Writings

Puri parikrama report from Avadhutacandra prabhu

Saturday the 24th October. Arrival

I arrived in Bhubaneswar just before ten. Guru Maharaja’s flight was to be there after eleven, but it was announced the flight was late. I waited patiently, and then I saw that outside the devotees from Lithuania had arrived to receive our spiritual master. This was about 11.15A.M.

Slightly after twelve the plane descended and the kirtana started. It was a simple kirtana with only one pair of karatals. Still everybody was eagerly singing. It took quite a while before Guru Maharaja was out from the
airport. Madhavananda Prabhu from Bhubaneswara and Syamananda Prabhu from Lithuania received him first inside the airport and then all the devotees outside. He was given a maha-garland from Krsna-Balarama of Bhubaneswar.

We got into our jeeps. I was in the same car with Guru Maharaja, Madhavananda Prabhu and his wife Krsna-kunda mataji, and Syamananda Prabhu. During our drive Guru Maharaja and Madhavananda Prabhu were discussing the plans for the parikrama. Every now and then Madhavananda Prabhu saw some interesting place and started explaining its glories. He is something like Bhakti Visrambha Madhava Swami in his enthusiasm and transcendental talkativeness. He has vast and deep knowledge about the places in Orissa, Vaisnava culture and the philosophy of Krsna-consciousness.

After about one and half hours’ drive we arrived in Jagannath Puri and our hotel Gopinath. The devotees sang very enthusiastically and they became even more enthusiastic when Guru Maharaja got out of the car. Guru Maharaja went to his room to have his bath after his long travel (this was his first bath the whole day). Meanwhile a group of devotees were joyfully singing in the corridors of the hotel. I thought it’s a very blissful atmosphere.

Everybody had prasadam together with Guru Maharaja. Then some devotees became very enthusiastic to get a room for Guru Maharaja from the nearby hotel Swimming. Actually Gopinath was a very simple hotel and it was not very tidy at all. They had booked a room for Guru Maharaja even without asking him whether he likes to move or not. Still, it was a good decision because Gopinath was not really a suitable place for very honorable guests.

At seven thirty P.M. we had our evening program in the garden of Gopinath. Guru Maharaja led  Damodarastakam, and meanwhile the devotees offered lamps. After the song Guru Maharaja explained the general outline of the yatra. Then the participants of the yatra were asked what their expectations were.
Guru Maharaja said he had been to Vrndavan for so many years during Kartika and he said he knows the places around there quite well. This year he said he hoped to visit other places as well, to further expand the spiritual perspective.

Sunday the 25th October to Wednesday the 28th October

During these days we were visiting the different holy places in Jagannath Puri. Every morning we had our japa time in the garden from 5.30A.M. to seven. Then we would have Srila Prabhupada’s Guru Puja and kirtana. Then we would sing a song by Srila Narottama das Thakura (Gauranga karuna koro), which is a very beautiful song and was liked very much by everyone. Then there would be some katha principally by Madhavananda Prabhu.

He had a very humble disposition although he is greatly learned. Always before speaking he would ask his permission from Guru Maharaja and glorify him in some way.

After morning program we would have our breakfast. The parikramas were meant to start at nine but usually they were slightly late.

On the first day we went to many places nearby. One of them was Cataka-parvata, which is Govardhan Hill in Jagannath Puri. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati is said to have liked the place very much. Thus he
had opened a Gaudiya Math temple there.

We also went to the temple of Tota Gopinath, where one cand have darsana of a Deity of Krsna sitting. There we met HH Sacinandana Swami, who was performing his kartika vrata there. Maharaja was very happy to see Srila Gurudeva there. Guru Maharaja said Sacinandana Swami had always been one of his favourite devotees. Sacinandana Maharaja responded by saying he considers Gurudeva one of his dhama gurus. He said he is secretly watching Guru Maharaja’s parikrama DVDs.

Sacinandana Swami spoke on the necessity to chant the holy names in the mood of devotional surrender, like Draupadi, when the Kauravas tried to disrobe her.

After parikrama we went to the ocean for a bath. Guru Maharaja is an expert swimmer. He liked swimming in the ocean very much. Bodysurfing. However on Monday a big wave came and threw him to the bottom. That injured him slightly. He had a scratch on his forehead.

Despite that he went swimming again on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning we saw something was happening as he seemed to be getting a black eye. Many devotees got worried about this and four doctors (all members or our parikrama) came in with their advices. Guru Maharaja was sober and would not take one advice from here and another from there. They all gathered on Tuesday evening and decided to give a short antibiotic course to curb the infection.

During the parikramas we visited many of the important places in Puri. There are some ancient holy places in Puri, which have been there for thousands of years. Then there are more recent places connected with Lord Caitanya and his associates. Some of these were Gambhira (where Lord Caitanya stayed the last 18 years of His manifest presence), Siddha Bakul (where Haridas Thakura would chant), the Samadhi of Haridas Thakur and the house of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya.

More than seventy devotees would participate in the parikramas. They came from Russia, Lithuania, South Africa, Malaysia, India and Finland.

Thursday the 29th October

Today was ekadasi and it was the disappearance day of Srila Gaurakisora das Babaji. We met at 5.30 A.M. in front of Gopinath and got on our jeeps. We wanted to visit the place known as Alarnath during the early morning hours, before the greedy pandas appear.

After about 30 minutes drive we arrived at the front entrance of the main temple. They would not let Westernes inside the temple, but we could have the darsana from the door as the Deity was so situated that I could film Him quite nicely. All the devotees went to another place within the temple compound, where there was a bodyprint of Lord Caitanya.

Lord Caitanya would come to Alarnath when Lord Jagannath was away for two weeks after the snana-yatra. Feeling great separation, He would offer obeisances to this Deity of Alarnath and the stone would melt under Him. A quite clear impression of Mahaprabhu’s body could be seen here.

Madhavananda Prabhu spoke on the significance of this place. Actually the Deity was not a four-armed Narayana but He was Krsna who was playing as if He had four arms. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had been here many times and had displayed symptoms of ecstacy. He had discovered a small Deity of Alarnath in the ground and had opened a branch of the Gaudiya Math here, which we also visited.

Next we went to a small village, which had been the birthplace of Ramananda Raya, Sikhi Mahiti and his sister Madhavi. Thus three out of four most intimate associates of Mahaprabhu had appeared in this place. We visited first the Radha-Gopinath Deities of Madhavi-devi. Then we went to the birthplace of Raya Ramananda.

Here Guru Maharaja told us about the meeting between Lord Caitanya and Ramananda Raya. The Lord had inquired many things from Ramananda. One of them was, who is the wealthiest person, the greatest capitalist. Ramananda Raya had replied the wealthiest person is one who is rich in loving Krsna.

Now Dayal Govinda Prabhu from Lithuania shouted, “BHAKTI CAITANYA SWAMI KI JAYA!”

Just nearby was a house which belonged to some of Ramananda Raya’s relatives. There we could see the sword which had been used by him. Also we could see his pen, waterpot and Srimad-bhagavatam. It was quite exciting.

Then we drove to the Jagannath-vallabha gardens to have our close-up ceremony. Many devotees spoke briefly on their realizations they had had over the past few days. Then we drove to the hotel to have lunch there.

In the evening I went to Guru Maharaja’s room a little before six to pack up. We got on our cars 6.30 P.M. and drove to the Puri railway station. Next we walked to our places within the train. We locked our luggage on the benches with chains. I made Guru Maharaja’s bed. He wanted to use a sleeping bag. We took rest a little after nine.

Friday the 30th October

The train was meant to be in Kolkata at four A.M. but as it is common in India, it was late. I slept until 3.30. Sometime before that my blanket fell off me. I felt someone had put that on me again gently (I was at the upper tier so I could not do it myself). I suspect that someone was Guru Maharaja as when I woke up I saw him fully dressed, chanting. The spiritual master is just like father and he is interested in the wellbeing of his disciples, even in the material sense.

When we arrived in Kolkata we had to wait some time at the railway station so that our buses would be sorted out. Most of us (including Guru Maharaja) got on a bus.

It was a long way. At some point I served Guru Maharaja some Oriyan cheesecake which was a gift from Madhavananda Prabhu. At times I would serve him water and Sprite.

He said he prefers Sprite to 7UP because it has less sugar.

When we finally reached Mayapur some of the devotees were there already receiving him. Saci-kumara and Govinda-kunda Prabhus offered Guru Maharaja a giant maha-garland from the Deities. Then Guru Maharaja went to his room in the Conch-building. I went also, as some services would be given.  Saci-kumara would be in charge of the parikrama arrangements. Govinda-kunda Prabhu would take care of Giriraja’s worship. I would be seeing that Guru Maharaja would have everything needed, like prasadam and drinks and so on.

Guru Maharaja first had his bath and then he would have his lunch. This time he would have two kinds of soups.

In the evening we would meet at 7.30 in one of the parks near to the Panca-tattva temple. It was a bit dark, but fortunately someone turned the lights on.

Guru Maharaja explained the arrangements and plans for the parikrama. There would be over seventy participants. At the end of the session he would distribute the garlands. He would give the giant garland for all the devotees from Krasnoyarsk together.

Saturday the 31st October and Sunday the 1st November

The actual parikrama started on Saturday. We would chant Nrsimha-pranams and then walk off to Yoga-pitha, which is the appearance place of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Guru Maharaja would explain about the appearance of the Lord and His childhood pastimes. Although we all have heard these pastimes many
times, Guru Maharaja did it in such absorption and detail that everyone was mesmerized. By his devotion and expert narration, we all could see these pastimes in front of us in this most holy place.

Next we walked to the nearby Srivasangan, where the nocturnal kirtanas were held. We visited many other important places as well, like the house of Murari Gupta, the houses of Advaita-acarya and Gadadhara Pandita, and the samadhis of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji. In all these places we would stop and Guru Maharaja would give his explanation.

Saturday’s parikrama would end in Jagannath Mandir and Marimara from where we took boats back to the ISKCON temple.

On Sunday we took boats to Svarup-ganj from where we walked to the nearby Suvarna-bihar. King named Suvarna Sena used to have his palace in this place in the ancient times. He also had the darshan of Lord Caitanya. Later Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati would build a temple here, to a place which in those days was but a jungle infested with many dangerous animals. We saw there some ruins of the King’s palace. For some reason the breakfast was late, so we had to wait quite some time. Then Guru Maharaja asked Gauracandra Prabhu from Malaysia to sing some kirtan, which was nice.

After the breakfast we continued walking and visited some other places. We would conclude the day in a place called Harihara ksetra, which is the original Varanasi. It is a beautiful place with a small temple. In the
temple we could see many deities. The main deity there is Harihara, a combined form of Lord Visnu and lord Siva. There is also Burhosiba (an old Siva deity) and Sitaladevi (the goddess of chicken pox!).

Here Guru Maharaja told us about the parikrama of Lord Nityananda and Jiva Goswami. Here they would actually see Lord Caitanya dancing and chanting and they would lose their consciousness, shouting “GAURANGA! GAURANGA!”.

We would also call out “GAURANGA! GAURANGA!”. I did not see Lord Caitanya. Still, I took bath in the local river, which is said to me nondifferent from Alakananda Ganges.

Monday the 2nd November

Today I did not attend the parikrama due to health reasons. In the morning, though, Guru Maharaja led the mangala-arati kirtana. It was a very profound experience, and we saw the devotees were really dancing and chanting jubilantly to Their Lordships Radha-Madhava and Sri Panca-tattva.

Tuesday the 3rd November

This morning I saw Guru Maharaja in the mangala arati. HH Kadamba-kanana Swami was leading and it was such a fired up kirtana. All the devotees gathered at 5.30A.M. in front of the temple. We went to the boats and started for Svarup-ganj wherefrom we walked to a place named Hamsa-vahana.

Gurudeva narrated the pastime of lord Siva borrowing the swan of Brahma to be in time for Gaura-katha in the nearby Naimisaranya. Siva was so fired up to hear the glories of lord Caitanya that he had become hot. Thus the deity was previously kept under water to cool him down. Now the deity had ended up in the small temple. The deity was depicting lord Siva on a swan. Lord Siva was lying down probably in order to avoid being knocked down by the blowing wind. A drop of water was falling on the lord every few minutes to keep him cool. (I touched the deity but it did not feel very hot to me).

Then we walked to Naimisaranya. There Guru Maharaja spoke on how the glories of Lord Caitanya as found in the Caitanya-caritamrta and Caitanya-bhagavata constitute a science which is called post-graduate knowledge of God. Still, despite its highly elevated nature, it has been so presented that even a common man can get some understanding of it.

Naimisaranya is situated on Madhyadvipa, the island representing remembering. Guru Maharaja said:” If we hear nicely, then we can chant nicely, and as a result, we will remember nicely. If we hear nonsense, we
will also chant and remember nonsensei If we make spiritual advancement, we will no longer remember things of this material world. We will not be interested how things are going on in Dom dwa (A Russian soap opera), or sazbe kabe bahuti ( A popular Hindi program, translated as The mother-in-law was once the daughter-in-law). We will just turn the television off and rather chanti Just today someone said he had not seen a computer for a week. Just see if we become absorbed on the transcendental platform, we will not
even remember the things of this world.”

From Naimisaranya we walked on till Pushkar. We had breakfast there. Guru Maharaja was very careful to see that everyone, including those serving prasadam, will have enough time to respect prasadam properly.

From Pushkar we walked relatively long to Triveni, where the boats were waiting. The walk took about an hour. Before reaching there we stopped at Kuruksetra. Srila Gurudeva said all the holy places reside in
Navadvipa-mandala in their original forms. Otherwise these places could be found in many places around India, but in a transcendental way they are all here. We can better appreciate their transcendental presence if we are also advanced. Otherwise we will need some faith. There are many material things we have not seen, like the atom. No one has seen his intelligence but still we understand it exists. No one has seen air but we can feel its influences.

Afterwards I asked him about how there are unlimited invisible devotees in the holy dhama. Guru Maharaja replied these are celestial devotees. Also Lord Caitanya and Nityananda are constantly traveling with the parikrama party. He asked me whether I could see Them. I replied, “Not yet”. He said, “Me neither”. The Lord and His associates come with us because they wish to see how we are doing and help us progress deeper in our understanding of the dhama.

From Triveni we took boats to Navadvipa town. We went to the house of Visnupriya, Lord Caitanya’s second wife. Today the whole town was filled with people. In many places they had some special altars built in
glorification of Durga, Siva or Kali. Tumultuous music was played before them. There was no singing, but mainly horns and drums. People were excited. Devotees were not into it. While walking we chanted Hare Krsna in kirtan, led by Bhutadi Prabhu.

At the house of Visnupriya we had the darsana of Dhamesvara Mahaprabhu, a 500 years old Deity of Lord Caitanya originally worshiped by Visnupriya. Guru Maharaja explained the Deity has His hands reaching out as a symbol of great mercy. Actually the Deity is leaning forward, so much so that He is attached to a metal pole to prevent Him from falling (or perhaps running away), as the Lord is so eager to give his mercy to everybody.

Guru Maharaja distributed mahaprasadam here. Then we walked to the temple of Praudha-maya (or yoga-maya) and then to the Samadhi of Srila Jagannath das Babaji. After that we walked to the boats through the crowded city and then took boats back to Mayapur.

Wednesday the 4th November

Like usual, we gathered in front of the Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir at 5.30. In about ten minutes we started for the boat ghata. We got on the boats, men in theirs and women in theirs and started for Samudragarh. It was a long boat ride, as it took about two hours. During the ride Guru Maharaja chanted most of the time. At the end of the journey women’s boat seemed to have some difficulty, so we turned back as well. Soon they turned back to the right route and so did we. Guru Maharaja commented, “This is lila.”

The first place was Samudragarh, the place where ocean had the darsana of Lord Caitanya. Then we walked some distance to the place where the palace of Maharaja Samudra Sena had been. He was a great devotee of Krsna, who fought Bhimasena in order to have the darsana of the Lord. As Krsna appeared to the King, also Lord Caitanya appeared. On seeing the beautiful form of the Lord, the King became mad with ecstacy and shouted out very loud “GAURANGA!!!”. Nobody else had seen the Lord, so everybody wondered what has happened with the King.

Then we walked on to Campahatta, which is the place of Campakalata Sakhi in Navadvipa. There is a nice temple of Gaura-Gadadhara in this place. The Deities are among the oldest Deities of Lord Caitanya and His associates. We sat down for katha.

The Pujari, Nityananda das, brought Guru Maharaja a garland. He did not know that this garland was literally full with small ants. Srila Gurudeva noticed this quite soon and gave the garland to somebody to “de-ant” it. Gauracandra Prabhu took on to this task and soon returned the garland to Guru Maharaja.

The katha went on as Guru Maharaja explained how a devotee had invited Lord Caitanya and Gadadhara to this place and They had seen the Deities of Themselves. The devotee had not wished Lord Caitanya and Gadadhara to leave, and thus the Deities had said so then We will leave. The devotee would not let the Deities go either and thus the Lord said so We will leave. After some time no one knew which was the Lord and which the Deity.

We had prasadam in the temple garden. Today we had some kicheree and papads with fruitsalad and halava. Then we waited a little and continued on our parikrama. Next we went to see Radha and Syama-kundas in Navadvipa. They were quite undeveloped, like ponds on the ricefield. Govardhana was there also, although it could only be seen with transcendental eyes.

Next we walked on to Vidyanagar, the place of Vidya-vacaspati. Guru Maharaja explained this had been an important place since time immemorial. When Lord Matsya rescued the Veda, He kept them here. Lord Kapila had taught Devahuti in this place. Also Srila Vyasadeva had written the Veda in here. Gauranga Mahaprabhu had gone to school here and thus there were two trees which had grown from the pencil of the Lord.

During His pastimes, Lord Caitanya had come here at some point during His stay in Jagannath Puri. Srila Gurudeva narrated the incredible pastime, where millions of people had gathered to this place to see the Lord.

Then we walked on to the birthplace of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, where there was a Gaudiya Math -temple. Guru Maharaja led a very ecstatic kirtan here. The devotees sang and danced in ecstacy. We chanted gayatri in this place, after which we walked quite a long way to our buses and left for the boat-ghata Svarup-ganj. From there we took boats back to Mayapur.

Guru Maharaja had two soups and smashed potatoes with mustard oil (Bengali style) for lunch. In the evening he had some ginger tea.

Thursday the 5th November

In the morning we gathered in front of the temple at 5.30 A.M. We took boats to Svarup-ganj and there we got on our two buses to take us to the location we left off yesterday. First we stopped at Jahnu Muni’s place, where a great sage had performed austerities millions of years ago. That was before the time the Ganges had descended on earth. Muni had been disturbed by the vigorous flow of Gangadevi and thus he had swallowed the whole river. Guru Maharaja said all of us together could not even swallow the nearby pond, what to speak of swallowing the Ganges.

Anyway, Jahnu Muni did that and on the continuous plea of Maharaja Bhagiratha he again released the ganges and thus Ganges is even today referred to as Jahnavi, on pretext of her connection with Jahnu Muni.

From there we walked on to Modadrumadvipa, which is the next island among the nine islands of Navadvipa.

We first visited the temple where some important Deities were being worshiped. We could see the Deities personally worshiped by Vasudeva Datta and Saranga Thakura. Saranga Thakura thought there was no one qualified enough to receive Vaisnava initiation and even if there were, he did not think anyone was qualified to give such initiation. Lord Caitanya had requested him to initiate someone again and again, but he had not changed his mind.

One day he agreed and said he would initiate the first person he would meet the next day. Did he not know the first person would be dead. That is when he was performing his morning duties a body would drift off the Ganges and hit him. That was the body of a 12-year boy whom he named Murari Thakura das. Saranga Thakura was a great preacher and also his only disciple became like that.

It was a nice temple and the old pujari distributed the Deity’s prasadam (rasagullas) to everyone. Then we walked on to see the house of Vasudeva Datta (in ruins) and then on to the birthplace of Vrndavana dasa Thakura, the Vyasa of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes. He wrote the Caitanya Bhagavata, which is an important biography of Lord Caitanya. In it, mainly the Navadvipa pastimes of the Lord are described, whereas the
Caitanya-caritamrta focuses more on the Lord’s later pastimes.

We had breakfast at this place. Guru Maharaja wanted some ginger tea with honey.

After breakfast we walked on to Arka-tila, which is the Surya-kunda in Navadvipa. Here Guru Maharaja narrated the Sun worship pastime of Radha-Krsna in great detail. All the devotees listened attentively.

From Arka-tila we took boats to get to our next destination. Just at the beginning of the boat journey, another of the boats got stuck in some fisherman’s nets and we had to spend some time to release it again. The boat-journey was quite a long one. When we got on the other side, that place was called Nidaya-ghat. Guru Maharaja told the pastime where mother Saci and Visnupriya devi had been looking for Lord Caitanya after He had left Navadvipa to take sannyasa. They had not found Him, and they had come to this place, shouting, “Nirdaya, no mercy!” in their agony. Later on this place was to be known as Nidaya-ghat.

Then we walked on to a place where many important bathing ghatas used to be. Among them are Mahaprabhu’s bathing ghata, and also that of Madhai, which he built after he had been delivered by Lord Nityananda. Madhai had a bad conscience over all the sins he had done and Nityananda had told him to build a ghata where he would worship and respect all Vaisnavas and other people.

From that place we walked to our ISKCON Mayapur Candrodaya mandir. Guru Maharaja had then lunch.

Friday the 6th November.

This was the last day of our parikrama. We would take boats at 5.45 and go upstream some one and half hours we arrived to Sankarpura. This was the place where Sankaracarya would visit during his tour all around India. Lord Caitanya would appear to him also. The Lord forbade Sankaracarya from preaching mayavada in Navadvipa as this place was only meant for devotees.

Guru Maharaja told us how Lord Caitanya would take two concepts from each Vaisnava acarya and include those things within His philosophy.

From Ramanujacarya the Lord would take service to Vaisnavas and appreciation for pure bhakti only.

From Madhvacarya the Lord would take his complete refutation of mayavada philosophy and worship of Krsna in His Deity form.

From Nimbarkacarya the Lord would take the necessity of taking shelter in Srimati Radharani and the appreciation of the mood of the gopis as the paramount way of worshipping Krsna.

From Visnusvami the Lord would take spontaneous love for Krsna (raga-marga).

We continued our walk stopping every now and then. Today’s walk was over 11 kilometers and thus it was the longest walk so far. We would visit a place called Simuliya where Durga-devi received the Lord’s mercy. From there we would have kirtan all the way to Yogapitha, Lord Caitanya’s appearance place.

In Yoga-pitha we had a jubilant kirtana, the concluding kirtan. Then Guru Maharaja would speak, thanking different devotees for their contribution in arranging this wonderful parikrama. Guru Maharaja said this had been his best Navadvipa Mandala parikrama ever. He also thanked all the devotees for participating. He said, “Many times I would feel myself very meek on seeing the wonderful qualities of the devotees on this parikrama.” He continued, “This parikrama is a very significant accomplishment. According to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura this Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama is the thing which will save the world. I promise you after this experience your lives will change.”

He spoke very beautifully and I saw some of the devotees had tears in their eyes.

From Yoga-pitha we took rickshaws to the ISKCON temple where we would have the concluding feast. During the ride I saked Guru Maharaja what was his favourite place in Mayapur and he said he liked Harihara ksetra very much. He said he also liked Srivasa-angan. But above all, he said he liked ISKCON Candrodaya mandir the most.

When we arrived to ISKCON we went to Gada-bhavan, where we would have a big feast.

In the evening Guru Maharaja went to the wedding of Devadeva Prabhu and Karunamayi Mataji.

Saturday the 7th November

Today was a resting day. Guru Maharaja gave a very interesting SB class in the temple, which was well attended. It was excellent because in the same time it was philosophical and filled with the juice of Krsna’s pastimes.

The main point in the class was when you have fear for somebody you cannot love him. On the other hand, if you do not have love or fear you may end up in trouble if you are dealing with a superior person.

After class Guru Maharaja had some fruit salad.

During the day he would receive some devotees for darsan. In the afternoon he would have his lunch with the wedding party in the lotus building.

Sunday the 8th November
Today was Ekacakra parikrama. We gathered at 4.45 A.M. at the main gate to wait for buses, which would arrive only after three quarters (in other words they were late). The journey itself took four and half hours. It was quite austere as the roads were in such bad condition.

Anyway, Ekacakra is a very nice place. First we visited the ISKCON temple there. Presently they have a small place, but they are building a new bigger temple with a nice guesthouse. We had breakfast in the ISKCON temple. The local devotees had prepared lots of kicheree and papads for us.

After breakfast we went to see the temple at the appearance place of Lord Nityananda. A peculiar thing about this place is, that in addition to prohibiting photography they had also prohibited the use of loudspeakers! We would have darsana there but then they closed the temple for bhoga offering. There were two altars in the main temple. One was dedicated to Lord Nityananda, Caitanya and Advaita-acarya. Lord Nityananda looked especially merciful there. Then the other altar was dedicated to Lord Caitanya in a dancing form. Around Him were Radha-Krsna with the asta-sakhis. Just near to the temple was the tree under which Lord Nityananda had appeared. There was a small shrine dedicated to Him. There was also a small lake named Nitai-kunda where Lord Nityananda would bathe as a child.

Next we went to see other places. One of the places I remember the best was a tree under which Lord Nityananda had played with His friends as a child. There were other places, as well, which were connected to the Pandavas’ pastimes.

Then we returned to the main temple, where the darsana was open again. Although photography was prohibited, Guru Maharaja wanted some pictures to be taken, so he asked one devotee to shoot, while he himself was talking to the pujari, thereby distracting him. After some time, Srila Gurudeva left for the actual birth place, where he chanted gayatri with some devotees.

After the birth place Guru Maharaja said he would introduce us to another transcendental personality of Sri Ekacakra dhama. That personality was Sri Banke Raya. He was originally Lord Nityananda’s brother and was playing together with the other boys. Once he saw some men working on a field, cutting grass. He told them he could do the work and meanwhile they could rest. He cut the grass in just half an hour (ordinarily it would have taken hours’ work for a number of men) and piled all the grass on top of himself. Afterwards nobody could find him again. Then there was an omen from the sky which said Banke Raya would again appear after some days floating in the local river (which was non-different from the Yamuna). Lord Nityananda would then find a Krsna Deity floating in the river which would also be called Sri Banke Raya.

When we arrived to the Banke Raya temple there was a group of some Gaudiya Vaisnavas chanting the holy name. Very kindly Gauracandra prabhu would ask them to stop and instead join our kirtan. Then Guru Maharaja would start a kirtan. Initially everybody was sitting but then he indicated to me I should stand up (and probably some others as well) and then the kirtan would build up to a roaring maha-kirtan. Devotees were jumping and spinning and flying around. Also the local Gaudiya devotees expressed their appreciation by singing, playing karatals and mrdanga and calling out “Haribol!”

(Actually after the kirtan was finished I saw some of the main kirtaneers just outside the temple smoking a bidi.)

After Banke Raya we went for a moment to the local Yamuna river. Then we went back to the ISKCON temple. Some of the devotees desired to perform guru-puja, and Guru Maharaja agreed to this. Gauracandra prabhu sang nicely and Vaisnava Prana prabhu made the arati. After the ceremony Guru Maharaja distributed maha-prasadam and then we would sit down to have prasadam feast.

Next we would get on our buses and left again back to Mayapur.

At some point the bus would slow down considerably. The reason was we were stuck in a traffic jam. It felt like the bus would not move at all, as it was so slow. At some point Guru Maharaja would start kirtan which went on some 30 minutes. Then some other devotees took over and continued practically to the very end. Then we got the news that the another bus had broken down.

We arrived in Mayapur a little over nine. Guru Maharaja announced that tomorrow’s parikrama was cancelled due to the breaking down of the other bus. Also I think today’s travel was so heavy that another parikrama would probably not gather great participation.

We also got the news that some of the Lithuanian devotees had come down with dysentery. Guru Maharaja seemed to be worried about it and he inquired from Ananda Caitanya about the situation.

(Some of the devotees were taken to Kolkata that night as they had really become sick. After a few days, however they had recovered and joined us again in Vrndavan.)

There are many things one could say about being with Guru Maharaja and serving him. It is truly thought-provoking to see how he deals with everyone so lovingly and personally. Everyone feels Guru Maharaja looks to his/her welfare and is sincerely concerned about them. In pure devotee’s heart there is no room for enviousness but his whole being is taken over by his love for Krsna and his parts and parcels.

I would like to thank everyone for allowing me to serve Guru Maharaja during this yatra. Many devotees were involved in Guru Maharaja’s personal service, and they were very essential indeed. I apologize for all the deficiencies in my writing.

Hoping to become your servant,
Avadhutacandra das

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