Today Guru Maharaja took the devotees on Govardhana parikrama. Since the 22km circumambulation of Giriraja takes quite some time to complete, we were supposed to leave earlier than usual, i.e. 5.30 AM. We did not make it in time which is quite natural in India. At first there were no cars. Then one Tata Sumo appeared and after some 15 minutes an Ambassador was there. By the time both the cars had arrived, some of the devotees were missing. We got on move around 6.25 AM. There were 18 devotees attending the parikrama, mostly from Russia, but also from South Africa and Finland.
We reached Kusum Sarovara around 7 AM. Guru Maharaja and all the devotees started the parikrama by offering respectful dandavats in the dust of this holy place. Our first stop was at Ratna Kunda, where we went looking for blue cows, nila gae. The local devotees told some deer had been there just some 15 minutes ago but now they had already disappeared. Sometimes the nila gae are even spoken of as “mysterious” because they are rarely seen, although they reside in areas surrounding Giriraja. Although one spent many days around Govardhana still he may not see them.
After this we went on with the parikrama, as it traditionally goes. We offered our respects at the puspa-samadhi of HG Tribhuvanatha Prabhu and then went on to the town of Govardhana. We visited Manasi-Ganga, where Guru Maharaja narrated a pastime connected with Sri Krsna and this holy river, which actually is the original Ganges. It is quite a long story, but I remember its beginning quite clearly. Srila Gurudeva told in the time of Krsna a travelling sadhu came to Vrndavana and he was telling some stories from his travels. The sadhu started to glorify Mother Ganga by saying he saw Garuda, the carrier of Lord Visnu, flying over the Ganges and in the same time he was hanging a serpent in his nails. The tail of the serpent happened to touch the waters of mother Ganga and immediately the snake turned into a four-handed personality, a resident of Vaikuntha. So the Ganges
water is so purifying it can purify one of all sins. Thus we offered respects at Manasi-Ganga and took water from her on our heads, then continuing onwards to Brahma-kunda and the temples of Harideva and yogamaya.
Like you can see we went through the parikrama quite carefully, stopping at many of the holy places. Guru Maharaja then explained about the significance of that place. We honored breakfast prasadam at Punchar in an old Nrsimhadeva temple. This is a nice and quiet place at the Southern end of Giriraja and unlike other places around there there were basically no monkeys who could play their mischief. Actually in this temple there is a very old Deity of Nrsimhadeva, Who is depicted as ripping apart the wasp-like demon Hiranyakasipu.
After breakfast at around 11.30 AM we continued with the parikrama. Although we had missed the blue cows in Ratna-kunda, by the mercy of Giriraja we could see four of them although they are very timid animals. We saw the deer just after passing the Southern end of Govardhana. There were two adults and two young ones, and they were watching us from a distance. They saw us there, but they did not become afraid and run away. We could observe these beautiful animals for some ten minutes before we continued on our way.
Guru Maharaja spoke on how the Govardhana-lila is a good example of Krsna’s mercy on His devotees. In the pastime itself Krsna is protecting the Vrajavasis who know nothing but Krsna. Now that we do not see Krsna as He could be seen 5000 years ago He is still present as Giriraja Govardhana. Not only that but Krsna is present in millions and millions of different forms as the Govardhana-silas. Not only that but Srila Gurudeva explained that Krsna is following us, always seeing how we are doing.
Walking on, we visited Surabhi and Uddhava-kundas and on both these holy places Srila Gurudeva explained their spiritual significance. As it is said in the Srimad-Bhagavatam one should not travel to the holy places simply to take a bath. The actual meaning of visiting a place of pilgrimage is to hear the self-realised souls who reside there. By going on parikrama with Guru Maharaja one can actually get a deep insight on the importance of these places. It is a completely different thing than just walking around and seeing some old temples.
A thing which happened at Govardhana town was that we noticed that some of the devotees were missing. We had to wait about half an hour for the few devotees who had remained aback. One Russian boy did not show up but later in Vrndavana we heard he had taken a wrong turn in Govardhana town and thus returned back his own way. It was quite interesting to see that although some of the devotees were elderly ladies they did also the whole parikrama, barefoot. One mataji, mother Shyamala is a nama-hatta-leader from Barnaul, Siberia. Although she is about the age of my grandmother, she was enthusiastically worshiping Giriraja by completing the parikrama. Guru Maharaja gave her his blessings in the form of a garland.
While we were at Kadambavan (this is in the beginning of the second half of the parikrama) Guru Maharaja said whoever rolls in the dust of this holy place will undoubtedly attain Krsna-prema. So led by Guru Maharaja we all rolled in the holy dust of this place. I said to him at Uddhava-kunda, “Guru Maharaja, you have some vraja-raja on your forehead, Do you want me to clean it off?” Guru Maharaja replied, “That does not matter. It is Vrajaraja, dust of Vrndavana. In fact that is what we want.”
We eventually came to the holy town of Radhakunda and circumambulated both Syama and Radha-kunda, offering our obeisances to them and taking some water on our head. We also briefly visited the samadhi of Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswami and offered respects. Then we walked to Kusum-sarovara. Led by Guru Maharaja we took bath in this holy lake and thus completed our parikrama. This time the water level was quite low there. After the bath Guru Maharaja refreshed himself with a glass of nice cooling water and then we all visited the temple of Sri Sri Radha-Banbihari. This is a very old temple which is maintained by ISKCON. Previously it was under the care of one babaji, but since he passed away, ISKCON devotees continue the temple activities. Actually there are three sampradayas there, on the altar there is a picture of the babaji’s guru, who was a follower of Vallabhacarya. There is a picture of the Nimbarki-guru of the babaji’s wife. And in the middle there is a picture of our Srila Prabhupada. The devotees there were very happy to receive Guru Maharaja and as a memory they gave him a Radha-Banabihari -beadbag as a memory.
Then we returned to Vrndavana, Guru Maharaja took a little kichoree and then spent the evening working on his computer and reading.
Today was meant for recovery from yesterday’s parikrama. Guru Maharaja worked on his computer, and in the evening he gave a Bhagavad-Gita class on BG 13.26.
In the verse Lord Krsna explains that He can be perceived through different ways like karma-yoga, sankhya-yoga and astanga-yoga.
“..otherwise the atheists, agnostics and sceptics, because they are offensive, because they have this
aggressive attitude, therefore Prabhupada says here ‘they are beyond the sense of spiritual understanding’. But then these others, the astanga-yogis, the sankhya-yogis, the karma-yogis, they are not exactly devotees. They are not devotees actually. But throught the particular process, the different types of cultivation they perform they come to this point of appreciating that behind all this, this material world, is a spiritual essence. But there is also the controller of the spiritual essence. That is the Supersoul. In this way they come to the point of at least accepting that there is a Supersoul, or even realising.”
“There is a final challenge for these people who may actually become Supersoul (Paramatma) -realised. The final challenge is that when they see the Supersoul they may think: ‘Aha! This is me!’ (laughter) In this way even at that late point they may get deviated into some impersonal or other type of process. But otherwise, basically the idea is that these people, when they come to that point they will become inspired to surrender and render service.”
On the whole, the class was philosophical and very enlightening. In fact I could just write the whole
class here for your pleasure, but I will not do it as it would take quite some time.
As a matter of interest I could tell you something about Guru Maharaja’s diet while here in Vrndavana. In general, he eats lightly. In the morning Srila Gurudeva usually takes fruit salad (he disclosed it will be especially appreciated if there are dates and banana in it) and sometimes a small piece of cake. Then in the lunchtime he usually takes two subjis and two-three chapatis. He likes cauliflower, cabbage, sak and kidney beans. Maybe someone could tell more exactly, but this is what I have noticed during this time. Very seldom does he take rice. He likes to sprinkle some grated ginger and lemon juice on the subjis. An interesting observation was that Guru Maharaja likes simple kichoree very much. This he takes with yoghurt, but he does not take chapatis with kichoree. He does not usually take sweets. But like most of you know he is not a fanatical type of a person, so if offered he will take, a little. Tomorrow is ekadasi, and I asked him what he would like. He said “anything is OK as long as it’s gauranga potatoes and apple chutney.” That time he also agreed to take potato chips. (This is just for your information, if you want to please him by cooking)
Today was Ekadasi. Yesterday Guru Maharaja told me he was inspired to find all the villages of the eight sakhis. As I wrote on the 8th day Srila Gurudeva had visited the village of Tungavidya-devi, Dawara. Although an important place, Dawara is a village which is not visited by pilgrims at all regularly. In other words it is kind of a lost place, as are all the other villages of the sakhis. They are not lost in the sense that they did not exist, but lost in the sense that only few know of their existence. So yesterday Guru Maharaja told me to consult Dina Bandhu Prabhu about the other villages. Dina Bandhu has stayed in Vrndavana for twenty years so he knows a lot about Vraja-mandala.
Previously in Dawara the pujari had told that sakhis Rangadevi and Sudevi come from Rakholi and Surera respectively. Dina Bandhu Prabhu revealed thet Visakha-devi is from Kamai. In addition to these, we know Citradevi is from Cikitsoli-gram and Lalitadevi is from Unchagaon. So at this point the villages of Campakalata and Indulekha were missing. Personally I must say finding these villages was quite exciting. Srila Gurudeva told that these villages have existed in those very same places for thousands of years. They are described in old books like Radha-Krsna Ganoddesa-dipika and Bhakti-ratnakara
We started at 6.30 AM. Our team had grown a little since Tusta Krsna Prabhu had recovered from his sickness. Also there was a visiting sadhu taking part as HH Bhaktisiddhanta Swami came along this day. The whole team packed into a Tata Sumo and our first destination was the village of Sudevi, Sunera. The roads leading there were in quite a bad condition. There was no question of asphalt roads. They were sand roads. Not sand roads which were even, but it was rough going. In hindi language a proper road is called “marga” but these were “rasta”, which is a word meaning just some connection between two places.
Our driver was very determined to reach the temple which was situated on a steep hill. He drove us right to the temple entrance. We entered this beautiful small temple and found an altar with Radha-Krsna-murti there. The temple was maintained by a very old pujari, who sat there in the temple room. He was not really communicative, he just sat there. It was peculiar that although people said this was the Sudevi-temple, there was no Deity of Sudevi-sakhi on the altar. Actually the pujari even said she is there, but we did not see her on the altar. There were Radha-Krsna and a Deity of Laddu-Gopala and a few salagrama-silas. Guru Maharaja and Tusta Krsna Prabhu were filming in the temple and outside as well. As I said the Sudevi temple is on the top of a hill, so there is a nice scenery there.
I went to the village to film the animals, plants and people. One could really tell not so many people knew about the existence of this village. People were very amazed seeing someone in Vaisnava dress. Although it is not a desirable feeling, I felt like I was the center of the world for a moment. The people were so curious and the children even started to follow me. I am telling this just to express that to have “outsiders” visiting Sunera was quite unheard of. Guru Maharaja said our visit was probably the event of the year for the villagers.
After Sunera we started for the village of Rangadevi-sakhi, Rakholi. The way to Sunera was rough, but to reach Rakholi, the road was even more so. It was interesting to drive on these narrow sand roads and then to see a group of water buffaloes is approaching from the opposite direction. Sometimes there was a bullock cart, sometimes a tractor or a truck, or many trucks. It was such a ride!
We finally reached the temple of Rangadevi. The pujari was not around. Later we heard he had gone to the neighbouring village Dawara for a visit. Anyway, Rangadevi’s temple is very beautiful. It is situated close to a small kunda, where water buffaloes have their pastimes. Guru Maharaja and HH Bhaktisiddhanta Swami had their breakfast here. After that some locals started to come into the temple. They offered their obeisances to Srila Gurudeva and Maharaja, and some of them came to talk with Guru Maharaja who knows some Hindi. One of the villagers who spoke with Srila Gurudeva was an old man, over 90 years of age. None of them came to ask for money. Instead they were very
eager to offer some water for our filming team to drink.
We got many good shots in Rakholi. Then we drove the same sand road to Cikitsoli Gram and left HH
Bhaktisiddhanta Maharaja there. Then we drove back to Vrndavana.
Today we started at 6.30 AM. Yesterday I had inquired from HG Daivi-sakti mataji about the other villages of the sakhis. She knew Indulekha-sakhi is from the village of Anjanaka. Knowing this, seven villages out of eight were now known. Only the village of Campakalata-sakhi was unknown.
Actually Anjanaka is a village just next to Varsana Gram. So we drove there first. The temple there is bigger than the Rakholi temple. On the altar there are the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Anjunavanbihari. In addition to Radha-Krsna-murti, on the altar one can see the deities of Srimati Lalitadevi, Visakha and Indulekha. Anjanaka got its name from a pastime of Radha-Krsna. It is said in Bhakti-ratnakara:
“Ohe Srinivasa! Behold this village of Anjanaka! Here Radha and Krsna had a great pastime! Once Sri Radhika privately dressed and ornamented Herself here with different jewels. When She applied Her own eyeliner the sound of Krsna’s flute entered Her ear, so She ran to this place with Her girlfriends and very blissfully met Krsna there. Krsna ecstatically seated Radhika on a seat of flowers arranged by Vrnda, but when He beheld Her bodily beauty He saw that She had no mascara on Her eyes. He asked the sakhis what was the matter and then took some mascara and applied it to Radhika’s eyes in loving ecstacy. Because there was so much fun here about the eyeliner (anjana) this place is named Anjanaka.”
Next to the altar in Anjanaka is the anjana-sila. It is quite big, blackish stone, which is surrounded by a shrine-like structure. By rubbing one’s finger against it, blackish dye is transferred to the finger. This is the kajal by which Lord Krsna decorated Srimati Radharani. On the altar there is also a picture of the pastime.
The pujaris were very friendly. They had a yellow Vaisnava tilaka, a little wider than what we usually have. Guru Maharaja spoke with them and it came up that they belong to a sampradaya coming from Advaita Acarya. The temple devotees laid cloth on the floor and it came up that they wanted us to have a kirtana in the temple. Tusta Krsna Prabhu led the kirtana and it was very sweet. After the kirtana we were filming the Devanagari texts on the temple room walls. Some of the texts were prayers, but there was also a sketch with the names of the eight sakhis. Next to the name there was then the name of the village belonging to that sakhi. Thus we had solved the puzzle, Campakalata-sakhi’s village is Karhela. After filming the temple was finished we spent some time filming the nature and the village outside.
We then started for Karhela. This time the road was especially bad. At one point we noticed a bicycle in the middle of the road. When we got closer we could see there was a big hole there. We had to drive off the road to get past it. We came to Karhela, and on asking about the temple the villagers ushered us to a peaceful place in the edge of Karhela. Actually it was not a temple. It was a sitting place of Vallabhacarya. We offered our obeisances there and then went on. The villagers encouraged us to walk on. They said there was a samadhi of Vajranabha, the great-grandson of Sri Krsna. As it was a rare opportunity we walked to the place and offered our obeisances at this ancient monument. There were a few beautiful calves there and a man named Balarama das. He is a babaji.
Up to now we had not founa a Radha-Krsna temple in Karhela. Then a man appeared in an orange lungi and he was very enthusiastic to have us visit his temple. It was a small temple with a Radha-Krsna-vigraha and a few salagrama-silas. The pujari recited some prayers and threw sanctified water on us. Then another matter came up. He wanted to have a donation.
Although we could not find the temple of Campakalata in Karhela, it was a nice visit. We had nice footage of the countryside of Varsana. Our next destination was Kamai, the village of Visakha-sakhi. At first our driver brought us to the Dauji-temple but then we walked half a kilometre to reach the temple of Sri Sri Radha-Bankebihari. The temple was decorated with beautiful colorful ornaments. On the altar there was a deity of Visakha-sakhi. By now it was around 11.30AM. Srila Gurudeva had some fruit salad at this temple and after some time we headed back to Vrndavana. By the mercy of Srimati Radharani we had now found the places of all the eight gopis.
Today’s filming was in Kadamb-kandi. We left the usual time, 6.30 AM. Today HG Dina Bandhu Prabhu was coming with us. There was also a friend of his, Mr. Nandana Lal Sharma, who came along. Kadamb-kandi is again one of those very secluded places of Vraja-mandala. Even Guru Maharaja had not been there before although he has visited Vrndavana since 1976. Kadamb-kandi is
situated a little further from Sunera. While driving to Kadamb-kandi we stopped at first in Sunera, where we went to see the temple. This time the old pujari was speaking more. On seeing the altar Guru Maharaja remarked nothing had changed since our visit a few days ago. From the temple roof one can see the beautiful landscape of greater Varsana. Dina Bandhu Prabhu also told us about the birds of Vraja and he imitated their singing by somehow connecting them with holy names.
On arriving to Kadamb-kandi everyone could see it is a very beautiful and peaceful place. The first impression was that of peacocks and parrots. We could not really hear the noise which is usually there in Indian towns and villages. Instead the sounds which could be hear were the chirping of little birds and parrot, the voice of peacock and mooing of cows and water buffaloes. Tusta Krsna Prabhu got into work immediately, filming the kadamba trees and peacocks with the big professional camera. This was maybe frightening to the locals and thus two local authorities came and forbade us from filming. Guru Maharaja was not so worried about it, he had said yesterday already that we could have a lighter day, with more chanting and less filming. We visited a small Krsna temple.
So we went with Guru Maharaja some way and sat under a pilu tree and chanted a few rounds. Then Dina Bandhu Prabhu and Mr Sharma came there with a big bucket of chass (buttermilk). They had spoken with the villagers and had got a permission for filming. Actually the locals were happy with us filming there. It was just the first impression which put them off, as it is not a common sight there to see a group of Westerners roaming around with their big cameras. “You may film as long as you do it for a good purpose”.
We were sitting underneath that pilu tree. The atmosphere was relaxed and Dina Bandu Prabhu told a story of Nagaji, a great ascetic who used to live in Kadamb-kandi. Nagaji was a devotee of Radha-Krsna and once he was picking flovers in this valley. He had a big hair which was tied on top of his head. Somehow his hair got stuck on thorn trees and thus he could not move. Some of the locals came to help him, but he declined by saying “I came here to pick flowers for Radha-Krsna and now I am stuck. Because I was serving Them, I will accept Their help only”. Thus he remained in the same place with his hair stuck into the thorns. Next lord Siva and Parvati came to the spot, offering their help. Nagaji would not accept their help either. “I came here in my service to Radha-Krsna. Only They may help me.” Next Lord Narayana came there with Laksmidevi. Nagaji declined again. Only when Radharani came there with Lord Krsna Nagaji agreed to let Them help him out of the thorns.
We honored breakfast prasadam just there, under that big pilu tree. We all drank lots of chass and soon the 10 liter bucket was empty. Then Guru Maharaja went on to film around Kadamb-kandi. There is an interesting spot there. A kadamba tree and tamal tree have grown together. Actually they have intertwined. Because kadamba trees are connected with Radharani and tamal trees with Lord Krsna, these two trees are considered to represent the Divine Couple. Although the villagers were a bit reserved at first they had now become warmer. First they offered that bucket of chass and now they came up with a few rotis and a little subji so we all got to taste genuine Brijbasi prasadam.
Kadamb-kandi is situated in a valley. It is surrounded by hills, so one cannot see it from any other place like Varsana or Unchagaon. For this reason it is said Kadamb-kandi is a place of the confidential pastimes of the Divine Couple. Most of the trees there are kadamba and tamal trees, with some pilu trees as well. Dina Bandhu Prabhu said Radha and Krsna are blissfully engaging in rasa-dance there. We went on filming under the guidance of Guru Maharaja. There was really a lot to film. The peacocks in Kadamb-kandi are quite fearless. We got nice shots of them. Then we climbed up a hill to the bhajab-kutir of Nagaji-baba. After spending some time there it was the time to return to Vrndavana.
On returning to the cars we packed our things and sat in the cars waiting for the drivers. They came but they said it would take some time before we could go. Some villagers had become eager to express their hospitality so some surprises were to come. We sat on the ground, waiting. The drivers brought us leaf-plates and plastic cups. Then one of the drivers brought in a bucketful of chass. The other came with a big stack of brijbasi rotis and a dahl-pot. Then they started to serve the prasadam. This time we were having a special style of rotis called the “sadhuka”-roti. These are quite thick rotis. A rolling pin is not used while preparing them. They got their name from the idea that sometimes a sadhu comes for a visit and then he should be immediately be fed. Thus sadhuka rotis are quick to prepare and I must say they are not light stuff. After eating a couple of them one
does not feel at all hungry.
Today we started at 6.30 AM for Surya-kunda. We were travelling in a minibus of 15 seats. HG Dina Bandhu Prabhu accompanied us today also. We were almost 20 so our small bus was full. Surya-kunda is a place which Guru Maharaja had never visited so in other words it is again one of those very rare places to visit.
On arriving to Surya-kunda the first temple we visited was that of Madhusudana das Babaji. He is a great devotee who lived a few hundred years ago. It is said he had realised his svarupa. He also found a stone on which Srimati Radharani had left Her ornaments as She went to take Her bath in Surya-kunda. This stone can still be seen in the samadhi-mandira of Babaji Maharaja.
Next we went to the main temple, Surya-Narayana mandira. This temple is maintained by one Gaudiya Matha and is led by HH Trivikrama Swami. They were very nice people and gave us a warm welcome. On the altar is a Deity of Surya-Narayana who is holding in his hands the sun and the moon. At the time this temple was under major renovation, and it was quite noisy. The devotees led us to the temple room, which also was under construction. We sat down and chanted “Jaya Radhe Jaya Krsna Jaya Vrndavana”.
At first Dina Bandhu Prabhu was speaking and then Guru Maharaja. They narrated the pastime connected with Surya-kunda. It is a very important place, where Radha and Krsna meet in Their daily pastimes. Surya-kunda is also connected with the pastime where Sri Krsna kills Sankhacuda.
After Krsna-katha the local devotees sat us down for prasadam. The day’s menu consisted of Brijbasi rotis, a little subji, chass and a sweet. Very simple prasadam but very devotional. Even such a small thing like offering prasadam to the guests really creates a loving atmosphere.
After filming at Surya-kunda we headed to Cikitsoli-gram. The roads were in a particularly bad shape and the driver called them as “jumping rasta”. In Cikitsoli-gram Guru Maharaja did some filming at Sankhari-cor and after that the devotees went to Vilasgar, where the beautiful scenery was filmed. This time we went even further, down to the valleys of Vilasgar. On returning back to the vehicle Guru Maharaja met with HH Bhaktisiddhanta Maharaja who was spending some days in Man-mandira.
While in Cikitsoli-gram we saw many pilgrims. They were Indian, mostly old ladies. After we were done with the filming we started back to Vrndavana. However the roads were blocked as the pilgrims were honoring their kichoree lunch-prasadam right there on the road. It took some time to get past and meanwhile someone gave us some Brijbasi-rotis which were then distributed to the devotees.
Yesterday Guru Maharaja said today that by now he had got most of the material needed for the Varsana DVD. Today he had another plan. It was the first day of Kartika and at 6.30 a bus would leave for Govardhana. Srila Gurudeva said today we could have a day for resting i.e. more chanting and nice association. We were some thirty devotees and most of us were disciples of Guru Maharaja.
We arrived at Govinda-kunda. This is the place where the demigods bathed Sri Krsna with all kinds of auspicious liquids. From there we started to walk toward the Southern end of Giriraja. At one point Guru Maharaja decided we should stop for a while. We had a very beautiful darsana of Govardhana at that point. Then, for half an hour we were chanting Hare Krsna on beads. There were some children with us so during the break they built small stone-houses of the Govardhana-silas.
Then Guru Maharaja led a bhajans for some 15 minutes. He said: “It is nice, isn’t it. It is hard to have problems around here, but if you really try you can” Actually it is true. Chanting Hare Krsna at the lotus feet of Giriraja is certainly an experience which is not from this world.
Then we went on. After passing the Southern end, Puchar, we spotted some blue cows up on Govardhana. At first we saw four, then six, and after some time we saw so many of them we could not count. They were watching us, in other words they were conscious that we were there but they were not frightened away. Later Guru Maharaja said he had never seen so many of these mysterious animals.
Seeing the blue cows we did not walk any further. Tusta Krsna Prabhu had his small vidiocamera so he and Guru Maharaja started to film the deer. We spent quite some time there, perhaps 45 minutes. Meanwhile some of the local monkeys were about to attack the matajis. Somehow they got irritated.
We walked to Puchari and there we went to have the darsana of Sri Lota Baba. Then we walked to our buses and then drove to Kusum Sarovara where we had a nice bath. This time however Guru Maharaja did not take part.
This is all for now. In the near future there will be the next part.
Hoping to become your servant,