Dear disciples and friends,
Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
It’s been some weeks since I last wrote myself, so I am taking this opportunity. I’m in Cape Town in South Africa, and on the 29th and 30th will be the Jagannatha Rathayatra festival here. Everyone is very excited, and the preparations are coming on nicely.
Caitanya Carana prabhu wrote last on November 18th. Since that time quite a bit happened. I spent some days in Port Elizabeth, south of Durban in South Africa and did some preaching programmes there, and then went to Johannesburg for the Rathayatra at Lenasia. It was a nice festival, attended by some thousands of devotees and members of the public. Particularly nice was some of the kirtana in front of the Jagannatha Deities in the temple tent.
Then on November 26th I flew to India again, via Mauritius. I was not really intending going back, as I had already spent 2 weeks there, mainly doing parikrama with an international group of about 70 devotees, but Giriraja Maharaja asked my to take some of his disciples on parikrama in Sri Vrindavana Dhama, and I agreed to do so.
The sacred month of Kartikka had just finished, so the crowds that are in Sri Vrindavana Dhama during that period were gone, which is nice.
On the 29th our group went to Kadamba Kandi, near Varsana. It is one of those special places in Vraja Mandala where you don’t get so many people, and it is possible to find quiet spots for meditation and chanting, and therefore it is one of my favourite places in the Vrindavana area. First we had darsana in the little temple overlooking the kund. Outside is a kadamba tree, representing Srimati Radharani, entwined around a tamala tree, representing Lord Krishna. Whenever one finds something like this it is always interpreted as being a special manifestation, and is worshipped.
Inside the temple the main Deity on the altar is a picture of a sadhu named Nagaji who lived in the area. He would go naked and keep matted locks of hair, and one time he was walking through the forest here when he felt his hair lift up behind him and then become tangled in a tree. “Who could have done that?” he thought, as he stood there, unable to either move or untangle his hair, as it was all tied up behind him in the tree.
He thought “it must have been Krishna, in a playful mood, who did that! Let me stay here till he comes back to untie me.” So he stayed there, standing in the same place for some days, but Krishna didn’t come.
Lord Brahma came and offered to untangle his hair, but Nagaji refused. “No, I want that person who put my hair in the tree to come.” He said.
Then Lord Siva came and offered, but Nagaji refused him in the same way.
Finally after a few weeks Lord Krishna came and admitted that it was Him who put Nagaji’s hair in the tree, and He offered to untangle it and free Nagaji. But Nagaji said “No! you are here alone. I want to see you together with Srimati Radharani! If You give me this darsana then I’ll be happy to have you take my hair out of the tree, but under no other conditions!”
So then Srimati Radharani appeared in front of him and gave him Her holy darsana, and Nagaji allowed the Lord to take his hair out of the tree.
We described this pastime to the devotees, and then I went up the hill on the right of the kund to the bhajan kutir of Nagaji. It’s right on top of the hill, some distance away, and from up there is a magnificent view around the surrounding Vraja Mandala. On top of the bhajan kutir is a throne for Radha and Krishna, and my favourite activity there is to go behind the throne and sit and chant overlooking Vraja. Surely it is one of the nicest spots in the area, and every time I go there I do this.
We spent an hour or so there chanting with Harideva prabhu, one of the Vice Presidents of the Sri Sri Radha Radhanatha temple in Durban, and then we decided to move on.
On the way back to Vrindavana town we stopped at the Radha Anjanabihari temple in Anjanoka, the village of Indulekha, one of Srimati Radharani’s asta sakhi girlfriends. It was already 2 in the afternoon, so the temple was closed, but we woke up the pujari and he opened up and gave us darsana.
The next day we did parikama of the main temples in Vrindavana town, and the following day we went to Yavat and Nandagrama. That morning there was an extremely heavy fog and it was quite cold, but we carried on with our parikrama, and after having darsana of Jatila, Kutila and Abhimanyu, Srimati Radharani’s mother in law, sister in law and so-called husband, we walked on to Ter Kadamba. It is a beautiful walk through fields, along a sandy road, and one can easily imagine there what it must have been like to do parikrama in Vraja Mandala many years ago when there were no tar roads and other horrible Kali Yuga things which are here now, and which spoil the atmosphere to some degree.
At Ter Kadamba we met our friend Hrishikesh Maharaja, a very nice devotee who is looking after this sacred place. After some katha and sweet rice prasadam we then set off for Asesavana, and on coming out of Ter Kadamba we found that the fog had almost completely cleared, and it was a typically beautiful Vrindavana day.
We went up the hill at Nandagrama and had darsana, and then went to the house of Bankibihari das, one of the main pandas of Nandagrama for some prasadam, consisting of massive capatis, subji and unlimited amounts of real buttermilk, although our South Africam devotees were a little stand offish about the prasadam!
Then we visited Vrinda kunda, and were fortunate enough to be there in time for arati.
The next day we did parikrama of Varsana, which was nice, although at the main temple on top of the hill the pandas (priests) harassed me worse than I’ve ever been harassed, practically. They were physically trying to stop me from leaving, so they could extract some money from our group, but finally I managed to break free and run out the main gates. Quite an experience!
On the 3rd we did Govardhana parikrama. It was a perfect day, with excellent weather – neither too hot nor too cold – and there were hardly any people there, so conditions were as close to perfect, according to my standards.
As we came to the southern end of Govardhana we spotted a blue cow among the trees to the left of the hill. Then we saw another, and another, and we realized this was actually a herd of these amazing animals.
So we were able to watch them for as long as we liked, and then we went around the southern end of the hill, and started coming up on the western side, heading towards Radhakunda. We had only gone a few hundred yards up the western side when I spotted another blue cow, and then we saw a herd of perhaps 10 to 15 of them
Blue cows are not actually cows at all, but are a type of deer or antelope that live in Vraja Mandala and the surrounding areas. They are as big as horses, but are extremely shy, and if they see that people are watching them they either freeze or move away. Their favourite trick in such a situation is to simply turn their backs to the people, but today they just casually carried on feeding from the trees and other undergrowth on Govardhana Hill.
It is said that if one sees these mystical animals it is a special blessing from the Lord and Srimati Radharani.
As usual, towards the end of the parikrama we stopped at Uddhava Kunda, where Uddhava offered his prayers to the gopis, as described in Srimad Bhagavatam:
asam aho carana-renu-jusam aham syam
vrndavane kim api gulma-latausadhinamya dustyajam
sva-janam arya-patham ca hitva
bhejur mukunda-padavim srutibhir vimrgyam
“The gopis of Vrndavana have given up the association of their husbands, sons and other family members, who are very difficult to give up, and they have forsaken the path of chastity to take shelter of the lotus feet of Mukunda, Krsna, which one should search for by Vedic knowledge. Oh, let me be fortunate enough to become one of the bushes, creepers or herbs in Vrndavana, for the gopis trample them and bless them with the dust of their lotus feet.” (SB 10.47.61)
The next day, December 4th, I met with Giriraja Maharaja, who had just arrived the previous day from Bombay. He is a wonderful devotee who had a lot of association with Srila Prabhupada, and has become expert at looking at situations and understanding how Prabhupada would have addressed them.
That afternoon I flew to Bombay, and then the next morning to Mauritius, where I stayed till the 15th, doing preaching programmes and holding a seminar on Sri Isopanisad. There was a Rathayatra at Mahebourg on the 8th and 9th which was very nice, and then on the 10th there was a Prabhupada night at the Radha Golokananda temple.
Navayogendra Maharaja from India was there for the Rathayatra, and he told some interesting stories about his association with Srila Prabhupada, and eventually the programme came to a close at about 9.30pm. However Navayogendra Maharaja became a little upset that we were finishing, and said “I thought this was going to be a Prabhupada night! I thought we were going to continue for the whole night!”
Then I returned to Johannesburg on the 15th, did some preaching programmes there, and then to Durban to spend some time with Krishnadas Maharaja, a senior Indian devotee who is a siksa disciple of Srila Prabhupada, and now I am here in Cape Town.
I will try to write some more after a few days.
Hoping this meets you well.
Your ever well wisher,
Bhakti Caitanya Swami