru Maharaj said “do the maths on that!”. Therefore this group said “if Krishna goes, what will happen to all of them? There are not so many brijbasis but there are many people here. All his direct family are here. He has no family in Vrindavana. In Vrindavana is his foster parents and associates. Here is his own mother and father, children, grandchildren and wives. So he should stay here.” Like this they were arguing back and forth. Then Kamsa’s mother Padmavati, an accentric old lady, spoke: “I know why the brijbasis want Him to go back! He takes the cows out everyday and He never charged them money. He worked many hours without pay. Now there is no-one to take their cows out so they want Him back. Free labour, that is why they want him back!” Like this they discussed in different ways. Then Balarama’s team spoke: “he must return to Vrindavana”. Lord Balarama spoke about his experience when he was there and he explained many things. “One night I went with the gopis to the Yamuna. We were dancing in a very beautiful area. The gopis were thinking I was Krishna and they felt satisfied. At the same point, we felt tired so we thought we will take a break and have something to drink to refresh ourselves. I was leaning against a tree and drinking the varuni beverage that was coming out of the tree. I was feeling happy and thought let us take a bathe in Yamuna. I looked at Yamuna and she was a distance away. I thought why should all the gopis walk way out there on those muddy banks, let me call Yamuna closer. I called her and she refused to come. She said: “listen, you are drunk. I am a woman of high character and I do not associate with low class men like you.” Guru Maharaj said: “Srila Prabhupada describes the different types of drunken men and woman in the Krishna book. Do you remember?” The one in the mode of goodness is of higher character – they get drunk, lie down and get over it. The one in the mode of passion gets drunk, becomes loud, he laughs and roars and embraces people – flamboyant character. The one in the mode of ignorance gets drunk, he cries and howls. In this way, Yamuna was evaluating Lord Balarama saying “you have been drinking too much”. Lord Balarama did not appreciate that and he threatened her. “If you do not come here right now, I will take my plough and rip up your banks and I will force you to come here!” Yamuna became very frightened and remembering this was Lord Balarama, she came. In the course of threatening her, He had demonstrated a little to show what he would do if she did not listen. He ploughed and gouged channels in the banks. Those zig-zag channels are still visible here 5000 years later. These are the remnants of Lord Balarama showing Yamuna mildly what he was going to do.
Guru Maharaj said that on Lord Balarama’s appearance day we make something called Varuni and there are many speculations how one could make it. Guru Maharaj said that we should not imitate Lord Balarama as he does not really become intoxicated and if we drink too much honey and surcharged drinks we will become intoxicated. Guru Maharaj said “today’s programme will be a relaxed one. Yesterday we went mountain climbing, mountain sliding, we drove and drove and drove…today is much more mild and we will spend a little time here”. So we did and we took prasadam on the roof top. Guru Maharaj said we could go and have darshan of the islands which can be seen from the roof and it was not too far out to walk to. He also said we could walk around and go to the temple if we wanted to. We did have some darshan from the top but it was not so clear. It was here that Namacarya Prabhu stepped onto a live wire and suffered an electric shock – ouch!
Sitala and I walked down to the Yamuna to have a close darshan of the islands. It was difficult to comprehend how these islands are still perfectly visible 5000 years later. We were harassed constantly by these local children who keep on tugging at us for our attention. But by this stage of the parikrama we were well trained in dealing with them. As Sitala and I walked back to the temple we were walking behind a buffalo that was pulling an extremely heavy cart uphill. Suddenly this buffalo could not manage the load and the cart, and the buffalo came at us backwards. Luckily Sitala has amazing reflexes and she yanked me out of the way before I was swiped out. Thanks Sitala! We looked back at the buffalo and the poor thing looked so scared.
We went back to the bus and we had such a hard time keeping the children and snakes away. We then went to Biharavana. Here there are Radha Kunja Bihari deities. The kund here is Bihar kund. Guru Maharaj briefly said “if you have a problem with intoxication you can pray and chant here!” He also that that this place is being maintained as a more natural part of Vrindavana, and that it is a nice place to chant japa. Guru Maharaj chanted one round of japa with us all which is nice as he chants aloud into the microphone. At the end he says “was this one round for you?…well it was for me!” Then He went to chant by the Kund while the rest of us ventured out to see this beautiful place. From where Guru Maharaj was sitting, He was overlooking the kund and directly across from there one could see the many, many beautiful white cows who were grazing and coming to the kund to drink water. It is very beautiful and it is very quiet and peaceful – extremely natural. We walked about and played with some cows – one was friendly and the other not. This place has many kunjas and the sand is soft. We walked through some forest areas and came upon a herd of cows. That was probably the most beautiful sight – approximately 750 whites cows at this goshala. We stood there speechless for a few minutes before we decided to take some pictures. We went quite close to them but we were scared to go any nearer. Two cows started to come towards us and we knew we should leave. They followed us some distance and we had to hide behind a kunj to let hem pass by. We walked further and saw many, many peacocks. We met a local who showed us which were male and which were female. He was very kind but due to our lack of communication skills in hindi we could not understand him much. We walked to the entrance at that end of Biharavana and for as far as we could see, there were only acres of yellow flowers. I didn’t want to leave. That’s gotta be the life right there!
We then found the rest of the group who were about to leave. We managed to feed some of the cows some almonds on our way out. They followed us to the bus and would’ve come in if they were not so big. It was really nice being at Biharavana. Each place we visit gets more beautiful and each day I say – “now I am really not leaving Vrindavana”.
Sadly, we had to leave here and go off to Chir Ghaat. The other parikrama party had reached this place before us so we first went to see a place which has the form of Durga Devi (who is a form of Yoga maya). We returned shortly thereafter to the place of Katyayani devi. Here the gopis prayed to her to get Krishna as their husband. There is a famous and important pastime that happened here. This is the place where Krishna stole the gopis clothes. The gopis were performing their Katyayani vrata. It is a tradition for young girls who want good husbands to worship her. Girls worship katyayani and boys worship Lord Shiva. Guru Maharaj said: “Shiva and Katyayani are husband and wife, the transcendental marriage bureau. The husband knows all the boys and the wife knows all the girls and they get together to connect everyone.” This vrata is performed in the month after kartik, which is the month in which we were currently in, with a few days left to go. Guru Maharaj said that if we wanted to and if we started now, we may just end up with a half decent husband! Everyday the person performing the vrat has to perform strict austerities, eat only kitchori (water, rice, dhal, maybe little tumeric – NO salt, no veggies or other spices), only once a day, eat it off the floor with your hands behind your back – you sit, bend down to eat as much as you can with your mouth in one go and once you sit up – that’s the end of your meal…I was thinking – all of that for a “nice” husband…So the basic idea is to please Katyayani and get her mercy. They all wanted Krishna as their husband. This vrata goes on for a whole month.
On the last day, they came to the ghaat to take bathe in Yamuna. In those days, the Yamuna was right here at the bottom of the stairs. Now Yamuna has moved away some distance. The gopis took their clothes off put it onto the banks, took bath, turned to come out and saw nothing – “where did our clothes go?”. They saw on the Kadamba tree some clothes and on the branch next to it was Krishna. He was relaxing there in a cool mood playing his flute like all is normal – life is good. The gopis called out “Krishna, we need our clothes”. Krishna: “What clothes?…Oh, these clothes. Sure, no problem, you can have it…just come and get them.” Gopis: “we can’t come out”. Krishna: “if you don’t want them, just leave them here”. A big argument and debate ensued. Gopis: “you must give us our clothes!” Krishna: “you want me to carry your clothes for you? You come and get your own clothes. You must look after your clothes better. I got my clothes”. Gopis: “if you don’t give us our clothes, I will tell your father”. Krishna: “Ha! Tell my father, don’t make me laugh. He won’t do anything”. Gopis: “we will tell King Kamsa!” Krishna: “Kamsa!…he is simply an impotent fool…who cares for Kamsa..Ha! You can tell who you like. I don’t care. Your clothes are here. I am not stopping you.” In the end Krishna simply won’t give them their clothes. They had to come out of the water and Krishna saw them completely undressed. Guru Maharaj said this pastime many times before and He explained that in the vedic standard, only a husband can see his wife like that. Therefore, Krishna had actually accepted these gopis as His wives. Guru Maharaj then told us that in the old days, if a boy had to walk into the wrong place at the wrong time, and even if he accidentally saw a girl undressed, they would have to be married. He also said that during book marathons, the one who came last in book distribution had to marry the worst brahmacarini. If he came first, he would get the top brahmacarini. If the boys were caught stealing mangal sweets particularly before the offering, they had to marry the worst, nasty brahmacarini – this principle is extremely well known. Therefore the gopis understood that Krishna was specifically accepting them as His wives which they were praying for. The gopis did not expect that Krishna would fulfil their desire in that way. They thought there would be a normal wedding…and they would be normal wives. Guru Maharaj said: “Krishna has a sense of humour. He achieved the same goal in a very unexpected way. Do not under estimate Krishna. If you really want something, He may arrange it in ways you do not expect.” The gopis got their clothes, dressed and went home. As they went home they were singing joyfully the glories of Krishna. Guru Maharaj said: “they were not singing the blues – He cheated us – He embarrassed us – we are feeling bad and sad…No, they were very happy. They understood they got Krishna’s mercy today. This all happened at Chir Ghat.
Guru Maharaj said that in Vrindavana, at Kesi Ghat, there is also a little Chir Ghat…but this is the actual place. The other one is a sankirtan strategy. He also cautioned us that there are many birth places of Lord Krishna but these are just enthusiastic sankirtan devotees who are laxmi collectors. Guru Maharaj then allowed those that wanted, to take bathe. The prabhus went downstream. Guru Maharaj said “matajees, do not worry, if you get swept away, the prabhus will rescue you.”
Some of us who did not take bath here (even though this was one of the most beautiful parts of Yamuna – crystal clear waters) sat along the banks and had some kirtan. This attracted some local kids who were impressed with the singing and sound of the kartalas and they came and joined in, in their own way. A very naughty Prithie troubled us a little and we had to scold her. But they were sweet…
We had finished off a little early today and we were extremely delighted to be heading back to Vrindavana, schedule to arrive at about 2pm. We were looking forward to the early afternoon and opportunity to rest. But, obviously Krishna had his own plan. About 15 minutes into the drive we heard an unusual sound and then a few seconds later the bus came to a halt. Two tyres had been punctured!! No!!! We were ready to start cursing when Guru Maharaj got out of the bus and asked the driver how long it would take to repair. Guru Maharaj then said: “If anyone wants to come along – I am going to look for the local temple”. So cool and calm – this was Guru Maharaj’s response to this situation. Many of us ran behind Guru Maharaj as he is tall and takes pretty big steps and we short people find it hard to keep up if we don’t run.
So we walked and asked for directions to the nearest temple. We asked a few people for directions and they all seemed to give the same answer so we just followed Guru Maharaj. Eventually we did come to the temple and it was closed. But luckily, someone called the pujari and he opened the temple to allow us to have darshan. Guess which deities we had darshan of??? We saw the original 5000 year old chatur bhoj form of Lord Krishna (which he showed to Lord Brahma after the lila in which he stole the cows) and the sitting place of Vallabhacarya. The pujaris narrated all the pastimes and Guru Maharaj asked many questions. The pujari said this was also the place where aghasura was killed. There is also a painting of the pastime where Lord Brahma stole the cows. Sanatana Goswami worshipped this deity for 4 months. Guru Maharaj said that he does not think that anyone in Iskcon knows this temple exists and that he may include it in future parikramas. We had nice darshan and took maha prasadam and went straight back to the bus. We figured out right there that this was the reason we had a puncture – to find this temple. Somehow, despite the puncture, the bus was not where we left it. We had to walk back and forth trying to find this bus and eventually the local priest of the temple located the bus for us using his motor cycle and riding around. Guru Maharaj had to walk through all of this. The driver had moved the bus to a place where he could fix it. We had to wait a long while for them to repair the damage. We were parked right beside a kund. This happened to be jnana kund, the place where Lord Brahma had come after the pastime – and this is where Lord Krishna explained his form to him.
Guru Maharaj’s lunch had to be rescheduled to later. We were tired and wanted to go back. Each time we asked how long it will take, we got told 10 minutes. But it was never 10 minutes. We tried to keep ourselves busy by singing a little. Namacarya Prabhu tried to arrange for Guru Maharaj to take an auto ricksha to Vrindavana and He got onto one. A few minutes later we learned that the bus would be ready soon and it will take longer for Guru Maharaj to reach Vrindavana in the auto ricksha. So Guru Maharaj got out of the auto and back onto the bus. The devotees were feeling bad as Guru Maharaj looked tired. Eventually the bus was fixed and we set of to Vrindavana. Jai! We reached there much later than expected and went to take much needed rest. Tomorrow – maan sarovara, bhandiravana, syamavana.
Syamarani devi dasi