Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
This year we have two devotees reporting on our Vraja Mandala Parikrama.
One, Avadhutacandra prabhu, is with me most of the time, and has written in a broad sense about everything that is happening. The other, Syamarani devi dasi, has focused on the parikramas and pastimes.
There is a little duplication, but not so much. I hope you find them interesting.
First is the report of Avadhutacandra prabhu.
Hoping this meets you well.
Your ever well wisher,
Bhakti Caitanya Swami
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Guru Maharaja!
Here are a few notes of our Guru Maharaja’s activities and adventures in the transcendental land of Vrndavana.
Day 1: Arrival
Today he will arrive! Already a few days ago the devotees had started cleaning and preparing Guru Maharaja’s room in the “Green house” just near to Krsna-Balarama temple in Vrndavana.
Saci-kumara Prabhu had rented a taxi to go to Delhi to pick Guru Maharaja from the airport. He had left in the morning, and a little before 3 P.M. Ananda Caitanya Prabhu started the welcoming kirtana to greet the expected guest. There were about forty devotees present with their garlands and happy moods. When Guru Maharaja arrived, he was ushered into the house where his feet were bathed and he said some words to greet all the devotees. Although he must have been tired from the travel, Guru Maharaja said he was very happy to be again in Vrndavana with all the devotees.
After the welcoming ceremony it was time for prasadam. I got to offer the preparations to his Govardhana-sila. Guru Maharaja ate sumptuously. After the dinner he had some discussions with Svarupa Damodara and Syamananda Prabhus concerning the upcoming parikramas.
A little before seven Guru Maharaja left for the Krsna-Balarama -temple to attend the Damodarastakam. Saci-kumara Prabhu, Isvara Puri Prabhu and I were accompanying him. The devotees in the temple were happy to see Guru Maharaja had arrived to Vrndavana and offered him obeisances profusely. Nowadays
Vrndavana is a very popular place of pilgrimage. Also tonight the temple was packed with people. While offering the Damodara-lamps, I and Isvara Puri had to stand protecting Guru Maharaja so that the hundreds of people would not bump into him. Afterwards Guru Maharaja said in a situation like this it is hard to enter a meditative mood while offering lamps to Krsna.
I remember one incident especially clearly. When we were returning from the temple two elderly matajis offered their obeisances to Guru Maharaja. They were Kulangana and Jagannatha-priya Matajis, Prabhupada-disciples who had served in the U.K. in 70s in the same temple with Guru Maharaja.
Kulangana Mataji said: “I am just so greedy and that’s why I am offering my obeisances. It is said in the scriptures that if you don’t offer obeisances to a sannyasi you will have to fast the whole day. I am so greedy and want to eat and that’s why I offered my obeisances.”
Guru Maharaja replied: “Mother Kulangana I am very happy to see you.”
Kulangana: “But I am even more happy to see you. But your happiness cannot be compared to my happiness.”
Guru Maharaja: “That’s why I am so happy.”
Later on Guru Maharaja said: “This Kulangana Mataji is very expert in preparing sweets. Not only very expert, but REALLY, very expert.”
Day 2: Vrndavana temples
The parikrama was supposed to start at 10 A.M. Already at 9.30 devotees started gathering at the “Green house”. I offered a fruit salad to Giriraja and then to Guru Maharaja.
Then the parikrama started. We walked from the house first to ISKCON Goshala. From there we walked to Kaliya-ghata. Guru Maharaja narrated the pastime of Lord Krsna subduing the Kaliya-serpent in such a way that everyone felt being transported to the spiritual Vrndavana. He said this Kaliya-ghata is one of the most sacred places in Vrndavana.
Then we all went to the Kaliya-Krsna-temple, where we had the darsana of an ancient Deity of Radha-Krsna dancing on the heads of the Kaliya-serpent. Next we went to dvadasaditya-tila, the place where Lord Krsna rested after the Kaliya-lila. At that time the sun multiplied in twelve forms to warm the Lord up.
Next we went to the Madana-mohana -temple, then to Sanatana Goswami’s Samadhi and then to the Bankebihari-temple. Guru Maharaja said in this temple they have a special program, where they close the altar curtain every 30 seconds. Sometime in the past the Deity had escaped from the altar to look for His worshiper Haridasa Goswami. Being afraid of this happening again, the pujaris keep closing the curtain even today. It was a pleasant darsana, not too crowded.
Then we went to the temple of Radhavallabha. Although the temple was closed, the head priest welcomed us heartily.
He said to Guru Maharaja: “Do you know Radhanatha Swami?”
Guru Maharaja: “Yes, he is my godbrother”
Mahant: “I have known him since he was a young boy, before he became a saint.”
They gave Guru Maharaja a big plate of maha-sweets from annakuta-ceremony. He distributed them to all. Although everyone had got a piece, there seemed to be unlimited hands and hearts eager to receive more mercy. Anticipating we would soon exit, I went out already. I waited about ten minutes outside, but Guru Maharaja did not come out. Going back to the temple, I saw him again talking with the head priest. Then the mahant led Guru Maharaja to another room and he came out with a big plate of prasadam. That was Radhavallabha’s raja-bhoga plate, which the mahant ad given us. After distributing the subji, chappatis, rice, khir and the karhi-soup, everyone took rickshaws back to Raman Reti.
At 4 P.M. we all took rickshaws to Radha-Damodara, where Guru Maharaja took us around the important sites like the samadhis of Srila Jiva and Rupa Goswamis. We also had the darsana of Radha-Damodara and the Govardhana-sila, which was given to Sanatana Goswami by Sri Krsna Himself. We then went to
visit the Samadhi of Srila Gopala Bhatta Goswami. There Guru Maharaja was greeted by his old friend, the head priest of the Samadhi, who was very happy to see our spiritual master. Then we went to have the darsana of Sri Sri Radha-ramana. In all these places we had lots of maha-prasadam. Especially in Radha-ramana we had many pots of condensed sweet milk, laddus and other sweets, which were then distributed to all the devotees by GURU MAHARAJA and others.
At the end, one of our godbrothers, Yogesh-candra Prabhu commented: “What a sweet evening it was.”
Day 3: Varsana
Today we would start our actual parikramas (by buses). We departed from Vrndavana at 6 A.M. The roads in the Vrndavana region are in a very bad shape. Due to this many of the devotees fall asleep during the journey. It is remarkable that Guru Maharaja is always chanting while driving. He never falls asleep.
First we arrived in Unchagaon, the place of Srimati Lalita-devi. After darsana of Sri Sri Radha-Lalitabihari Guru Maharaja spoke on the glories of Lalita-sakhi. Then we climbed on the roof of the temple and Guru Maharaja showed us the nearby holy places from there.
After Unchagaon we started our actual Varsana-parikrama. We took buses to Varsana. First we climbed atop Vilas-garh, which is one of the five hills of Varsana. Guru Maharaja explained in Varsana there are four fair-coloured hills which represent the heads of lord Brahma. There is also a fifth, dark hill, which is the head of Lord Visnu. Vilas-garh is Visnu’s head, where many many pastimes of Radha-Krsna took place. For example this is the place of the original Jhulan-yatra (swing-festival).
We had breakfast there. Vilas-garh is a very nice place because it is somewhat remote and it is usually very peaceful. Many of the holy places have been spoiled by the pandas (local priests) who “want to relieve us of
the burden of excess money” (as Guru Maharaja would put it). Radhanatha Swami’s yatra of 4000 devotees was also visiting Varsana today. Even in Vilas-garh could we hear the roaring kirtana they had in the main temple.
After Vilas-garh we went to sankori-cor, where Lord Krsna broke the yoghurt pot of SR. We passed through the narrow gulley (sankori-cor) to the village of Citra-devi, Ciksoli-grama. Guru Maharaja told the pastime where Krsna and the cowherd boys broke into Citra-devi’s butter storehouse. Madhumangala was caught in the window and he was punished by the gopis. As it happened, eventually the gopis had to apologize him man pay the guru-daksina of a million laddus to get freed of the great brahmana aparadha.
When we got to Radha-sarovara, we were faced with the 4000 devotees from Chaupatti and other places. Although it was nice, it slowed down our parikrama a bit. We then moved to the Mor-kutir (the place of
peacock-pastimes) and then to the Man-mandira (where Srimati Radharani would go when She was in the mood of transcendental sulkiness).
Then we went to Dan-garh, the place where Lord Krsna gave Srimati Radharani as a donation to a poor brahmana. The priest there gave us plenty of maha-prasadam which Guru Maharaja then distributed to everybody. Then we went to the main temple of Varsana, which was initially closed. Guru Maharaja narrated the pastime of Lord Krsna accepting sannyasa to appease Radharani’s anger. Then we returned to the buses.
It was about 2.30 P.M. We went next to Prema-sarovara, which is a lake born out of the tears of Srimati Radharani and Lord Krsna. Most of the devotees took bath in this sacred lake. Meanwhile Guru Maharaja was chanting the holy name. Next we started our journey back to Vrndavana.
On our way back we stopped in Anjanoka, which is the village of Indulekha-sakhi. It is a very peaceful place, not often visited by the devotees. I know Guru Maharaja likes this place very much as we visit Anjanoka every year. He likes all aspects of Vraja, but especially he loves the distant villages which have not been touched by corruption in the form of greed for money.
In Anjanoka we arrived in the midst of a bhagavata-saptah, seven days recitation of the Srimad-bhagavatam (in Hindi). Quite a few villagers were there. It was quite a pompous sight, there was even a band which was playing to enhance the narration. We had the darsana of Sri Sri Radha-Anjanabihari. The pujari gave Guru Maharaja special maha-anjana (kajjal) of SR. Half of this anjana he gave to one of the matajis to be distributed to all the ladies. Guru Maharaja himself distributed the anjana to the men by first dipping his finger in the kajjal and then pressing it on the forehead.
We returned to Vrndavana around 6 P.M. It was dark already. Guru Maharaja had a supper.
Day 4: Nandagram
We departed from Vrndavana at 6 A.M. Again it was a very bad road, and eventually we had the special mercy to walk to our first place, Yavat. This is the place where Srimati Radharani lived when She was married to
Abhimanyu. We had darsana of the Deities. In this temple there are even the inofficial deities of Jatila, Kutila and Abhimanyu.
Guru Maharaja gave a class where he was elaborating on the mystery of Radharani marrying Abhimanyu. He narrated some pastimes, like the snake-doctor pastime and Krsna hiding in Radharani’s box of valuables. After the lecture we got on the roof where Guru Maharaja showed us around the surrounding Vraja-mandala. Then we had breakfast. Usually Guru Maharaja eats only fruit in the morning. He likes very much infusion, which is a kind of fruit tea-drink with honey.
From Yavat we walked to Ter-kadamba. The road is very nice sand road, which goes through the rice fields. Ter-kadamba is one of Guru Maharaja’s favourite places in Vraja. It is maintained by Gopinatha Maharaja, a
friendly gaudiya-Vaisnava. He has a special way of serving the devotees. Like today, when Guru Maharaja was narrating the pastimes that took place there, Gopinatha Maharaja was participating in the narration. When Guru Maharaja said a gopi approached Rupa Goswami to bring him sweet rice, Gopinatha came in with a green veil on his head, bringing sweet rice and pakoras. Guru Maharaja slightly modified the pastime by saying the gopi brought Rupa Goswami sweet rice AND pakoras. It was very funny
Then we visited Asesavan and took buses to Nandagram. We visited the main temple atop the hill and Guru Maharaja showed us around Vraja-mandala from the roof. From the main temple we went to visit some of the less known places, like the Hau-bilau (place of the Hau-monsters). Some old statues are still there, although they have been weathered by time. Seeing one of the Haus, Guru Maharaja said it looks like it is in need of dental-floss. Seeing another, he said it looks like it has been over-flossed. Next we visited
Nanda-baitak (Nanda Maharaja’s sitting place).
Then we walked to our buses and went to Pavana-sarovara, which is the lake which purifies the mind. Guru Maharaja told us the glories of the lake, and then we all took bath there. Indeed, Pavana-sarovara is a very beautiful lake with crystal-clear water. Some of the lakes and kundas in Vrndavana are at least materially more or less green, but some are very nice, like this Pavana-sarovara.
When we returned to Vrndavana, I served supper to Guru Maharaja. At 6.30 P.M. there was a meeting in Guru Maharaja’s room with HH Bhakti-vijnana Goswami and Acyutatma and Murali-krsna Prabhu’s. The meeting was of high importance and it lasted nearly two hours.
When the meeting ended, I went in. Murali-krsna Prabhu was still there and he thanked Guru Maharaja with great sincerity for his understanding.
It is a long story, but Murali-krsna Prabu is a devotee who caused a great deal of havoc in some ISKCON centers in Siberia and Estonia. Now he has assumed a submissive mood and is admitting his mistakes.
By seeing the interaction between Guru Maharaja and Murali-krsna I had a realization of Guru Maharaja’s deep Vaisnava-qualities. Although Murali-krsna had caused great headache to Guru Maharaja, Guru Maharaja is not at all revengeful, but does his best to help Murali-krsna in this situation. In the Nectar of instruction such freedom from envy is said to be a prominent quality of an uttama-adhikari (one should serve and hear from those pure devotees who are completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.
Day 5: Govardhana parikrama
Today we left for Govardhana at 5.30 AM. We arrived at Kusum-sarovara when it was still a little dark. There was a lot of fog. Guru Maharaja said: “Srila Rupa Goswami writes that in the beginning of his spiritual life the
consciousness of a devotee is clouded by a kind of fog of material conceptions, but when he becomes purified he will be able to see Lord Krsna. Similarly right now we are covered by this fog, but it is my prediction that if we all chant very nicely we will be able to see Govardhana in 15 minutes.”
We did the Govardhana-parikrama as usual. We stopped in the main pastime places for katha. In Govardhana town I purchased some doghla, kachoris and saun papdi for Guru Maharaja’s breakfast.
When we stopped at Dana-nivartana-kunda, we saw HH Radhanatha Swami was there absorbed in chanting, facing Govardhana. Guru Maharaja narrated the pastime of Krsna arresting Radha and the gopis in Govardhana and asking an astronomical sum of jewels and valuables to let them go. At the end of the
narration Radhanatha Maharaja stood up and embraced Gurudeva. He said: “Such a wonderful, sweet narration!” They exchanged a few words and offered obeisances to each other. Everyone bowed down.
We had breakfast in the southern tip of Govardhana. There is an ancient Nrsimha temple there. Previously it was looked over by a devotee of the name Raghubir das. He was a friend of Guru Maharaja’s but he had passed away on Radhastami.
After the breakfast devotees saw some neel gai (blue cows, a type of antilope rarely seen) from the roof of the temple. Guru Maharaja was filming them with his video camera. After leaving the temple we again saw the neel gai on Govardhana. This is some special mercy shown to us by Giriraja.
One of the climaxes of the day was special mercy distribution in Kadamba-vana. This is a forest of Kadamba-trees on the parikrama-path. It is said in the scriptures that if one rolls in the dust of this holy place he will attain pure love of Krsna very soon. Soon everybody was rolling in this dust, headed by Guru Maharaja. Everyone was shouting
KRSNA-PREMA KI JAY!!
GIRI-GOVARDHANA KI JAY!!
SRILA BHAKTI CAITANYA MAHARAJA KI JAY!!
Then Guru Maharaja started throwing the sacred dust of this place on everybody’s head. Everybody got some of this special mercy and many got it many times. After this, some were grey with dust. It was great fun!
We went on with the parikrama as usual. We reached Kusum-sarovara quite late (around 5.30 P.M.). Thus we did not take bath but got on our buses which took us back to Vrndavana. On reaching there I served Guru Maharaja prasadam. At one point during the parikrama Guru Maharaja told me his feet were “well excercised”. By the instruction of Ananda Caitanya Prabhu I massaged Guru Maharaja’s lotus feet after prasadam. Although I am not at all practiced in this, Guru Maharaja said it was basically nice.
Day 6: Resting + Vrndavana temples
Today was Ekadasi. When I went to Guru Maharaja’s rooms he was wearing his jacket and a hat and he told me he is not feeling well. The parikrama was quite exhausting and thus it was decided today would be half resting day. Guru Maharaja wanted a little infusion to warm him up.
At ten was the initiation ceremony. One devotee from Siberia was initiated. He got the name Raghupati das.
At noon Guru Maharaja had lunch. He was served apple chutney, Gauranga-cauliflowers and smashed potatoes. He had another infusion at 1.30 P.M.
At four we gathered in front of Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi and took rickshaws to the Radha-Gokulananda temple. In this temple there are Samadhis of many important acaryas like Lokanatha Goswami, Narottama dasa Thakura, Ganganarayana Cakravarti and Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. Guru Maharaja spoke on the glories of these great personalities.
Then we went to the temple itself. In this temple is the original Gokulananda Deity which was worshiped by Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura. There is also the Govardhana-sila, which was worshiped by Lord
Caitanya Himself and which He gave to Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswami. It is a small sila, but it has the thumb-print of Mahaprabhu. The Lord was bathing the sila with His tears and massaging Him so intensely that an indentation was made on Him.
The pujari in this temple was very friendly. He gave us lots of mahaprasadam and invited us all for lunch on Tuesday.
Next we went to the Sadbhuja-temple, where they worship a six-armed Deity of Lord Caitanya. This Deity was originally worshiped by Srila Jagannatha dasa Babaji. Then we went to the Shahji temple. Then we went to the Gopinatha-temple, where the original Deity of Srila Gopinatha was worshiped before the Muslim invasion. It is an ancient temple, where many great devotees had worshiped the Lord. The devotees in the temple received us very warmly.
After Gopinatha we walked to the temple of Radha-Syamasundara. Then we returned to our house in Vrndavana by rickshaws. Guru Maharaja wanted to have one more infusion in the evening.
Day 7: Badrinatha
This morning Guru Maharaja was feeling better than yesterday. We got on our buses at 5.45 A.M. and started for Badrinatha, which lies in the mountainous area of Vraja, just at the Western edge of Vraja-mandala. The drive took almost three hours, and I must admit it was quite an austerity. On the other hand the experience we had in Badarikasrama was so nice that everybody forgot the rough journey on reaching there.
First we visited the main temple, where the Deities of Nara-Narayana are situated. Then we went to the roof of the temple where Guru Maharaja gave a short speech where he explained the glories of Badrinath in Vraja.
Then we got out of the temple and started the parikrama. In this area many important holy places (which we know from the Himalayas) like Laksmana-jhula, Gangotri, Yamunotri and Haridvara are situated.
When we got to Laksmana-jhula Guru Maharaja led a short kirtana. Then we had breakfast. Guru Maharaja said the day’s program was japa-retreat. After breakfast everyone chanted one round together, in unison, and then everyone started chanting on their own. Guru Maharaja said we should chant and absorb the transcendental atmosphere of this holy place.
Guru Maharaja stayed in Laksmana-jhula. He chanted almost an hour and then some devotees presented their personal questions to him. After some time he would explore in the beautiful landscape. He walked along the Yamuna trail up toward Yamunotri. He said some places beyond Yamunotri are still uncharted landscape.
At three everyone gathered at the buses and we started again on the long journey back to Vrndavana.
Day 8: Mathura parikrama
We left at 6 A.M. for Mathura. It was about one hour’s drive, but then one of the two buses broke down and we got to walk about one kilometer to the Visrama-ghata. This is the place where Lord Varahadeva rested after killing the demon Hiranyaksa and Lord Krsna rested here after killing Kamsa. Also Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu rested here when He was on Vraja-mandala-parikrama.
From Visrama-ghata we went to the Yama-Yamuna -temple. Guru Maharaja said the living entities can choose whether they want to experience the mercy of Yamuna-devi, or the very special mercy of Yamaraja, her brother. After this we visited the Dvarakadhish-temple, which is the most popular temple in
Mathura, quite an opulent place.
From Dvarakadhish we went to visit the two Varaha-temples in town. Guru Maharaja explained Mathura is one of the most ancient places of pilgrimage in India, and it was known to be a holy place even before Lord Krsna’s appearance.
The first Varaha temple was Sveta-varaha, where a white Deity of Varahadeva is worshiped. Then we went to the temple of Adi-varaha. This is the most ancient Deity in the whole city of Mathura. Adi-varaha had been worshiped already millions of years ago in the family of Lord Ramacandra.
Everybody had the darsana of the Lord in this wonderful place. Adi-varaha is a Deity of the Lord holding bhu-mandala at the tip of His tusk. We could feel this indeed is a very powerful Deity of the Lord. Also Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura visited this temple and left his signature here. It is preserved in one of the tiles which are below the Deity.
Next we visited two Siva temples, Pippalesvara and Rangesvara. Rangesvara is a Siva-linga, which was worshiped by Kamsa himself before the wrestling match.
I asked Guru Maharaja whether we should honor the remnants of lord Siva. He replied that is not such a good idea, especially if he is being worshiped like a demigod, not as a devotee. He said when we take someone’s remnants, we accept some part of that personality within ourselves.
Next we went to Kamsa-tila, which is the place where Lord Krsna killed Kamsa. There is a nice diorama at this place which depicts the moment when Krsna punched Kamsa in face. We were sitting at this hill and Guru Maharaja gave a short speech. He said we should pray to Lord Krsna that He would also
kill the small Kamsa within ourselves. Our material desires are representing Kamsa. Although they may not be so great as Kamsa’s desires were, although we may think they are just some nice material desires, we should be very strict with ourselves and take shelter in Lord Krsna and His holy names to be purified of all material contaminations.
Next we got on our buses and drove to Janmasthan, the birthplace of Krsna. The original temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb some 450 years ago. He built a mosque on the original site, but just next to it is a new Krsna-temple.
I felt in this temple there is an atmosphere of fear. Like we know, in India there have been many bomb blasts lately. On the gate there was a long queue where everyone had to stand to get to the security check. There were three checkpoints where everybody was checked thoroughly. No bags, cameras or cell-phones were allowed inside. The security man was quite surprised to see Guru Maharaja’s Govardhana-sila and he asked what it was. Guru Maharaja said “Govardhana-sila” and the man immediately understood: “AAAAH Giriraja!”.
In the temple the main Deities are Sri Sri Radha-Kesava. On their one side is a Deity of Vyasadeva, and on the other side is the deity of Sankaracarya(!). In this temple there are other deities also, like Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra, Lord Caitanya, Sita, Rama, Laksmana and Hanuman, lord Siva, Durga and mother Kali. Then there are pictures of almost everybody we have heard in terms of India’s spiritual history. Everyone is there. I asked Guru Maharaja whether this was a Hindu temple, so he said “Yes, this is pucca Hindu temple, a Vaisnava kind of Hindu temple.
Then we visited the cave, where Lord Krsna had appeared in. It was underground. Actually it was under the mosque.
Before leaving the temple we noticed there was another cave, which had been artificially made, where everyone had to buy a ticket (which cost 2INR). Inside were just a few simple dioramas of Lord Krsna’s pastimes. Afterwards Guru Maharaja was asked what he liked of it all, so he humoristically answered: “Even though you did not go in, don’t worry you did not miss much. I think the whole experience was not worth more than two rupees.”
After Janmasthan we got on our buses and drove back to Vrndavana. At this point I got sick with stomach problems and could not carry on with the rest of the program.
Today Guru Maharaja and the devotees went again to Radha-Gokulananda for the lunch they had promised to prepare. Everyone said it was a very wonderful feast with many preparations. After the lunch there was a ceremony at Kesi-ghata, where the ashes of deceased devotees were placed in the waters of Yamuna-devi.
Day 9: Gokula and Raval
Yesterday I got sick and I was recovering today. Thus I did not take part in the parikrama.
Day 10: Kedarnatha
Another resting day for me.
That’s all for now.
Your insignificant servant,