Writings

Day 17 – 21 November, Karauli, Jaipur (Day 1) – The Amazing Race – by Syamarani devi dasi

I was reflecting on our parikrama yesterday and I was thinking about some devotees who, even though they found it extremely challenging, insisted on completing the entire parikrama on foot.  Even though they were constantly offered options like taking rickshaws, etc they kept on saying “no, we’re almost there”.  They did extremely well to see the parikrama to the end with no shoes on.  Those devotees will not be with us for the rest of the parikrama and they will be missed.

We met this morning at 4:15am, the earliest for the entire parikrama.  I think most of us were dreading the long distance that we had to travel because from the reports that we got from different sources, it sounded like we would be travelling for at least 8 hours.  I was worried about Guru Maharaj travelling such a long distance in that most uncomfortable bus situation.  But luckily some devotees hired a very nice comfortable car in which Guru Maharaj would travel to and from Jaipur.  I was so happy that nice arrangements were made for Guru Maharaj, yet extremely sad that we would not have His association for the first time while travelling on parikrama.  Who was going to say “did you see that blue cow on the right?” or just say something funny to keep us going…I knew already that this trip was going to be a difficult one…

Our first stop today would be at the Madan Mohan temple in Karauli.  We departed Vrindavana at 4h45 or so.  We heard that the roads were pretty bad to travel on…and it was!  Guru Maharaj and a group of devotees had set off and we were only going to see them in Jaipur.  We drove for many hours and we stopped of briefly at some place where we could just to get out of the bus more than anything else.  It was already a very long trip, most uncomfortable and tiring…We got back onto the road and at about 10:40 we reached Karauli.  We were meant to have had breakfast already but no-one wanted to eat while on a moving bus at the risk of being motion sick.  We thought we will be able to have breakfast before having darshan at the temple.  But Guru Maharaj had arrived ahead of us at the temple and he told us we had to hurry to the temple otherwise we would miss darshan.  The bus could not go through the town and so we had to park and walk.  We were hurried off the bus and through the town, not knowing where we were going.  Guru Maharaj was not with us, only devotees who knew a little English and the bare minimum hindi.  But we managed to ask our way to the temple and it was quite a long, long walk after an almost 6 hour drive.  We arrived at the temple and I just looked forward to seeing Guru Maharaj but we were stopped by some devotees saying that we should go together as a group to prevent us getting lost.  This temple was pretty big and the anxiety was now too much.  Eventually when enough devotees gathered, we went to find Guru Maharaj.  We were thrilled to see Him but He looked so tired.  The altar was closed but it would open shortly.

So we were at the Radha Madan Mohan temple, waiting darshan of the first of the three deities for the day.  We had not waited for too long before the altar opened and we had darshan of the original Madan Mohan deity.  I was a little confused as to which was the original deity – there were 2 identical altars – but Guru Maharaj told us that the one in the middle was the original deity.  We stood there and gazed at the magnificent deity before us for some while.  There was such an awesome atmosphere in the temple – and no-one can sing with love and devotion like the locals do.  One can just stand there and listen to them for hours.  Those who were there will certainly agree.  When we managed to tear ourselves away from Madan Mohan’s beautiful form, we circumambulated the altar and then sat down to listen to Guru Maharaj give a short talk.

Guru Maharaj repeated a bit of what He said at the Madan Mohan temple in Vrindavana – about the time when Krishna left this world and Vajranabha wanted to establish different temples and the only person who saw Krishna was Uttara – you remember that right?…So I will not repeat that here.

Guru Maharaj then went on to say that Madan Mohan is very dear to the devotees.  Madan Mohan means Krishna who is the attractor of cupid, generally meaning the association between man and woman, but ultimately meaning any sort of attraction.  If we get the shelter of Madan Mohan then we will be protected from everything.  We need protection otherwise in this material world we will easily get sucked into it.  Madan Mohan was worshipped by Advaita Acarya in his mind.  Then he was worshipped by Sanatana Goswami.  Shortly thereafter, the king of Jaipur moved Madan Mohan to Jaipur along with Govinda and Gopinatha.  Maharaj Jay Singh was the King of Jaipur and his brother-in-law Gopal Singh was the King of Karauli.  Gopal Singh had a dream that Madan Mohan was telling him “please take me to Karauli”.  Jay Singh was not happy and said that if he could recognise or distinguish Madan Mohan from Govinda and Gopinatha, while blind folded, then he could take Madan Mohan to Karauli.  Gopal Singh had no problems.  He did it and immediately recognised Madan Mohan and that is how he came to be in Karauli.  Guru Maharaj explained what that a chappan bhoga offering was an offering of 56 preparations.

Guru Maharaj then gave us a choice – he said we could stay here for longer darshan or we leave immediately to Jaipur if we wanted to get there before sunset.  So there was no doubt that we chose the latter and we sadly had to leave this beautiful temple and Guru Maharaj and make our way back to the buses.  By now we were all starving.  We guessed our way back to the bus and when we got there we had all of 5 minutes to eat something before we headed off to Jaipur.  The trip was really long and we had time to catch up on some sleep.

At about 16h30 we started to get very nervous when we were informed that Guru Maharaj had already reached Jaipur and had darshan of Gopinatha and was just waiting to have darshan of Govindaji.  Yes, we were still travelling at this time after having left Vrindavana at approximately 5am this morning – a total of 11 hours of being couped up in the bus on extremely bumpy roads.  Guru Maharaj arrived much earlier as he was in a car which would obviously take less time than a bus with about 50 devotees.  We started to get worried and enquire how long it would take to reach Jaipur.  We got our translator, Vishaka matajee, on the job to ask the driver what time we would reach and whether we would make it before sunset.  He didn’t seem exactly sure and we had hit some heavy traffic and that really got us all anxious.  We started to ask questions like what time does the sun set?  We even thought of the incident when Krishna made the sun rise during the battle for Arjuna to kill Jayadratha and we were hoping for some miracle.  But we noticed that we were not near Jaipur and the sun was surely setting fast and the traffic was causing a real problem.  We did not want to agitate the driver too much as he looked extremely exhausted from the days travel.  Up until now he kept on assuring we would get there before sunset and suddenly now he said “we will only make it in time to maybe see Govindaji”.  He had not heard of Gopinatha and had no idea where that temple was.  The devotees were all moaning about their stroke of bad luck.  We had contacted Guru Maharaj to ask Him for “advice” and He said it was okay and that when we arrive we must have a super quick darshan of Govinda and race over to the Gopinatha temple.  This was too much!  So we saw that we had entered Jaipur – this was already like 17h20 and we were all in readiness to jump of the bus and run to the temple.  We had kicked off our shoes and left our belongings and this was certainly going to be a race against time.  We were tired but we were ready.  We kept on hearing how auspicious it was to see these 3 deities in one day between sunrise and sunset and we were going to give it our best effort.  The bus entered this massive compound – the surroundings were magnificent but we had no time to drink the beauty of it.  The bus barely came to a halt when we were jumping off it.  We had no shoes and we didn’t care.  We asked “where is the Govinda temple?”  We were sent in different directions and there was some confusion and eventually we were heading in the right direction.  This must’ve been a strange sight to the people there – a bunch of devotees in saries and dhotis running towards the Govinda temple.  We ran and ran and as we did we saw Guru Maharaj on our right laughing at us.  He thought what we were doing was funny – taking it so seriously that we had to see them all before sunset.  The altar was open and most beautiful Govindaji was right before us.  We had been with Him for barely a minute and then Guru Maharaj said you should be going to Gopinatha temple for darshan.  BUT He said, “do not worry – it is okay – You can see Him tomorrow also”.  Do you know what we all did after hearing that?

Well…we came so far and we were not going to give up.  We said to Guru Maharaj we were going to Gopinathaji.  We ran out of the Govinda temple hoping that we were heading towards Gopinatha temple.  We were literally running at this stage – all of us – and we ran for about 10 minutes according to the directions of the locals and we were running in the wrong direction.  By this time the sun had set, Guru Maharaj had taken darshan of all 3 deities, He told us it was ok and we could see Gopinatha tomorrow and we still refused to give up.  If we could not see the deities between sunrise and sunset, at least we could see all three of them in one day.  So as we turned to figure out where we were, we ran into Guru Maharaj who said “Gopinatha is over that way – directly on the opposite side and you have to take rickshaws or something to get there”.  By this time there were not many rickshaws to carry us all.  Some devotees did manage to get onto a rickshaw and that “driver” seemed to know where the temple was.  We just followed him.  There were some on the rickshaws being driven to the temple and then there was the rest of us with no shoes, in our saries, trying to keep up with the rickshaws.  We were even holding on to the moving rickshaws.  This must’ve looked like the scenes from a bollywood movie – us all in vaishnava attire with no shoes running through the streets of Jaipur.  We were actually sprinting at some stages and we figured that this was probably the most daring thing we did in our lives and that this was indeed immense fun as well as exhausting.  I thought I was going to expire and I thought at least it will happen while trying to run to Gopinatha – that may count for something.  We came to the main street and we caught up with the rickshaw which got caught in traffic and then there was us on foot who had to cross the main street which is almost like a death trap.  You have to either go for it and hope you don’t get hit by something or you could stand there and pray that someone will give you way in this lifetime.  So I decided we will do it like they do in India.  The ladies who were with me were hanging onto me for dear life and I just crossed the street like I got used to doing during my stay in India.  They opened their eyes at the end of it, they were on the other side of the street and they were alive – bonus.  We had to find that rickshaw again and by now it was downhill and they left us behind.  We had to go on instinct and by asking our way in that dark through a foreign city.  We continued to run and run and by now we were not striving for before sunset anymore, we just wanted darshan of Gopinatha today.  We never slowed down, we just continued running and eventually we came to the entrance of Gopinathaji – we sprinted in to see him and we just gazed at His most brilliant form – we got to see Gopinathaji, Govindaji and Madan Mohan all in 1 day.  We were certainly not upset that we did not make it before sunset – but we would’ve been upset if we put in any less effort than we had.  What an experience.  None of us will ever forget this in a long time to come.  If I was so eager and determined like this every single day of my life – I may be able to achieve something better.  I could not believe the determination of the devotees and the courage and strength that we all mustered at the end of almost 12 hours of travelling to do what we did.  That was not possible without any mercy…not at all.

We had nice darshan of Gopinatha and we were captivated by the local ladies singing so beautifully from the depths of their soul praising Lord Gopinatha and singing that so many people from so many difference places all have come to see Him.  Wow!!!  We were mesmerised and just absorbing the wonderful transcendental atmosphere.

Eventually we left and took a rickshaw back to try and find where we got off the bus – we were certainly not going to walk back – by now we had reached our limits for the day.  Guru Maharaj had already returned to the hotel where they were awaiting our arrival and where supper was going to be served.  That sounded like a plan.

We got to the bus and we had to wait for all the devotees before we left for the hotel.  That was a little austere at this hour but we had no choice really.  Eventually they all arrived and we finally could go to the hotel.  We had not even driven for too long before our bus driver crashed into a car.  It was a tiny little car which got damaged pretty badly while our bus remained in tact.  This was our test of tolerance.  Was this day ever going to end?  The so-called local police had arrived on the scene.  Our bus driver and the driver of the car came together and they just quarrelled and yelled and negotiated in the very traditional Indian way.  We thought we would spend the night right here on the bus.  We thought about walking but we realised we had luggage and we were not sure how far we had to walk.  Some devotees got off to try and speed things up.  At one stage it seemed like our bus driver was in real trouble and two minutes later the police was accepting a bribe and our driver was innocent.  Eventually after much fighting and screaming – there was some sort of agreement and we left for the hotel once again.  Our driver seemed to now drive extra cautiously, slowing things down – exactly what we needed at this hour…

We arrived at the hotel so very late, we had to get our rooms, we had to sort our luggage out and we had to try and get something to eat.  We were told to eat first then sort out rooms and luggage.  We did eat and then came to sort out our rooms.  By now there was some serious mix up with bookings and there was an extreme shortage of rooms.  Some devotees managed to get their rooms – the rest had to walk to another hotel – luggage and everything else – Krishna was still testing us at this hour.  I was about to crack.  We got to the other hotel.  We got to our “room”.  There was no hot water, the toilets did not work, the rooms were dusty – but we were too tired to even fuss at this hour.  We would not even be able to enquire properly even if we tried.  We just got in, locked the rooms and got some rest.  Early next morning is mangal aarti at Govindaji temple and we had to be ready by 4:15am else we would be left behind.

What a day!  It was an amazing race indeed – we may not have achieved exactly what we hoped to at the beginning of the day – but Krishna most certainly arranged a much more valuable lesson…Please stay with us for our next two days in Jaipur.  It will be our last two days on parikrama.  We are almost there…

Your servant
Syamarani devi dasi

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