Today we were expecting a calm day, although this would be our practice run for the all important second Govardhan parikrama tomorrow. When Guru Maharaj got onto the bus and sat down he said “this is a stabilisation programme for the body – I can’t move”. Guru Maharaj was pointing out that there was no room to move his legs at all. The devotees always gave Guru Maharaj the first seat but it was the most uncomfortable one in the bus. I knew all about it as I sat with the exact same arrangement on the other side of the bus. We were travelling like this all these days of the parikrama and not once did Guru Maharaj complain about discomfort.
Our first stop for the day was Maan Sarovara. On our way there Guru Maharaj had spotted some blue cows. This must’ve been a very auspicious parikrama as these cows were spotted many times already. When we arrived, we sat on the banks of maan sarovara and Guru Maharaj lead bhajans [sing along with me] – “Jay Jay Radhe Jay Jay Shyam, Jay Jay Sri Vrindavana Dham – Pavana Radhe Tera Naam Pavana Sri Vrindavana Dham“. After that sweet bhajan, Guru Maharaj said that we were now on the eastern side of the Yamuna. Most of the important places are on the western side but some are on this side. Guru Maharaj told us what the itinerary for the day would be : Maan Sarovara, Bhandiravan, Syamavan, Baelvan, then we would cross the Yamuna by boat or foot or even swim and then we would walk or take rickshaws back to the temple. Sounded like it was going to be a long day but we certainly hoped that we would get back early so as to recover for tomorrow.
Maan Sarovara is a very beautiful place. Guru Maharaj said that many years ago there were many big trees around the kund, it was peaceful and nice and no rubbish was lying around the kund. Maan Sarovara is a lake of anger, the transcendental anger of Srimati Radharani. This anger is very different from the material type of anger that we are used to. Guru Maharaj mentioned the different levels of devotional service up to prema that Srila Rupa Goswami describes in the Nectar of Devotion and He said that there are levels beyond that. Guru Maharaj explained that maan is beyond prema – it is actually a higher level of prema – and sometimes Srimati Radharani relishes that sorta mood. Guru Maharaj explained again, as He did at Maan Ghar in Varsana, that Krishna does things to arouse that mood of maan from time to time. When Radharani is angry, she comes here. She sits and enjoys the transcendental anger, simply thinking of Krishna – Krishna did this, Krishna did that, Krishna, Krishna Krishna. Lord Krishna comes here to beg for forgiveness. Radharani does not say anything. Lord Krishna massages her lotus feet here, He puts his head on Her lotus feet and gets the mercy of Srimati Radharani. The temple has a picture on the altar depicting this pastime. Also, Purnamasi dipped Lord Shiva here to transform him into Gopeshwara. We had darshan of the temples and then we had breakfast. At this kund, one can buy some food and feed the fish and turtles. There are many, many turtles here and we happened to see some of them. At this kund I asked Guru Maharaj why blue cows were auspicious. He replied “they are mystical. If you see them it means you got their mercy”. Most of us happened to see them many times. Here Guru Maharaj took a vote of who may want brijbasi prasadam at our next stop. There was a tie in the vote but in the end those that wanted to taste brijbasi prasadam won. In any event the donation was for a good cause and the husband and wife team who prepare it was well known by Guru Maharaj.
We then went to Bhandiravan, the forest of banyan trees. As expected, we were greeted by the lady who prepares the prasadam. Guru Maharaj enquired as to where her husband was and sadly He was informed that he had past away a few months back. Guru Maharaj engaged these devotees, who were ever-willing to do service, to prepare rotis, sabji and buttermilk and to be ready within the next hour. We would go tour and then come take prasadam.
We first went and had darshan at the Sri Sri Radha Ananda-Bihari temple. Here, Lord Krishna is holding his hand over Srimati Radharani’s head. Krishna is putting sindoor for Radharani. They got married here and Guru Maharaj was going to take us to the exact place where it happened. On our way there, we passed a special well which has special water. In this well, on the full moon night, the water turns to milk. “They” say that married couples come here and the woman who drink this water become pregnant!
We went to an old banyan tree which we sat under. Pastime: one time, Nanda Maharaj was here, out in the field with Krishna. They were herding the cows together. Krishna was very small. Suddenly a big storm came from nowhere. All the cows panicked and ran this way, and that way and then all over. Nanda Maharaj had to do something or he would lose all the cows. But he did not want to leave Krishna – it was Krishna or the cows? At that moment Srimati Radharani came and she told Nanda Maharaj “don’t worry, I will look after Krishna. You go save the cows.” So Nanda Maharaj went off. Srimati Radharani brought Krishna under this banyan tree. Lord Brahma appeared together with Lord Shiva and all the demigods. Radha and Krishna transformed into their teenage forms. Right under this tree which we were sitting under – Lord Brahma performed the wedding ceremony of Radha and Krishna. You will see the deities of Radha and Krishna under this tree. There was a very beautiful wedding ceremony. When the wedding was finished, Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and all the demigods disappeared and Radha and Krishna transformed back into their forms as children. This is described in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana.
Next pastime: A few years later, Krishna and Balarama were here with the cowherd boys and calves. They were enjoying around the tree and they did not know that a demon had infiltrated the group. It was Pralambasura. He had assumed the exact form of one of the cowherd boys who was at home having a birthday party. Krishna thought, this is funny, it is his birthday and we left him at home. How is this possible? At this point Krishna was under the influence of yoga maya. Krishna was studying him and said “aha!”. He realised that he was a demon but he acted like he did not know anything. He was treating the demon just like one of the boys. Pralambasura thought “I fooled them all. Shortly I will get that Krishna and I will kill him.” All went on as normal. They had 1 team sport. The losing team had to carry members of the winning team on their shoulders. This time Krishna’s team lost and Balarama’s team won. Guru Maharaj said “Krishna is often not successful in sports matches. When He is competing against devotees, often He lets the devotees win. He loves them so much”. When time comes for choosing team members, they say I’ll take so and so for my team and so on. They will choose all except Krishna. Krishna used to be the only one left when all others were chosen. The one team says to the other “you want Krishna?” “No, you can have Him”. “No, I don’t need Him, He loses all the time!”. And yet again Krishna’s team had lost. Pralambasura was on Krishna’s team. He had to carry someone from Balarama’s team on his shoulder. As things turned out, he had to carry Balarama on his shoulders. Balarama was under the influence of yoga maya. He thought that this was the little boy but Krishna knew the truth. Pralambasura carried Balarama. The other boys carried the other members of Balarama’s team. Pralamabasura thought “this is my chance. I will take Balarama away. I will manifest my real form and then kill him.” So he started moving gradually to the forest. No-one noticed, not even Balarama. They became separated from the others and Balarama noticed they were lost. Balarama asked “what’s going on?” Pralambasura understood, now I have to do it. He expanded himself as his normal gigantic form. Balarama was going up and up and up into the sky. He is still under the influence of yoga maya and is wondering “what happened to my friend?” But Krishna knew. He called out to Balarama “My dear Supreme Personality of Godhead. What is this nature of an ordinary person you have assumed. Can’t you see this is a demon? You have to kill him!” The acaryas give a nice description why Krishna waited a little before warning him. They say that Krishna wanted Balarama to enjoy having a nice view of Vraja Mandala from high up. Lord Balarama then punched him in the head “bang, bang, bang!” The demons head split open and the devotees felt ecstatic. Red blood was pouring onto his face – it looked like a volcano erupting. It was extremely dramatic. He collapsed on the ground near here and that was the end of Pralambasura. There were many pastimes around here. Guru Maharaj explained to us that the temples in this area are taken care of by all the members of one family unit. The oldest brother in the family was Satish Kumar and he passed away 3 months ago. His wife is preparing the prasadam for us. Most of the family is here taking care of the Radha Krishna temple. The rest of them are at the Balarama temple.
Then we walked over to Syamavan. It is a forest area and Guru Maharaj said that it is very beautiful and it is a little like the Vrindavana forest used to be. At the Balarama temple is where Sridhama is still waiting for Krishna to come back. Guru Maharaj said that here we would chant and wander in the forest and that this is the popular place for meeting blue cows. We will return later for our roti and butter.
So Syamavan was like a 10 minute walk. As we walked we absorbed the beauty and peaceful atmosphere of the surroundings. To our great big surprise, right alongside the path – there was a massive blue cow. We could not believe it was so close. That was our first sighting – surely there must be more around. We sat under an old banyan tree. When Krishna was about to leave Vrindavana, we was saying goodbye to everyone. He was visiting his friends and family. At that time Sridhama, the brother of Srimati Radharani was here. Krishna came to say goodbye. He told Sridhama “I am going to Mathura. I will see you tomorrow.” Sridhama replied: “tomorrow? I feel that you are not coming back!” Krishna “no, no, I will come back tomorrow.” Sridhama “I still have this feeling that you are not coming back”. Krishna “no, no, I am coming back, if not tomorrow, then the day after that”. Krishna told Sridhama “just wait right here. I will come back.” Sridhama “I will not move until you come back”. He stood right here where the temple is. The next day, Krishna did not come back, the day after that he did not come back, even the 3rd day after that he did not come back. But Sridhama stood right there. His parents told him “come on, you can’t just stand there, come home”. Sridham told them “I told Krishna I will wait right here therefore I will”. He waited 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month. Krishna did not come but Sridhama was standing right there on the same spot. He waited 2 months, 3 months, 6 months – 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years – Krishna still did not come back but Sridhama was still there. This went on to 10 years, 20 years and people gave up on Sridhama. He was still on that spot. 4 500 years later, finally Krishna came back as Lord Caitanya. Sridhama had turned into a deity by then. Lord Caitanya embraced him and told him “see, I told you I will come back”. Sridhama was still standing there.
Guru Maharaj said that we will spend 1 hour here, chanting, wandering around and we may run into more blue cows. Guru Maharaj said to us that just around the corner was a babaji ashrama and if we wanted, we could go see it. Some devotees went there, the others went to wander in the forests. Sitala and I decided to take a walk down the road which we entered. So, just as we started our walk there was a blue cow crossing the road. I was totally surprised. It was very beautiful and she ran off into the forest. Then as we looked to our right there was another blue cow, so close to us, and it was looking directly at us. We did not have our cameras – can you believe it! So as we moved she moved into the forest. We followed her and watched her. We were so close and she did not seem afraid. We just kept on walking as she did into the forest. We wished that Guru Maharaj was with us – He would have enjoyed this scene. And we were with this blue cow for at least 10 minutes or so. We followed her some more. She wandered out of the forest onto the road, into the kunj on the other side. Then she was gone. We lost her. We walked a little and we then went to check out the babaji ashrama.
This was the most amazing place. Underneath a massive kunj was a little temple with a Govardhan sila. It was a very beautiful deity. This babji was old and totally calm and serene and even when he tried to scold the children it sounded like he was speaking to them normally. He was so soft spoken and totally renounced. He lived so simply. On one corner he had a little mat on which he sits on. His book stand was right there and he had the Srimad Bhagavatam which he was reading from. It was totally peaceful – I am sure I said this already. We decided we would sit and chant right here. I chanted outside the temple for a short while. Then I went to the kunj right next to the temple and I climbed upon a tree, relaxed there and just chanted. I wish we could have some places like this in South Africa where we could just get away and chant. I really enjoyed being here and appreciated it so much. It is on the list of my favourites. Vishaka matajee spoke to the babaji for some time. The rest of us just sat around…chanted…relaxed.
Guru Maharaj had gone off for a walk in the same direction that we had met those two blue cows. He came back after some while and He told us that as they walked around, a herd of about 40 to 50 blue cows came racing past them. He said that was the biggest herd he has seen by far. At the end of 1 hour, we walked back to have our rotis and butter. We were served extremely nicely by the locals – we had rotis and butter and pickles and butter milk. It was really nice and healthy. Guru Maharaj said the rotis were made of a special grain called millet. It is sorta like buckwheat but it is actually a grain. Guru Maharaj especially enjoyed the pickles. We then got back onto the buses and headed off for Baelvan.
The bus driver dropped us of about 20 minutes or so away from the actual temple. We walked and tried to find our way to the temple by asking the locals as we passed by. The 3 different locals that we asked gave us 3 different answers. But Guru Maharaj vaguely remembered and we went on His instinct. So eventually we did get there after about 2 kilometres of walking. When we arrived at the temple, we had darshan of the deity – Maha Laxmi and Krishna. We sat outside, under some very large trees. Guru Maharaj had some kirtan which was very ecstatic as usual. He then spoke about this place. He said that the 10th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam describes the rasa dance. It was so beautiful that all who watched it become captivated. Even Lord Shiva wanted to enter it – Gopeshwara – I hope you all remember this story from before. Also, Laxmi Devi wanted to enter into the rasa dance. Lord Visnu wanted to know what had captivated Laxmi Devi and she said it was the rasa dance. Therefore Laxmi Devi came here and took up the practice of severe austerities just to enter the rasa dance. Up until today, she is still performing austerities and waiting to enter the rasa dance. Lord Caitanya discusses with Venkatta Bhatta in Caitanya Caritamrita. When he went to Sri Rangam, he was staying with a devotee Brahmin family. They were and still are pujaris in that Laxmi Devi temple. Lord Caitanya could see that he was a nice, very nice devotee but he did not quite understand the difference between Krishna and Narayana. He thinks that Narayana is higher. But Lord Caitanya wanted to help Venkatta Bhatta to come to a higher level. He did this in a nice and clever way. He questioned Venkatta Bhatta “who is higher, Lord Narayana or Lord Krishna?” Venkatta Bhatta said “off course Lord Narayana is higher”. Lord Caitanya said “well look, if that is the case – why did Laxmi Devi leave him to enter the rasa dance?” Venkatta Bhatta became slightly bewildered but he pulled himself together. Venkatta Bhatta said “there is nothing wrong with that, Krishna is an expansion of Narayana. Krishna has a special quality of playfulness therefore naturally he is very attractive. Laxmi Devi is the chaste wife of Lord Narayana – naturally she will want to associate with him in every aspect of life. That is natural. There is nothing wrong with that.” Lord Caitanya said “very nice explanation but still I have 1 question for you “If it is like that – Krishna being the expansion of Lord Narayana – then why was Laxmi Devi unable to enter the rasa dance? She tried, she is still trying and still she is not successful. What is the reason?” Venkatta Bhatta became completely bewildered. He could not understand and neither could he answer. He had a realisation and said “I think only you can explain because you are the same Supreme Person”. Lord Caitanya explained wonderfully that in order for anyone to take up a position of a Gopi or anyone in Vrindavana, they have to very humbly accept the position of being the servant of the Brijbasis. Laxmi Devi wanted to become a gopi but she was not willing to give up her big position. She wanted to remain the powerful godess of fortune. She should’ve become the follower of the gopis but she wanted to continue sitting on her golden throne. Guru Maharaj explained that she will first have to take birth as a little Gopi. In that life, she will have to learn how to make cow dung patties (Guru Maharaj asked how many of us have learnt already – one matajee put her hand up – Guru Maharaj said “we have a gopi amongst us), learn how to herd the cows and buffalos (Guru Maharaj said “sometimes you see lotsa buffalos and there is one little girl with a stick trying to control all of them – it is a science”). Laxmi Devi was not willing. She thought why should I go get so dirty? She thought she would rather take the approach of performing austerities. Guru Maharaj pointed out that in Bhagavat Gita it is stated that Krishna can only be approached by pure devotional service. So Laxmi Devi is still here. Guru Maharaj said “we hope that she will get the idea sooner or later. But we should not under estimate her or take her lightly. She is more advanced than us all put together…but this is an intriguing situation”.
Here there is a forest of bael trees. It is a fruit with an extremely hard outer shell. It is very popular in Mayapur where one can have bael juice for breakfast everyday. Here Guru Maharaj spoke about the blue cows again – he said that they are very mystical therefore they are auspicious. In the Caitanya Caritamrita the Gopis pray “blessed are those deer” … these are the very same ones referred to there.
We had breakfast and spent some time there. We walked in the forest of bael trees and met with many, many little squirrels who did not seem afraid. We saw the Yamuna from there and it was another peaceful setting that we couldn’t tear ourselves away from easily. Shortly thereafter we returned and Guru Maharaj said “are you wild South Africans ready to leave yet?” We were surprised at that question to say the least. We asked why we were referred to as “wild”? Guru Maharaj replied “oh, did I say wild? I mean nice, sweet…” We somehow knew that Guru Maharaj meant that in the nicest sense. On our way out Vishaka Matajee fed that little monkey which was tied to the gate. We then had to once again ask directions out of here. We were not taking the bus back so we had to find our way to the Yamuna and take a boat across. We asked for directions along the way and to our surprise they all told us the same thing. As we walked there were many muddy patches and in trying to dodge them, Guru Maharaj’s kurta top caught in a thorn bush. But the devotees rescued Him and he was unharmed. We walked for an extremely long distance. Guru Maharaj was convinced there was another way, but to be sure we just went with the directions we were being given. We walked and walked and walked and we could not see the Yamuna for a long, long time. We just walked and it seemed to take forever. Eventually we did see the Yamuna, she was quite a distance away and we had to go in a round-about route to get to her. Eventually we made it. We had to climb down a super steep bank to get to the boat. Guru Maharaj enquired and negotiated a price – 30 devotees on 1 boat at 5 rupees each – total rip-off but it was that or we had to swim. So we got on the boat, Guru Maharaj got onto our boat – He sat in the middle of the boat on his green chair. While everyone else got on, Guru Maharaj lead some nice kirtan, I played kartalas and was sitting directly behind Him. Then we set sail and not even two minutes later, at the island, right at the centre of Yamuna, we were asked to get off. We were surprised as we had to get to the other bank, not the island. That was apparently our halfway stop and we had to change boats to get to the other side. Another money making scheme. 5 rupees for half way across and another 5 rupees to get us the whole way there. We walked to the next boat, got on again and Guru Maharaj led more kirtan. When we were getting off the devotees were just rushing off and the boat was rocking from side to side. I warned the devotees that I could not swim just in case I fell over. Guru Maharaj asked me to sit and he asked the devotees to keep the weight in the centre of the boat. Guru Maharaj is very caring indeed. I got off the boat alright. We then refused to pay any extra costs other than the 5 rupees agreed on upfront. They were not happy and we had to walk a short distance in the Yamuna to reach the other side. I thought I would slip in the water as we walked across as the river bed was totally slippery. But we reached okay. Guru Maharaj told us we could walk or take rickshaws back.
As we got to the road, there was a devotee, Saraswati from Mauritius, who started to scream and throw her bags as she thought she was being mugged by someone. It was just a monkey who had climbed on her back to steal her scarf from her head. Shame, she was really afraid but she was okay afterwards. I was feeling really sorry for Guru Maharaj for choosing to walk such a long distance after an extremely tiring day. Eventually some devotees flagged down an auto rickshaw and He went home. I was happy about that. We helped some other devotees take rickshaws and sent our bags with them and Sitala and I decided to walk back. We were tired but we were enthusiastic enough. And good thing we did because as walked through the goshala on our way back and saw the tiniest little, most beautiful white calf – she had just been born. She was very friendly and allowed us to play with her. Close-by her mother was still in the birthing process and looked like she was in a lot of pain. We did not regret walking back. We were so happy to have made that choice. We eventually got back, all fatigued. We did have some time to take rest and recover before our 26kms around Govardhan for the second time. We’ll let you know what happens shortly.
Syamarani devi dasi